Note: This is a guest post from Rachel Jones of Nourishing Minimalism.
Whenever we decide to embrace a major change in life, we are forced to evaluate our thoughts and beliefs. Major changes—whether chosen or unchosen—compel us to pay attention to what is happening in our mind.
We look deep to determine truth from myth.
And let’s face it: all of us have lies that we tell ourselves—even without noticing. Most of these mistruths are unintentionally believed (rarely do we purposefully believe a lie). But regardless, these lies impact the way we live, the decisions we make, how we communicate with others, and yes, even the state of our home.
Six years ago, my family discovered the joy of owning less when we decided to remove 2008 items in 2008. We enjoyed it so much, we also removed 2009 items in 2009, 2010 items in 2010, and have continued every year including this one (with 8 people in the house, stuff seems to seep in through the cracks!).
This change in our lives, eliminating the unnecessary so we can focus more on what really matters, has caused me to evaluate my own thoughts and beliefs. As I did, I began to recognize some of the specific lies that were keeping my home and life cluttered.
Surely, we each have our own versions, but I have found six that are particularly common. See if any of these are keeping you from experiencing greater simplicity in your life.
Lie #1: If I limit my wardrobe, my clothes will be boring.
Truth: Having a smaller amount of clothes allows us to invest in quality items that fit well and coordinate, so no matter what you pull out to wear, you look great. Your clothes do not have to be boring.
A capsule wardrobe can include any items you want! It doesn’t have to be neutral.
People will notice how great and “put together” you look all the time. You can spice up outfits with different accessories to add variety and include your own special touch. If you like hats, a few different hats can be your statement pieces. The same can go for belts, scarves, heels, or even boots.
Lie #2: If I leave the work for later, I will be more motivated to finish it.
Truth: Whenever we procrastinate little projects around our home, a running to-do list begins forming in the back of our mind. And this makes it difficult to truly enjoy other things. As a result, not only is the work not finished, it has also become an annoyance to us.
To alleviate this stress, get into the habit of putting something away when you are done using it. Most small jobs take less than 5 minutes. Finish them right away and then revel in your accomplishment. Put the baking supplies away when you are done. Do the dishes after you eat. Fold and put away the current load of laundry when the dryer is done. Sort the mail as soon as you bring it in the house. Or reset the living room before you even leave. Your home will stay uncluttered—and so will your mind.
If you accomplish little things throughout the day, you won’t need to set aside time to clean. You’re creating a habit of tidiness rather than using all your energy catching up on what you’ve been putting off.
Lie #3: If I get rid of something, I’ll regret it later.
Truth: Most of the stuff we keep, we don’t actually need. And often times, when we do keep something around “just in case” and get to the point where we do need it, we can’t find it. So we end up borrowing one or purchasing a new one. So why keep it in the first place?
Or perhaps we keep things out of guilt—sentimental items where we feel like we’re betraying the person who gave it to us. We’re not getting rid of the people or the memory, we’re just getting rid of an item. If the item is sitting in storage, it’s not serving its useful purpose anyway. Allow yourself to find freedom by releasing it. Or allow the item to serve a purpose by giving it a new home.
Lie #4: If I throw out papers, I will toss something important.
Truth: We don’t need nearly as many physical records as we keep. Most likely, if you choose to tackle your pile of papers and sort it all over a trash can, a full 80% of it will be junk mail, receipts that you don’t need, bills that have already been paid, or other documents that are accessible online. The remaining 20% or less can fit in a small filing box.
Exceptions: If you own a business, get legal advice from your accountant on what you need to keep and how to best organize papers and receipts. If you have settled a debt with a company, keep the statement saying that it was paid. If you file for any financial assistance, you may need a couple months worth of bills, bank statements, and pay stubs—though many of those are available to print online.
Lie #5: If it’s going to get done right, I need to do it myself.
Truth: When we fail to delegate, we harm ourselves with overwork and burnout. Even more, we steal the opportunity of growth from others. Requiring perfectionism is often just another form of procrastination. It really doesn’t matter how a job gets done, as long as it gets done.
Perhaps the work will not be done exactly as you would do it, but delegation is important, especially as we teach our children the value of hard work and how to be a contributing member of society. Start with tasks that will bother you the least if they’re done ‘incorrectly’ and then work from there. Many children can break down boxes, take out the trash, and choose 20 items they want to donate from their toys. Your spouse can tackle one room while you do another.
Lie #6: If my closet and drawers are cluttered, I need better organization tools.
Truth: We can’t organize excess. Maybe the solution isn’t that you need a better organization tool, maybe the problem is that you own too much stuff. Courtney Carver says it this way: “If you need to buy more stuff to organize all your stuff, maybe you own too much stuff.”
Purchasing organizational tools is just feeding into the consumer philosophy. To organize excess is to spend even more time sorting and taking care of stuff, when we could just be rid of it once and for all and spend more time doing the things that are truly important to us.