I’m guilty for being a compulsive declutterer. It’s not a terrible addiction. It could be worse, right? I always advocate it because it’s liberating. Decluttering started out as a personal project to trim down my belongings to two suitcases. At the time, I was moving to Southeast Asia and didn’t want to leave clutter back home. Many people asked me to share my experiences so I’m starting a series of articles on this topic. I’ll share everything I learned and encourage you to get started on the process because it’s incredibly freeing. This article, part 1, will discuss eight reasons why you should start now.
1. You won’t be bound to one location
My decluttering project started because I wanted to easily pack up my belongings and go wherever life took me. Three years ago, I moved to Vietnam with two suitcases to chase after traveling opportunities. I’m back in New York City now but if a company from Singapore called me tomorrow with a job offer, I could pack up and hop on a plane immediately. A nomadic lifestyle might not be your thing yet but having less belongings makes it easier to move if opportunities come along. Even if you’re just moving to a different apartment, having less stuff makes it logistically easier.
2. It is emotionally liberating
It is remarkable how purging and tidying up helped declutter my emotions. If you’re a physical hoarder, then you’re an emotional hoarder too. Keeping things from the past that are less than amazing holds you back from having a forward-thinking mindset. You don’t keep friends that are mediocre right? You keep friends that bring the highest value to your life and make you happy. Do the same with your belongings. When you do, believe me, you’ll have quite the emotional breakthrough.
3. You’ll learn to think pragmatically
I had the tendency to keep stuff for their sentimental value. This is where I was doing it wrong. Two suitcases was my limit so I had to be resourceful with what I filled them with. Rather than associate my belongings with nostalgia, I began evaluating them on the basis of usefulness and value. It’s almost like a business model. Every item has to have a good “return on investment,” in this case, space. When you take a pragmatic approach, you’ll be able to get rid of things quicker and determine each item’s true value. It’ll also help you in the long run to maintain a clutter-free lifestyle.
4. No one wants to inherit your clutter
When you die, someone is going to inherit your clutter and he or she will have to go through it. This is not necessarily the most pleasurable thing to think about (both dying and forcing someone else to go through your stuff), but it is relevant because it’s an inevitable part of life. It is a huge waste of time for someone else to go through your clutter and just plain rude to give someone else the undesirable task of tidying up your messy life. Keep your belongings to a minimum so that it’s a lot easier for you and your family.
5. You can make money and help others
Why should things take up unnecessary space when they can be traded in for extra pocket cash? I thought I didn’t have any sellable stuff but was shocked when I calculated how much I made. There are many thrift stores and secondhand shops that will take things for cash. You can also harness the power of the internet to sell, trade and give away your unwanted items. If you’re on a time crunch or simply too lazy to sell your stuff, give them away to friends or donate them to a Goodwill or a Salvation Army. One way or another, someone benefits in this equation.
6. It will open up your space
If you live in New York City like I do, abundant space is almost unheard of. Space is not always a luxury that most people have so your best bet is to keep your belongings to a minimum. With less stuff, even the smallest living area will feel a little more spacious and you’ll appreciate that extra room. If you’re fortunate to have a more spacious area, you may be tempted to fill it with stuff and I completely understand. If you do, fill it with exercise equipment or items that encourage mindful living. And please make sure you’re using those things.
7. It’s better for your health
Before and during my decluttering project, I was constantly hit with anxiety. Having a lot of stuff, especially if it is disorganized, can be anxiety-inducing. When you carry that anxiety wherever you go, it affects your work and relationships negatively. A cluttered space also attracts more contaminants and dust. You’re inhaling that every day and you put yourself in a vulnerable position to get sick. If you clean up, it helps to purify the air as well. If too much stuff affects your mental and physical health, it’s not worth it. Clean up for a healthier life.
8. You learn to innovate
Innovation is necessary to make things work with what you already have rather than buying more stuff to fill voids. Living with only two suitcases worth of stuff is really hard. However, I’ve discovered new ways to wear my clothes and repurpose unused containers to tidy up my space. Even to this day, I try to constantly find all the possible ways I can use each and every item. Limitations encourage innovation.
I hope that by now, you’ve decided to physically and emotionally invest in the process of decluttering your life. It’s refreshing and truly cathartic to trim down your life to only the things you need. Stay tuned to this series of articles because later on, I’ll share tips on how to go about it and maintaining that clutter-free lifestyle. It’s one thing to clean up and declutter but it is also important to design a relationship with your belongings where they do the work for you. I’ll guide you in the next articles on how you can do that.