You are what you live in. Holding onto all that stuff takes up a lot of mental and emotional energy that you might not be aware of. Decluttering material things you no longer need or that don’t serve you anymore can help you declutter your inner being. The process itself clears your mind and gives you more space for productivity. Today, Kat Nieh highlights the importance of self-control specifically on buying things you do not need. Letting go of the urge to buy unnecessary things can be stressful. However, you can reap great benefits from decluttering regardless of the stress. As Marie Kondo would say, if it does not spark joy, get rid of it.
Listen to the podcast here:
[EPISODE 17] – Your Environment Matters – The Clutter Edition
So recently, I’ve been doing a lot of purging––meaning I’ve been going through my physical and digital environment and just getting rid of things that I no longer need. I do this fairly regularly, at least once a quarter or so. Surprisingly, I could still find things to get rid of over the span of three months or clutter just piles up again somewhere. Each time I do it, I feel amazing afterwards. There are many great benefits to purging that I wanted to take this time to share them with you. It is actually in my book, Dear Workaholics. This episode will be a book reading with my additional commentary and I realized since this is my podcast, I could do whatever I want so why not jump around?
Notice that this is actually a latter part of my book. If you’d like to read my book in the order I laid it out in the written form or you can’t wait until I release the chapters slowly through my podcast, go straight to Amazon and order your own physical or digital copy.
Ok, back to the main topic here… purging! This is actually a three-part series as I recommend three different purging categories for you to go through if you really like to change your life. For my podcast, I’ve labeled them The Clutter Edition, The People Edition, and The Mindset Edition. I have thoughtfully correlated these episodes to the holidays as well so you could take advantage of these great lessons immediately, and probably when you need it the most, too. Be sure to tune in to all three episodes to complete your purge-to-better-your-life education.
We are reading Chapter 8.2 called “You Are What You Live In.”
This is the quote by Marie Kondo that I start off the chapter with. It goes: “It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past, and fears concerning the future, not only govern the way you select the things you own, but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job . . . To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something that is buried so deeply in a cupboard or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?”
You are living in your own space. It is something so familiar and comfortable. If you close your eyes, you can see your entire space in your mind. You could probably even see certain things around the house that you’ve turned a blind eye to as well—a pile of stuff in the corner, things stacked on your desk, a drawer full of random items you’ve kept but don’t use, a bunch of clothes you don’t wear anymore but still take up quite a bit of space in your closet, a garage stacked full of boxes and seasonal items, etc.
Sometimes we have much stuff that we actually rent self-storage units. Did you know that self-storage is primarily a US-based industry? According to the U.S. Self Storage Industry Statistics, it is a $38 billion dollar business. With an estimate of 44,000 to 52,000 storage facilities in the United States just in 2018! How much stuff do we really need?
We’ve been brainwashed as a consumer culture to buy more and more stuff and get the latest and greatest items, but how has that mentality served us? We’re spending much money on things we might not need, along with the time and mental energy figuring out what to buy or whether we should buy it.
[ Additional thoughts ] Marketing entices you to desire and crave and must have the latest and greatest thing. I admit I am not immune to it either, but I’ve been growing my awareness of it instead. I choose to consider the extra step to consider whether I really, really need it. Sure, I still indulge at times, but that is a conscious choice rather than an urge created by our consumer or FOMO culture.
I want you to take note if shopping therapy is a thing for you. As in when you’re in a crappy mood or if you’re super stressed, you choose to go shop and buy something to make you feel better or as a stress reliever. I want you to notice that having the power to buy something makes you feel in control. It means that you have the ability to control over a part of your life, when other parts of it might seem in disarray. But consider this, that is just a Band-Aid solution with a temporary gratification. How often times have you bought something and it felt good at the moment but afterwards when you see the item, you felt “eh, it’s alright.” We’re just not as excited about it anymore. Know that it doesn’t solve anything for you while you might be creating more burden on your wallet or creating clutter in your space. Please know that there’s no judgment here at all. I just wanted to give you another perspective to consider, and for you to increase your awareness as to why you do the things you do.
All the things in your space has mental and emotional baggage attached to them whether you're aware of it or not. Once you let them go, it is so freeing. Click To Tweet
Before buying that next shiny object, consider this thought first: “It’s time to let it go.” Let go of all the things that you don’t need anymore. Let go of all the things you might need someday. Let go of the things that no longer make you happy. Let go of all that physical, visual and emotional baggage in your space.
