Why Decluttering Won't Solve The Problem

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“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life,” Marie Kondo claims in The Magic of Tiding Up, the book that sparked a minimalist movement. The war, it seems, is on clutter, and the way we define clutter is by the things we no longer want or need — but keep around regardless. "Everything in its place," she argues, and nothing that doesn't "spark joy."

There are two distinct ways people react to the idea of decluttering. First, they recognize the concept as valid, though they may not know why. Even if they cannot achieve it flawlessly in practice, they attempt, as they inherently understand the ideology. Second, they reject it entirely out of a deep and subconscious attachment to what their belongings mean about them. When your understanding of the world is entirely external, of course the idea that you "should" get rid of your belongings is threatening. It means you should get rid of yourself. Yet, both of these perspectives are missing one crucial piece of logic, one that's an illusive obvious — so simple, it becomes complex.

The problem is not clutter. Clutter is a product of the problem. The problem itself is the psychological attachment we have to physical belongings — one that we did not consciously create, nor would we necessarily choose. But like an addiction, we are slated to believe that our happiness is right around the corner. Always one boost to the savings account, one better-managed life, one new top, one new job, one new partner, one less cluttered home away.

The fundamental problem here is that we do not recognize that consumerism is designed to make us feel inadequate, and because we are naturally inclined to suffice for inadequacy to survive, we place our attention and focus — almost obsessively — onto "fixing things," rather than recognizing that it is a ploy to command our attention, and the real solution is by exploring what fulfillment actually means.

Decluttering is good, but it's not the answer. Consumerist culture is wrecking your self-esteem, and so trying to declutter without fully understanding it will only result in an internal conflict. Here, a few points on exactly how that's happening:

The World Is Designed To Convince You That You're "Less Than" Other People, Which Ultimately Wrecks Your Relationships

You have no choice but to choose a partner who makes you look good, be competitive with friends and acquaintances, speak ill of people behind their backs to display you have the "upper hand."

You Have A Totally Warped Concept Of "Need" Versus "Social Obligation"

We can tell the difference between what we need and what we want. We can rarely tell the difference between what we need and what we feel socially obligated to do, simply because social obligation tends to activate our survival instincts — and before we know it, designer shoes do seem like a necessity.

You're Judging How "Good" People Are Based On What They Have, Not Who They Are

And when you sum up who someone is by their job title, physical appearance, and geographical location, you're painting an image of them that has little to do with their traits, preferences and likability, and almost everything to do with how other people perceive them. The more you do it to other people, the more you'll do it to yourself.

You Live Outside Of Your Means

Not only does this create its own stress for the simple fear of not being able to afford or pay back what you've charged, but it ensures that you'll be enslaved to your job for the rest of your life. There's no such thing as a relaxed week off when you know you rely on your work performance not only to survive, but to stay emotionally afloat.

You Think That The Only "Fun" Things To Do Are Man-Made Or Curated — Hence Believing Money Is Happiness

Your eyes have gotten so big at what you think a happy and fulfilled life means that you just haven't trained yourself to make the most of the simple things, the things that actually matter.

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