One of the most impactful simplification concepts out there is decluttering.
Marie Kondo and others have extolled the virtues of various forms of decluttering (ever heard of Swedish Death Cleaning?) for years and the concept resonates for a number of reasons. Getting rid of unnecessary stuff makes your house cleaner, increases your livable space, and makes your space more pleasant to be in. But a more subtle benefit of decluttering, and perhaps a more valuable benefit, is that it can give you back more free time. Like Mark Twain said about his personal investment strategy, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” We can’t manufacture more time, we can only make the most out of what we have.
Simply put, the more things we have, the more time it takes to maintain and manage them. We spend time cleaning things, deciding where to put them, organizing and reorganizing space to make room for more things, fixing things and buying more. Consider a child with 500 toys. Every single toy, at one point or another, winds up scattered on the floor, forgotten under a bed or left outside to be run over by the lawnmower. The more toys there are, the longer it takes to pick them all up and put them all away. If five toys take a minute to clean up, 500 could take an hour. Do children need 500 toys? Mine didn’t. It’s amazing to see a child occupy themselves for an hour with a shoe box and three action figures. The same could be said for adults.
For me, garage decluttering provided the biggest gain. Old bikes we no longer use, cans of paint from 10 years ago, ancient and ignored sports equipment – the list goes on. I implemented a hybrid four-box method: Put away, Give away, Storage and Throw away, with additional Give away/Throw away modifiers: “Has it been used in the past year?” and “Likelihood it will be used in the next”. The benefits were many: We could fit a vehicle in the garage, more storage space , better visibility for the things I actually do need, and the big one: time gained resulting from no longer needing to move useless item “X” when looking for needed item “Y”, less items to reorganize and one less thing about which to wonder, “Should I just throw this out?”
While Marie Kondo would tell you to evaluate every belonging based on whether it “sparks joy” or not, the key for me was to start developing a “time preservation” mindset. The methods to get there can vary, (I’ve listed a few of my favorites below), but a good start is to develop a healthy skepticism when considering your next discretionary purchase. And I would highly recommend evaluating the forgotten, neglected things you already have, and determining if they, in any way, “spark joy”. If you can easily live without something, you probably should. Not having to move, look under, organize or ever think about useless item “X” again, will free up more of the most precious resource we have – time.
- Marie Kondo – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
- Minimalist Game – by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists
- The four box (or bag) method
- Margaret Magnusson – The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (yes, it’s a real thing)