Instead of buying something to fulfill that need for temporary gratification, get rid of things you no longer use. You’ll find that it is as satisfying. But why is that important? Because “your environment reveals you both to yourself and to other people. Perhaps a clearest indicator of your internal identity is your external environment,” says Benjamin Hardy, PhD in his book Willpower Doesn’t Work. This applies to more than just eating: you are what you live in. Holding onto all that stuff actually it takes up a lot of mental and emotional energy that you might not be aware of.
[ Additional thoughts ] What I continue to share in this chapter and this episode were great ah-ha moment for me that I had no idea was affecting me until I read this eye-opening perspective and advice to release these physical things that no longer serve me. The physical purge of letting go of stuff actually triggers an emotional release as well. All the things you have in your space actually has some mental and emotional baggage attached to them, whether you’re aware of it or not. Once you let them go, it is so freeing.
Instead of buying something to add to your life to gain control, releasing things from real life is quite powerful as well. As you are gaining control over your environment, you’re no longer a victim of the long-term clutter or the messes in your house. You are taking back what is yours.
For example, take all those extra clothes in your closet. Every morning, how much time do you spend sifting through your closet finding something to wear? If there were less in there, that would speed up your decision and lessen the mental load.
Here are several benefits if you were to get rid of clothes you don’t wear anymore: Your closet would be visually more appealing, which lightens your mood. You’d spend less time and mental bandwidth digging through your closet trying to find the perfect outfit so you could reserve your decision-making capabilities for the more important things that will move you closer to your goals. Why do you think Steve Jobs wore the same outfit nearly every day?
But it’s more than that. We attach meaning to inanimate objects that fill our space. Keeping an old gift from an ex on a dresser or item that belonged to a loved one on an end table triggers negative emotions within us. Seeing them every day as you enter the room, reinforces the negative thoughts that are attached to those emotions. Consciously or subconsciously, that negativity is in your life every single day.
For the longest time I had a limited-edition Pop! figurine of the Angry and Burnt Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters on my desk at work, because I thought it was hilarious and super cute. But wait a second. Angry and burnt? Oh, man. That’s when I realized I was the angry and burnt out marshmallow man (or woman). I put into my own visual space, a constant reminder of the state of my unhappiness and misery. Even though it was from the corner of my eye or I thought I barely looked at it, my brain was always seeing it, even though my conscious mind was filtering out. That’s not healthy, right?
You don’t necessarily need to throw those things away, but you should put them out of daily view. Only allow the things that bring you joy to live in your physical space.
Similarly, if you want to positively reinforce the changes you want to see life, don’t hold on to visual reminders of your old life. A cool artistic photo of a single person may not support your desire to find a life partner. Instead, fill your home with visual reminders of love you aim to create in your life. Look around you right now and do a visual check, does everything in your environment make you happy?
If you look at something and feel sadness or anger, it’s time for the item to move on, preferably to someone else who will attach a happier meaning to it. If you’re not ready to let go, at least move it out of sight.
It doesn’t need to be spring to start decluttering your space. Change your environment to kickstart shifting your life for the better. Here are additional benefits as well:
- Reduce stress and lift your mood. When you’re focusing on cleaning, it can help take your mind off of other stressors that are going on and keep the negative thoughts at bay. It’s like another form of meditation as you’re being present to your current moment in a calm, non-judgmental way. Clearing the clutter means no more “ughs” or pent-up feelings of annoyance or frustration when seeing it. If you feel parts of your life are out of control, you could reclaim that power by establishing order in your own personal space.
[ Additional thoughts ] I want to insert a couple Marie Kondo philosophies here too and inject some of the more mood-lifting thoughts. She talks about keeping things that “spark joy.” Imagine that. Having things around you that just make you happy. Consider this, do you feel happy being in your space right now?
Also, she talks about saying thanks for the items for taking care of you before you discard them. Sure, it’s a little gesture and it might feel a little silly doing it first, but having that grateful attitude is a total mood booster. Try it, and see how you feel after.
- Improve your health. With less stress, there’s less cortisol (the primary stress hormone) in your system. If you have allergies, reducing the amount of items around the house which means less surface area to collect dust and dander, too.
- Improve productivity and focus. With fewer distractions, it reduces any procrastination excuses, right?
- Good workout. The nice little side benefits of lifting things, scrubbing stuff, and all those extra steps walking around the house. Be sure to stay hydrated, and take necessary breaks, too.
- Be more conscious of your purchasing habits. As you keep a mental stock of things you have already or find duplicates of stuff, you can reevaluate your future purchase choices by asking yourself: “Do I really need this?” If you do, take the next step to consider how that new item fits into your existing space. Would this add to it or replace something? Buying blindly driven on pure need or want is how you start gathering more and more things in your physical space and needlessly wasting money. Here’s a tip: Limit the amount of hangers in your closet, if you buy a new outfit and run out of hangers, then eliminates something you haven’t worn in a while.
