When it Comes to Decluttering: Start with Why

Start with Why.jpg

Before you begin to declutter and simplify your home and life, it's well worth asking yourself why?. Why do you want to do this? Why now? Why will this make a difference to the way in which you spend your days?

Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.

For me, increasing quality time with my family and having the space to rest and foster my creativity were my driving forces. We also live in a small home with minimal storage so that too was a motivating factor. In addition, I wanted to eliminate decision fatigue as much as possible so that if I had a particularly decision-heavy day or week it didn't leave me feeling drained or overwhelmed.

What matters to you?
When we transitioned my grandmother into a nursing home she was understandably upset with the change. At the time she asked me "What would you do if you had to pack your entire life into a suitcase and never look back? How would you decide what to take and what to leave?". Her question really struck me, I honestly had no idea how I would prioritise the practical over the sentimental in my 30s let alone my 90s. Imagine if you had to pack only one suitcase to take with you leaving everything else behind, what would you include?

Define your Values
In my private practice with clients I often utilise a form of therapy known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, perhaps you've heard of it before? As part of this, I frequently help clients to define their values.

Values are different to goals in that they encompass a general life direction not, like a goal, a milestone or achievement that can be ticked off per say. Not everyone has the same values and there is no 'right' way to define them. Some common areas of life in which people may ascribe certain values include relationships, parenting, career, personal development, recreation, health and wellbeing, community, environment, spirituality and the list goes on.

To help you to define your values and identify your Why in relation to simplifying your family life, take a moment to answer the following:

What sort of partner do you want to be?

What sort of parent do you want to be?

What personal qualities would you bring to these relationships?

What sort of qualities would you like to bring to your friendships?

What new skills would you like to learn?

How do you relax and unwind?

How do you have fun?

How do you want to look after your health? Why?

In this season of life, I think often about how I want my children to know and remember me. I want them to have a mum who laughs easily, shares great stories, is patient, kind and fully present, energetic and engaged when spending time with them. A mum who says "I'm sorry" even when it's hard and loves unconditionally. Someone who taught them essential life skills, how to embrace their creativity and build a career founded in passion. Someone they can rely on to listen to them and be there regardless of how old and independent they are.

And on I could go...

Thinking about this truly helped me to define my values and know my why. The same can be achieved by thinking about how you want your family, friends or colleagues to know and think of you.

So, what does this have to do decluttering?

Glad you asked. As you begin to minimise and simplify various areas of your home and life it helps to be able to connect with your motivation for doing so. One, because it can provide the inspiration you need when you feel like giving up or you find it particularly hard to declutter a particular area. And two, it helps immensely if you have a partner, family member or friend asking you why you're doing what you're doing or helpfully pointing out that the item you've just decided to donate might come in handy in 5 years time.

Decluttering is not the end result—it is merely the first step. You don’t become instantly happy and content by just getting rid of your stuff—at least not in the long run. Decluttering doesn’t work like that. If you simply embrace the what without the why, then you’ll get nowhere...

Knowing your why in the kitchen might help you to simplify your pantry and meal plan and prep because feeling energised, fit and healthy is important to you.

Knowing your why in the bathroom might inspire you to minimise toxins to elevate the health and wellbeing of your family. Or perhaps you realise that the decor you saw on instagram isn't really worth the financial investment because as it turns out having a super stylish bathroom isn't as important to you as you thought it was.

Knowing your why in the bedroom may mean that quality sleep or time with your partner is what really matters most in that space and that staying up late binging a Netflix series or scrolling through facebook isn't actually helping you get from where you are to to where you want to be so you decide to remove technology from the space.

Knowing your why for storing linen may not only make you feel less cluttered physically and mentally but also helps you to live in alignment with the type of host you want to be when you have guests stay. You know where everything is, it's easy to make up a bed and make someone you care about feel welcome and right at home. 

Knowing your why for creating a capsule wardrobe might mean that not only do you look and feel great because you've chosen items you love that flatter your figure and lifestyle but you're also no longer the family member or friend who runs late to catch ups and events because you spent so long trying to find something to wear.

Knowing your why for decluttering your children's toys might mean that you're not spending as much time tripping over, picking up and packing away toys. It might mean that you're helping to eliminate your child's own feelings of decision fatigue inspiring their imagination, creativity and autonomy. 

Knowing your why for tidying up your paperwork or emails might help to reduce the mental load and because you know your bills are up to date and your inbox isn't overflowing, you're able to be fully present and live in the moment with your family and friends. 

Take Action
Using the questions outlined above, define your values and identify your why. Linking your own values and reasons as to why an area of your life should change helps you to not only achieve your goal but also serves as a reminder of the life and legacy you’re creating.

Further reading

The Panic Room

How Willpower Works: How to Avoid Bad Decisions

Chasing Slow





Cara Toynton