30 DAYS TO BE A BETTER MAN: (13) DECLUTTER YOUR LIFE

ROTTERDAM – If you have ever moved places in your life, you know you have way more stuff than you think you do. When I moved out of my 24 square room after three years I was surprised by the number of boxes filled with stuff I actually had. We live in a materialistic world, after all, and as Madonna sang: I’m a material girl. Now, I am definitely not a girl but I am material.

I have claimed previously that we live in a post-materialist world where consumption has little to do with the physicalities of the products anymore, but mostly with the narrative, the brand, and the way it fits in our identity. This, however, still leads to the same overconsumption, and I, like many of you I suspect, have a couple of drawers which got so much junk in them I rarely open them anymore.

Well, it’s time to clean that shit up.

The simple life is a manly life. Some of history’s manliest men lived lives of true simplicity, free from unneeded clutter. The Spartans [yada yada yada]

Despite being relatively wealthy, Ben Franklin, [yada yada yada]

Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were evangelists of simplicity, [yada yada yada].

You get the picture. Great Men don’t own much stuff.

The simple life is a manly life because a man defines himself not by his possessions but by his character, virtues, relationships, and experiences. These are the things that he invests his time, energy, and emotions in, because these are the things that no natural disaster, no bomb, no prison can ever take away from him. The less stuff we accumulate, the less energy we have to devote to the maintenance of it, and the more energy we can put into becoming better men.

This has some truth in it. In previous posts, I have claimed that the difference between masculinity and femininity is mostly that the first is being defined at its core with character features while the latter is defined by appearance (see THE MALE MASS-MURDERER AND HIS COUNTERPART).

For example, when you think of masculinity you think of assertiveness, strength, and dominance. Femininity associates more with elegance and beauty.

Defining gender this way (which isn’t really happening as simplistic as I just described it) has several consequences: women are mostly being judged on appearance and less on character traits, and masculinity is constantly being challenged because by its very nature it is relational: you can only be assertiveness, dominant, and powerful in relation to someone else.

Which is why some men are such peacocks and why some refer to themselves as “alpha men” or “top dogs”. Personally, I think we should publicly execute these men.

I am straying from the topic, though. Because this entire exercise is about cultivating these masculine traits, physicalities just get in the way, it seems. Having too much stuff distracts you from the spiritual. I am not sure if that is true. Perhaps the reason why we buy this junk is distracting us from the spiritual realm. We are all terribly busy perceiving ourselves through the Other. We are constructing our identities through consumption which brings with it some anxieties and fears we haven’t encountered before.

Maybe getting rid of some of your stuff isn’t such a bad idea, then.

Now, pre-usual, there are a bunch of other reasons why you should declutter:

  • It reduces stress
  • It gives you a fresh start
  • It saves you time
  • It can save (and make) you some money. 

Now, because you’re a total idiot and you don’t know any better, we are now going to tell you how to declutter your life:

  • Set aside a big chunk of time
  • Get some garbage bags
  • Tackle the task one room at a time
  • Finally, leave no stone unturned. Go through your underwear drawer and throw out those socks without matches or those boxers with gaping holes in them. Clean out your medicine cabinet and throw away anything that has expired. Go through your desk drawers and chuck your pens that have run out of ink. Get every last piece of unusable clutter out of your life.

The irony of decluttering (and the reason why so many companies and life coaches and self-help books want you to do it) is because now you have room for new stuff.

And stuff is very important. In fact, I think everyone who’s reading this should watch George Carlin talk about stuff:

That’s the meaning of life, isn’t it? Finding a place for your stuff. That’s all your house is. It’s a pile of stuff with a cover on it.

It’s time to get rid of some old stuff and get in some new stuff. But, in order to do that, you’ll need to

sort Through Your Stuff

As you work through each section, take everything item by item and decide whether you’re going to keep it or which bag it goes into: trash, sell, or donate. Here’s some advice on how to make that decision:

I thought we covered it more or less..

Books

Go book by book and ask yourself if you’re ever going to read it or read it again. Be honest here. Don’t keep a book because it makes you feel smart while deep down you know there’s no way you’re going to read it. Books aren’t accessories or decorative pieces. Also, keep in mind that if you get rid of a book and then regret it, you can always check it out from the library or buy it used for $2 on Amazon or at a used book store. This is not a life or death decision, so err on the side of uncluttering.

Take the books you don’t want and put them for sale on sites like Amazon or half.com. Or take them to you local used bookstore. If you can’t sell them, donate them to the library.

I like my books. I like collecting them. To me, books are memories. Sometimes I nick ’em from hostels I’ve been and then I write the date and place in the back. It’s a better memory trigger than some posed selfie in your hostel room is, really.

Clothes and Miscellaneous Items

Go through your clothes and other stuff piece by piece. Ask yourself this question as you hold each item, “Is this something I have used/worn in the past year?”

If you haven’t, then get rid of it. We often hold onto stuff because we think we’re going to need it “someday.” But if you haven’t used something in a  year, you’re probably never going to use it, and it will just end up taking up space in your house. Even if you would end up using it 10 years from now, the cost/benefit analysis of lugging that thing around for the next decade just doesn’t make sense.

When you make this decision, be quick. Don’t mull over it too much. The more you mull, the more likely you’ll hold onto it.

Paper and Mail

If you don’t have one now, go out and buy a file box. And then make folders labeled as “Bills,” “Instruction Manuals,” “Letters,” “Receipts,” and so on. Then go through your mail and paper piles piece by piece, throwing away what you don’t need and filing what you do need.

They even tell you what to do with your old stuff:

Chuck It or Donate It

When you’re done decluttering, take the bags designated for trash to the curb. Drop off the donate bags to Goodwill and make sure to get a receipt from them for your income tax deduction.

Man-meter: I feel decluttered and spacious, for some reason.But not more manly.

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