Decluttering Life: Choosing What to Keep

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo last year.

It’s a great book that goes beyond decluttering and simplifying your life. It’s more than living a minimalistic life and owning less stuff. You can apply the lessons to productivity, relationships and social life, money management, and many other areas of life.

It’s about doing more with less.

At its core, it’s about freeing up your life.

Having less frees not only space but also your mind, letting it focus on the things that matter.

Humans are collectors by choice. And yet, there are so many things that we will never need again. Notes from college? Old clothes that we don’t use anymore? Kitchen utensils that might come handy? Nah, you don’t really need these things.

There’s a great quote in the book that I pondered for the longest of time:

“It’s not about what to discard, it’s what to keep.”

It took a while to process but it literally changed the way I look at things. Max Planck said it best: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” When you keep only the things you love, you are suddenly flooded with joy throughout the days.

I came up with a simple exercise to help me find what things truly bring me joy.

Step 1: Know What You Love

Grab a pen and paper. This is where you are going to list everything you love.

I found that it’s easier to start with Things, then Work and leave Leisure for last.

In the first page, write “Things” at the top. Now start listing everything you own that you love. It can be clothes, gadgets, pots, collections, etc. Everything that you own that is physical and brings you joy every time you use it.

Don’t go around looking for things to love. Just write downwhat comes to mind.

Here’s a snippet of mine as an example:

  • MacBook Pro (everything on a Mac just “works”)
  • Guitar (it never lets me down)
  • Green Boss shirt (I always get compliments)
  • Blue Asics shoes (seriously, they are ridiculously comfortable)
  • Gigantic and comfy bed (I bought it in April last year, been sleeping so much better ever since)
  • Bose Headphones (truly noise-canceling)

I have more items on the list. For you, this could mean that book you love, or the awesome leggings that are super comfortable, or your wallet. Write down your favorites.

Then, repeat the exercise for work and leisure.

In work, list down everything you love about what you do. These can be tasks, places, colleagues, things, location, etc.

Leisure refers to the activities you do in your free time. I love attending concerts and shows, going to the movies and playing soccer with friends. If you want, you can also add friends to the mix.

Save page 2 for “Work” and page 3 for “Leisure”.

Write those 3 pages down. Continue reading when you are done.

I’ll wait ;)

Step 2: Remove What You Don’t

It’s time to know what’s cluttering your life.

Here’s the secret:

Everything that you didn’t write down on any of those lists doesn’t bring you joy.

Some might make your life easier (or at least not complicate it), but they do not bring you happiness. If they did, they would be on the list.

To be perfectly clear: it does not mean you hate everything else.

It just means that those things do not bring you joy. And these are the things that you should remove from your life.

For Things: sell, donate or throw away.

For Work: can you delegate/delete what you hate? For dreaded tasks, find a way to automate or delegate. If it’s meetings (on my list; who loves meetings anyway?), try to ask your boss if your presence is necessary, say no or schedule something critical right after. For things, see the advice on Things.

For Leisure: how you can have more of what you love? Maybe you could set a bro-night every week with your best friend. Or signup for a newsletter to get news on the best shows in town. Or you could join a club to get back into tennis.

That’s it. There’s no step 3.


This exercise seems too simple to be true.

And yet, if you slowly and steadily start only having and doing things you love, you end up happier than ever.

The 1% has understood this long ago: the secret to genius is not complexity, it’s simplicity.

And here’s a couple of added benefits:

  • Time: no maintenance of everyday things means you just got hours per week back; less stuff, less cleaning; plus a lot more space for the things you love
  • Stress: no more overloaded schedules since you deleted unnecessary and unimportant tasks; every day you get to wear clothes you love (imagine that!)
  • Better Health: the decluttering and clear space calms your mind and brings clarity; improved memory as you have less to remember, less to carry in your brain
  • Freedom: things don’t own you anymore, you only own things you love

Own less. Do less. Declutter. Simplify.

And you might be surprised at how much more you will accomplish.