This week's guest columnist is an expert in clutter. Evan Zislis a professional organizer, social entrepreneur, and bestselling author of ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World.
I think most of us do the best we can with what we’ve got. The world has become a much more confusing place than it was when we were all foraging for scraps out on the savannah. I think most of us isolate the things that matter most, and spend the rest of the day picking through the bizarre choices swirling all around us – all the time. Amidst all our inconspicuous confusion, we end up wasting a lot of energy on how we look to others; trying to understand what might make us happier; and whether or not we’re doing a good job.
These days, it seems, there’s more people judging our performance than wildly cheering us on. Everyday we’re bombarded with messages that prey on our insecurity for appearing imperfect. Over time, a lot of us start believing the things seemingly happier people say – and surrender to what appears popular, even if it means investing in Mickey Mouse hats, push up bras, and caffeinated energy drinks.
"We've been collectively duped into a big lie"
In the midst of all of our fancy posturing and quiet conjecture about what to do next, there’s this familiar assumption that everyone else knows what the hell is going on. You know, I think they probably don’t. I think we all kind of make our way through life as best we can; learning as we go, frequently dodging flying objects, and occasionally latching on to nourishing morsels of inspiration that help shape what I think we’ve been collectively duped into a big lie – a two-part scam made up to persuade us that happiness is paramount, and the fastest way to happiness is through the purchase of shiny new things that we must absolutely have, right now. I think a handful of brilliant and recklessly deceitful entrepreneurs have convinced us that our individual value as human beings is more closely tied to the things we own.
Here’s the really weird bit: We know. But we pretend that’s not what’s going on. Instead, we proudly show off our new stuff, and say things like, “You’ve got to get one of these!” Sure, it’s fun and that excitement is real. But in most cases, we haven’t really done our homework. We skip that step and go straight to believing if something’s for sale, it must be good. We’ve not learned about where our stuff comes from, what kind of harmful materials went into making those things, whether or not the people who made that stuff were treated fairly, and if there’s an environmentally responsible way to safely dispose of all that stuff when we’re done with it.
So, here we are; this peculiar species, frantically racing about – consumed with doing anything we can to make enough money to buy these curious things we’re convinced will make us happy. The truly astonishing thing is how fleeting our happiness has become. It’s almost like finding the thing has become the source of our joy – even more so than the thing itself. Before we know it, we’ve become preoccupied with finding the next thing, and the next thing.
"Eventually our homes become strange
shrines to the stuff we collect"
Eventually, our homes become strange shrines to the stuff we collect. When confronted by the chaos all around us, we realize in horror we’re drowning in things we don’t even want. And we feel overwhelmed, and tired, and so hopelessly depressed that we decide the only way to feel better – (wait for it) – is to go shopping.
Overtime, many of us lose sight of what matters most: who we love, what we do, how, and why we live. We forget the impact our things have on our spaces, on ourselves, on other people – and on the planet’s ability to sustain life. And we suddenly discover we’ve inadvertently supported industries that carelessly pollute fragile ecosystems, casually abuse real people, and diminish our collective responsibility as members of the human race. We lose sight of the stewardship inherent in supporting one another – and for the planet we ...Until one day – we look up, open our eyes, and see what’s really going on – like we’re actually seeing the lie for the first time. And we are reminded that the source of human happiness comes not from the things we own, but from making choices that support the beliefs we value most. We discover the deepest reserves of joy are found not in acquisition or possession; but in expressing ourselves creatively, by helping other people, by contributing to the common good, and supporting the sustainability of life.
Jane Goodall said:
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact
on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide
what kind of difference you want to make.”
Last year I wrote a book titled ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World. The premise is simple: Let’s need less. Let’s become nimble in how we live. Let’s think resourcefully and innovatively in how we reuse readily available materials. Let’s support industries that foster environmental preservation. And let’s get organized in our own lives, so we become more available to help others in theirs.
I believe we can all go home today and sift through our things with intentional resolve. We can responsibly recycle items that can be viably reclaimed. We can graciously donate our things others can use. We can support local consigners with items we hope to sell. We can need less and buy stuff made to last. Saving the world starts with bringing a committed consciousness to our consumerism. The whole point is to be a little more self-sufficient, a little more thoughtful about sharing our stuff with those who need it most. We can vote with our wallets, our bicycles, and the organic gardens in our own communities. How we shop and what we buy can reflect what we value most: our families, clean water, clean air, nutrient-rich food, vibrant ecosystems, and neighbors who care deeply for one another. Finding redemption from our clutter will take a revolution, but it also just might help save the world.
About Evan Zislis
Evan Michael Zislis is a professional organizer, social entrepreneur, and bestselling author based in Aspen, Colorado. As a former school teacher with a passion for conscious consumerism and a talent for tough-love clutter coaching, Evan helps people simplify so they can focus on the things that matter most, and that is: who we love, what we do, how, and why we live -- because everything else is just stuff. Evan works with households, businesses, teachers, and people in life transition.
Author of the Amazon bestseller, ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World, Evan helps us to connect the dots between our clutter and the impact that stuff has on a global scale. His most recent project is a free ebook titled, Aphrodisiac: Clearing the Cluttered Path to Epic Love, Great Sex & Relationships that Last, also available as a comprehensive audio program at www.ClutterFreeRevolution.com.