I’m halfway through preparing to move to Manchester, and I’m declaring stuff bankruptcy. Over the past year, I’ve seen the stuff I own take control of me. When I moved into my house, I wondered how I would manage to fill the space I had. No such worries now: my room is full of unused toiletries, plates, digital ephemera, ludicrously a robot hoover and books that I’ve been meaning to read forever.
Over the last year, the room has been a metaphor for my lack of clarity in life. In every corner there are items that are out of place, decaying, or otherwise falling into a state of disrepair. Until yesterday (when I emptied it), I had a cupboard of dread out on the landing full of stuff that I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw away but for some reason hadn’t needed at all for the last six months. I’ve long since abandoned my inbox as a lost cause.
In clearing out my room there are a few things that I’ve come to realize about time and space. First, clutter is incredibly costly. Last week Apple increased the storage limits on the iPhone from a measly 16GB (an amount of storage that would have cost $30m in 1980) to 64GB. The base model 32GB iPhone costs $719. If you have occasion to need 128GB, you face paying an additional $100. A quick check of my phone tells me that I have 32GB of photos stored. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone deciding to downgrade the storage on their iPhone, so as things stand I face paying a lot for the privilege of having them.
The worst of it is when your possessions start arguing. In the past month, my Sonos has fallen out with my XBox One in a big way. At first, it was only minor disagreements: the occasional stutter on my Sonos when watching Netflix. I thought at first that separating them would do the trick: my Sonos was for a while sitting directly above my XBox One, which led to the Today Programme becoming occasionally unlistenable.
On the plus side, it would mean that I missed most of whatever Diane Abbott was saying. Now, they flat out refuse to work together. Any attempt to even have the XBox and the Sonos plugged in at the same time will inevitably fail. Sonos will stutter, as if to say, “um awkward” before refusing to work. NOW TV is a bit flimsy at the best of times, but becomes literally impossible when it’s competing with the Sonos for network space.
In the last year as a consultant working from home, I’ve also struggled at times to stay focused and on task. It’s September now, and I moved to Brighton in February. When I arrived here summer was something distant, now it’s almost over. Although I’ve made progress in my life and on my business, i’m mostly just keeping the accounts I have ticking over. I planned to go away over Christmas, but I haven’t really put the necessary planning steps in place to make that happen.
I’m lucky to have a lot of freedom about where I work: with clients dotted around the globe, I’m able to work more or less wherever there is a good internet connection. But I’m still working around 60-80 hours a week, and studying so I stay on top of my game. The rest of my free time is spent either seeing friends or binging on Netflix. I’ve recently started to learn the joy of being careful about my time and my choices: that I can work for half the time I do as well.
See, here’s the thing. In trying to bring a sense of order to my outside world, I’ve managed to achieve more focus and clarity internally too. Life is hard enough without having to sift through your life’s clutter to find what you need. I’ve resisted decluttering my life for eight months, but now I’m a convert to minimalism.