I visited a friend's new house the other day. She and her partner had spent the better part of a year building the house of their dreams, and they had recently moved in.
The house was beautiful. Modern clean lines, spacious light-filled rooms, the kitchen space she had always wanted, state-of-the-art windows that could open both lengthways and sideways. Yet as soon as I set foot inside I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety.
Everywhere my eyes touched, there was stuff. Children's toys and instruments and clothes littered play areas and bedrooms. The huge kitchen counter groaned under the weight of clean and used dishes and decorative ceramics and souvenir knick-knacks. Ripped-open envelopes lay abandoned on desks teetering with laptops and keyboards and headsets and paperwork.
They say the average western family has 300,000 items in the home. Whether or not that statistic is true, it certainly felt like it that day.
The issue isn't about cleaning. Sure, my friend could have shoved everything into a (admittedly gargantuan) cupboard and vacuumed and dusted until all the surfaces shone like diamonds. But that isn't the problem. Cleaning is, as one of my favourite Mad Men quotes go, a temporary bandage on a permanent wound.
The real question is - did they really need or even want all this stuff?
William Morris said "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
Tidying-up guru Marie Kondo says "Keep only the things that spark joy."
I didn't say anything that day. I didn't think such a comment would be welcome at that particular juncture. But I couldn't stop thinking about it afterwards. My friend's beautiful new home, that she spent so much time and energy and money and love on. It was hard to imagine that this was the outcome she'd wanted.
A challenge: find one thing in your room that doesn't need to be there, that isn't useful or beautiful, that doesn't "spark joy". Examine it critically. If it simply disappeared in a puff of smoke, would you spend money to reacquire it?
And if you wouldn't, what's stopping you from getting rid of it? The regret of having wasted money on it? The possibility that it might become useful someday? Remind yourself that the sunk cost fallacy is not a good driver for future behaviour, and be honest about whether that "someday" is ever likely to arrive.
Get rid of that thing from your life. Sell it. Donate it. Bin it (as a last resort). Doesn't your soul feel just a little lighter as a result?