I have been Paleo for nearly a decade, and it feels like forever ago that I cleaned out the clutter from my diet. No more processed foods, no more nasty preservatives, no gluten, no grains — all real, whole foods that helped my body get rid of “baggage,” too. I lost a bunch of weight, and I’ve maintained that weight loss. I reversed my autoimmune disease, and I’ve been living a life of wellness that I never thought was possible.
But I have a confession. I’m a cluttery person. I have been my whole life. I’ve always been known to keep stacks of books within sight, and rarely will you find my desk without piles of notebooks, pens, loose papers, and other random odds and ends. I always subscribed to the theory that all geniuses are cluttered, and since my IQ scores aren’t Steven Hawking-esque, my cluttered nature can stand in as a substitute for the fact that I am, indeed, brilliant. (At least, that’s what I tell myself.)
All snark aside, I’ve been contemplating minimalism for a few years now, but when you’ve lived a life of clutter, it can be hard to know where to begin! I’ve read the books (Marie Kondo’s and others!), I’ve made the lists, I’ve even sent numerous bags of clothes and belongings to Goodwill. But it is never quite enough for me to achieve minimalist status. I’m pretty sure the 1,000+ books on my library wall break several rules of minimalism, but I find it hard to get rid of my beloved library, which is 85% research based, and 15% comprised of books I’ve loved since childhood.
Still, with all the stress of modern society, I believe that clutter is a factor that contributes to internal and external stress. Even when I don’t think it’s adding to chaos, I know that I feel much happier and settled when I can look around my house and see, well, nothing. No stacks, no things that need put away, no things that are waiting to be dealt with.
But How Do I Become Clutter-Free?
Some people are genetically wired to be naturally minimalistic. Others are wired to keep, stack, and to put things off for “later.” While a majority of my clutter issues since I’ve become an adult have been due to sheer busyness, I have to also ask myself: why do I let myself become so busy that I can’t even attend to things that are good for my mental well-being (i.e. decluttering and beautifying my living space)? Since I had my baby nine months ago, I can attest to the fact that children add an infinite amount of stuff to a house, even while trying to minimize the baby items that we have.
So, as a matter of self-care, I’m elevating decluttering and minimizing my belongings to the same level of priority as my other self-care things: eating Paleo, exercising, staying hydrated, and showering regularly. (If you’re a mom, you will know that showering needs to be put on a list, or in the chaos of managing the baby, you will quickly forget when the last time was that you had one.)
I’m using two specific rules to pare down my belongings. Sure, it’s going to take some time before my entire house is completely done, but I find that by not forcing myself into a specific time frame, I am actually able to more freely pare things down. And by giving myself a few minutes every day to sort through and make decisions, I am daily addressing my mental need for clarity and downsizing. Here is how I am simplifying:
- If I haven’t used it in the last six months, it needs to be evaluated for its purpose. Will I use it in the next six months? Is it a specialty item? Why am I keeping it in the first place? (Most of the items I haven’t touched in six months are being sent away, with the exception of books.)
- If I don’t like it, even if I don’t have something to replace it, it needs to go. This mostly pertains to wardrobe, but possibly certain other items, too. Even if I wear an item, if it doesn’t feel good on my body, or if I dislike the way it fits, it should be donated to someone who will like it, and free some space in my life in the process.
- If it is broken, it is getting the boot. Even if I don’t have the time or money to replace it at this very moment, broken items collect dust and take up space without contributing to productivity.
- If it reminds me of negative memories or experiences, I am passing it on to someone else who can use it without the attached emotional baggage. This can be as simple as saying goodbye to the ridiculously small jeans hidden at the back of your closet and mocking your inability to fit back into them, or ditching items from people you broke up with long ago, or letting go of sentimental items that produce guilt or grief instead of pleasant nostalgia.
Paleo Is A Way of Life
For me, “Paleo” refers to much more than the food that I eat. It’s been a complete mental shift to things that are more simple and things that promote wholeness in body and mind. Clean eating is a good start, but moving into clean body care, clean house care, and a more minimalist mindset have been part of my natural process of addressing my total health and wellness. For you, the path may be different, but I encourage you not to get boxed into a single dietary or lifestyle mindset. I used to think I would always be a cluttery person. Now, I can’t wait to someday soon look back and bask in the simplicity of my home, and the complete lack of random stacks of belongings that I no longer need or want to be able to enjoy life.