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60,000 Reasons for Decluttering with Master Morris

Have-nothing-Lisa-Congdon-2

This is the easiest decluttering method you will ever come across!

Everybody can use it and start anywhere, anytime, almost anyhow. And the «Morris Method» can be a lifelong companion – as it is and will be for me. (Illustration above by Lisa Congdon, http://lisacongdon.com/blog)

Let’s start with a «classic» by the brilliant comedian, author & social critic George Carlin:

«A Place for my Stuff» (5 minutes)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JLoge6QzcGY

«Their stuff is sh!t – but your sh!t is stuff!» That was back in 1981 – and it’s gotten so much worse since then. We are drowning in stuff, clutter has gotten out of hands, and it's having an increasing impact on our lives. So we read articles & books on decluttering, seek advice from other people and the media or even hire a coach. There are plenty of products & services out there; our prevailing zeitgeist demands to declutter. And letting go of painful thoughts & emotions as well. We prompt ourselves: Get rid of that clutter in the house and that nonsense in the head and bring in the magic, please!   

The mundane subject «decluttering» combined with a decent portion of wellness, spirituality & esoterism and a strong desire for magic, brings out an international bestseller like «The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up» (by Japanese author & organizing consultant Marie Kondō).

Or we could follow a more European approach like «The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning». Death Cleaning is an old tradition especially in Nordic countries. But we also know it in other parts or Europe, like Switzerland for example, where I come from. It’s about freeing ourselves and especially our families from a lifetime of clutter – any time before we die. The process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage, but essentially before others have to do it for us!

Or we can read any of the countless other books on decluttering matters.

But we don’t have to. There is a much easier way with just one brilliant sentence from the 19th century!

It stems from the English «all-rounder» William Morris (1834 – 1896). Morris is recognized as one of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain. He was an artist, craftsmen, textile designer, painter, engineer, architect, poet, novelist, translator, entrepreneur and socialist activist. Associated with the British «Arts and Crafts Movement», he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he played a significant role in propagating the early socialist movement in Britain.

More about William Morris:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiNFoJqOJhs
http://www.thebookoflife.org/the-great-philosophers-william-morris/

William Morris was a pioneer in sustainable production, in focusing on beauty, usefulness and longevity of things, in meaningful work in times of industrialization. «Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.» He wanted a life as good as possible, in as many areas as possible, for as many people as possible. He was ahead of his time – and he probably still would be in some way, so many decades later.

Master Morris left us an immortal «golden rule» that should fit everybody:

HAVE NOTHING IN YOUR HOUSE
THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW TO BE USEFUL
OR BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL

These words hang on my walls, in different versions («It took me years to understand that words are often as important as experience, because words make experience last», so Morris.)

Guess what – it works for me!

This lovely illustration by US artist Lisa Congdon is still my favorite:
https://twitter.com/AVSchaffner/status/686143505786351616

 

Here a version by INVERSE ARCHITECTURE Magazine:

Have nothing INVERSE ARCHITECTURE Magazine

 

Or one by Notonthehighstreet Enterprises Limited:

Have nothing Notonthehighstreet Enterprises Limited

 

There are so many versions out there – do-it-yourself is another possibility, consistent with the interior!

Like that we can always see & «feel» the message – and we start to value our (remaining) things much more, those things we deliberately decided to buy, to have, to keep. And sustainability will play a more important role in our home and in our life, as time goes by. It’s not about «I got rid of something – what shall I replace it with?» It’s about a conscious «less is more».

While doing a «Death Cleaning» for my father a couple of years ago (while he was still alive, but not able to do it himself anymore), I discovered some interesting facts & figures. I basically counted (yes!) the items in his apartment (and later on in a few other houses & apartments), made some secondary research on human thinking – and finally came across some intriguing «relations».

60,000 Thoughts & Things!

In the Western World we possess some 60,000 things.
Each one of us – on average. Fascinating! Why?

60,000 is also the number of our daily thoughts – on average!
How many of those 60,000 thoughts are positive, inspiring, helpful?
Only 3 – 5% on average, let’s say some 3,000 positive thoughts.
What about the rest – on average?
Almost 1/3 of our daily thoughts is neutral or helpful to others.
Almost 2/3 are more or less useless or even damaging or painful.

How many things do we need out of these 60,000?
Maybe we only need some 3,000 things …

There’s much more to this interesting subject, of course,
which I summarized some years ago in an article (in German):
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/blog/entry/60-000-gedanken-gegenstaende.html

We read so much about «positive thinking» (and I wrote a lot about it myself, to sort of «balance» the one-sided nonsense written all over the place …). But most people don’t even know the «status quo» in an average human head.   

And we hear so much about decluttering – but most people don’t know how much stuff an average person actually hoards. Now you know better!

Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …

Similar to multitasking, clutter overloads our senses, impairs our ability to think openly & creatively, makes us feel more nervous & stressed. Clutter is a constant «I should», «I have to» in our head. Too much stuff robs us of mental energy, leaves us feeling anxious, tired, overwhelmed, frustrated. And we furthermore waste time looking for things we can’t find right away. Clutter is causing a lot of people a lot of pain.

Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …

We live in a (not only, but highly) materialistic world – it’s hard to resist the trappings. We are bombarded with thousands of ads telling us the right stuff is going to make us better, happier, healthier, more attractive, more lovable and successful. Or, as it says in a Ry Cooder song: «All the money in the world is spent on feelin' good.» That’s at least what we are hoping for.

Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …

We may think our decision to buy an item is based on logic, but it’s more complicated. Along with stuff comes emotional baggage. Things embody our thoughts & emotions, our memories, our hopes & dreams, our plans & resolutions, who we believe we are now – and who we want to be in the future.

Getting rid of certain things we’ve purchased can be an admission of failing. There is fear, as stuff is associated with security, wealth, status, comfort, choice, love – you name it. We feel guilty about money, time & energy wasted on too many things. So we keep our stuff to justify our purchases. And what if we throw something out, only to regret it at some point in the future? This «just in case» feeling can paralyze us and keep us from making necessary declutter decisions.

Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …

With «useful» William Morris doesn’t mean «useful 1 x in 30 years»!

But, on the other hand, we can’t just keep items that «spark joy». That might work in a «rainbow-butterfly-unicorn-world», but not really in a world where we have to pay bills, fill out tax forms and take care of many not so «joyful» matters. However, they need to be done. And we better find that stuff easily, saves us a lot of time & energy.

HAVE NOTHING IN YOUR HOUSE
THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW TO BE USEFUL
OR BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL

Every item has a story. Memories over memories – including many unpleasant ones. A lot of people keep too many relics of ex-lovers, ex-partners, family members, themselves etc. And lots of «work in progress», never finished, but still around as nagging reminders, capturing thoughts & emotions. Decluttering is not least a way to process our past. If we find the strength to live with less «unfriendly reminders», we are more likely to have clarity in moving on. We all have emotional clutter. But if we recognize & declutter our emotional baggage, we are better equipped to take opportunities that are right in front of us.

And lo & behold: We feel much better at home!

There is an old Swiss saying: «It's nice to be born in Switzerland, it's nice to be buried in Switzerland – but what do you do in between?» At some point, someone added: decluttering!

Decluttering doesn’t just affect the material level, but also the mental, digital, emotional, spiritual and more levels. Kerry Thomas explains in this video that clutter basically represents delayed decisions:

«From Clutter to Clarity» (11 minutes)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrsdoIOGCRw

Clutter represents delayed decisions & actions.

It's empowering to go through stuff, finally make a deliberate decision – and act! Keeping, tossing, giving away, donating, selling, whatever. Doing that consciously leaves us feeling more energized, resilient and alive, as our brain can also relax in a decluttered space. Removing unneeded stuff from our homes is comparable with deleting files to create space on a computer. All at once the whole operating system is more efficient!

Ultimately we don’t own things – things own us.  

Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …

We can start with baby steps, one by one, or – as writer Anne Lamott puts it – «bird by bird». We could start with the area that bothers us most – even if it’s a very small area.

We could start with fixing whatever doesn’t work in the house. Re-use over Re-cycling. But if impossible or pointless, we better say goodbye for good!  

Just start somewhere …

With this quote hanging on the wall, something starts to move …
Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …
At first just in our thoughts – but slowly it spreads …
To the closet, the bookshelf, the desk, ultimately our life …
It will spread as time goes by.

HAVE NOTHING IN YOUR HOUSE
THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW TO BE USEFUL
OR BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL

On the flip side, it’s possible to be too organized & rigid. Flexibility, spontaneity & imagination go hand in hand with a certain degree of «chaos» and can boost creativity. But too much chaos has the opposite effect. The sweet spot is an individual matter of balance.

Kitsch-free is not the goal – a little bit is fine.

 

Here you see a little «kitsch corner» in my own home (Christmas decoration which didn’t wanna leave):

IMG 2009

 

Ridding clutter from our life can make us more relaxed, determined & productive. It just makes us feel better, in so many ways. Letting go can help us heal old wounds and move forward with new strength & confidence. Decluttering often acts as a gateway to taking care of other aspects of life. People might lose weight, get healthier, stop dumb habits, leave certain jobs or relationships and so on.

Just give it a try!

Useful – beautiful … useful – beautiful …

We will never reach the «goal», of course – only useful and/or beautiful things –, but we move in that direction. We will never get there, but we become more conscious & joyous along the way.

Material things per se are neutral, we give them meaning – or not. We make the decision to buy something – or not. We exaggerate – or not. We can share – or not. We handle things consciously – or not. It’s up to us.

Buying & consuming is basically voting. Much more than voting for politicians & function owners. Experiences will gain further in importance in the long run. However, clutter remains a huge issue in the foreseeable future.

Some 2,500 years ago, Socrates stated while walking across the market of Athens in ancient Greece: «I see with great pleasure how many things I don’t need!» A wise man … like William Morris.

Put his words on the wall – see what happens!

I wish you all the best for 2018!

 

 

Some more inspiration

10 inspiring Thoughts & Videos
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/blog/entry/10-inspiring-thoughts-videos-for-the-holidays-1.html

 

Music

10 Songs for Life
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/blog/entry/10-songs-for-life-2-songs-for-summer.html

My Songs – Audios & Videos
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/songs.html
https://youtu.be/diYzzP9uKO4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-632TTJLak
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQU5ocO-HXs

 

Sopranos & Mobsters

Episode 87 – The Final Countdown
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/blog/entry/the-sopranos-episode-87-the-final-countdown.html

At the Captain’s Table
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/blog/entry/at-the-captain-s-table.html

Donald Trump, Frank Costello & Mobster Inc.
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/blog/entry/donald-trump-frank-costello-the-law-of-attraction.html

 

Homepage

«Sun Deck Avenue»
http://www.besser-fernsehen.ch/english.html

 

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