On Friday night, my dear friend Clark and I were discussing how easy it is to want rules to guide our behavior. As humans, we want a series of checkboxes to tell us that if we mark off X, Y, and Z, we will be happy or good or whatever it is we’re trying to achieve. Although human nature makes us crave this kind of simplicity, we all know that life isn’t a series of standardized checkboxes.
My conversation with Clark reminded me of the article “Buy Local, Act Evil” that reported a University of Toronto study that found test “subjects who made simulated eco-friendly purchases ended up less likely to exhibit altruism in a laboratory game and more likely to cheat and steal.”
The article explains that the green shoppers felt as if they had done their good deed (purchasing an Earth-friendly product), so they were entitled to let other areas of their lives slip (donate less money to charity, cheat, steal). I have certainly had a similar mindset when driving — I’ll let someone merge in front of me in traffic (Look how nice I am!) and then I’ll get as close to their back bumper as possible to prevent anyone else from doing the same thing (Now I deserve to go!). I also notice I do this with chores around the house — I’ll do the dishes (Check!) and then get irritated when my husband asks me to help him finish folding a load of laundry (Folding the laundry was not on my checklist!). I have to remind myself that life isn’t a standardized series of checkboxes and that one deed doesn’t preclude more.
The same is true for uncluttering. Just because we choose to keep our homes and offices free of distractions doesn’t mean we are entitled to judge those who don’t. In the Friday chapter of Unclutter Your Life in One Week, I touch on this subject in the section “Living with Clutterers.”
Now that most of the clutter and distractions are gone from your life, you may be noticing other people’s stuff. If you live with someone or share an office space, that stuff might be physically close to you, or it could be a disorganized client, boss or parent whom you are starting to notice and wish would change his ways. When this happens — and it will — you have to remember three things:
- You cannot force someone else to become an unclutterer.
- What matters most to you is different from what matters most to other people.
- Being an unclutterer is not the only way to live.
As much as your new strategies and techniques have made a positive change in your life, don’t think about your new way of living as being better than how other people choose to live their lives. Think of an uncluttered life as being easier for you.