You’ve successfully decluttered your living space. There’s no junk, cruft, kipple, or unloved things to be seen. It was a lot of physical work with several emotional moments, and perhaps a tussle with your partner or housemates. But wow, do you feel good. Lighter. Free from the weight of your possessions. Ready to do anything.
And now what? Where do you go from here? I’ve been through three different but interconnecting phases after decluttering. Let me share my insights.
In order to keep your space looking great, you’ll need to keep up the decluttering vibe. You’ll set some rules for yourself and carefully follow them. Whether you follow a 10 minute-a-day decluttering schedule or a one-in-one-out policy, you’ve got to maintain your lovely habitat.
But when your focus relaxes from its razor-sharp incisions into your belongings and there’s not so much to declutter anymore, it’s easy to let the maintenance phase drift away as you put your attention on other things. That’s when you’ll hit the next phase.
It may start with a practical and fully reasonable excuse: you decluttered something you needed after all, so now you have to repurchase the (insert item here). In my case, it was an old fashioned, crank-handle food mill. I owned it for 12 years and used it once a year. I figured it was safe to declutter but nothing substitutes for it. Now I have a new food mill that I will use once a year.
From those practical repurchases, it is a slippery slope to buying other things, and to taking freebies and promotional items. Your one-in-one-out system slides a bit, then fully collapses. Before you know it your “hot spot” is strewn with stuff and you’re on the way to a new collection of all those doodads that you eliminated a few months back.
The recluttering phase can last a long time. Consumer culture is the norm for many of us and it doesn’t seem out of place to go to the mall for fun and to buy stuff impulsively. But if you enjoyed positive effects from being decluttered, eventually you’ll realise what is happening and you’ll start decluttering again.
When you catch yourself in the act of mindless recluttering, you will probably start decluttering again. At the same time you may experience a strong backlash of anti-consumerism. “How dare those big corporations do this to me? Why is my life all based on owning things? I refuse to be manipulated by their marketing!”
This is a step beyond decluttering and it can be a potent lifestyle change.
Anti-consumerism twists around how you interact with stuff. Shopping may disgust you. Being in malls or mega-stores will be difficult. Seeing people buying things to feed their egos will cause you grief. You’re going to have a period of seriously negative judgement about people. It will pass but it is powerful. Be careful to express it gently, if you express it at all.
You’ll stop shopping for recreation and spend your time and money differently. Your priorities will change and experiences will trump objects. You’ll buy stuff only when you can’t find a reasonable substitute among your inventory. When you do purchase, you’ll do it with a new perspective – how can it be reused and how will you eventually get rid of it? You’ll get creative and crafty with repurposing things.
In fact, you may even go as far as regretting your decluttering. All that stuff you got rid of, what a waste. You could have used those extra tea towels to make potholders.