Declutter To Get Ahead

15 September 2016
Read Time: 4.8 mins

Words by Tara Young

There is a lot of hype cluttering up the media channels about “Decluttering” – so if you have been considering a very minimalist future for yourself, let us take out this busyness of information, and (with an economy of words) streamline your way to a decluttered and successful life.

First things first, while it may be all very “now” to be minimalist and get on-board with the philosophies of the likes of Maria Kondo in guidebooks such as, The Art of Tidying, it is important to actually ask yourself, why are you decluttering or becoming a minimalist?

It may sound obvious but if you think about anything you have ever achieved, embarked upon, embraced, tried, etc, it was done so for a reason. So before your reach for yet another self-help book on decluttering, ask yourself: how might my life be better with less stuff?

For many, an obvious reason for clearing the decks is that most precious of all things: time.  Your time would be much better spent on humans rather than wasted on objects. The time theme also extends into the amount of hours required to clean up and around all of the stuff that we tend to accumulate. After all who wants to spend half of a precious weekend cleaning or inducing feelings of guilt about not cleaning? Also, as mentioned by a number of declutter converts, it is the impact of too much stuff on our time that is wasted on looking for things – when you need something, it is good to be able to find it. Not to go on a quest looking for it.

Here are some steps (some bigger than others) you can consider to assist in the goal of decluttering your life to get ahead. Remember, you don’t have to do them all at once; just implement one or two when it works for you.

Declutter your workspace

We live in a digital age so every bit of paper on our desks is probably also stored somewhere in that digital realm, safe and sound.  Unless those hieroglyphics you scrawled on the report from six months ago still have relevance, let the paper go to another place. The recycle bin.

Scan the business card pile and insert the post-it note phone numbers stuck on your monitor into your phone. Spend 10 minutes with the pile of flyers and magazines you have been meaning to read, tossing out everything you don't absolutely need. See if you go back to retrieve them – odds on you don’t.

With a cleared desk space, take a note of how you feel. Lighter and brighter? It's incredible what can be accomplished just by these simple tidying tasks.

Declutter your wardrobe

This is a hoary old chestnut and such an opportunity to get extra time, free up some brain space and really feel better in the clothes you actually wear. Maria Kondo’s tip of holding an object and testing as to whether it gives you a sense of joy is a good exercise to declutter wardrobes.

There are two simple tests: does the item make you feel good whenever you wear it, or does it remind you of happy times when wearing it? If it doesn’t evoke one of those emotions, remove from your space and donate. It's that simple. With the joyful pieces remaining, you will be able to work them harder in your wardrobe with a small investment in a few extra accessories. Key words being 'a few'.

Once again, note how you feel when you leave your house for work in the morning, wearing your favourite shirt/dress/trousers. I bet your step to your daily commute is lighter.

Need more tips on balancing your professional life?

Why Flexibility Is The New Must-Have Work Perk

Life Hacks: Finding The Perfect Work-Life Balance

Declutter your social life

Once again, it all comes back to that precious commodity of time. There never seems to be enough time to spend with loved ones let alone feeling drained after a coffee date with someone you feel obliged to catch up with.

Think about those with whom you don’t have to modify you behaviour when you are with them – you are just you. The people who you could call when it is 2.30 on a rainy morning and say or do whatever you needed (be it rescuing from a date gone horribly wrong, broken down car, broken down heart or just feeling very low) these are the people who deserve your time. Focus on them. The rewards ... well, you know what they are already.

Declutter your mind

Our busy lives make busy and cluttered minds – unfortunately that seems to be endemic in the 21st century living. Luckily there is a lot of help on hand for this very exercise. Things like free apps or inexpensive short books for meditation and mindfulness beginners are everywhere and easy to access.

These apps and/or books provide easy techniques for us to introduce some breathing out and 'just being' periods in our lives. It sounds obvious but so few of us actually stop and notice our surroundings or notice what that moment holds. Being aware and mindful of our physical, psychological and emotional selves helps to shine a light on how much we have to be grateful for. And many smart minds recognise that gratitude is the fastest and most direct route to happiness (more on that later).

Declutter your digital space

In this age of connectedness, decluttering your digital space is a tricky one, yet equally important to both time at work and down-time at home. It is common for people – and this term is used deliberately, as it includes children of all ages – to be engaged in their relaxation time with both the television (thank you Netflix), devices (iPads and smartphones) and email.

One small step is to move your email icon to your final phone screen and switch your notifications to silent. Why would you want to ruin the penultimate moment in Breaking Bad with a ping signifying a Facebook update about someone else’s life or Coles weekly specials?

On the work front, unread emails are the bane of the modern worker, from CEOs to the newest recruit. Like those boxes that have been under the house for years, you don't quite remember what's in those unread emails and have happily survived not knowing all this time. They can definitely be deleted. The feeling of satisfaction that comes with getting that bolded number (in the hundreds or thousands) of unread message out of your inbox is immense. Again, you're sure to feel lighter and brighter knowing it isn't cluttering up your digital bandwidth.

With a clearer mind (and figurative load off your shoulders), it won't be long before you start seeing yourself improving in other areas. Clean spaces, quality relationships and decluttered devices can help you achieve better productivity, clearer thinking and a more positive attitude – all of which bodes well for your personal and professional goals. 

Images coutresy of Getty