In a Q and A session during a lecture in IIT Madras, Swamiji said “Go and check your washroom. See if your shampoo bottle is open, if your conditioner is open, if your soap is sitting there somewhere. Check your desk – if there is clutter there, I promise you, you are in a confused state of mind. Go – verify it – validate it. You are somebody who gets upset like that (Swamiji snaps His fingers), you are somebody who experiences a deep arousal of anger, and you are somebody who gets carried away by thoughts of lust. Your washroom and desk will speak for it – go check it and you will know what I mean.”

I have a confession to make – I have been a messy person all my life. When I was working at my last job in the US, I was the only person whose desk had clutter. A coworker remarked to me in jest, “You save so much time Prahalad – you don’t have to spend all that time to clean your desk.” My colleague, who lived a couple of miles away from me, would come and occasionally pick me up to carpool to work. Given that my house was always messy, I would not invite him in. One day, he was curious – what was I stashing in my house that he couldn’t come in? He came in, uninvited – he had to know what was inside my place. He found out. He didn’t come in again. 

Swamiji also mentions the Japanese art of osoji – the spring cleaning practice of gathering all of one’s belongings, and getting rid of all the items that are not wanted. “Ah, this is similar to our practice of Bhogi, where we traditionally burn our junk the day before Pongal”, I mused. And took no action.

In the os.me pages which says that members can write articles, the following point is made: “You just never know how your words may help someone.” I can attest to this. One of the earlier posts I read was written by one of my favorite os.me authors Komal. She wrote about getting rid of clutter here. She followed it up with a related post on WhatsApp decluttering here. This got me to think and I began implementing decluttering in bite-sized chunks. I got rid of a lot of unwanted notebooks, documents that had been collecting over the years. I got rid of some other physical items as well. After a while, I hit a plateau.

I then read Surekha Chandrasekhar’s post here, one of the points she made was to simplify and declutter as a sustainable way to happiness. Each time someone mentioned decluttering, a little bit of my resistance got chiseled away. Another article which drilled the message home was Jayshree Om’s article here. I started to declutter my GMail inbox as well – From 4000+ messages in my inbox, I now have 500, and I hope to have it to 50/100 – with each of these messages being a truly special one to deserve a place in my inbox. I ruthlessly deleted messages. For the ones which I couldn’t bring them to delete, I created appropriate filters/folders and moved them there. I stopped generically archiving messages – I needed to consciously decide if a message belonged inside my email, and if yes, I had to assign it a place. 

Another source of digital clutter is my external hard drives and google drive stuff. I got rid of a lot of the stuff here, but this was the most difficult part – I wasn’t able to delete a whole lot of stuff, with the fear that I will be losing something that I may need some day. It would be more accurate to say that I felt a sense of panic, as though I were losing something. Rationally, I know that what I am about to delete is insignificant in the big picture – I really am not losing anything. However, my evolutionary hunter-gatherer instincts do not know this, and panic thinking that if I give up what I have acquired, I will not have food stored for the winter season. 

Equipped with this knowledge, I can go on a full-blown decluttering project, to reclaim my mental space. I intend to follow this up with an article which reports success in my decluttering endeavor.

Image Credit: Samantha Gades from Unsplash

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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