What’s the Problem?
We’re so focused on accumulating stuff that we’ve lost sight of what’s important. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to just be.
There’s a disconnect.
We believe our happiness lies in what we own, when in fact the opposite is true.
Our possessions weigh us down and we become resentful, disheartened, uncertain even.
We don’t let that stop us though. The more we have, the more we want. Bigger, better, faster. Screw waiting, give us both our damn marshmallows. Now.
This demand for instant gratification leaves us wanting, but we don’t let that stop us either. Instead we attempt to fill the void by continuing our cycle of buying. Convincing ourselves that this time we’ll be happy. That this [whatever] is exactly what we need to make our lives better.
But all we end up with is more stuff.
The void we’re trying to fill just gets bigger and bigger. Until it’s like a metaphysical Teletubby (with indigestion). And now we’re even more miserable because we were so convinced that the stuff would make us happy.
And why wouldn’t it? Everywhere we’re turn that’s what we’re told. On TV, in magazines, at the movies, the message is the same: If you buy this [whatever] your life will be better.
Perhaps we just didn’t buy the right [this]? At a loss as to what else to do, we take to this business of accumulating with renewed gusto. And in the process we become unhappier, deeper in debt and even more stressed.
I’m going to break it to you gently. Those bastards lied to us.
Stuff does not make us happy. I’ll say that again.
Stuff does not make us happy.
What’s the Solution?
We’ve agreed that there’s an elephant in the room, now let’s look at what we can do to usher it back outside where it belongs. With the other pachyderms.
We’ve all got a serious case of want-itis and it’s time we faced facts.
We need to stop buying and start decluttering.
We need to make space in our lives. Space to breathe. Space to move. But most importantly, space to reconnect.
Remember earlier how I said there’s a disconnect? Well this is the source of all our problems.
As humans, we’re so focused on our individual needs and wants that we’ve literally lost touch with anything that doesn’t directly affect us. We’re not aware of what’s happening outside of our own universe.
On those occasions where something does threaten to penetrate our bubble, we shut our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and say, “I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to hear that.”
Because seeing or hearing ‘that’, whatever ‘that’ may be, will force us to make a change. And change is hard. It requires effort and tenacity and vulnerability.
It’s so much easier to just order another latté and go back to pretending everything is fine.
What’s the Next Step?
This isn’t going to be quick or comfortable, but done a day at a time, in small increments, it will certainly be doable. More than that, this process of reconnection will probably be one of the more rewarding journeys you ever embark on.
Start by letting go.
The first step to reconnecting is making space. It’s time to let go of everything that’s cluttering up your life. Clutter can take many forms, from physical items in your home, to habits and people. Yes, even people.
For now though, let’s just focus on letting go of the physical stuff. It’s the easiest area to start with and it’ll give you the space and momentum to fully immerse yourself in the fantastically fun and exciting process of reconnecting.
But how do you let go? Where do you even start?
After waxing minimal at TEDx Cape Town in 2013 I came up with the #30DayDeclutterChallenge. It’s super simple. Just start by getting rid of one thing a day for 30 days.
My theory is that by Day 30 you’ll have built up enough momentum to want to just keep going. By then you should (unless you limited yourself to throwing out marbles) be seeing and feeling the results.
When to keep something and when to bid it farewell.
Perhaps you’re wondering how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of?
Sporty and I are pretty ruthless nowadays. If we haven’t used something in three months it goes. There are obvious exceptions, such as winter clothes, however if there’s something we don’t use then on the giveaway pile it must go.
If three months seems a little too extreme you can always opt for six months or, at a push, a year. Just be really honest with yourself when assessing whether an item should stay or go.
The trick is to not overthink things. Just make the commitment and get started.
Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to let go, but don’t be too easy on yourself either. Put on your big girl panties or superman undies and just do it. You can’t sit on the porch forever, it’s time to run with the big dogs.
Here’s to reconnecting.