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Is Your Silent To Do List Stealing Your Time and Energy?

Is Your Silent To Do List Stealing Your Time and Energy?

The idea of the ‘Silent To Do List’ comes from Fumio Sasaki’s book, Goodbye Things. In this article I explain more about your Silent To Do List and how it might be stealing your time and energy (plus what to do about it!).

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THE ROLE OF STUFF

We all need stuff in our homes and lives. It may be stuff to eat, wear, play with, watch. It could be furniture, food, books, crayons, toys, photos. Stuff comes in various shapes and forms but we all have it in our homes, on the floor, the counters, the shelves and in our cupboards.

There’s nothing wrong with stuff and, even as a minimalist, I still enjoy and feel the benefits of the stuff I have in my own home. However, as a passionate advocate of simple and intentional living, I guess I’m probably more aware of how much stuff I have and why I have it than I would be otherwise.

I used to accumulate stuff without really thinking about it. Or, to put it a more accurate way, I used to mistakenly believe that I was happier with a fuller life and that a fuller life had to be full of stuff.

Until I realised that stuff wasn’t making me happier. The chasing for, obtaining and then managing my stuff actually made me tired, overwhelmed and prioritising the wrong things.

As I took steps to simplify my life, I learnt to find a happy balance. Enough stuff to make my home and life feel comfortable and happy as possible but not so much stuff that I couldn’t manage, afford or enjoy it.

A SIMPLE LIFE REQUIRES STUFF

I’m a minimalist but many people, including myself, struggle with the term. On the face of it, it feels cold, uncompromising and based on a set of principles that most of us in real life just don’t have the energy or time to adhere to.

For example, I know minimalism would be ‘easier’ if I didn’t have kids – less mess and toys for starters! So, I often prefer to write about simplifying life. The end result is the same but the language feels softer, more encouraging and more welcoming for those of us who try hard but feel like they fail to live up to popularised minimalist standards!

I have too many books, duplicate utensils in my kitchen, a pile of paper clutter that I’ve been putting off dealing with for a month. My home and life is simplified but I’m certainly not a ‘perfect’ minimalist if that’s how you’d like to measure minimalism!

THE EFFECT OF STUFF

As I’ve decluttered various aspects of my home and life and have lived a simpler lifestyle for about a decade, I’ve noticed how affected I am by the stuff in my life.

I feel better, less stressed, more present and more engaged when I have less stuff.

The excess stuff is clutter and clutter distracts and confuses me from what I want to be doing instead. A bit like when you have too many tabs open on your computer screen and the computer struggles to keep up with what you want it to do. That’s how my brain feels when I have too many tabs open!

Things to do, think about, remember, places to be, problems to sort out, meals to plan and prepare, laundry to wash and fold, finances to check, school letters to read and PE kits to remember, work deadlines to meet, the dog to walk and take to the vet, birthdays to plan for, emails to find, paperwork to file… and so the list goes on.

As I mentioned above, however, we do all need stuff and many of the things that I have to do and remember, I’m really very grateful for. If I didn’t have family then I wouldn’t need to do endless laundry, if I lost my job then I wouldn’t have work deadlines.

The stuff in our homes and lives comes with pros and cons. And therein lies the basis of the Silent To Do List!

Silent To Do List

THE SILENT TO DO LIST

Fumio Sasaki’s book, Goodbye Things, is an interesting read and gives another perspective on what it means to be minimalist.

There’s a section in the book in which he refers to the ‘Silent To Do List’ and I think it reflects the true essence of why many of us are affected by our stuff.

He writes…

“Things don’t just sit there. They send us silent messages. And the more the item has been neglected, the stronger its message.’

Fumio Sasaki

I have a vase of flowers on my kitchen counter. It’s colourful, brings me joy, makes my kitchen counter look pretty and it’s something nice to look at when I’m washing up. It brings a bit of homeliness to my intentionally clear, but easy-to-clean-and-cook-in kitchen.

However, I have to change the water, top it up, feed the flowers, remove the dead ones and replace the entire bunch from time to time. Sometimes the petals fall off or I spill some water as I top it up so I need to wipe the counter around it.

That vase of flowers sits on my kitchen counter but it also sits on my Silent To Do List. I don’t write down on my daily task list that I need to tend to this vase but every time I look at it, I’m consciously or unconsciously checking for signs that I need to do something to look after it.

Fumio Sasaki gives some other examples…

Maybe you recognise these from your own home and life?

