A Feeling of Lightness

In a recent Back to Work episode, Dan shared a line from Fight Club that powerfully represents my feelings about clutter:

As Tyler Durden said it best, “The things you own own you, man.”

Back to Work #56, One Giant Beholder Dinosaur, at 45:00.

I’ve removed clutter from my life in a big way. I did it by moving overseas.

What have I been doing here? Working, writing, exploring, drinking coffee, enjoying the company of my wife. Living life as usual. Nearly everything I do is in the 13 inches of my MacBook Pro. Everything I read is in my iPad. I have only a small collection of clothes (it’s the Philippines, after all). Effectively, I’ve been living with a single suitcase worth of things.

Yes, we have bought some furniture and other things to make ourselves comfortable here, but I consider these entirely temporary. At the end of our sojourn here, I’ll not think twice about about parting with them.

The result: an incredible feeling of lightness. A feeling of agility, and possibility. Our next steps are unhindered by our possessions. We’ve been thinking about where in the world we want to visit. About what places we want to get to know better. The future is exciting and ours to wield.

This opening of the mind has extended far beyond geography. We’ve started to think more broadly than ever before about our ambitions for our work, what we create, and how we want to live. This experience will shape every aspect of our lives for years to come. (And at the very least, I’ll certainly have a different mindset about how to populate a home, when we do settle down again)

You might consider packing up and moving overseas a rather extreme way to remove clutter from your life. I agree that it’s extreme, but it has the singular advantage that it facilitates a true mental decluttering along with the physical one. I think this makes it entirely worthwhile.

Perhaps the change doesn’t need to be as extreme as ours. Maybe a house swap would get you away from most of your posessions long enough to give you a different perspective. Or maybe you could extend an overseas holiday and conduct some of your work there, so you can experience ordinary life in another place. Or perhaps you really just need to throw some stuff out.

Whatever you do, taking some concrete steps now may too bring you unexpected new feelings of lightness, feelings that only fold back into further positive action. It’s worth a try.

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