What’s So Difficult About Decluttering?

by Kevin Burton

   The word “declutter,” to my ear, has the ring of euphemism. The word is much too tidy.

   It’s the verbal equivalent of throwing your junk in a closet until it is packed top to bottom, to make your visible living space look better. 

   “Today, I plan to declutter,” you say.  Fine. You can say that. But shouldn’t it be something more like, “Holy cow! Somebody forgot to name that hurricane that went through here! I better start cleaning!” 

   Dictionary.com defines declutter as “To remove mess or clutter from a place.” Can’t get much more straightforward than that.

   Yet somehow author Dana K. White got 223 pages of wisdom on that subject into the book “How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.”

   And wait a minute, I just discovered this is her second decluttering book, a follow-up to “Decluttering at the Speed of Life.”

   How is this possible?

   Tell you what, I will save you the $12.59 cost of the former book and $10.20 of the latter and give you Kev’s fool-proof decluttering method for free. Ready?

   “Just do it.”

   White calls herself a “decluttering expert.”  Whatever.

   I am standing before you. In my left hand is a box. In my right hand is a trash bag. Take them. Make it happen.

   And to those readers whose mind immediately goes to, “OK Kev, let’s see your living space…” you are completely missing the point.  This is the kind of weak-minded, unfocused thinking that got you and your house where you are today, namely “design by toddler.”

   If my living space is between declutterings at any given time, or all the time, let that not interfere with our scientific analysis of methods here.

   “If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?” asked a co-worker years ago.  

   “Spread the gospel,” I said.

   He said, “What’s stopping you?”

   Two excellent questions within the space of a minute. Not a bad morning. You can apply his approach to decluttering.

   But, although the “what’s stopping you” answer can be “there is nothing stopping me,” there also might actually be things stopping you.

   This is why White has written hundreds of pages instead of a paragraph or two on a seemingly simple matter. This is the answer to my uninformed question.

   Some people have long-established patterns of consuming, even if they stop short of hoarding, that present mental obstacles to decluttering.

   White does eventually get to my box and trash bag method. The box is for items to donate to second-hand stores. The trash bag is for trash.

   But she says that is not the starting point.

Decluttering is a mindset, according to White. Alas, for many of us it’s not as simple as “just do it.”

   “A mindset. That’s what this is.” White writes. “A change in my perspective. A difference for my ultimate goal for my home.”

   White defines decluttering as “stuff you don’t need, leaving your house.” Her books are filled with such simple definitions and common-sense approaches.

   White has a chapter on valuing space over things.  “Life is better and easier with less,” White writes. “It’s better to live without something you might use than to have something you don’t use.”  

   Before we leave the topic, this, from a Facebook post, a decluttering method used by Alyssa Streener and her husband.

   “Whenever we go over to someone’s house, we bring something we have decluttered and secretly hide it in their house in plain site (sic). Somewhere that it makes sense for it to be: books on the bookshelf, mugs in a cupboard, etc.  We’ve gotten rid of so much stuff and only one person ever noticed.”

   This is hilarious and makes me want to read a 223-page book by Alyssa Streener.  

   But if her family really did this, I think this is just an amusing pastime. I don’t believe it is an actual decluttering strategy.  You couldn’t possibly get rid of enough junk that way, unless you travelled at the speed of Santa Claus.

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