“The dead lightbulb that has yet to be replaced: Don’t tell me you forgot to buy my replacement yet again! Why can’t you do something so simple?”

Or

“The body soap in the bathroom: Excuse me, I’m running out.”

CLUTTER SENDS OUT SILENT MESSAGES

The stuff in your home sends out silent messages that usually require us to remember or do something or makes us feel something. This requires our time, energy, thought, money and resources in different ways.

Some of these messages might be well within reason and that you’re happy to take note of. For example, I love my kitchen flowers so I’m happy to do what they (silently) ask of me.

However, when the messages build up, are too negative or overwhelming then I feel that’s where the problem lies.

Life is full enough of challenges, you don’t need the stuff in your home contributing to your To Do list or stress levels.

So, perhaps, instead of judging whether you have too much stuff by how cluttered your home looks, think about how you’re feeling instead when you look around and assess your ‘Silent To Do List’.

Again, as Fumio Sasaki writes…

“All of our possessions want to be cared for, and they tell us that every time we look at them. They begin to form lines in our head, waiting for us to really look at them and listen to what they have to say. This line gets longer and longer as we acquire more material possessions.”

With such a long line it gets more difficult to find and prioritise the important from the unimportant and we stress out, waste time, lack focus, get distracted and feel overwhelmed.

When we have less stuff to look after, that Silent To Do List gets naturally shorter and we can prioritise and manage better.

Silent To Do List

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR SILENT TO DO LIST

I love the concept of the Silent To Do List and found it really interesting looking at the stuff in my home in terms of the Silent To Do List.

  • Sometimes I got rid of things because what they added to my to do list outweighed the benefit of keeping the item in my home.
  • Sometimes I kept things because the value they brought outweighed the inconvenience of looking after them – back to my kitchen flowers!

Assess your stuff by making your own decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of.

Here are some other tips to help you reduce your Silent To Do List:

1. Declutter your home

Clear your home of excess stuff. Start somewhere easy like the bathroom, practice decluttering by asking yourself some key questions about each and every item you own. Build confidence and courage as you declutter room by room. If you get stuck, you could try this list of 100 things to get rid of today to help you get motivated and track your progress.

2. Build good decluttering habits

Decluttering your is home is one thing, but keeping that clutter away is a different matter. Clutter tries to invade our homes and lives on a daily basis but being vigilant for this and adopting some simple strategies and habits to stay clutter-free will really help you keep on top of your clutter and your Silent To Do List!

3. Shop more mindfully

I’m reluctant to say stop shopping altogether because everyone needs to shop to buy food or replace things that have run out, at the very least. What I’d encourage you to do is shop more intentionally and avoid those impulse buys that drain our bank accounts but add to the clutter in our cupboards.

4. Get clear on your decluttering goals

A simplified home is about having less stuff and reducing your Silent To Do List, but it’s also more than that. There are some other amazing benefits of a decluttered home! It’s about what you could do with the time, space and freedom that you gain from not having to manage the inventory of stuff in your home.

Get clear on your decluttering goals by deciding why you want to declutter. Is it to downsize and move home, to create more space in a small room, to be able to get dressed easily and quickly in the morning, to make it easier to find your favourite baking trays and cookie cutters amidst the myriad others, or is it to relieve your stress and give you more time for your family, friends and self?

These are just a few steps for you to take to reduce your Silent To Do List. They might not be easy and it won’t be a perfect line of progress to a clutter-free home. However, even imperfect decluttering will stop your stuff stealing your time and energy.

Silent To Do List

MORE RESOURCES TO HELP YOU DECLUTTER

Here are some more articles to help you declutter your home and simplify your life with less stuff.

Laura

Sunday 28th of January 2024

I completely understand about the Silent To Do list! Only as someone with ADHD, it's not silent in my head. LOL

I began my 2024 decluttering plan while unpacking with a simple decision: I am not allowed to buy any more makeup, skincare, haircare, clothing, shoes, or cleaning products until I genuinely need them. I have MORE than enough of all of them right now! That in itself will help over time.

I need to do more than that to get rid of my Silent To Do list, but it's a start. Thank you for the article, Antonia. I love that someone else understands this.

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 28th of January 2024

Hi Laura, thank you for sharing that. This is a great way to stop the influx of clutter - stop buying more that we don't need. Easier said than done, but it's a great challenge to try and, with time and practice, I think it gets easier as we become more aware and mindful.