Monday, February 07, 2011

Stop clutter from stealing your life by Mike Nelson

This book deals with understanding the deeper reasons for your clutter, the inertia of getting rid of it, finding a balanced household and living, and filling our heart and soul with people and memories, not stuff. The author emphasizes the emotional why-do’s along with the practical how-to’s hoping to uproot the cluttering behavior entirely and not allowing it to grow back to creep into our lives. The author believes in slow and steady success than instantaneous and quick-fix solutions. After being abandoned by his wife, by many friends and after being kicked off from jobs, he realized the magnitude of the problems the clutter can cause in life. Being a successful de-clutterer himself, he supports his practical solutions and ideas with his own stories and testimonies from other de-clutterers like him. In addition, the quizzes for self evaluation, a de-cluttering diary to keep track of the de-cluttering success and like enhances the de-cluttering experience.

To find if you are a clutterer, click .

The de-cluttering diary

If you think you are a clutter, make a notebook as your de-cluttering diary. The purpose of this diary is to help see patterns in our cluttering behavior, and solutions to those patterns in our de-cluttering behavior. It is a map of the journey from living a cluttered life to learning to live clutter-less.

Spend some time before the daily 10 minute de-cluttering session (and be honest :D). Fill up the following:

  • Day:                     Time: From              To              . Total Minutes:                . Session #           
  • Before I started this de-cluttering session, I felt:                                             e.g.: Overwhelmed because of xyz. Angry at xyz. Anxious about xyz.
  • My goal of this session:                                              Be specific about your goals for the next 10 minutes like clear off half the desk.
  • Type of clutter:                                             e.g. Paper, clothes, emails.
  • When I start to deal with this, I feel:                                             What the heck is going on when you deal with certain things? Why are they there in the first place? Why are they still there? Why are they so hard to get rid of?
  • When I first bought (or was given) this item, I felt good because:                                              I was down because I’d just had a fight with my boyfriend / spouse / friend / parent / bill collector, and this made me feel pretty / sexy / successful / rich.
  • When this session was over, I felt:                                              Good? Bad? Ugly? Tired? Energized? Stupid? Angry with myself?

Doing this over a period of our de-cluttering cycle, we’ll find that some types of clutter affect us in different ways. We’ll find our own rhythm for de-cluttering. Marathon or sprinter, the choice is ours. Most importantly, we’ll find out how we feel about different types of clutter, and then be able to change that behavior from the start. A ‘before and after’ picture of your de-cluttering success can help you feel good and encourage more de-cluttering.

When we lose someone from our lives..

When someone dies, their things don’t die with them. The last things touched, the last things said, the last gifts given become so precious. The lipstick message on the mirror, the sound of a voice on the answering machine, the silly note stuck on the car seat becomes a treasure over night. Procrastination, feeling powerless and overwhelmed, compounded with the pain of loss makes letting go of their stuff harder. Many times people start filling in stuff as a shield around them to get a sense of protection.

While it is tempting to keep everything, it’s usually not wise. There is only so much we can see, touch and enjoy in our daily life and it is better to have one item that is dearly treasured than hundreds of items that are meaningless. The same applies to numerous gifts that we are presented with. The main reason for our inertia to get rid of it is the emotion attached with the things/gifts and that by discarding, we might hurt our loved ones.

To get rid of the stuff, Nelson suggests this as a way to get permission to discard things: Close your eyes, visualize your loved one, and say something similar to: “Dear, you know I love you. I know that these possessions are not you. They are just stuff you had/gave to me. Some of it must have been important to you. But to me, you are important, not these things. They’re causing a blockage in my own life, and I know you wouldn’t want that. So I’m asking your permission to discard these items and make more room for the true memories of you.”

My story

As I was reading the book, I had the opportunity of staying with one of my friends for about a month who owns a remarkable number of text books (right from Junior college) and lecture notes that wasn’t touched for the past 3 years. When he a found a room for himself, he had a lot of difficulty moving, thanks to his unwanted things which he refused to throw/give away to people who might actually make good use it. Affirming myself and feeling good after seeing his clutter, I started to de-clutter my own room and boy was I surprised to find an incredible amount of stuff that I had long forgotten I had possession of. 

My room is cleaner than ever (Let me tell you, I used to have my room untidy as hell). I used to avoid studying in my room because it’s always jammed with junk but now staying in a cleaner room really feels good. Lesser things means lesser things to care about, lesser time needed to clean the room periodically and no shame in inviting my friends to my room anytime. Oh, and the number of emails in my inbox has been reduced from 7000 odd mails to just about 150!

Bottom line

Cluttering is a serious problem than we never realize. Stopping it might make all the difference in our lives.

Quotes garden
  • Our stuff is part of us, but it need not define us.
  • Stuff is not as important in our lives as we make it. People are important. Family is important. Pets are important.
  • One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a long time.
  • The vacuum law of prosperity: get rid of what you don’t want, to make room for what you do want.
  • Letting go of the stuff opens us up to letting go of the person.
  • It’s like the elephant in the living room that everyone walks around, pretending not to notice.
  • Treating the stuff as the problem is like cutting the tops of crabgrass in your yard: Unless you get to the roots, it will come back.
  • It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.
  • Cluttering is about our feelings, not about piles of papers.
  • Of all the clutterers, I think 49% are depressed and 51% won’t admit it.
  • Things do not change; we change.


  1. Nice.. thanks a lot!