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We Don’t Need More Stuff, We Need Less (a Lot Less)

We Don’t Need More Stuff, We Need Less (a Lot Less)

Roughly this time last year I was hit with a sudden, overwhelming feeling of stress. I would come back to my messy, cluttered room, my mind on studies, social life, plans, life choices, my bank account, and the crazy ending to the season finale of The Walking Dead. I’d rest for a bit and then leave to go to either the library, class, or work. I came to realize that my mind was as cluttered as my bedroom.

Our minds and lives can be weighed down by unnecessary extras (clutter) affecting our thoughts, behavior, and health. Lots of little things can become pretty heavy, and though things in our minds have no physical weight, they nonetheless can weigh us down. It makes you wonder how much is really needed.

What can be done?

We have come to think that having our lives and minds cluttered is just an ordinary part of life in the 21st century — that it’s part of being an adult because with age comes…stuff. However, that isn’t the case. You need to ask yourself what you actually need. Much like your bag becomes lighter when you take out unnecessary items, cutting stuff from your mind makes it lighter and your life easier.

It’s often very difficult to ascertain what is necessary and what is unnecessary, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Here is a list of ways to declutter your mind and your life, and walk unburdened by unnecessary weight. Don’t worry. I’m not going to suggest getting rid of everything and living off the grid although that might work, too! First let’s try baby steps.

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1. Declutter your house.

We form emotional connections with our possessions. They may represent a future we want, or a past that we don’t want to forget, so choosing what needs to be eliminated can be difficult. It takes time to sort through our belongings. Things that you want can be organized and put away; things you no longer need can be donated. (Being charitable has been shown to have a positive effect on your mood.)[1] Decisions may be tough, but they are worthwhile.

2. Declutter your yard if you have one.

This follows a similar logic to decluttering your house. The tidiness of your entire living space has an effect on your mental well-being. However, whereas sorting and clearing clutter in your house may have a long-lasting positive impact, your yard will require continual attention. This isn’t due to an abundance of things, but rather to the processes of nature. If ignored, the growth of grass and weeds can get out of control and turn your yard from a place of relaxation to a tangled mess. The solution is to tool up and garden! Research[2] has shown that gardening is a great stress reliever. The act of removing offending weeds and overlong grass will lessen stress in your life.

3. Find peace of mind with meditation and mindfulness.

Before you click away, this article hasn’t taken a sudden turn for New Age solutions! What was once the domain of yogis, Buddhists, and slightly strange young men, meditation has recognized health benefits through decluttering the mind and calming runaway thoughts.[3] Though meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, only recently have the myriad benefits become widely known, and its popularity has exploded.

Through simply sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing, you’ll increase mastery of your mind and thoughts. You’ll be less prone to distractions, become generally more relaxed, and stresses in your life will seem less severe. Though meditation is pretty close to literally doing nothing, its positive effects are numerous and far reaching.

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Meditation is an ancient practice, yet there are countless classes, websites, and books, as well as the religion of Buddhism which will give you understanding of it. It’s not just decluttering; it’s making more mental space.

4. Sharpen your mind with sleep.

Our bedrooms have long ceased to be places for mere sleeping. These days they have become vaults for stuff or even offices or mini-gyms, allowing us to do many things at the expense of good sleep. Our rooms are full of so many distractions that sleep becomes more difficult.[4] Studies[5] have shown that the light emitted from a phone or laptop screen at night signals to your brain that you need to stay awake, regardless of your intention.

Sleep deprivation has numerous serious effects[6] which harm your health, your cognitive abilities, and lead to depression and anxiety. Having these distractions is just not worth it. The solution to this is to declutter your room, removing any potential distractions. (It may be a good idea to consider setting up a sleep regimen ensuring you get the vital eight hours of sleep that your body needs.)

5. Cut your bad habits.

We all have little quirks–everyday actions that we hardly notice. It could be something as innocuous as cracking our knuckles, or as serious as regular weekend benders. Some may be affecting your health, so what do you do about them? There are numerous techniques[7] for stopping bad habits and some are surprisingly simple. Merely being aware of them is a great step towards their eventual elimination. One effective way to cut out bad habits is to replace them with good ones, substituting positive behavior to declutter or de-stress your life.

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6. Eliminate your addictions if you have them.

This is a more serious version of the step above. Addictions have more negative effects than habits. This paragraph isn’t going to provide the miracle solution to a smoking or drinking addiction, or the over-usage of certain (cough) websites. However, if decluttering your life is your intention, you will likely find few things as profoundly powerful as eliminating negative dependencies. Addictions may seem a core part of your being but have a severe impact on your physical and mental health, so their elimination can be a good thing.

7. Declutter emotional baggage from your friendships.

If you are like me, then your friendships are the single most important part of your life. However, there may come a time when communication with a friend becomes strained and difficult. Were they not a friend you could cut them from your life, but you generally enjoy their company. Such difficult situations may be causing you significant stress.

The key to resolving this is in communication.[8] Try to become aware of particular words and phrases you use which may be having negative consequences. For example, if in conversation you use the word “not” frequently, it adds a negative tone. Instead of “I’m not going to that” (which implies “with you”) try “I think I’d rather stay at home” or “I think I’m going to X”. (It may sound small and nit picky, but consider what you would rather hear. You may have experienced a pang of negativity when someone structured a sentence poorly which made them seem brusque with you.) Even though these are small steps, over time you may find that your relationship improves.

8. Declutter negative people.

This may be severe, but the people you surround yourself with have an effect on you. Even if you intend to become a more positive person, this will be tougher if the people around you are obstinately negative. You don’t have to do something as drastic as getting rid of friends, but merely increase your social circle to surround yourself with people who are how you want to be and you will find it easier to become more positive.

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9. Declutter your fridge.

It is important to be mindful of your weight and eating habits and it will be easier to do if your fridge is clean and organized. This can affect your physical and mental health. There is a link between mood and eating well or poorly.[9] If someone feels stressed, they are more likely to overeat or eat poorly. If their eating habits are causing them unhappiness and stress it can start a vicious cycle. A clean, decluttered fridge stocked with healthy choices can help us make more effort to eat well.

10. Declutter your work life.

There are many ways to do this. If you have a desk or work station that is a mess, it could be causing you extra stress at work. If you find yourself overwhelmed by a ridiculous number of tasks, then taking some time to plan and prioritize your tasks and to organize your work area will make the job a little easier.[10]

If you consider and put into action the above ten steps, then you will find the clutter in your home, life, mind, and work fall away. Life doesn’t need to be so stressful!

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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