According to the Journal of Vision, clutter is defined as “the state in which excess items, or their representation or organization, lead to a degredation of performance at some task” (Rosenholtz, 17). The popularity of home improvement shows such as ‘Hoarders’, has made the topic of decluttering a mainstream trending topic. Experts believe that decluttering one’s home leads to a direct revelation of one’s true self. However, in this essay, I argue that there are exercises other than decluttering, that cn expose us to our true paths.
Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, supports this theory by revealing her secret to decluttering success is by first, discarding items - via the KonMari Method - and then organizing the remainder in one session (Kondo 1). She is certainly not alone in her belief. This Japanese art of home organizing, Feng Shui, is supposed to create harmony around the various energies in one’s life. Lillian Too explains that unless an individual clears up their physical and mental ‘junk’, this neglect will zap their energy which will eventually weaken their ‘yin’ factor, leading to real damage occuring in their lives (Too 8). Such strong beliefs about decluttering have filtered throughout society, causing many people to reap its benefits. Having a space free of clutter not only allows for a quick retrieval of hosehold items like kitchen utensils, it allows for easier access to long-term tools such as life insurance policies and tax documents.
Having clutter also discourages making connections with other people. Hoarders and those with cluttered environments often shield people from their homes, leading to a disconnect between their private lives and their public lives. Making connections with people in the world is important for one's self-esteem as well. Clutter can equal isolation from those we love. Most people feel awkward when relating to someone with a cluttering issue. The path to finding one's true self involves the participants in their lives. It is not a solidary road one travels on in this life journey which is why failing to declutter one's life is detrimental to sound mental health and the ability to understand one's own strength and weaknesses.
At the website, Becoming Minimalist, a variety of options for decluttering such as giving away one item a day, making a list of categories, and most notably, The Four-Box Method which entails arranging four boxes: one for trash, one to give away, items to keep and items to remain in the home. One of the more interesting suggestions on the site is the 12-12-12 Challenge. This technique calls for organizing thirty-six items equally into three groups of twelve, and then sorting them under three labels : twelve items to throw away, twelve items to donate and twelve items to keep (Becker, 1). This method works best for me because it allows for quicker removal of unnecessary items. By removing twenty-four items from a cramped space each day or each hour, it becomes less overwhelming to accomplish the ultimate goal of creating more space. As someone who can be easily overwhelmed by too many things, organizing in small steps makes sense.
MY TOOLS FOR DECLUTTERING
There are many different ways to declutter. I disagree with Kondo’s “all-or-nothing” style. One can argue that there are many paths to finding our true selves. For some clutter actually creates order in their lives. For example, I had a classmate who could not focus on her studies if her room was spotless. And yet, when he was welcoming his true self, allowing clutter to overtake his closet and desk, he was able to locate everything he needed, quickly and efficiently., thus proving that he did not need to declutter in order to find his true self.
According to a recent home organization support study, some evidence Is provided that establishes a direct link between clutter and one's quality of life:
Not being organized at home may negatively affect many aspects of people's everyday lives, including loss of time and money; increased stress; decreased efficiency and focus in performing tasks; and could negatively impact Interpersonal relationships (Smarr et al. 150).
When my surroundings are crowded, and it is difficult for me to readily locate things I need, it creates a panic in me. The sea of items around me leaves me with no room to examine myself as a person. Although some of my peers swear they can locate any item in a cluttered environment, I cannot agree. I believe there is some validity to the belief that decluttering allows for self-discovery because with less physical distractions, there is more time left for one to focus on other life goals. This self examination will ultimately lead to the revelations of our true selves.
In closing, there are many different ways to make space for the things we need while discarding those things we don’t need. In my opinion, Marie Kondo’s success from tackling disorder straight on would not work for individuals who get easily overwhelmed by clutter. I prefer the 12-12-12 method, which allows the individual to sort through 36 items each day. By tackling items one by one, the stress and anxiety is greatly reduced. Though studies have shown that more clutter equals to a clearer mind and greater sense of self, there are a few people who manage to find themselves in spite of the "mess" they have accumulated.
As we currently exist in a culture that stresses less being more, the idea of decluttering will not be disappearing any time soon. Reality tv shows provide many resources that teach us how to remove the excess from our lives in order to not only simplify our lives but also to lead us to a better understanding of ourselves. When we are inundated with items around us, there is little time to explore what fuels us. Furthermore, clutter hides important documents such as health policies, birth certificates and court notices. It is important to note that decluttering also welcomes better mental health. I find it stressful to look for things I need under piles of slush and filth.
Writing this essay led me to my own pathof self discovery. I realize the need for declutterinv as a means of finding oneself and one's purpose in life. Clutter is a hindrance to finding one's true self as well as creating personal connections with others. It is vital in each of our paths to self awareness that we remain conscious of the junk we allow in our lives and that which must be discarded. This is an ongoing process since we live in a society that values the accumulation of treasured items such as cell phones, luxury cars and clothes. However, once we have accumulated too many items, it becomes overwhelming to sort through the mess. Thankfully, the abundance of resources, examples and advice, make it so clutter can be reduced slowly instead of all at once.
Kondo, Marie. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Act of Decluttering and Organizing. Random House, LLC. 2014.
Too, Lillian. Lillian Too’s 168 feng shui ways to declutter your home. Sterling Publishing, In ., 2003.
Rosenholtz, Ruth, Yuanzhen, Li, and Lisa Nakano. “Measuring Visual Clutter.” Journal of Vision 7.2 (2007): 17-17.
Becker, Joshua. “10 Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home.” 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
Smarr, Cory-Ann, et al. “Understanding Younger and Older Adults’ Needs for Home Organization Support.” Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Vol.58, No. 1. SAGE Publications, 2014.