How to Declutter for a Simpler Life — Part Six: Final Thoughts

I’ve spent the last four months turning my life upside down from the inside out.

I’ve scavenged every nook and cranny. I’ve touched every item I own. And I’ve asked, “Does this spark joy?” more than 500 times.

I’ve traveled back and forth from Goodwill to clothing resale shops to electronic stores to my mother’s house. I’ve used dozens of white and black trash bags to discard items. The dumpster has become my friend. What remains are items that I truly enjoy and the 10 lessons I’ve learned.

10 Lessons from Decluttering

1.Sometimes you get it wrong.

After a day of decluttering, I would rest and relax until the next day. Then I’d wake up and re-evaluate my situation. Where am I? How have I done?

I found that in my excitement or emotional turbulence I kept several items that didn’t spark joy. Or I failed to properly ask the question in the first place. So I returned to certain categories.

I reviewed the items that remained. And parted with several more things. Until I felt complete.

I choose not to judge myself. I’m only human.

So keep in mind, should you choose to declutter, you might also do it wrong, forget a few things, or not ask the right question at the right time. But that’s okay. Because you can always go back.

2. We often hold onto things out of fear.

Fear of the future. Fear of not enough. Fear of what others will think. Fear of emptiness and spaciousness. Fear of ourselves.

Feel the fear and let it go anyways.

Living in fear is far from inspired. And never leads to a happy, empowered life.

3. Stuff carries emotional baggage, some of the time.

You can’t predict what will be the hardest to let go. And other times, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discard things.

Remember when I cried over perfume bottles? Perfumes I hadn’t worn in a couple years. But then there were mounds of books I plowed through in minutes. I knew it was time.

You’ll know, too, when it’s time to let go. And you’ll be stopped in your tracks by things that pull emotional cords.

4. You’ll just know.

I get what Marie Kondo means when she says, “You’ll just know.”

Decluttering is about finding a balance and a knowing with your belongings. It’s about everything you own having its right place in your physical, mental, and emotional space.

You’ll love what you have. You’ll have less stuff so you’ll care for it more. You’ll put it all back where it belongs. Therefore, your home will be tidier.

And at the end of your decluttering process, you’ll feel at peace with your belongings. Until you do, you’re not done.

5. There’s more involved than you might expect.

It’s not just a matter of getting rid of things. It’s a whole process.

Collecting everything in one spot from all the locations your stuff could be — all corners of your home, your car, your parent’s home, your friend’s home, or your work.

Then entering the process of discarding. One item at a time, “Does this spark joy?”

Then collecting it all to remove from your home. And dispersing all your stuff to the dumpster, the resale shop, your mom or dad’s house, or your best friend’s home. It takes more time than I expected. No wonder she gives you six months.

On top of that, you can’t predict the emotional impact each session will have. Your emotions will either slow or hasten your desire to declutter. Remember my need for space? Sometimes you have to resolve emotional issues and face fears before continuing. And that’s okay.

6. Many businesses are unsustainable.

Most businesses these days are unsustainable. In our consumer and producer world, we believe that we can keep creating “products” to make a living. Yet the living we’re making is destroying the world we live in.

The belief that we can continually reach for more and more, produce more and more, is unsustainable. But all businesses think about is hitting that next big profit goal without considering the impact it has on the environment — in the short and long term.

We buy clothes continuously because there’s a seemingly endless supply (to the detriment of workers in sweatshops in third-world countries).

Planned obsolescence forces us to purchase the next best gadget. Otherwise, we can’t install the latest app to check our email or listen to music.

To live in a healthy world, our business practices must be sustainable. Which means our purchasing practices must be sustainable as well. As consumers, we have the power to direct the market. The power of our purchases guides businesses.

So make no mistake. The power is in our hands.

7. You can declutter more than physical items.

Other areas of your life can be decluttered, too. Like your goals and projects. Your chores and daily tasks. Your activities. Your friends. Your beliefs. And your digital world.

Maybe just start with your home.

But consider the impact that decluttering can have on your entire life. Simply ask yourself, “Does this task/goal/friend/belief spark joy?”

8. Decluttering impacts those around you.

My boyfriend started his own decluttering process. It’s not the same as mine but he’s inspired to live a decluttered life as well.

I didn’t encourage him to do it. He simply noticed the impact my decluttering has had on my life — which affects him, too. So now he is joining.

Also, he has gained a lot of joy from reading my old high school journals. He wanted to keep a few of them. And I let him. About once a week he opens one and reads it allowed. We laugh at how ridiculous I was in high school. And we bond as he gets to know the person I used to be.

9. You learn a lot about yourself.

I learned the most when decluttering the sentimental category. It’s as though I forgot who I was over the years. And decluttering helped to remind me that who I am today has ties to my past. My interests and passions can be traced back to my youth.

Beyond the sentimental, I’ve learned about myself by uncovering my beliefs about stuff. My fears. My emotions. It has been an eye-opening and empowering journey.

10. You don’t need to buy more things to be happy.

I don’t feel as a strong an urge to fill my home with stuff.

It’s easier for me to say no to things. My boyfriend has offered to buy me several home good items that I’ve had on my “want list” for a while. But each time I think about going out to buy something new, I reconsider and realize I don’t really need it.

So I mostly say no. Unless it would feel joyful to have. This saves us money.

My purchases are more powerful and thoughtful, and they have greater meaning.

Finally…

A major overhaul such as this one only comes every once in a while. Once you’re done you should be good for at least a few years. You should have discarded enough things that your home is tidier than ever. And you’ll mostly likely be far more thoughtful about what comes into your home, too.

Yea, my home will get messy every once in a while. But it is easier to keep tidy. I have less stuff. And the stuff I do have has its spot.

Decluttering is not only an overhaul of your belongings but it’s a personal overhaul. It’s an opportunity to re-evaluate your life and your values. It’s an opportunity to align your values with your actions.

You can confront your habits and choose to change them. And then you can create new habits. Healthier habits. And in the process, you’ll discover that you’re happier for it, too.

My hope is that you’ve learned about the decluttering process. Not only the physical task of how-to but also the unexpected twists and turns. And I hope you’re inspired to take stock of your life — your belongings, emotions, time, attention, and loved ones.

How are you spending your precious time?

You only get one life.

Are you shopping every weekend to fill a void? Are you continually cleaning and keeping up with all your stuff? Are you too distracted by all the stuff to spend quality time with friends and family? Have you lost touch with life? With your passions? With what lights you up?

Maybe now is the time to get out from underneath the stuff, come up for air, and align yourself with what brings you joy. Start a decluttering process today. And send me an email and tell me about how it’s going (writer@pauladjones.com).