[ Additional thoughts ] My credit card has an amazing feature to track my spending habits on my monthly statements, but what I watch out for is the annual one. Yup, it’s December. That is the one I take a look at for, oftentimes, the harsh truth to see how much I spent in a year… on stuff. Take a look at that feature and take a look at your own spending habits this year. See whether you’re surprised by that grand total. When I first did this, I was quite surprised and shocked. As I’ve continued doing this practice, my increased awareness has been amazing. I want you to take advantage of that awareness that you build. How much of that money could have been placed somewhere more useful? Such as an investment account to grow your passive income, towards your side business, or to a good cause.
- Donate for a good cause. Have a donation box put aside as you’re going through your stuff. Donate all the items that are clean, in good condition, and that you believe someone else can actually use. Your local library might even take your books and DVDs. Toss or recycle items that cannot be donated.
That is the end of chapter 8.2.
When you’re purging, it’s better to strategically filter through your space. Do it section by section or area by area. It’s better to do it in waves of cleaning, so you do not get overwhelmed or create an even larger mess by unearthing everything from a closet or drawer. Plus, if you see the results in cleaning or organizing one area, it could actually become a good motivator to continue on clearing your clutter.
Throughout this episode, I’ve mentioned Marie Kondo. She is someone who has taken over the world and changed numerous lives with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I started reading the book until I got sidetracked, but once I found out there was a comic book version, I flew through that quickly. Plus, she includes some pretty awesome visuals that are useful on seeing how she does things, too. She even has a Netflix series, if you like to be entertained in that way. I’ve definitely leveraged some of her philosophies, but I don’t follow all of them to a T. Just like with anything, experiment and take what you need from whatever you learn. Yes, I want you to do the same with my podcast, my book, and my coaching. Take what resonates with you. Know that my only desire is that you take charge of your own life and make it yours so that you are actually happy and fulfilled. Anyways, check her out as a fantastic resource as well.It doesn't need to be spring to declutter your space. Change your environment to kickstart shifting your life for the better. Click To Tweet
Here are some more tips for you:
- Choosing a timeline for yourself and turn that into a rule. You could have some few rare exceptions or maybe even set a rule for that, too. But setting up some clear guidelines will help you speed up the process. For example, if I haven’t used something in a year, I’m letting it go. If you haven’t used it in a while, especially if it’s still in a box or with tags on it, really consider if you need it. Most likely, it could be outdated already—style or tech-wise—so thank it and say goodbye. Someone else could probably put better use to it than having it sit idly in your space. It is those what-if scenarios that are keeping all that clutter around. So be ruthless, my friends. It’ll take some practice, but it will be worth it!
- Put some music on, and have some fun while you’re at it. It’s only a chore if you believe it is. If you make it fun and easy, it will go a lot quicker and you’d be much more productive as well.
- When you’re cleaning up your physical space, don’t forget your workspace, your car commonly used backpacks or purses, etc. Open drawers and boxes that you haven’t opened in a long time. Don’t let any nook and cranny left unturned. You could always find something. If I’m someone who could do it regularly and still find stuff to purge, you could absolutely do it as well. When I set aside a box for donations, I make it my goal to load it up fully.
- Don’t forget to clean your digital space as well—that means your desktop, your inbox, file folders, cloud storage, photo library, apps on your phone, etc. Our digital space could feel a bottomless pit to store stuff. Know that clutter there also makes a difference to you mentally and emotionally as well. For example, for your inbox, unsubscribed newsletters you don’t read anymore. Set up incoming mail filters to highlight important content or help you quickly sort through new emails at a glance. I am guilty of this. I used to set it filters that completely skipped my inbox. I had to reconsider if I really needed those email subscriptions at all. Do you do this, too? Be sure to securely trash your most sensitive documents as well. Don’t forget!
- Here is a warning for you: Sometimes when we create new open space, be very conscious that you don’t automatically try to fill that void with other things again. For example, I’ve got a whole bunch of space in my closet, now I’m going to go shop some more. Please don’t do that!! Give yourself the time to enjoy and get used to the openness and cleanliness first. Let that be your norm and choose to change your old patterns.
- Absolutely celebrating after you’re done! Savor that sense of achievement, you did something amazing for yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back. Reward yourself with something fun you’ve always wanted to do. Consider doing something more experiential than purchasing something new.
So this is part one of the three-part series: Your Environment Matters—The Clutter Edition. Stay tuned for the next episode: Your Environment Matters—The People Edition, which is right on time for Christmas. When I cover the episode, you’ll know why that’s appropriate.
Until next time, you got this.