How to declutter life (and 2 things you need first)
This is the third installment of a bite-sized 3-part series on simplifying life. Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 first if you wish. Find (or rediscover) the core of a life you want. Now, step up for the elimination round…
In his incisive and entertaining book, Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence , Daniel Goleman says Steve Jobs “knew that in order to simplify effectively, you need to understand the complexity of what you are reducing.”
Before you begin — the keys to ongoing success
No attempt to eliminate physical, mental and digital clutter will be sustainable if we don’t know how and why it fits into the ecosystem of our life. To start, regularly applying healthy dollops of self-awareness will help us uncover the reasons for our attachment to various items.
Knowing the root of our ‘need’ for an object makes it easier to reveal if the correlation we’ve made between it and our desired state, is a false one. We can also weigh the object’s relevance to us now. (It’s helpful to know why we want certain people in our life too but don’t rely on them to make you happy: that’s your own responsibility.)
Then, when we’re fiercely honest about what we want and are prepared to put in the requisite effort — e.g. a profitable business, a joyful relationship, a relaxing home — we have a framework within which to start untangling and decluttering what we currently have.
In the beginning, expect resistance . Remember, you’re on a quest to preserve your time, energy and wellbeing so you can show up be effective in the roles (business owner/parent/partner/artist etc) that matter most to you.
Decluttering starts now
Ditch the meaningless tasks, stale projects, objectionable people, futile arguments, physical items in your life as much as possible. Oust the digital dross too. Declutter progressively , as tactfully and ruthlessly as you can.
Tell a trusted person about your mission so they can help and/or hold you accountable.
- Create a ‘not to-do’ list.
- Schedule time to donate/throw out/sort/clean physical items.
- Schedule time to read and act upon Beating information overload: the insider’s guide .
- If you’re reading this around Christmas time, consider making your presence your present to loved ones. Seriously. Lend your help, gratitude, laughter and spirit to the occasion.
If the objectionable people in your life include loved ones or your boss:
- Use self-awareness and curiosity to view and modify your own actions first, then see if the situation changes. If not, practise being courageous and make your feelings known.
- If your job saps your soul, make an escape plan (that won’t leave you starving, homeless or under arrest).
How can you get better at this?
Know this is not a do-it-once process. Make it a habit to review what’s not serving you. Choose your own adventure. Define a personal theme and your primary and secondary roles on the 1-page Ultimate Freedom or Focus Planner . When the next year arrives: repeat.