The Surprising Power Of Decluttering

A 20-day challenge to “reflect, recenter and refuel” which started last October could be well thought of as a fiasco as I have yet to finalize it. Five days into the challenge, the “de-clutter your bedroom or office” turned from a one-day undertaking to well over two months of deep decluttering. From room to room and closet to closet, I’ve ended up disposing of a lot of things and leaving a good amount of order behind.

So what has the act of decluttering taught me to the point of making it the topic of my writing today?

  • First, the hoarding of a number of papers, printed reports and articles over the last several years made me realize how many good intentions we have day after day – e.g. I will read that report, I will take that class, I will make the phone call – which are not followed through. We might be too busy, we might be unrealistic in overly ambitious expectations, or we might simply fail to act. So the lesson of bags of old papers that are too outdated to read today showed me how important it is to follow through. Once we have a vision of what we need to do or accomplish, today is the day to embrace that dream, plan and implement. Procrastination and lack of determination and decisiveness don’t serve us. That’s the bottom line. Failure to act today is missing on the chance of being who we could be tomorrow and in the future.

  • Second, the act of decluttering led to clarity and some amount of peace. It felt like a new start. Making space physically and mentally brought clarity on what I had to discard and why, as well as on what I needed to do next and why. Decluttering forced me to take stock of what’s old and not needed any longer, while making a conscious decision on what items I wanted to hold on to, or which could be added in the future – both in my professional and personal lives. To some extent, decluttering was taking stock of who I have become and of my values, and deciding what still fits me or not, and what still serves me or not,….

  • Third, decluttering helped me relive some emotions… the old dress I wore at a wedding, old birthday cards received from family and friends, my kids ‘artwork from kindergarten… the activity was a sweet ride down the memory lane over the span of several years…. Decluttering became a good reminder of how important it is to keep the memories of meaningful experiences alive, and to honor the journey.

Decluttering -be it of material items or of mental thoughts- has the powerful effect of bringing clarity, order, and a renewed motivation and determination to do more and be more.

And if you don’t have days, weeks or months to spend on decluttering, then think of proxy decluttering. For instance:

  • What is the one thing you need to do today or what is the one thing (or many) that can in fact be left undone today?
  • What is the one thought to keep today and the one (or many) thoughts to discard?
  • What is the one action to plan for today and the one (or many) to put on hold?

As Gary Keller noted in #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller “The One Thing”: “The ONE Thing sits at the heart of success and is the starting point for achieving extraordinary results”.

Published by Helene R. Johnson

Helene R. Johnson is a pseudonym. Living life as a mom and manager. Articles are also published on, a site dedicated to human resources with a focus on transformational change and development.

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