On Clutter, Noise, Abundance and Less

Clutter: [noun]
"a collection of things lying about in an untidy state"

We all have to deal with it. It's usually the result of the "just in case" mentality. You keep things around because you never know when you'll need them again. And slowly but surely, clutter grows. There's also what I call "sentimental clutter": all those items we keep because we want to remember a specific moment in time.

Pictures are the most common example of that. We all have pictures stored somewhere. Especially now that pictures no longer occupy physical space in our homes but live inside SSDs in the cloud. The cloud is prime real estate for digital clutter.

And don't get me wrong, I'm as guilty as you. I have thousands of pictures in my iCloud account—mostly cats and nature— and my email archive contains thousand of both read and unread emails. Will I ever need those again? Probably not.

But archiving is just as easy as deleting and if I ever need to read that email again, it's there. Just in case.

Noise: [mass noun]
"a series or combination of loud, confused sounds, especially when causing disturbance"

Noise is another thing we all have to deal with. Well, unless you're deaf, in which case, you don't really have to deal with it I guess. Noise, to a certain degree, has become a fixture in our modern lives. Cities are noisy, offices are noisy, restaurants are noisy.

But there's a solution to that: noise cancelling. The technology is spreading rapidly now that small earbuds are equipped with noise-cancelling and you no longer need to carry around a bulky pair of headphones on your head. You can walk around and live in your own acoustic bubble in a way. And that's great, I think.

But what about visual noise? What do we do about that? Our eyes are as stimulated as our ears but there's not much we can do to overcome visual noise. We're constantly taking in information, constantly processing. But there's no such thing as a visual noise cancelling.

The only thing you can do is to stop and close your eyes. Or you can curate the space around you, as much as you can. You can clean up, remove the clutter, curate the colour scheme of your home or your office. Visual noise is something you need to fight against actively.

Abundance: [noun]
a very large quantity of something

Abundance is probably one of the hallmarks of the 21st century. And yet, quite bizarrely, owning less is becoming a desirable goal. Granted, this is a goal only if you have enough to live a reasonably comfortable life to begin with but still. Minimalism is growing in popularity. People are reconsidering their life choices and a simpler lifestyle is getting more and more desirable.

But how do we get there? What does it even mean to live a simpler lifestyle? To me, it's all about minimising noise, reducing clutter, avoiding abundance and owning less. As you may have noticed, those are all abstract goals. There's no number to reach, no goal set. You know better than me what a reasonable level of noise and clutter is for your life. It's not up to me—nor anyone else—to set a baseline for you or everybody else.

I like to constantly keep an eye on my digital possessions. I routinely go through my photos and apps and documents and check if there's anything I can delete. That's not because I need to, there's plenty of space in the cloud. It's mostly to maintain a healthy relationship with the digital world. And I do the same with my physical possessions as well.

Don't own more than you need. Don't make more noise than necessary. It's that simple.