Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Death Cleaning

You may not know it, but clutter is stealing your time. Whether it’s brushing the dust off books you never read, moving over your kitchen machine so you can clean the counter, or clearing out the mess underneath your couch so your Roomba won’t get stuck.

Clutter is stealing your time. Which would be fine, if we enjoyed having messy homes.

But we crave simple and clutter-free spaces. Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is proof. Kondo’s book has sold millions of copies and dominated multiple bestseller lists.

So if we secretly yearn simplicity. Why do we have so much trouble letting go of our stuff?

An often cited paper says we eventually stop looking at objects as ‘mine’ and label them as ‘me.’ Which sounds a little crazy. 

But I’m willing to bet that you feel most strongly about possessions that lack monetary value: notes from your college days, a scarf you got as a present but never wear, a broken watch with fond memories. 

That’s because these items represent a part of you. And throwing them away can feel like you’re destroying your achievements, your friendships, or your memories.

A friend of mine had an unused elliptical trainer he couldn’t get rid of, because he felt like that was giving up on his goals. 

So objects fuel your self-worth and are proof of your identity.

Which is why getting rid of your possessions can actually lead to anxiety and even depression. 

On the flipside, decluttering can feel extraordinarily lethargic. Especially if you’re faced with your mortality and don’t want others to clean up your junk.

Which may sound a bit morbid, unless you’re Swedish author Margareta Magnusson. Who has been ‘death cleaning’ since she’s had her first home.

Whether you want to organise your home for more joy, or downsize out of responsibility to others, one thing is clear: it’s not easy.

In fact, you won’t get rid of your clutter unless you have a clear why. For me it was realising that maintenance costs more than buying.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach