The blank slate has powerful potential.
It allows us the freedom to enjoy the silence, to savor the empty space.
It enables us to focus and to choose what we decide to let in.
Sometimes the blank slate is the only way to find order in the chaos.
To achieve the blankness you don’t have to throw everything away. In fact, throwing anything away can actually be counterproductive, for at this point you don’t really know what you need.
Instead, remove everything from the spot and put it somewhere else. You can use a spare room, a storage building, or (for digital items) a spare hard drive.
Explore the emptiness. Chances are it has been a while since you have truly experienced empty so savor this sensation. Acknowledge the fear that hides there. Remind yourself that you still have your stuff, that it is just elsewhere. Do not progress further until the sensation fades.
When you find that you need an item bring that one thing only out of exile. Examine it, asking yourself why you need that particular thing in your life. Savor having the use of it again.
Enjoy this item thoroughly before you decide to retrieve something else.
If you find that the item isn’t as enjoyable as you thought it would be place it back into exile. Only allow things into your space that you “find useful or consider to be beautiful.” Leave everything else behind.
After a set period of time (6 months, a year – whatever YOU find comfortable), ask yourself if you still feel the need for the things you left in exile. You haven’t needed them for this long, do you really think you will need them again?
I did this recently with my music collection. I bundled it up and put it in an alternate folder on my hard drive with the determination to only add pieces back to my library as I listened to them.
My first trip into the exile folder revealed one of my very favorite albums, a collection of traditional Japanese pieces that had been forgotten in the chaos. I pulled it out, added it to my iTunes library and savored it for hours.
This is the magic of the blank slate: you sometimes uncover treasures you forgot you even owned.
I have since revisited the exile folder. I retrieved two albums of piano music that were purchased before Katie was even born, a Pachelbel collection I barely recall buying and a Dolly Parton CD I ended up deleting.
Another benefit of the blank slate: discovering that your tastes have changed but your purchasing habits remained the same.
Instead of coasting through life, scooping up stuff as you run along use the blank slate to analyze what you already have. You may not only discover that you need less than you think but that you’ve had it with you all along.
For more information about the blank slate process check out my book Minimize to Maximize: Minimize Your Stuff to Maximize your Life, available in both paperback and digital formats.