“If organizing your stuff worked, wouldn’t you be done by now?” —Courtney Carver
Organizing our things is important. It is helpful to know where things are stored and how to easily access them. But let’s be honest with ourselves, organizing is always only a temporary solution. We organize our things and find new storage solutions today… but are left again tomorrow, doing the exact same thing.
Finding better ways to organize our stuff holds some benefit, but that benefit is fleeting at best.
However, when we take the step of fully removing from our possession the items we do not need, we find permanent, longer-lasting benefits.
Minimizing possessions is an act of permanence because they are removed from our care entirely. It lays the groundwork for overcoming consumerism altogether. This step of intentionally living with less forces questions of values and purpose. And it provides the opportunity to live life pursuing our greatest passions.
Minimizing is always better than organizing.
How then do we accomplish this in our unique living space in a way that aligns with our lifestyle? We accomplish this room-by-room physically handling each and every item in our possession. And we learn to ask better questions.
In fact, almost all of decluttering comes down to asking ourselves only two questions:
1. Do I need this?
Discerning the difference between needs and wants has become almost a full-time job in our society. Advertisers routinely market items of comfort and luxury as items of need. I never knew I needed so much until somebody told me I did.
Almost all decluttering has to start somewhere. And every professional organizer will ask you to answer this question over and over again: Is this something I need to keep?
This is an important place to start because it provides a beginning framework within which to make better decisions. If we can identify the things we no longer need, we can begin to recognize the things that can be removed.
Of course, our human needs are actually quite slim: water, food, shelter, and clothing. It’s important to note we’re talking about more than mere survival here—nobody wants to just survive life, we want to make the most of it! What we’re talking about is realizing our fullest potential.
The deeper question then that we should be asking is, What items do I need to keep to realize my life’s full potential and purpose?
This question will get us further and provide an even more robust framework to make decisions about what to keep and what to remove. But even this falls a bit short.
Just because your answer is, “No, I don’t need this,” doesn’t mean you are going to remove it—or at least, not easily remove it. We all have things in our home that we know we don’t need. And yet, we choose to keep.
This, then, is where the second question becomes so helpful. And why it is even more important.
2. Why do I have this?
This question moves our thought process beyond functionality and into intentionality.
Ask yourself that question with everything you touch: Why do I own this? When you do, you will be surprised at the answers.
Case in point: Your closet. One of the first areas of my home that I chose to minimize was my wardrobe closet. When I did, I noticed all sorts of different styles and colors and fits—many of which I no longer wore.
And I am not alone in this—many of our closets are filled with items we no longer wear. Clearly, our over-filled closets have nothing to do with functionality. Instead, they have everything to do with intentionality.
Why do we own all these different articles of clothing and so much more than we need? Is it because we love them all or need that many shirts or shoes? No. We buy them because we are trying to keep up with changing fashions—the same changing styles that the fashion industry told us we needed to remain in style.
Additionally, when we look in our living rooms, we notice all kinds of decorations and knick-knacks cluttering our shelves. Why do we have them? Because we love them and they tell the story of our lives? Doubtful. Instead, we bought them because they were on sale, they matched the couch, or those built-in shelves needed something on them.
In each case, we buy things and keep them, not because they benefit our lives, but for some other intention. This realization makes the process of decluttering easier and it holds benefit for almost every item we own: Why do I own these CDs, that piece of furniture, these toys, these old electronics? Once we determine the why, we are better equipped to answer the What now?
Those two questions: “Do I need it?” and “Why do I have it?” form the basis for your best decluttering efforts going forward. They will prove to be enlightening and will open up new ideas about what items to keep and what items to remove.
And ultimately, isn’t that goal? To remove things entirely from our homes that we no longer need…so we can begin living the life that we want.
Originally posted on Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker.