Decluttering: A Path to Enlightenment?

Decluttering has become a popular buzzword as baby boomers downsize and millennials prefer a digital world. Thanks to Marie Kondo, donation centers are beyond full capacity with all the stuff that’s been stashed away in our closets for decades. But is it possible that decluttering could lead to more than just a clearer, spacious home, but also towards enlighenment? 

The modern path to enlightenment includes such things as a week-long silent meditation, trekking Tibet, working with a guru, a plant medicine journey, or chanting kirtan for hours if not days. You might be asking how is that decluttering could be included on this list?  

Enlightenment happens when we detach from the ego. This happens immediately upon death when our soul separates from density of our body and of Earth. To dis-identity with ego while here on earth for any length of time is something only masters and mystics have accomplished. Meanwhile, the rest of us may experience a state of bliss for fleeting moments.

One of those masters, Eckhart Tolle, talks at length about our ego attachment to our things in The New Earth. He says, “Ego-identification with things creates attachment to things, obsession with things, which in turn creates our consumer society and economic structures where the only measure of progress is always more.”

Our stuff takes up a large part of our mental and physical space. Tolle says,

“This is why one of the ills of our times is object proliferation. When you can no longer feel the life that you are, you are likely to try to fill up your life with things.” 

In Clutter Intervention, I discuss how everything in your home is an extension of some identity - whether it be past or present. The problem becomes when we change, but our stuff doesn’t.

Our stuff becomes a stake-holder for our past ego-identities. When you recognize an item is simply an old identity, you immediately have awareness of your ego.

Renouncing one’s possessions has been an ancient spiritual practice in the East and West. Perhaps ‘Kondo’ing our closet is the modern day version. But this isn’t necessarily the answer either. The ego will look for some other identity to attach itself to if you’re not aware, such as anti-consumerism or even minimalism.

According to Tolle, the key is,

“You can value and care for things, but whenever you get attached to them, you will know it’s the ego.” 

Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.

This is easier said than done. However, the first step is simply to become aware of your attachment to things and what aspect of yourself an item represents. If you need help assessing this, I recommend my book, Clutter Intervention

Whether you reach enlightenment through the identity-releasing process of decluttering, or not, you will certainly feel lighter and freer to go on that silent meditation or climb Mr. Kilimanjaro. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez