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The real reason you’re obsessed with decluttering, according to an expert

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Hollie Richardson
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Decluttering

Could Marie Kondo and her fixation on decluttering be the inspiration behind your recent decision to unfriend someone on social media? Global trends expert Marian Salzman thinks so, and her explanation of why makes total sense. 

Since Marie Kondo sparked joy with her best-selling books and Netflix series on tidying, we’ve become a nation (nay, world!) obsessed with decluttering. We’re fixated on decluttering our houses, our minds, our social plans, our wardrobes… and even our friendships.

The Marie Kondo Effect is so strong that it’s sparked an increase in charity shop donations. And owning stuff just isn’t something that’s celebrated anymore (unless a thing brings true joy into your life). We’ve also lost count of the amount of decluttering and cleaning tips shared on YouTube and social media.

But, according to a global trends expert, this need to ‘de-everything’ in our lives has been a long time coming – and it’s all down to emotional overload.  

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Marian Salzman is the globally recognised thought leader who, over the years, has predicted the rise of the single woman, asserted sleep as being the new sex and popularised the term ‘metrosexual’.

Basically: she knows a trend and how it comes to be, which is why she’s the perfect person to ask about how the psychological need to declutter has manifested in multiple ways in our daily lives.

So, what actually is a trend? “It’s something with sticking power. It really has a full life, almost like a human: it’s conceived, it’s birthed, it grows, it mutates, it ages, eventually dies,” says Salzman. “And it probably gets reincarnated.

“A trend is not something that you forecast one year and people stop talking about the next – that would be a fad. The things I’m talking about are the big societal shifts, they might take 20 years to really be impactful.”

Tidying with Marie Kondo on Netflix.
Marie Kondo is the poster woman for our obsession with decluttering.

Describing how the “de-everything” trend started, Salzman explains that it probably stems from the “less is more” and “simplification” school of thought since around 2005.

“’Un’ is really an expression of simplification – ‘I want to get rid of more things in my life, I want to simplify’. And it’s because we’ve spent so much time talking about information overload – which, for me, is the real emphasis here. People simply have too many things eating away at them.

“What makes you unfriend someone? You just can’t take the battering that they’re giving your emotions online. What makes you unclutter? You can’t deal with all the stuff in your closet. To me, decluttering our lives is the expression of an emotion overload. We do not know how to process too many emotions.”

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Focusing on how the trend is affecting our friendships, Salzman gave the example of her husband’s decision to unfriend people on Facebook – something a lot of us will no-doubt relate to.

“My husband is a big progressive democrat and he’s constantly unfriending friends he’s had since nursery school – 50 years later,” she says. “He’s unfriending them because they post crazy right wing things and he can’t handle his own emotional reaction. And there’s no payback – it’s not like he’s going to go to breakfast with them on Sunday. Also, they’re maligning what he cares about.”

She adds: “Unfriending is pulling down your friends until you just have the friends who are giving you the positive messages you need. You don’t keep a friend around who’s dragging you backwards, because they’re adding to your emotional angst.”

But, although it’s important not to surround ourselves with negative people, there is the possibility that unfriending people – in real life and digitally – means we’re only surrounded by people who share our sensibilities. This can perhaps create an echo-chamber, when we should probably remain open to other people’s ideas and thoughts, or at least have an understanding of them.

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And the decluttering trend ingrains itself even deeper into our lives, according to Salzman. 

“I watch a lot of food channels in the UK, and they show Swedish cooking, using very few ingredients,” she says. “So the idea of uncluttering your kitchen, your menu, unifying your eating habits, eating meals with only five ingredients. And then there’s glamping holidays, holidaying in cabins and taking up simple hobbies – I see those as being further examples.”

It will be interesting to see if and how the need to declutter continues to manifest in daily life. Because the idea of living in simpler times really does have an appeal, even if it does mean deleting a few old friends from our Instagram feeds. 

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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