Decluttering is such a powerful tool when it comes to personal productivity and is so much more than tidying a space. As I have argued in a previous post, the physical space we live in is directly connected to our mental state and therefore to the level of productivity, motivation and enjoyment we feel. Clearing our desks together was just the beginning!
Decluttering was always something that I wanted to talk about on this blog very early on because it is what got me started on my personal productivity journey and what led me to this point right here and now. I became a firm believer that decluttering makes total sense as a first step into improving personal productivity and the level of fulfilment that it brings.
As you may have noticed, I have avoided a term that is often associated with decluttering:
I believe in the concept of minimalism but I don’t want you to think that what we’re after with this post is a clear, pristine, white and somewhat empty looking living space. That is one face of minimalism. It has many others.
Decluttering, at least to me, is not about getting rid of the largest amount of things possible. Minimalism, at least to me, is not about owning the least amount of things possible.
It is about finding the perfect amount of things to declutter and the perfect amount of things to own.
What’s going to happen during a declutter?
It is going to be a process and it’s going to be different for everyone who embarks on the decluttering journey. You will need to set aside some time to attend to different areas of your space. Sorting through physical things in our lives often forces us to touch on some emotional clutter as well. Decluttering is definitely as much a mental and emotional journey as it is a physical one for some, including myself.
This decluttering process is going to be split up into three main chunks: Physical decluttering, digital decluttering and mental decluttering and then, lastly, we’ll wrap things up and see where we stand.
I guess if you feel like your space is not exactly how you’d like it to be and the things that surround you weigh you down, it’s easy to buy into the idea of giving it a bit of a makeover and to freshen it up a little.
But if your space is tidy and you never thought of decluttering, why bother? Why even do this when you don’t work in your living space and don’t need extra productivity?
Well, because we all have lizard brains. I borrow this term from glorious youtuber muchelleb because it is most fitting and explains a lot. Our brains are awesome. They do a hell of a lot for us every day and sometimes solve really hard problems with us. At other times, however, they’re a bit stupid, really. Brains are so efficient at what they’re doing because they’re really good at recognising things, making connections and therefore finding the easiest way to go about a task. And this is why they so easily fall prey to illusions, fallacies, biases and short-term satisfaction. They chose the route of the smallest resistance and they crave short-term solutions. Ever tried to break a bad habit and form a new one? Exactly.
Could decluttering be beneficial for you?
Making what we want more of in our daily routines easier and more accessible for our lizard brains will make it more likely that we’re successful at it. We all have a limited amount of willpower at our disposal and it gets drained constantly from the moment we wake up and make the decision whether to hit snooze or not or what to eat for breakfast.
Navigating through clutter, however big or small, forces us to make more decisions, sometimes insignificant and unconscious ones. This drains our willpower that we then cannot use for other mental tasks like working productively, forming a habit or doing the thing after work that we really want to do. This effect is called decision fatigue.
Reducing clutter in our lives is one (powerful) step to reduce the number of decisions our brains have to make and will free up a lot of that willpower for other tasks. Hence the increased productivity in a decluttered environment and the potential of a greater sense of fulfilment in different areas of life.
At this point, I’d like to define a bit more what I mean by productivity. Or rather what I don’t mean by it. I don’t understand it as yet another way to be more efficient, work harder, function quicker, achieve more – and burn out faster. Understand it more in the sense of capacity. I call it personal productivity because I believe that with the energy and willpower that we have, we can go after the life that we want and that fulfils us. Sometimes that means being more productive, sometimes that means working hard for something. But in a healthy, sustainable and fulfilling way, without the burning out bit.
There are some things in life we all have to do (or do we?) and an increase in personal productivity makes sure that we have enough capacity left for the things we want to do.
Defining your WHY
These are my reasons behind decluttering and why I advocate for its benefits so strongly. But what about you, what would be your reasoning? If you’d like to go on this journey and to give decluttering a go, you need a WHY, a reason to fall back to in the midst of the process as a motivator and as a helper when it gets hard.
I invite you to think about the reasons why getting rid of the unneeded might be a good idea for your life. What would you like your space to look like, how would you like to feel in your space and what energy/sense of purpose do you want o get from your space? What would you use freed up willpower for?
After you have thought about that (and ideally have written It down somewhere) I move on to the first stage of minimising (coming soon): The physical decluttering.