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3 Rules for a Clutter-free Life

What a life as a digital nomad has taught me about accumulating stuff and getting rid of it

Clothes
Photography by Sarah Dorweiler

Five years ago, my husband and I embarked on an incredible adventure of living as digital nomads bouncing back and forth between Europe, South, and Central America. I quickly learned that it might be a life full of new impressions and interesting encounters that would be accompanied by the discomfort of the unknown while traveling from a comfortable town to a new city. Too many times to count, I just wanted to lay on the couch and read a book, not stuff my belongings in a seemingly shrinking backpack, and walk through torrential rain in the middle of the night to catch a bus somewhere.

As time stretched on, my 22kg heavy backpack felt like I’d filled it with stones I found at the beach. During an endless walk in small jungle town in Costa Rica when we couldn’t locate our place to stay for the night, we wandered around in the dark to find a bloody street sign. It was only then when I thought: I packed way too much for this trip. I always do that.

In life, everyone accumulates stuff, be it while traveling or living in a place we call our own. It’s easy to fall into the trap of needing something when we want the newest trinket. Being more mindful when shopping can help, but what really transformed my life into a light and clutter-free one were these three simple rules I began to apply over the years.

Rule 1

Firstly, if you buy something new, throw out (or donate) something old (as long as you no longer value it). Only by doing this can you truly avoid collecting more and more things. Paring down your things is noble and an amazing feat, but can be overwhelming when items continue to come into your home. By implementing the simple “one in, one out” rule, you can maintain the items you have and not feel guilty about bringing in items you truly love.

Rule 2

Secondly, I have found that having a designated space for all belongings is a practical rule. If everything has its designated place, you’re less likely to buy more stuff as you basically know what you have and where to find it. This allows mental clarity and more headspace to think about what truly matters, instead of trying to find your keys in the morning.

Rule 3

Finally, declutter your email inbox, your habits, and relationships regularly to avoid dragging along unnecessary old baggage. Being the most fundamental, free, and authentic person you can become begins with a clear mind and eager heart. Clearing the distractions from your inbox, habits, and relationships can allow the fresh start you need in order to take the first step into authenticity.

By implementing these three simple ideas into my life, I have become a more organized individual with less on my mind. Living simply can take thought and hard work, and is worth it when the outcome is a life filled with mental, physical, and financial freedom.

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