who allowed me to share this information with you.
One of the most constant questions people send me is, “What’s the difference between de-cluttering and simplifying?” Another is, “Why does it matter?”
Let me answer the first question first. Then I’ll take a stab at the second one.
Whether it relates to a messy room, a messy house, a messy mind, or a messy business or organization, decluttering can be useful process. But it doesn’t often achieve a real and lasting result.
Decluttering is a problem-solving technique. And the action in most problem solving is about getting rid of what you don’t want and don’t like. Or merely getting rid of the intensity – the negative feelings surrounding the problem.
So, most decluttering is driven by messiness, or too much stuff in too small a space. When you set about to get rid of all that you don’t like and don’t want in your room, mind, house, or biz you’re reacting to the intensity of the “problem.” But, when you finish, the intensity is gone. Your space is neat and clean. You feel relieved. In the short term, you feel pleased with yourself, and your space.
But in the long-term nothing has really changed.
All you really got rid of was the intensity that came with the mess. You didn’t really change any of your habits, or the
underlying structure of your life.
Soon, the room, house, mind, or biz is messy again. And in need of decluttering. And so you go, oscillating between messy and neat, better and worse, better and worse… without achieving a stable end result.
Here’s how it looks, structurally:
the problem remaining,
(or coming back.)
So you get your room, house, life, or biz clean and decluttered, but it doesn’t stay that way. Your old habits kick in, and eventually you mess up the space again. Once again, you’re faced with a problem to solve.
When the intensity gets strong enough – “I can’t stand this mess; it’s driving me crazy!” – you start throwing things in garbage bags and boxes, and hauling them off to Goodwill or the recycling depot.
And, in the frenetic process that often accompanies decluttering, you might toss out something that you didn’t mean to toss, something that has real value to you.
Simplifying is different. Simplifying is not just about getting rid of what you don’t like and don’t want. It is about focusing on something that you truly care about – something you do like and do want – and taking action to bring it into being.
Simplifying is driven by a clear, compelling vision of a desired result. Whether it’s a room, a house, your life, or your business or organization, when you simplify, you are designing and creating something that you truly desire.
Instead of frantically tossing things into boxes and bags, you step back. Calmly, you imagine (envision) the kind and quality of room, house, mind, biz, or org you most want. You begin to see it clearly in your mind.
Perhaps your room has a reading nook, or a meditation corner. Perhaps your house has a separate room in which
to practice Pilates and Yoga.
Perhaps you want your biz to be smaller but better, and you take the time to define “better.” You lay out specific success criteria, as Yvon Chouinard did when he downsized and simplified Patagonia.
“We never set out to become the biggest outdoor clothing manufacturer,” Chouinard told his staff when he announced the downsizing, “only the best.”
And then he outlined his vision, values, and a set of principles for becoming a simpler, slimmer and sleeker company. The best!
Did it work?
Yes. Patagonia cut back their product line significantly. They strived to use only organic and recycled materials. They cut the number of colours so they could only use natural dyes. And in spite of all the critics and naysayers who thought Chouinard’s vision would ruin the company, they thrived.
“Every time we’ve done the right thing,” Chouinard said, “our profits have increased.”
So de-cluttering – cutting back, getting rid of things of little value – is not necessarily a bad thing to do. But it is critical to see it as a process that supports what you want to create.
When you envision the kind and quality of room, house, life, or business you most want, the mess that upsets you is best seen as merely current reality as-it-is, and not as a “problem” that you must solve.
When you can see both the vision of the result you want and the current state (reality) of that result in mind at the same time, you set up a useful “creative tension” that both energizes and
guides your action in the direction of what you want.
One way of looking at this connection between de-cluttering and simplifying is summed up by author Hans Hofmann when he said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that necessary may speak.”
But simplifying can go beyond merely letting the necessary speak. It can be a way of creating the necessary, that which you deeply desire and would love to see exist in your room, home, life or
This is why simplicity matters. This is why, as Leonardo de Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Or, in more current language, “It’s cool to live a simple, rich and flourishing life.”
Please visit the page to learn more about Bruce Elkin’s Free E-Book
Above images: Kiss and Tender Affection. Two of my favorite little paintings 🙂
Have a great week! Remember, I am on sabbatical right now (love that I figured out how to pre-publish my blog posts!), so there will not be a 10×10 release this Thursday (and Free Cards Friday is on hold, too) – learn more here: https://www.paintingmotherhood.com/