Magic River of Money FAQ #3 (Personal Finance)

Ryan Petty

Q: How permanent do you think decluttering and staying organized can be? And how can it be made to be more so?

A: Thomas Jefferson is famously credited with saying: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” I think the same can be said for the lesser aspirations involved in living a simple life, well-ordered life.

This includes the aspiration to organize your simplified household in such a way that it remains decluttered, essentially forever.

The key to maintaining order, once it is established, is eternal vigilance, which means assigning a place for each of one’s possessions and returning each item to its designated place after each use.

Following this maxim would sustain order indefinitely, if nothing ever changed in your life... if you had no new interests or activities or relationships. But, of course, things do change—many of them and often.

As I described in the case of children and their parents, we change very fast, particularly in the U.S.A.—accelerated by changes in technology and product innovations. Many of the changes we make affect what we decide to own and whether or not we continue to use things we purchased in the past.

Realistically, the only way to maintain order, is to continuously assign places for new possessions to reside and continuously remove possessions as they fall into disuse. I say, “continuously,” but you could do it in occasional 15-minute bursts of decluttering and reorganizing or bigger semi-annual or annual clean-out events... and stand a chance of keeping up.

This is something glossed over in Marie Kondo’s book. She acknowledges that avoiding the need to declutter ever again requires maintenance in the form of assigning a place for each possession and returning each possession to its place. But she speaks of it without anticipating the dynamics of change. At least in America, our relationships to possessions are subject to change, no matter our commitment to the simple life. Our interests, activities, and relationships are in flux across the broad spectrum of our lives—as are the technologies we use to pursue them—and, thus, so are our possessions.

The more conscious and visible you make a short but sweet re-visitation of your efforts to declutter and organize, the better off and more likely you will be to successfully avoid ever needing a major, time-consuming overhaul.

Copyright © 2015 Ryan Lee Petty

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