A Decluttering Realization

Since I’ve started getting rid of personal clutter at the beginning of the year, there’s something that I’ve noticed with each item I’ve gotten rid of and written about. That is, I am not only letting go of “stuff”, physical items that take up physical storage space within my life space, but I am also letting go of it’s entry into my life. Let me explain.

As I write about an item, let’s say, a keyboard, I go over how it came to be in my space/possession/life. As I release that object from my space physically, I am also letting go of the mental/psychic space that the object occupied as well. And that mental space isn’t simply a “I have this thing” type of concept. It’s much more involved, with a lot more “metadata” about the object. Information such as:

  • Where is it now
  • It used to be over there
    • When was that?
    • When/how did it get to where it is now?
    • Where was it before
  • When did I acquire it?
  • How did I acquire it?
  • Did I buy it? For how much?
    • Was it a gift? From whom, and for what occasion?
  • Where should it belong?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Didn’t whats-her-face want to borrow that?
    • When was that?
    • Who was it again?

If you’re lucky, those fit nicely in a card-file system in your mind (or a relational database with key/value pairs, referential integrity and text-based search… if you’re the development type anyway). However, the brain is much like a computer hard drive. It fills up, with half-written documents, notes to self, temporary files strewn about. The more crud it gets filled with, the worse it performs. Same goes for the computer.

So, as something that was becomes no more to me, so does all this related and tangental information about it, as well as potential links to other related objects. But as I write about them, their memory and information, for any possible future reference, does remain. It simply remains outside of my brain, digitally, and more importantly, Googleable!

Finally, in releasing all that mental space, it allows the brain to spend that much less time trying to make sure to remember all those details and keep them straight. It also allows the brain to spend more energy on more fruitful endeavours, such as reading something new, or working out the solution to a problem that seemed so much work – at least when the brain was busier trying to keep track of other things at the same time.

I’ve come to this realization as I’ve found myself reading more lately, and enjoying reading more from it. Because my brain now has the time, space and energy to enjoy and relish in the reading, much more than it did when trying to actively recall details of things I was seeing daily, which certainly signaled my brain that it was important, given how often I saw it. I suppose that’s why so many people who create in any way on a daily basis, enjoy a clean work area. The less there is to see, the less mental energy is spent on something other than the task at hand.

Except when there’s nothing but a pen, a blank sheet of paper, and time on the clock. Right then, all bets are off!