Minimalist image by Ovan (https://www.pexels.com/u/knownasovan/)

Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Amazon link), is quite an inspiration. She takes what is, essentially, a slightly mundane activity – decluttering – and transforms it into a ritual; a rite of passage for one who wants to transcend from disorganised hoarder, to cleansed, enlightened minimalist.

Ok, perhaps that is slightly strong an example, but this is the idea.  The KonMari method of tidying is quite simple: do this, then do that.  Kondo hand-holds her reader through the treacherous caverns of uncertainty and out into a bright, new world.  Her two basic tenets are, that one must organise (and purge) by category, not by room, and that one should also focus on what to keep, but only if it “sparks joy”.

It’s simple, but it works – and surprisingly well, too. When followed correctly, it’s an efficient way to declutter, reorganise, and reset.

Starting the Journey

Getting started is remarkably easy.  KonMari dictates that purging one’s superfluous clothing is the best starting point.  I’d agree.  It’s interesting how you can start clinging on to item from your past, instead of looking forward to wearing something in the future!

I have since discovered what I like, what suits me, and what I feel comfortable in

It’s surprisingly easy to start in this way.  It teaches very effectively to be selective and mindful about what you keep for your wardrobe, and why.  The key lesson, letting go, is learned here.

Like many minimalists, I have since discovered what I like about my clothing, what I think suits me, and – perhaps most importantly – what I feel comfortable in.  And, like many, my wardrobe now features a number of more plain black, grey and white items.  But I don’t subscribe to monotone styling; blue is the colour I love, so I have a lot of blue in my wardrobe too, plus warmer hues.

Minimalism, to me, is far more about quantity.  It doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice style.

Decluttering the House

Decluttering produced these three boxes of books
Many old books, that no longer “spark joy”, being taken to my local library. Decluttering FTW!

After clothes comes the decluttering of books, paperwork, CDs/DVDs and miscellanea (random bits and pieces, called komono by Kondo). How much you have kept will determine how long this takes.  But a little dedication can bring surprisingly quick results.  Several hours are really all that’s needed for decluttering.

Five bin bags of clothes, and four boxes of books later, I feel well on my way to simplifying and minimising.

And what a great feeling, being unburdened.  

As I proceeded with old paperwork, the voice in my mind became yet more balanced.  I had to double-check on certain items, and felt freedom and empowerment to change my mind part way through – sometimes choosing to discard what I initially wanted to keep, and vice versa.  This process is mentally decluttering, and (if I were spiritual), spiritually cleansing.

Decluttering the Mind

Computing, for me, is a big thing.  As soon as I could record stuff on computer, I did.  I have databases and documents dating from the early 1990s onwards. Sadly, the file formats used for those documents are not widely supported any more.

This creates a problem: Do I keep those old documents, which probably serve no purpose to me now? If not, why did I keep them for so long? Or, do I go to the trouble of getting an older computing platform to convert them from, into a more modern, or at least less-encumbered, file format? Do I still need them? Will I ever? Or do I just archive them all off and save myself the time and effort?  (Do you see how all this digital clutter is causing angst and complexity?  Why am I thinking about this stuff…? etc.)

These questions have haunted me for quite some time, but eventually I came to realise that while it would be nice to have access to all my data, in reality, I don’t need it. And having access to it would increase the amount of digital clutter that I don’t need to be concerned with.

Am I Swapping Physical Hoarding for Digital Hoarding?

Although previously I wanted to convert all my old files into modern formats, I am beginning to realise that there really is little benefit to doing this.  Up to roughly 1999, I would have used my Amiga computer for word processing and other work (e.g. editing images).  When I got a PC in 2000, and installed SuSE Linux 7.2, I started using StarOffice (the precursor to OpenOffice/LibreOffice) instead.  StarOffice files are still supported in modern versions of LibreOffice, much to my delight.

But for pre-2000 data, I must accept that without significant time, energy and devotion, I cannot easily liberate my files.  This means all my university essays, college assignments, personal notes, documents, databases, images and other data are now part of that fabric of digital cruft.  The best I can do is securely archive them off, hoping that one day an easy conversion solution will be available.

Yet, in some ways, this is for the best.  What good does reading my own essay on Chaucer do, for me, in 2017? I am too busy with other things that are contemporary and relevant, right now, to indulge in that.  Digital decluttering is as important as physical decluttering.

Closing Thoughts

I have observed that, during this decluttering process so far, I have had a tendency to hang on to things because of their value to me in the past.  My mindset in the present has been influenced by past events, of course, but this has also lured me into some complacency with regard to my beliefs and philosophy on life.

When we start becoming defined by the things we have, instead of the things we do, there is little value in “having” those things whatsoever.

I am looking forward to doing more, and having less.


Have you had a similar experience with de-cluttering?  Please comment – I’d love to hear about it!

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