Let’s start with a summer quiz (the kind I like, where there is no right or wrong answer nor do you have to disclose your results) to test just how much space-to-breathe we have at present:
Q1. What activities have you or will you engage in this summer that you would rather not? Perhaps they are things you usually do and so just keep doing.
Q2. What do you have in your wardrobe that you have not worn for the past year?
Q3. What do you own that you do not use – or have never used?
Q4. How tidy is your workspace?
Q5. How much time do you spend on line? (Be honest here!)
Q6. How many emails do you have in your in-box?
Q7. On a scale of 1/10 how busy/complex does your life feel? (1= not busy/10 = v busy)
As you reflect upon your answers, wonder if living with less could actually make you feel better. For me, I know I feel calmer and more in control when my environment is neat and tidy. The evidence is growing that saying goodbye to things that get in the way and serve no purpose can make us happier. So, is it time for you to de-clutter?
Fumio Sasaki tells us in his new book, Goodbye, Things, about his extreme clear-out. He was once a big consumer – and hoarder – of knick-knacks that he thought made him an interesting person. He spent a lot of time comparing himself with others and concluded “I was miserable and made other people miserable too”. One day he decided to take action and gave away most of his possessions. He now lives with just the bare essentials. For example, instead of two or three wardrobes crammed with clothes, he now owns just three shirts and four pairs of trousers and says that throwing things away and having fewer things made him feel happier each day.
Fumio is a hardcore minimalist but his message is that de-cluttering is more than just physical tidying up: it is an exercise in learning about true happiness.
So is it time for you to try it? Think of a time you made do with less – maybe when you travelled somewhere remote. Did it make you feel liberated? Did it make you feel elated? Did it make you feel happy?
I confess – and it will come as no surprise to those that know me well – that I love to de-clutter. In fact, I schedule four days a year to reviewing the way I am working, addressing what is accumulating in my life – not only physical things but also issues that eat into my time. I edit what I have and what I do and find the cliché that less is more is true.
A lot of us spend too much time feeling overwhelmed by what we have to do, yet harbour doubts about how much of it is truly meaningful. Simplifying our lives gives us the breathing space we need to rediscover that which is important.
Enjoy the rest of your summer – and remember to do some de-cluttering: one of the knock-on effects will be ecological – a reduction in consumption equals a smaller carbon footprint and more money in your pocket! What’s not to like?
And for fellow TED talk junkies – Graham Hill has a great five-minute talk on the subject – Less Stuff More Happiness.