An unclutterer’s perspective

7 01 2012


In Tuesday’s post, we discussed the seven routines and guidelines most unclutterers follow. These aren’t laws, they’re just actions that unclutterers often have in common. In a comparable vein, unclutterers seem to repeat similar statements about physical possessions.

The vast majority of unclutterers I know are not ascetics who eschew physical possessions or consumerism. There are a few minimalists in our ranks and some anti-consumers, but the majority of us like the conveniences of modern life, have some sentimental items in our homes, and think of ourselves as smart consumers — we spend less than we earn, research purchases before we make them, and mostly buy only things we need but with a few fun things thrown in to keep life interesting.

Not surprisingly, the statements that tend to unite unclutterers are straightforward and practical. Again, these aren’t laws, no one ceases to be an unclutterer if he or she doesn’t agree with one or more of these ideas. Rather, these are the eight concepts unclutterers often use when evaluating and discussing their stuff and their uncluttered and organized lives:

  1. You are not your things. If your home were to burn down in a tragic accident, you wouldn’t stop being you. People would still recognize you in the office and in the grocery store. On a less dire level, if you part with an object, you’ll still be whole. The physical stuff in your life is not your life.
  2. Physical possessions are not alive, they do not contain souls. Your grandmother is not inside the quilt/rocking chair/ring she gave you. Objects remind you of the person who gave them to you. Objects stir up sentimental memories associated with happy times. However, if you were to recycle a rusty and damaged knife your grandfather gave you, you would not be recycling your grandfather. If an object were accidentally destroyed, you would still have the joyful memories of the person and/or event associated with the object.
  3. Know yourself, have less clutter. When you know who you are and what your priorities are in life, it’s easier to get rid of the things that don’t belong. It’s also easier to keep from acquiring things that distract you from what matters most to you. If you don’t know who you are and what matters to you, there will always be “what if” and “just in case” clutter in your life.
  4. Read the manual. Knowing what you own and all of the things these items can do prevents owning items that have duplicate purposes. Obviously, this applies to electronic equipment, but it can also apply to low-tech equipment. A three-hour knife skills class can help you to know how to properly use knives so you no longer need extremely specific kitchen tools that do the same things knives can do.
  5. Quality over quantity. Although this advice applies to purchases (a $50 toaster that lasts 50 years is a better deal than a $10 toaster that only lasts 5), it’s more about editing the things in your home. Instead of owning five pairs of pants you don’t like and don’t fit well, try owning two pairs that are the perfect fit and style. Instead of hoarding all your grandmother’s possessions in your garage, choose the one or two items that you truly value and use them in your home.
  6. Anyone can learn to unclutter and be organized. As long as a person is in good mental and physical health, he or she can learn the skills to being uncluttered and organized. Everyone learns at a different rate — heck, I’m still learning — but everyone can learn. And, everyone should expect to have bumps in the road and failures as they learn, as this is part of the skills acquisition process.
  7. Being an unclutterer is a choice, and it’s not for everyone. A person has to want to be an unclutterer to be one. You can’t force anyone against their will to adopt an uncluttered lifestyle. (You can teach them, talk with them, and show how it has improved your life, but that is where it ends.) More importantly, being an unclutterer isn’t for everyone. Uncluttered living is great, but there are multiple paths to living a remarkable life. Being intolerant of how other people have chosen to pursue what matters most to them only clutters up your time.
  8. Uncluttered and organized is not the goal, it is a path to a better goal. What matters most to you are the goals; being uncluttered and organized merely allows you a smoother path to reach your other goals.

In addition to these common perspectives, individuals will have other ideas they bring to their uncluttered life. What perspectives do you hold that help you communicate with yourself and others about your uncluttering and organizing adventures?



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