Recently I had a realization. I had too much stuff. It was a slow building realization. The kind that sneaks into the back of your mind, parks itself there and starts chattering away behind the daily noise coursing through the front of your mind. I think it moved in a while ago. But I only heard it clearly during my vacation.
I think I was sitting by the pool, thinking about all the things I need to do when the vacation was over and wondering whether I should organize the basement. Talk about being in the present! Anyway, as I sat and contemplated how I should go about this task, I started to think about all the things I had stored in the basement. Then my mind drifted to all the things I had stored in the house and in my closets. Then, like any good finance guy, I started to mentally add it all up.
Wow! I had a load of stuff. But did I really need that many T-shirts, that many Iphone chargers and their original boxes? Did I need that many HMDI cables and was I really going to use that roll of electrical wire?
As I started to think more about my many possessions, I started to realize that thinking about them was brining me more anxiety than the benefit of possessing them.
Had I inadvertently cluttered up my life and was I slowly drowning in my possessions?
Was I becoming like the hoards and droves of people that find that cluttering up my life is a source of stress ? Home organization is stressful
The vast majority of people find that home organization and clutter are a source of stress. Those that don’t probably have little possessions, no clutter, and no related stress.
Related Stress? Yes, clearly. My possessions and the state of my house were a source of stress. The more I contemplated that, the more I realized it was true.
I had been slightly off my game at work in the months leading up to my vacation. I had been having this feeling that the days were too short, and I wasn’t able to get everything I needed done in the time I had, that I needed a long break. I had been more and more grumpy and negative about my job. But when I sat back, it wasn’t anything specifically job related, could it have been underlying stress that I wasn’t seeing?
According to some research cluttered environments can be very negative and lead to an inability to relax and a lack of productivity.
Think about your desk at work if you have one. When it is spilling over with documents, how does that make you feel? If you’re like me, you probably feel a bit overwhelmed. That’s not good.
I needed to do something about it.
Go buy a book
The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo.
Like often when I am looking for help on a subject, I go buy a book written by a specialist and what better specialist than a Japanese expert on tidying up. (You can buy the book by clicking on the link above – believe me, it is a game changer.)
Have a Revelation
The more I read and the more I contemplated the issue, the more I moved towards my revelation. My possessions had become a burden. I wasn’t seeing it. I needed to bring back lightness and serenity to my house and my life. My home was a source of stress rather than the opposite and that was playing out in my work life as well.
What was equally amazing was when I brought this up to my wife, without her having read the book, she immediately agreed that we had too much stuff and were at risk of being evicted out of our apartment by our possessions, as they took on an ever-greater part of our living space.
“Just look at our office.” She replied, “I never use it as it is always covered in papers and folders and miscellaneous objects waiting to be stacked away.”
The clutter in our house, was leading to clutter in our life as we were continuously cleaning up and organizing and the more we did it, the more we found ourselves doing it. Having two young kids wasn’t helping either. They had so much stuff that the area in their rooms to play was more and more over crowded with stuff. Increasingly they were talking their favorite toys and bringing them into our room or the living room, spewing their things all around the house, which just led to more cleaning and organizing. We were spiraling out of control and we knew it.
Instead of our house being a place to come back to in the evening to relax and escape the noise of the city, it had become a chore. Our stuff had become a source of stress. And that has consequences that you don’t want, and which can clearly be avoided.
We needed a plan to change.
Build a Plan
Marie Kondo says that you should focus on what you want to keep. She says you should hold each object and see if it brings you a positive or negative feeling. Her approach is not very scientific, but after reading the book, I was convinced it was as good an approach as any other.
So, we drafted a short mental plan and went into combat mode.
-Start with T-shirts and tops.
-Move onto pants, underwear and socks
-Then clothes that hand on hangers.
-Then electronics and books
-Then everything else
Do it all as quickly as you can and take everything out of closets and storage areas, lay them down on the floor and attack. The more you linger over things, you more you can become distracted.
The unexpected benefits
It turns out that getting rid of stuff, or rather deciding what to keep, is a very therapeutic process. I initially thought it would be complex and stressful, but it turned out that with each item discarded into a big black plastic bag, the more I felt a little lighter.
The more the bags piled up in the entrance way, the more I felt better and cleaner, fresher and less stressed and tired.
It was as if through the act of discarding things, I was taking weight off my shoulders. I felt a lightness I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt more maneuverable as well – like I was better adapted to doing more things.
We must have got rid off about 30 large black bags of stuff. They didn’t all go to the trash as most of the clothes found their way to more deserving hands. But nevertheless, we got rid of much more than we had imagined.
One of the key steps in Marie’s book, after cleaning and tidying up, is to better organize your storage of the things you retain. Each thing should have a dedicated place (which makes it easier to find when you’re in a rush to leave the house, by the way).
We started organizing things vaguely according to her suggestions. We did what felt right for us and the house just seems like a better place now.
We’re long from over. We’ve taken a solid first step but haven’t got through everything, but the path has been opened, the route defined and we’re walking steadfastly into a whole new world.
Back at work now after the vacation and cleaning spree and I’m feeling less tired, more focused and more roaring to get things done.
Who would have thought that tidying up could have such a positive influence on one’s life and on one’s career?