I have a lot of things I want to do. My plans are loaded and my journal is proof of that. Meanwhile, I have a lot that needs to be done. Balancing the two can become extremely challenging at times.
As a college student, the calendar is always full of something. Papers and projects, forums and discussions. It never seems to end. Over time, though, I’ve learned to appreciate the busy scuffle of it all. And I’ve made space for what I love in the process.
But with the immaterial parts of life in mind, there remains a physical clutter around most of us. We sit in chaos and don’t realize how our environments are effective our stress levels, our drive to get more done, and our overall expressions.
Let me be clear: your physical environment matters. It’s time we opened our eyes to the freedom we’ve been abandoning all along.
Most Things Can Wait
Life is jam-packed with enough to-do lists as it is. There’s no need to fill it with tangible things you don’t need and that make your head spin.
Think about it:
How much time do you spend rearranging items that annoy you? How often are you cleaning things you’ve purchases simply because they were on sale and now they’re just sitting there, collecting dust with the rest of your “smart-purchases”?
Chances are, you fall right into the category of consumers that make up the majority of Americans today. We are always looking for the next big thing. We are always trying to add on purchases we could’ve waited for, or—better yet—could’ve gone without.
It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do.
No wonder our lives are so chaotic. No wonder we can’t get anything done. There’s barely any space for what we really love. Every part of our world is so full of the new and modern, we can’t distinguish what adds value to our lives from what just takes up space.
A few weeks ago, I talked about how the concept of minimalism changed my life. I was in this same pit myself. It was damaging my work, my creativity, and the way I went about surviving.
My mind would roam off to the newest gadget, and the next thing I knew hours had flown by. “Where did the time go?” I’d say to myself, completely ignoring my problem of overindulgence.
There is a ride of consumption available to you 24/7, but you don’t have to keep getting on. You can skip it and focus on the important areas of your life instead.
It wasn’t until I discovered people who were willing to stop following the trail of unhealthy consumerism and start their own decluttering journey that I woke up to the reality of my condition. I was headed nowhere fast. And there was no way I was going to continue to let that happen.
So I decided those new purchases could wait.
The new iPhone with that new camera feature wasn’t something I had to have. It was all a gimmick to stay close to the tribe of modern society. The pull of its temptation is stronger than ever. But with enough care, we can still change our own toxic lifestyles if nothing else.
Prioritize Your Life
Now I wasn’t trying to be an extremist who throws away everything he has to go and stay in the woods (I like my couch). My intention was to detoxify the life I still had, flushing out the extra stuff that became a cluster of stagnation.
It was that serious to me.
Sitting at my desk, I felt the weight of the clutter all around me. I couldn’t focus on my writing because of it. Nothing I went out and bought made it any better. It just made it worse.
At the core of it all, I wasn’t placing significant value on my life. This gift we have is valuable, and not in a cheesy sort of way.
We exist for something greater than how much we can show off. The more we live, the more we realize this to be true.
There should be meaning in the actions we take. There should be intentionality in the things we do, including the purchases we make. How productive are you in this sense?
Often our answers are jumbled in the fog of believing because we have so much to look after and take care of, we’re being productive. Well, the opposite is true. We are harming the quality and purpose of life for the sake of acquiring more and doing less.
Why let your life continue in chaos when you don’t have to?
You can take back the clarity of mind you were designed to have. You can reduce your level of stress, build relationships with friends and family, and even strengthen your financial muscles. But you have to be willing to stand out from the crowd first.
Prioritize Your Stuff
There’s a saying: you never know what you have until it’s gone. I never knew how true that was until I started getting rid of the meaningless things in my environment. At first, I figured I’d miss my beloved possessions (I came to this conclusion by the saying above).
However, I didn’t miss them at all. Because the things I left behind gave me the kind of joy, happiness, and usefulness that the others couldn’t provide. It was like night and day. Only, I was starting to see the day more often than before.
The environment I needed to gather my thoughts, hone in on my creativity and get more tasks completed was supposed to encourage those kinds of behaviors. But something different was happening.
Because I had so many things that didn’t mean that much to me, I was distracted almost all the time. I found myself rearranging things like bags and watches that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Not that those items were bad, but I didn’t need them.
Now, I should stress the fact that what you find most important to you is completely subjective. There’s no end-all formula for finding exactly what you should or shouldn’t keep. This is something you have to consider on your own. And it’s a time of consideration worth investing in.
Take Control of What Matters to You
It’s quite natural that most people jump to the extreme when they hear the word minimalism. They assume that everything they have must be thrown out of the window and onto the side of the road, leaving nothing behind but a toothbrush, a few items of clothing, and those shoes they really like.
This is definitely not what I mean.
If you feel forced to get rid of something, you’re doing it wrong. Stop and think about how that item adds value to your life and decide what you want to do with it. There must be some significance in it if you want to keep it. But never let your underlining excuse be because it’s simply popular. That leads to a life of people-pleasing habits you don’t want.
The reality is if you don’t take time to evaluate what brings you joy, what encourages productivity, and what brings clarity to your mind, there is a culture that will form them for you.
It will bring the best-looking, eye-popping things to get your attention and pull you away from what matters. You won’t know where to stop and where you should begin.
Don’t be mistaken, it is also a culture that is effective in doing so. But you don’t have to let this influence control you. You can take control of your own life, your own stuff, and your own creativity—one thing at a time.
Kevin Horton is a photographer, college student, modest book-worm, and wanna-be web developer with a new-found love for writing. He writes helpful words about creativity, productivity, and the enjoyably simple life.
’Til next time. Thanks for reading!