ALL movements create a backlash and, of course, now that many people are opening their minds to the benefits of living with less, there are those resisting the decluttering concept or even criticising it.
Each to their own, but while I respect everyone’s right to do whatever makes them happy, I’m always keen to make sure that before anyone writes off decluttering as ‘not for them’, they really understand what it is, or more importantly, what it isn’t.
Decluttering is not: Another set of rules.
So often people misinterpret decluttering. They see it as yet another book of rigid rules to live their life by, another set of procedures and practices to incorporate into their already busy days. They may view it as oppressive and restrictive, when it is, in fact, exactly the opposite.
Making the switch to living with less is one of the easiest, most liberating, changes we can make to our frantic lives. It can help us reconnect with what really defines us, and surprise surprise, this is not the belongings which surround us, but the experiences that make life seem worthwhile. I don’t encourage strict rules such as ‘for every new item of clothing you buy you must move one on’, or if you haven’t worn it in a year ditch it – as the way we live our lives and manage our belongings is personal and we are all different. What I do believe is that once you have understood the concept of living with less, you will naturally be more selective about what comes into your home.
Decluttering is not: Promoting minimalism.
The reluctant declutterer may worry that they will be expected to rid their homes of everything that is special to them and live some kind of minimalist existence. Yet it is in reassessing all the possessions around us and moving some on that we rediscover and confirm those things that are precious to us. By removing belongings that have accumulated over years on shelves, we can give pride of place to those wonderful objects that we really treasure, possessions that have been hidden behind unimportant bits are given a chance to shine. When we have less we appreciate those special mementoes so much more – we can actually see them and value them. Homes that have been decluttered are not sparse and clinical, they just show a friendly level of organisation.
Decluttering is not: A process to be carried out in a certain way.
Decluttering your home does not have to follow a strict formula. It is, as much as anything, entering a different mind set and a way of living which works for you. It isn’t a process which must be carried out in a specific way within a certain time frame. Once you have embraced and understood the benefits of living a less cluttered life it becomes a gut feeling, and this makes the act of de-cluttering an easier, more organic process. Clients so often tell me that they now naturally look at rooms in a different way. They instinctively move on unwanted belongings, especially clothes, without it seeming an effort or a structured ‘clear out’ – it has simply become their way of life. They do not need to allocate huge chunks of time to ‘declutter’.
Decluttering is not: About being an obsessive tidier.
A friendly level of organisation is exactly that – it is friendly because it works for you, not against you. It means adopting ways of storing and displaying your possessions that make it easy for you to restore order as and when needed. My approach to organising home offices is so simple and that is the key to its success – complicated systems do not work, they become daunting and time consuming. Having order in the home does not mean wasting time on implementing extra procedures, it is about simplicity and removing processes where possible not adding to our daily workload. It means keeping your daily space free from clutter as this overloads our senses and leaves us feeling overwhelmed and defeated but it does not mean rushing around after people obsessively putting things away.
I’m fascinated by the work or Sabine Kastner, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Princeton University. Her studies have found that visual clutter competes with our brain’s ability to pay attention and tires out our cognitive functions. So there we have it, science backs it up once again – clearing our homes of clutter helps us think more clearly – it honestly is that simple. No minimalism, no strict rules and no obsessive behaviour, just common sense really.