Psst…pick me up. Let's go see
if you have a new Instagram like. You were gonna do this laundry three days
ago. I knew you couldn't be trusted… Hey, you worked so hard today, you totally deserve a
sweet tasty treat. Why don't you just have one? I recently embraced minimalism and decluttered my
entire apartment. In the process, I discovered a minimalist secret: your stuff is talking to you!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, just looking at all the stuff you surrounded yourself with? Maybe
you weren't conscious of what was causing it, but you just felt a sense of dread, a lack
of inspiration as you looked around.
Well, I recently had this insight, like a light bulb
went off in my head. Every item that you allow in your space isn't just an inanimate object. On
the surface it is, but everything that captures your attention leaves an imprint on your brain.
Especially the things you see on a daily basis. And with those things, it's as if they take on a
personality. They want to be cared for. If they are neglected, their message only becomes louder.
I first learned about this concept in the book 'Goodbye Things' by Japanese minimalist Fumio
Sasaki. He calls it: the 'silent to-do list.' This list consists of all the messages our stuff
Like the messy desk which wants to be organized, or the dishes that need cleaning.
The idea is that, with each thing we acquire, we add a new item to the silent to-do list.
This list gets longer and longer as we accumulate material possessions. And it starts
to affect our ability to focus. At some point, the list becomes so long that it's just
overwhelming. We're surrounded by so many menial tasks that are fighting for our attention that
we can't get around to doing what's important. The easy way out is to just ignore it,
and we become lazy and unmotivated. In my video 'How Minimalism Has Changed My Life',
which I will link to up here, I spoke about the time when all I had was a mattress and a lamp,
for a few weeks. It was a liberating feeling! There was nothing around to send me silent
messages. However, I'm not here to tell you that you should get rid of all your things to regain
I own a bunch of things myself, even though I consider myself a minimalist.
Sometimes I think the term 'minimalism' is a misnomer. 'Essentialism' would be more accurate.
It's not about not owning anything, but about eliminating distractions and excess, so you can
focus on the things that are truly important. A way of looking at all your access stuff is
imagining having a roommate that doesn't pay rent and also doesn't help out with the household
chores. If this was an actual person, you would have kicked them out a long time ago! Yet, we
tend to treat the things we own differently. One explanation might be what is called the 'Sunk
Cost Fallacy.' In economics, this basically means that when you are invested in something, you
overvalue that thing. This is why it's so hard to pull the plug on a failing business venture, or on
a project you've been working on for a long time. But this idea equally applies to letting go
of that old chair that's just gathering dust in the corner.
It can be hard, right? So is the
goal to end up with an empty silent to-do list? No. As long as you have things, there will always
be items on your silent to-do list. But by cutting down on our possessions, you eliminate tasks from
the list. And once you strip all the clutter away it will become easier to prioritize the messages
that remain. Also, open space, when left empty, brings about a sense of calm or freedom.
It opens our
minds to the more important things in life. An interesting side effect that I noticed
is that the nature of the silent messages also changes. Through the process of decluttering,
we remove things that don't actually spark joy, as Marie Kondo suggests, and are merely taking
up space. It's often those items that send us the silent messages we dislike the most. The mess
in the closet, the chaos in the living room. Once those items are removed, the things
you really care about can take center stage. And since you now attend quickly to the needs
of the things you have chosen to keep, it's no longer just silent to do's coming your way.
When your eyes go across the room, you will now also be rewarded with positive messages. Ones of
appreciation. Oh thank you, we look so organized! Another way of looking at it is that
if you don't shape your environment, it will shape you. If your work or living space
is really cluttered, all that stuff is fighting to get your attention and you will need to exert
a lot of willpower to ignore those silent messages and stay focused.
However, if you are serious
about achieving your goals, willpower isn't what you will want to rely on. Your willpower is
like a muscle: it depletes by using it. And when it's exhausted, you can't focus anymore and you
will most likely give in to your lower impulses. In his best-selling book 'Atomic
Habits', James Clear writes that: Similarly, in his book 'Willpower Doesn't Work, Benjamin Hardy argues that if you
really care about achieving your goals, you need to shape your environment. For example,
let's say you want to quit smoking, but you keep one pack of cigarettes for emergencies. Now, with
each urge, you will hear those silent messages coming from that pack of cigarettes.
need to use a lot of willpower to resist those. There are only so many times that you can do this
before you give in to the urge. If willpower was all you needed to get rid of bad habits, there
wouldn't be a billion-dollar weight-loss industry. But if you throw out all your cigarettes, now
you have a shot at it. At least at home, your environment is now propelling you forward toward a
smoke-free existence. And, ultimately, not smoking becomes your default behavior. After decluttering
your work or living space you can take the concept of environmental design to the next level by
adding something that will be a positive task on your silent to-do list. For example, right now
I'm in the middle of a 30-day yoga challenge. Before I go to sleep, I roll out my yoga mat
on the floor. When I walk into the living room the next morning and look down, I immediately get
the silent message that I need to do yoga. Let's recap: your stuff is talking to you.
And it can
be overwhelming. But you can take back control. By getting rid of the stuff that doesn't spark
joy and only keeping the things you truly value. That will already do amazing things for your
mental clarity. But if you want to supercharge your improved ability to focus, you can shape
your environment to create conditions that make your success inevitable. In my case, I want to
live more slowly. One thing I did to help me get there was changing something in my environment. I
made a simple poster with the word 'SLOW' on it and framed it.
Now, every time it catches my eye,
it serves as a gentle reminder of this intention. I hope you found this video helpful. It was a
real game-changer for me when I first heard about this concept. Let me know in the comments
below: what is on your silent to-do list? Thanks so much for watching. And if you
liked this video, please give it a thumbs up. And consider subscribing, to see more content just
And I will see you in the next one!.