In Support of Minimalism: How Decluttering Will Improve Your Life

benefits of decluttering
Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

Ever since Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, hit shelves in 2014, minimalism has taken the world by storm. The book, which promised to take tidying to a whole new level, claimed that its revolutionary approach to tidying up – which runs on a category-by-category system unlike anything even the most clutter-hating, tidying enthusiast had ever seen in the West – wouldn’t just leave your home a little cleaner and neater, but your mind as well. “This international best-seller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home – and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire,” the book’s description on GoodReads claims. And boy, did it inspire. The book wound up being published in more than 30 countries, with more than 4 million copies sold worldwide, to become a viral sensation.

This movement is about learning how to truly assess what you’re holding onto in life and letting go of that which no longer serves you.

Marie Kondo is, to many, the queen of the minimalism movement, which would make movie director Matt D’Avella its king. His 2016 film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things – which was subsequently streamed on Netflix and made available to the masses – took the phenomenon to the next level. All over the world, people weren’t just decluttering their closets, but they were ridding themselves of everything in their life that they didn’t deem necessary or had decided qualified as physical, mental, or emotional clutter that came at too high of a cost.

People took to the movement surprisingly quickly. A friend of mine, for instance, was an excited devotee and cleared out her apartment almost immediately after having watched the film. “It’s amazing – I’ve never felt so free,” she said. Two weeks later, she called me asking to borrow a basic kitchen appliance. She had accidentally given it away, forgetting that she did actually require it on a fairly regular basis even if it wasn’t frequent enough for her to have registered it on her “need” radar. Yet, despite the fun of gently teasing her, I couldn’t deny the positive impact it had had on her life. She had begun to be more productive at work and just seemed more light and free somehow. And she wasn’t the only one.

Fast-forward four years later and the passing of time has allowed minimalism to go from instant trendy craze to bonafide way of life that is better understood. Indeed, this movement isn’t meant to be about simply getting rid of everything you own and living in a stark apartment. Rather, it’s about learning how to truly assess what you’re holding onto in life and letting go of that which no longer serves you. And when you look at it that way, the lessons are truly invaluable.

Here are five ways that adopting some minimalist principles can help to improve more than just the state of your apartment.

Less Stress

Have you ever noticed how your entire apartment just seems to look better when you’ve made your bed in the morning, and how that improves your mood? This is a direct result of the “decluttering” effect on your mind. Messy spaces can make us feel more anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed because of the overload of stimuli that signals to our brain that our work is never done (“Who knows how long it would take to work through those piles, if that’s ever even possible?”) and the feelings of guilt and embarrassment associated with it.

Fewer Impulse Purchases

How many times have you bought something only to realize that you already own something just like it? Decluttering makes it easier to see what you already own to avoid situations like this. Taking a more minimalist approach to your possessions can also help breed better habits; by asking yourself what you really need versus what you simply want, you’ll be able to make better judgments about what to spend money on. The result? More money in your bank account and more streamlined possessions.

More Time

Less clutter = less mess to clean up. Not only will you spend less time cleaning your home, but you’ll also spend less time on your regular tidy-ups as you straighten up the room. It’ll also take you less time to find the things that you’re seeking at home. Like money, time is a finite resource, and anything you can do to help make your daily life habits a more streamlined process will help free up space for doings things that matter to you.

Better Self-Esteem

One of the greatest side effects of living, acting, and purchasing with more intention is feeling more fulfilled. As you streamline your closet, you’ll only wear things that you know you like and that you know make you feel good. With all of the money you’re saving, you’ll be able to invest in more things – be they items or projects – that really matter to you, leading to more fulfillment. Living more minimally teaches us to desire less rather than more as we learn how to be happy with what we have and to go after only that which we truly want.

Fewer Distractions

With less clutter around, there’ll be fewer distractions in your life. Whereas you might have once spent plenty of time rearranging, managing, or pursuing more possessions that you didn’t necessarily want if you were really honest with yourself, you can now banish those distractions in favor of pursuits that make you happy. The same goes for decluttering your life from the people and habits that don’t serve your best interests.

This will enable you to focus more clearly on your goals, allowing you greater headspace in which to develop your creativity, curiosity, and passions. With all of the time saved, you’ve also opened up the space in your schedule to go out and pursue new hobbies.