Do you ever experience anxiety or feel overwhelmed, yet there’s nothing to point to? Like you can’t breathe or have no space to move? Exhausted and tense, even though you’re not doing anything out of the ordinary? And in these moments you find yourself thinking about escape? Living in the mountains, traveling somewhere new and getting a fresh start? Well, perhaps you’re experiencing the symptoms of a cluttered life.
Whether it’s internally or externally, deliberately or subconsciously, we pick things up and add them to our collection of stuff. We consume and collect on a daily basis not just in the form of physical products but ideas and memories too. When we don’t pay attention, this can get out of hand. Our spaces can become claustrophobic and stressful which can translate to our lives. It’s hard to find peace when our lives are filled with so much noise and mess. And now you find that your soul craves escape. Naturally, we want to go somewhere new, somewhere open! This is our body’s way of telling us that we want to let go of the heavy things in our lives. The stuff that distracts us from the Essential parts. The things that breathe in life and substance.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
We all have a collection of things whether they be beliefs, shoes, friends, notes, or responsibilities. These collections can shape the trajectory of our lives and how we experience it; so why not choose to design that? Most times we just pick things up compulsively without forethought of how this habit can impact our lives. Pick up one thing here, another one over there, “What could it hurt? I can handle more!”, we tell ourselves. We keep doing this until suddenly we have subtly massed this horde of rubbish. And because of this subtly, it goes under our radar. We feel tired of overburdened schedules. Coupons, ads, and magazines stuffed in drawers because “we might go through them later.” A closet and drawers so full of clothes you have to spend 10 minutes searching for a particular item.
We have to learn to set aside that compulsion to collect and curb it with deliberate thought. That is the root of Essentialism: to reflect on our collections and ask ourselves, what’s taking up more space, more energy, and more time than it should?
The danger in collecting so much is how bloated and out of hand, our lives can become. There are people who hoard their materials or become so attached to ideas, it becomes a part of their identity. So mentally and emotionally enmeshed, removing and challenging their situation creates resistance or hysteria in those extreme cases. Your mental health sacrificed in turn for a collection that has tiptoed its way into your life.
Thankfully, this can be changed and you can take action today! Right now! Go through your home and whatever doesn’t add value to your life whether that be utility or substance, remove it! Evict it like a bad tenant.
Too many coffee cups? Just keep your favorites.
Too many clothes? Just keep your favorites.
Too many books? Just keep your favorites.
The key to Essentialism isn’t to become like the Buddha and give away all your belongings, but to be deliberate. Chose the things that you keep in your life. No need to keep things just because you have them. Give them back to the world and release yourself of those binds. With each thing let go, more of your energy is returned. Your time spent picking and choosing, sorting and wondering: they are no longer a drain on you and the more satisfaction you feel using the things you love to.
There was a time in my life I felt so frustrated and impatient that I felt frustrated and impatient about feeling frustrated and impatient. Eventually one day, like a lightbulb, a thought came to me, “Maybe I have to let go of my old life to make room for a new one.”
Like taking a breath or the tide at the beach, we take in and so we must let go. So I emptied out my backpack, my desktop, my phone, my room, and my car. Distilling it down to the things that mattered to me. Then I took it even further and reviewed my thoughts, my memories, my schedule, the people I associated with, where I spent my time and nurtured only what was important.
Every couple of months I will go through my life, my collection, and do this because I’m still human and I will find myself picking up things it’s probably best not to in the first place but hindsight is always 20/20.
What I have taken away from this experience is that our time and our energy are the most valuable assets and they should be spent with the things that matter. Not clutter. Whether that takes the form of a messy room, busy schedule, a bloated business, or a noisy mind we always have the option to empty those buckets.
Try adopting an Essentialist perspective and see if it help you in your life. I know it has brought clarity, decisiveness, and peace to mine.
My closet has more space as well as my day and my heart.