Why I'm decluttering my life.

Recently I decided that I’d like to work toward living a more minimalist lifestyle. Before taking action I decided to think about the reasons I had for making this lifestyle change and why it was important to me. Here’s a list of 6 reasons for why I’ve chosen to live a more minimalist lifestyle:

1.         For personal peace and serenity.

I work in a high-stress environment (at least to me, anyway). At home I crave peace from the manufactured urgency of work. An uncluttered and simple environment is relaxing for the body, mind, and soul, and pleasing to the eye. It is difficult if not impossible to relax if everywhere you look you see something that needs to be put away, or if something you want to do to relax requires that you first move or put other things away.  As Joshua Becker writes on his blog, Becoming Minimalist: A minimalist home is less stressful. Clutter is a form of visual distraction as everything in our vision subtly pulls at our attention. The less clutter, the less visual stress we experience. A minimalist home has a calming feel.”

2.         I am a messy person.

I can’t keep a tidy house. If I have too many things and it’s in any way difficult or out of the way to put those things away I just won’t do it, which in turn leads to the visual, mental, and physical clutter problem described above. It is therefore inevitable that I will reach the limit of my tolerance for mess and then go on a binge of cleaning and rearranging things the likes of which have not been seen since the last time I went on a cleaning and rearranging binge. I’d much rather the house be clean and tidy all the time instead of it necessitating a 6 hour cleaning binge every couple of months, which leads me to reason 3:

3.         I value my personal time.

I don’t want to spend my personal time cleaning the house, or moving stuff to get at other stuff or beating myself up for relaxing when I think I should be cleaning. As a busy person with many activities and commitments, my free time is important to me and I want to enjoy it free of worry and guilt.

4.         To be a part of the solution and not the problem.

We are a society of consumers. We focus on our wants instead of our needs. This is evidenced by all of the stuff we have and don’t use. Since I began decluttering I’ve come across so many items that I remember wanting so badly a short time ago only to have completely forgotten about them. Now it feels like a waste to be getting rid of many of these items, (not reason enough to keep them though) and I wouldn’t even be feeling this way (or adding to the landfill or leaving such a huge environmental footprint) had I not acquired these things in the first place.

5.         To focus on the important and the essential, not the ‘urgent’.

When you’re always putting out little fires close to you it’s easy to overlook the massive wall of flames only a few miles away. When you choose the quick fix / instant-gratification solution for a slight emotional or physical discomfort you lose the self-esteem and stability that comes with the habit of doing things that are self-nurturing. You then lose the ability to deal with the really serious stuff when it inevitably comes along.

We deal daily with the things that are the most demanding of our attention at that moment and as a result we overlook the things that burn quietly in the background, never realizing their importance until it’s too late: our personal relationships, our passions, our spiritual fulfillment, our self-love. Often, we let these important things go until it’s too late and we risk losing them forever. I love writing, drawing and painting and feel great satisfaction in completing pieces and yet I somehow never seem to find time for any of it because I consciously choose other activities or things that give me a quick “hit of happy” but don’t contribute to the foundation of my self-esteem. I cheat myself out of the lasting peace and happiness I truly crave. It is paradoxical: I do the quick fix and I am happy for a short while, yet because of this I am never happy in the long run.

I am choosing a minimalist lifestyle because I want to make time for the essential things; like writing this piece for example. It’s taken me over a month to write it simply because I’ve chosen other instant-gratification pursuits or my schedule has been too full. If I had made a conscious effort to ditch the video games or thin out my personal and professional commitments, I would have had this very personal piece of writing completed long ago.

6.         To keep from being depressed.

I am a highly sensitive person. I am easily overwhelmed by too much of the wrong kind of stimuli: sound, light, smells, etc… Sometimes it’s fast paced and stressful environments that do me in. The moods and actions of others as well as my own feelings also affect me very easily and more deeply than most people. Though it isn’t the case all the time, or in all situations or with all people, being highly sensitive does mean that these things happen a lot more frequently and more seriously for me than for the average person.

My response to these types of situations commonly manifests itself as negative thoughts and statements. This means I am at higher risk of being anxious and/or depressed which is something I need to constantly be aware of. To help keep me from being triggered into depression and anxiety, I’ve realized that I need to have access to low stimulus environments: quiet places free of physical clutter, noise and hyperactivity. Places where I can think things through and feel at ease. Places that can serve as a counterbalance and recovery space to my fast paced work life, to a crazy day spent with stressed out people or hyperactive children, to a night spent out socializing. This is the kind of space I need my home to be.

Side note: I used to think of my high sensitivity as a character defect; a liability that needed to be corrected. Now, I consider my sensitivity to be one of my greatest strengths because it enables me to sense subtle changes in my environment, in my own personal feelings, and in the feelings of other people that perhaps others might not notice. It might seem odd than an extrovert like me would be highly sensitive, however, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of “The Highly Sensitive Person”, 30% of highly sensitive people are extroverts.

These are just some of the reasons why I’ve chosen to lead a minimalist lifestyle. If you are thinking of taking steps to declutter and uncomplicate your life, it might help to start by thinking about your own reasons. Once you know why you need or desire a minimal lifestyle it becomes much easier to take positive actions to achieve your goals.