Whether I am speaking to people in their homes or reading an article about organizing, I sometimes encounter what I describe as a near-obsession with the act of throwing things away. People will often say to me in frustration, “I am a minimalist. I just want to throw everything away.” However, the act of throwing much away in favor of owning little is only a small part of the equation for living a balanced, organized life.
Throwing Things Away is Only the Beginning
Many, many of us in the United States own more than we need for daily survival. And, in my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, anyone who has become frustrated with “clutter” has likely discovered that there is such a thing as having too many nonessential items. In contrast to that notion, most of us feel much happier when we have comfortable furniture, several clothing options, and aesthetic objects around the home we simply enjoy for the sake of ambiance. While doing a very detailed and thorough purge is essential to truly becoming organized, purging is just the first step. Furthermore, “over-purging” can be more detrimental than helpful.
The Dangerous Over-Purge
On the front end, purging can bring a sense of relief and help most people realize exactly how much space they really have and how little they use certain items they have been storing needlessly. However, it is important to avoid the danger of simply throwing things away to receive instant gratification, then later routinely buying new thing to fill the space. In the end, the cycle repeats and a need for a second major purge will eventually arise.
Deliberation While Purging
In my opinion, one of the most effective tactics in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is her suggestion to hold and even speak to each item before deciding whether to keep it. While I do not typically advise clients to communicate with their items in this exact way (…unless they want to), I believe there is value in pausing to think about an item before deciding whether to keep it or throw it away. Oftentimes, when I notice what appears to be an impulsive, emotional response toward an item, I ask the client to pause, and we quickly discuss the object. Just by creating a pause, the client is typically able to think through the cause of the strong feelings toward the object and become comfortable discarding (or in some cases keeping) it. He or she is then able to proceed with a clearer understanding of the item’s role (or lack thereof) in the home. Taking time to think about each item also minimizes the risk of over-purging and allows the person to logically think through potential opportunities and uses for an object they simply never knew they had or never took time to seek out opportunities to use it.
Yes, Some of Us ARE True Minimalists, But…
By nature, most people prefer to surround themselves with certain comforts and with aesthetically-pleasing things. Therefore, it is important for each person to consider where his or her center of gravity lies when attempting to balance the functional constraints (i.e. storage capacity) of a room with individual preference when it comes to variables like decor, technology, and comfort features within the space.