Myths and Magic of Decluttering

September 19, 2016 Carol 2 comments

Have you tried decluttering ? Judging from all of the media attention this topic has received, you probably have. Were you satisfied with the results? Did it work as advertised? Did it change your life as much as you hoped it would?

Learn how to achieve better results. Explore with me the myths and magic of decluttering.

To take advantage of the power of decluttering, we must recognize its place in a formula for a good life.

the myths and magic of decluttering


Take a look at the infographic:

  • First, notice the concentric circles: Decluttering falls within Minimalism, which, in turn, falls within Simple Living.
  • The next thing to notice is that Simple Living alone does not “add up” to a Good Life. In the formula for living a good life, the other addend is Focus on What’s Important

The myth about decluttering, the one often put forth by the popular media, is that we can turn our lives around simply by  eliminating the clutter. Mike Burns wisely cautions us to focus instead on our passions. I love his ironic, “If we focus on the clutter, we are actually giving prominence to the stuff that we have already decided is secondary. We are giving the spotlight to those things that we say are “not that important.” 

Life After Decluttering

When you finish decluttering, you may well experience a certain amount of unpleasantness. In the introduction to her video, Life After Decluttering: Now What?Coco writes,”When I stopped spending my time on ’stuff’ I felt this weird void. Like I didn’t have a goal.”

Happily, Coco discovers some meaningful ways to fill the void, and in the process, she makes some significant changes in her life. Life After Decluttering: Now What? concludes this way:

When I was kind of done decluttering, I felt that I could see myself very clearly, and I really didn’t like who I was. I wanted to do more and be more. And that’s why I mainly focused on getting healthy and teaching myself stuff. In short, life after decluttering just takes getting use to. Take care of your mind, body, and soul; and give more than you take.
— Coco , Life After Decluttering: Now What?

Are you beginning to catch a glimpse of the magic of decluttering?

The Magic of Decluttering

Imagine your life as a work of art, perhaps a finely crafted piece of prose. You are the artist, the writer. You edit, and re-edit your story, removing extraneous words and phrases, re-arranging and refining. Every iteration of this process lets in more of the light, more clarity and pure meaning.
— Carol Ann Preibis, Declutter Your Time

the myths and magic of decluttering
Decluttering is to life as an eraser is to a writer.

Decluttering can act as a catalyst for the circles it travels in.

Decluttering is a precursor to Minimalism, and Minimalism is one of the primary attributes of Simple Living. In Living With Less, author Rebecca J. Rosen sits down with Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus to discuss what a minimalist lifestyle means to them. Joshua Fields says, “As a minimalist, everything I own serves a purpose or brings me joy. And everything else is out of the way.” Ryan Nicodemus adds, “Clearing the clutter from my life allowed me to regain control of my focus, my time, my finances.”

A clutter-free life saves you money, time and energy.

Think of a scale, with “stuff” on one side, and money, time and energy on the other side. As you remove stuff from one side of the scale, you can place more money, time and energy on the other side.

Here’s how it works. Every piece of “stuff” you own comes with several price tags. There’s the purchase price, of course. Then, for as long as you own it, there are maintenance costs. Worse still, there are the taxes on your time and drains on your energy. The remedy? Do some decluttering. While you’re doing it, and trying to decide whether or not to keep an item, include the upkeep costs as one of your criteria. And, for goodness sake, before you decide to purchase something new, weigh all of its various costs in your mind.

Benefits of  Decluttering Your Life, According to Science

An uncluttered environment can help sharpen your focus.

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published a study (The Journal of Neuroscience,2011) which analyzed the effects of uncluttered and organized living.

Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.
Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex

Thanks to Erin Doland for explaining this study in non-neuroscience jargon:

When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.
— Scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus, process information – Unclutter

Decluttering your home can improve your mood and raise your self-esteem.

A team of anthropologists at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) explored in real-time the relationship between 32 families in the greater Los Angeles region and the thousands of objects in their homes.

Here, in part, is what they found:

  • There is a link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. The more stuff, the more stress women feel.
  • Women associate a tidy home with a happy and successful family.

The study and its findings are documented in two different formats. There is the book, Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century. Or, if you prefer a video experience, take advantage of the free UCTV Prime series, A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance


What have we learned about the myths and magic of decluttering?

Do not succumb to the myth that decluttering is a panacea for all of your problems. As Mike Burns wisely points out:

If all we do is declutter so we can say we did it, it will bear limited fruit. Clutter-free is not the goal. It’s the tool that helps take us to the goal. Clutter-free is not the destination. It’s the vehicle that gets us there.

“Living clutter-free” is only as valuable as the causes and relationships to which you give your life.
Mike BurnsDon’t Let Clutter Steal Your Focus

Do recognize that clutter is incompatible with having an active and fulfilling life.

The thing about clutter is that it’s incompatible with having an active and fulfilling life. Why? Because clutter creates a barrier between you and the items you need to get into the day and do the things you want to do.
JaneDeclutter your life for razor-sharp focus

Do you aspire to the simple living lifestyle?  If you do, then decluttering your life is a necessary first step.

Achieving a clutter-free life has some amazing benefits:

  • Owning fewer possessions can save you money, time, and energy.
  • An uncluttered environment can help sharpen your focus.
  • Decluttering your home can improve your mood and raise your self-esteem.


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