Decluttering as a State of Mind

Decluttering as a State of Mind

On the second Thursday of April, a full room of women gathered at Tokyo Chapter to hear two professional organizers, Nathalie Brantsma and Paula Esguerra, talk about how decluttering makes not only your house clean and nice, but also affects your mind in a positive way.

Marie Kondo is an avid advocate of the idea, and her cleaning method is highly popular in the US and Europe. Both Brantsma and Esguerra agree that environment has a huge impact on people’s well-being – indeed, Esguerra started organizing as a way to decrease her own stress, and realized that organizing could make a profession.

Esguerra said that decluttering is not only about the immediate result of freed space, but also about finding your priorities and letting go. “It’s not only letting go of stuff, but also identities. We tend to have an ideal image of ourselves, how we would like to be. Most of us would like to be that mom that runs every morning, but it’s just not the reality. Letting go of those running shoes means that you are also freed to be yourself.”

In a similar way, you cannot change yourself to your ideal with goods and articles. “Clutter is usually an excuse – people are protecting themselves from complex feelings,” Brantsma added.

Dealing With Memories

Decluttering can be very emotional activity, especially when you are sorting out stuff inherited from a relative. Also deciding what to do with children’s drawings can be a hard task. Esguerra gave an advice on how to deal with objects loaded with memories and history.

“I inherited a box of jewelry from my grandma, but I never wore any of them. Then I decided to choose only one to keep, and get rid of the rest. Now I love that brooch, and I wear it very often! The same works for kids’ drawings; choose the one you like the most and keep that one – you can even frame it!”

Brantsma has noticed, too, that getting rid of items with history can be hard emotionally. “My advice would be combing through the stuff often and regularly, to help you work on the feelings, and decide which ones you want to keep. If you are still unsure, you can let it sit for a couple of weeks and then decide if to throw it away or not. You need to remember that even if you might feel guilty, what’s inherited is yours now, and you are in charge (of what to do with it).”

Consistency is the Key to Clean House and Mind

Most of us realize that less stuff means less clutter, but usually the most difficult part of decluttering is finding the time and starting. “You need to make a priority. I recommend to take the time to go your stuff through two times a year,” Brantsma said. “Some people need accountability to start the task, and if that’s the case hiring someone to help might be a good idea.”

Esguerra gave an easy tip to getting started – empty your bag every night after getting home. This exercise might sound easy, but it is not! The idea is to make yourself aware of how much stuff you have and what are you carrying home. She also recommends to decide one corner or place of your house that you want to keep clean, and to make it your routine to clean it every night before going to bed.

Brantsma adds that putting everything you have touched back into their right places, and doing small tasks like filing papers, immediately – it won’t take much time, but makes a huge impact in the long run.

However, there is one big no-no you need to remember. NEVER throw away someone else’s stuff without negotiating with them first. Throwing away without asking will break the trust between you. “If you cannot reach a compromise what to throw away, divide the house to zones where every person has the power over what’s in there and how clean or cluttered it is.” Esguerra recommended. “Remember always be a good example – it might make others in the family to follow suit.”

FEW would like to thank the two professional organizers for their insights into dealing with clutter at home, as well as plenty of practical tips.