Every so often I hear myself repeating the same words, sharing the same concepts, over and over again with clients, workshop participants, friends... The concept I found myself articulating often this week was flow.
Flow is one of my fundamental concepts for decluttering and organizing. We live in a world chock full of stuff, and this stuff insidiously creeps into our personal space every single day. Our mailboxes are full of junk mail, our doorsteps are weighed down with packages, and our homes are literally bursting at the seams, overflowing into our cars, offices and (occasionally) storage units. We don't have the space for everything, and we are continually searching for a system to handle all of it.
Flow is the answer. It's a simple equation: the amount of stuff that is flowing into your home must not exceed the amount of stuff that is flowing out of your home. And, when this system is out of balance, it creates a clog.
Our lives are ever changing. Kids grow, interests shift, our needs and desires change. The stuff in our homes should mirror our lives. The things that you choose to keep in your home, your perfectly curated collection of belongings, should represent and support the life you are currently living. This is what makes a house a home.
Here are some simple ways to check and see if you are experiencing a clog. Open your closets. Do you have more stuff than comfortably fits in a closet? This is a clog. Imagine yourself walking through your front door. Do you feel overwhelmed? Your flow is out of balance.
As a general rule of thumb, aim for 90% of your possessions to be relevant to living in the now. Five percent can be fond memories of the experiences that made you who you are today, and five percent can be stored in anticipation of a future need, but the vast majority of stuff in your home should support the you and your family of today.
When I work with clients who need to reestablish flow, these are some steps we take to address the situation:
Temporarily stop the flow IN. Commit to purchasing only essential consumables (food) until flow is reestablished in your household.
Significantly increase the flow OUT. Commit to living comfortably within the space that you have and start decluttering. Your physical household space is your parameter for how much you can keep. Ruthlessly work towards that goal.
Set-up systems to maintain flow in your household. See my video for examples on how we maintain flow in our home.