I was inspired this morning by these thoughts from Marcus Aurelius, one of the key thinkers of Stoicism and wanted to share them with you. Although from two millennia ago, the wisdom strikes me as deeply relevant for us today.
‘Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours. But watch yourself, that you don’t value these things to the point of being troubled if you should lose them.’
MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.27
I take three key messages from these wise words.
Firstly, be cautious about the perils of seeking or desiring things we do not have. This is often seated in the belief that we are not enough as we are. That we can become happier or better by the acquisition of objects and status. I do not advocate that we eschew all consumption and never bring anything new into our homes or our lives. There are things we genuinely need, and others that can make our lives better and more meaningful. My advice is simply to do this mindfully. As William Morris said: ‘Have nothing in your home that is neither useful or beautiful.” To that I’d add a proviso: be careful about what you consider to be ‘useful’. Ask yourself how truly useful is that third spare peeler or the growing pile of magazine articles that you might want to refer to one day?
Second, practice gratitude for what we do have. For me decluttering is as much about connecting to what we have as it is about letting go of things that do not serve us. Along with lots of redundant things that no longer serve you, buried amongst your clutter are things of value, things that can enrich and bring joy to your life. As well as what you will gain from getting rid of a lot of that clutter, know that you will probably also find lost and long-forgotten treasures that may have great meaning. Over the years, my clients have rediscovered invaluable and unexpected things, from uncashed cheques and unique family heirlooms to the contact details of long-lost friends.
And thirdly, do not become too attached to the possessions in our homes. The objects around us, and our homes themselves, can make our lives easier and more pleasant. And, in many ways, they extend who we are and help define our identities. But they are not as important as our core values, our relationships with ourselves and those we love, and our connection to what is greater than us, whether we call that God, nature or the universe.
If you would like a deeper understanding of the relationship you have with your possessions and your home, and to redefine this while at the same time tackling your clutter, I’d love to have you on my Clutter Shift programme. Just drop me an email if you’d like to learn more.