Simplicity is all about the essentials, about removing excess. On the physical plane, this is most commonly seen as de-cluttering.
These are just the steps I use. There are many lists and ideas out there and I’ve compiled a couple of articles at the end of this post with further information.
Step One: Rubbish
Remove all rubbish. For me this includes mugs of tea, yoghurt pots, used plates (from lunch, not from months ago, though if you have those, remove them at once!!).
Step Two: Project Materials
I’ve been making cats (URL) so my floor and desk are littered with bits of sock, cut threads, button eyes, different colour threads, different colour socks, a needle, scissors and two sewing kit boxes. Before I de-clutter, I need to set these objects aside. Similarly, the bill stating I owe the government over £6,600 already and receipts are part of my ongoing budget plan so need to be filed away or at least put on the other side of the room. I also have the book I’m reading on my desk, so would move that to sit beside my bed or on my bookcase.
Step Three: Focal Points
Next, pick out no more than ten objects (I’m making this up) to be the focus of this area. For example, I’m working on my desk currently, so my focuses are:
Pretty clock, Inherited cat picture, old PC & keyboard, Laptop, Phone, cup, coaster, Lamp.
What else could I need? I’ve a calculator in a draw and post-it-notes on the shelf above my desk, a pen in the drawer. Obviously you can replace my “old PC or my laptop with “pen pot” or even “stationary tray” if you have a simple tray of paperclips/treasury tags/safety pins etc. My picture of cats may be a picture of your family or a calendar. You may need a dictionary or thesaurus to hand, so either find it a drawer/shelf or hold it up with a pretty picture/pen pot as a
bookend. At the moment I’ve got a lava lamp on here too; but then this isn’t a desk I use for work now I’ve half moved out, so I let that live there.
So, remove all things except for those focal objects. Those things with either simple practicality or sentimental value which make you smile. Now we can sort through the rest of the things.
Step Four: Sorting
Across all the articles I’ve read (I’d guess close to 100 by now!) they split this task into three sections and suggest two options. So, we have Donate, Throw or Keep. Sort each into a pile.
Then, I’d suggest you go through your “keep” pile and ask yourself about every item:
Will I use this?
Does this bring me joy?
Are there ANY negative feelings towards it? (If so, get rid of it!!! If it’s uniquely useful, hide it in a drawer/cupboard when not in use.)
When did I last use it? Do I have another object which does its job?
“98. Clean out the old. Get rid of anything that reminds you of a person or time in your life that brings up unhappymemories.” – 100 tips to simplify your life.
In fact I use this quote to determine my selections:
“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” ~ William Morris.
Step Five: Your Keep Pile.
This can be split into further options. This may seem lengthy, but I fins splitting the process into this little steps can make it easier to spread the process out. If you only have 15 minutes a day to spare for de-cluttering, you can do step 4 on one night and step 5 on the next.
Belongs in Another Room/the Car
Belongs in someone else’s house [take to car]
Give it a home of its own.
Not sure if I need
For the latter option, it’s a common idea to place all these items in a box, seal it and write the date 6 month’s from today’s date on the lid. If it’s unopened/the bits still in it by that date are to be donated/sold.
Step Six: The Aftermath & Routine
Looks at your suddenly tidy area/room/house and really feel the space. Open the window, light some incense or just lay on your bed for a couple of minutes and breathe in the scent of empty space. It’s so freeing and can be a major motivator for the rest of the house. Now is the time to work out some form of ritual or routine to keep it this way. A suggestion I liked is the two-minute pick-up where you put away everything not being used right now each time you get up from your desk so it’s fresh when you return.
Step Seven: Define
Fill in the gaps. For me, simplicity is not focusing on the things important to me; but having my entire life BE those important things. My life is truly mine and everything I do and feel is taking me where I want to go.
At Abundance Blog, simplicity is defined:
“97. Simplicity doesn’t mean going without, it means taking the time and making the effort to decide who you are and what you really want, what’s most important to you, and what you want your life to look like, so that everything in your home and in your life is a reflection of your authentic self.” – 100 tips to simplify
For a longer and more in-depth look at clutter I recommend:
Zen Habits – Living Simply
Zen Habits – Clutter
Main themes again mention clearing visible and most-used spaces first, scheduling in de-clutter time, no matter if it takes five minutes at the end of the day or 3 solid days of it.
However, reading and writing an article on de-cluttering doesn’t work unless you de-clutter: Whoops. I better get started then!