Ending the Cycle of Busy

Image // via Steep Ravine

Image // via Steep Ravine

One of our stated principles at New Minimalism is to break the cycle of busyness.  

Busyness has become among the most pervasive and relentless dis-eases of our modern culture because it gives to us a few things we value so desperately: the sensation of accomplishment and the appearance of importance.  

But what this constant, frantic, frenetic busyness actually represents is a profound lack of clarity.

Busyness happens when we stop saying no to things -- actual physical items as well as relationships, commitments of our time/energy/resources.  It arises when we lose track (or have never clearly uncovered) what is most important and most desired in our lives.  

Why, as Declutterers and Designers, do Kyle and I care so much about how people spend their time? Why do we worry about busyness when we ought to be worried about stuff?

Because busyness and clutter are inextricably tied to one another -- they both are the root cause and result of each other.  

1) Clutter is the result of busyness.  

Clutter is deferred decisions -- things we put off for the future because we don't have time to deal with them now.  Clutter is physical manifestation of all the things we need to do.  

2) And clutter is the cause of busyness.  

Having too much stuff for your space requires constant maintenance, which takes time.  Whether that maintenance is direct (managing things, searching for items, storing and maintaining them, purchasing new objects) or indirect (distracting yourself with other forms of busyness instead of dealing with them), it fills our time.

The whole point of having a clutter-free life is that the time + energy you save not managing and dealing with stuff is time + energy you can spend actually living life.  

You know, doing things like:

  • being in nature,
  • snuggling with the people/pets/blankets you love,
  • taking photos,
  • meditating,
  • learning languages,
  • building machines, 
  • writing books,
  • composing songs,
  • knitting hats,
  • eating oysters,
  • laughing with your favorite people,
  • being an activist for your most important causes,
  • hanging with your kids,
  • volunteering in your neighborhood, or
  • making the world a better place by just being pleasantly not-busy while wandering about.  

So how to end the cycle of busyness and all the nasty-ass clutter that comes with it?  

1. Take the time to figure out what you love.  

It's hard time saying no to things when you don't know what you want to shout YES! to.  But when you know how you want to feel, you know immediately, at your core, if this shirt or work commitment or relationship makes you feel that way.

Marie Kondo uses the standard of “spark joy” which is a great place to begin.  Even more powerful?  Taking the time to choose those feelings you personally desire most

2. Say no to relationships / events / objects / experiences that do not support you in living your most desired life.  

Clarity turns the process of decluttering -- which otherwise can feel like a painful parting with things you used to love and items you might need someday -- into an empowering, dare I say enjoyable, exercise in shedding the things that are not adding to the life you want to create.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, a positive spiral.  When I know how I want to feel, I can easily identify which things help me feel that way.  Which allows me to experience those feelings more frequently, with greater depth, and with greater clarity.  Which makes it that much easier to determine if something is in fact aligned with those desires.

So, please tell me, how do you most want to feel in your life?

Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.
— Mary Oliver, "October"

Want more?  

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (and our review of that book here)