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What is clutter anyway?

Have you actually asked yourself, "What is clutter?". As in, what the hell even is it? (yep....not great grammar, I'm writing colloquially!).

In the beginning I just made assumptions about things I should get rid of, which I ended up regretting. I felt under (self imposed) pressure to be a minimalist; to get rid of things simply because they weren't being used. I tried a whole heap of different approaches to ridding my house of clutter, but not once did I actually ask myself, what is clutter?!

I tried Peter Walsh's approach about sentimental things which is, honour it and display it. But some things have a sentimental attachment that aren't suitable for display; perhaps they're broken bits of your great grandmother's vase or a faded artwork your child gave you for mothers day when they were in kindy. These things are clearly not fit for display but they're impossible to part with.

I've tried Marie Condo's "if it doesn't bring you joy, get rid of it approach" too. But I have letters and photos from failed relationships that can be painful but still a part of my history. On the rare occasion that I look at them, they provide great reminders of what I DON'T want in my life and the valuable lessons I learnt from that experience. And, they don't take up much space. Clearly, these things don't bring joy, but I find it just as difficult to part with these things as with beloved items.

So I came to the following conclusions!

There are some no-brainers

Somethings are - to me at least - clearly clutter. Clothes we no longer wear, toys the kids no longer play with, some books etc. Things that need to go to the recycling or the bin (and that we just haven't actioned yet). Broken items, out of date medicines, spices we know we will never use. All these are things we know need to go and aren't muddied by annoying emotions.

Not all clutter is created equally

Some people like having more 'stuff', be that fashion, decorative items around the home or tools in the shed. Some people live with alot less. Clutter is subjective! Just because you've got a lot of things lovingly displayed does not mean that any of it is clutter. I think this is a really important point because I have felt that a non-minimalist approach is somehow something to be apologetic about. Absolute cods wallop! Display and be proud, I say!

Our own definitions around clutter can change

Time can have an effect similar to alchemy! It can subtly change our thoughts about clutter just as it can about politics or our taste in wine! In ten years time, you might have a completely different view on what constitutes clutter for you! My advice is, listen to your gut and trust it. When it comes to the crunch you will probably know is best for you. If that is to divest yourself of stuff, then do it. If you need to call in help to achieve that, then do it. If you want to collect more stuff, then do it. There is no right or wrong in this!

Unless there's an actual deadline, no need to add pressure

Unless there is an actual reason or date that something needs to be done by, don't put pressure on yourself to declutter. It's better to go slowly-slowly-catchy-monkey than have regrets down the track. However, if you do work well with a deadline, then that's ok too. Whatever works best is the way to go

Try a few things until you find the one that works for you

Decluttering is a learning process. It involves objectively reviewing how you live and how you want to live. It involves developing new habits to keep clutter at bay. There are any number of books or blogs out there promoting different techniques or approaches, my advice is to try different ones until you find the perfect one for you!


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