Why you don't need to de-clutter your life
We're halfway through January and you might be thinking that it's finally time to implement a few of those New Year resolutions. If one of them was to de-clutter or downsize your life then stop right now. Our editor-in-chief disagrees with all such notions of de-cluttering. Here’s why.
It's the season where we’re encouraged to purge ourselves of the baggage we’ve accumulated over the previous year. Or so the experts tell us. But on page 28 of our January 2017 issue, our writer David Sax argues that the reverse is true. Life, he reasons, is inherently messy and we should embrace that chaos.
A home full of trinkets and shelves stacked with random tat all reminds us of a life well-lived. This is increasingly true in today’s digital world where pictures, films, books and music collections are stored in a remote cloud. All that beautiful art and those cherished memories, reduced to numbers on a screen. While it’s fantastic to have that option, nothing beats actual stuff.
Sax uses the example of rising vinyl record sales to demonstrate how people yearn for cumbersome, impractical objects that they treasure for this very reason.
Speaking of which, I dug out an old shoebox of letters and postcards on my last trip home (why a shoebox is always used to store such things I do not know). It must have been the first time in 20 years I’d looked at these dispatches from the past, and what an experience it was.
People I’d forgotten about, holidays I didn’t recall; the annoying realisation, judging by her notes, that a girl I really liked in 1991 clearly felt the same but – innocent fool! – I just couldn’t see it.
Jumping awkwardly from teen crushes to an observation about my mother-in-law, her house looks like an overstocked curio store. I think there’s an argument to be made for a clear-out, but she refutes any suggestion. Physical objects, she once told me, are important memory-triggers as we age.
Apparently, the memories of older people who go to a nursing home can quickly slide when they are suddenly without their lifetime’s possessions. Their hold on the past quickly diminishes without these visual cues. That’s a slightly depressing way of saying, yes, get rid of the naff Christmas sweater; clear out your old clothes, leaving space for some lovely new purchases (FYI: some great ideas in our style section). But don’t give up on memories, because they only last as long as you remember them.
It’s also the season of New Year resolutions, but we haven’t gone with the usual “New Year, New You” stories that get trotted out in January. Studies point to a 90 percent failure rate so, frankly, what’s the point? Instead we have a better plan. Throughout the year we’ll focus on the growing body of research about why we fail or succeed.
I’ll start by recommending Tools of the Titan by Tim Ferriss. He’s interviewed many successful people to distil their tips and tricks, based on this belief: “Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits.”
So, as a broad overview, here’s what we must do: Set a goal. Formulate a strategy to hit that target. Break this down into habits, liberally borrowed from others. Move forward, every day, toward your target. I can’t wait to delve further into this subject, so welcome on-board for the ride. It’s going to be a great year.