Most people are positively drowning in “stuff” – things.  We live in an incredibly commercialized world, and somewhere along the way, we became increasingly convinced as a society, that buying more stuff was a cure-all.  A magic fix for whatever problems you might be having.

Take a look around your house.  You’ve probably got wall to wall stuff.  The question though is, does it make you happy? Has the magic cure-all worked? 

Probably not, and there’s a simple explanation why.

You can’t buy happiness.  Stuff, no matter what it is, or how shiny and exciting it might be, can’t make you happy.

In recent years, an increasing number of people are slowly coming to this realization, but in the short term, that actually creates even more chaos and problems.  If you’re interested in decluttering and simplifying your life, how do you decide what to get rid of, and what to keep?  Where do you even begin?

The good news is that you’re not the first person to have struggled with this, and instead of reinventing the wheel, you can follow in the footsteps of those who have already taken that journey.

In the case of decluttering, one of the best approaches you can take is to follow in the footsteps of those who have embraced “minimalism”.

This obviously doesn’t mean that you have to sell everything you own and live in a yurt, but you can certainly adopt the basic strategies that minimalists use to pare down to whatever level you’re comfortable with.  Here’s what the minimalists do:

Start by pretending you’re moving.

Get some boxes and start packing your stuff.

Everything you own goes into the boxes.  Stack them in any room you’ve got space to store them.  Once everything’s packed up, start going through your day to day life and unpack only the things you find yourself needing and using.

Do that for a month, and then reevaluate.

Odds are excellent that the vast majority of the things you own are still sitting in their boxes.  At that point, you’ve got to ask yourself, “if I haven’t bothered with most of this stuff in a solid month, do I really need it?”

Once you reach that point, start looking at the stuff still in the boxes.  You’ll be able to make dispassionate decisions about it, and you’ll find paring down to be a lot easier.

So what does this do for you, exactly?

The major thing it accomplishes is that it streamlines and simplifies your life.  It strips away everything but the bare essentials and makes it easier for you to see what really matters.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things you seldom use, especially if they’ve got some sort of sentimental value to you, but the clarity that comes with periodically doing this experiment (once every year or so) really helps to keep you focused.

A simple, clean life is one of the keys to a simple, clear mind.  You can get most of the benefits of that clarity without embracing minimalism in its entirety, and that’s a pretty huge win.