How to Edit Everything

Here's a simple truth:  The more items we own, the less we value them.  For example, digital photos are abundant, and it's easy to take more.  As a result, we rarely look at them.  But the single black-and-white snapshot of your grandparents' wedding might be framed and displayed proudly.

How about overstuffed closets filled with "nothing to wear"?  We often choose the same five or six outfits over and over.

And the more scented candles or fancy moisturizers we collect, the more likely we are to shove them into a cupboard, never to be used again.  The more nail files or flashlights we own, the less likely we are to be able to find one when we need it.

comfortable minimalist dining room

The opposite of more

Our cupboards and closets burst with items we need to clean, organize, maintain, upgrade, store, and retrieve.  It's exhausting.  But here's another simple truth that fixes everything:  The less we own, the more we use and enjoy what we have.  Think of:

  • your leather jacket that tops almost every outfit
  • the skillet you use to cook most family meals
  • the diamond studs you wear every day
  • your favorite red lipstick
  • your chosen easy chair

Owning less isn't deprivation.  Owning less makes more space for things that matter.

Yes, we can fill our lives with whatever we want.  We can keep adding until we run out of space, money, energy, patience, and time.

But if we edit the clutter from our homes the way a writer edits words, we wind up with just what we wanted.  No fluff.  Just the pure and useful cream of the crop.

What does it mean to edit?

Editing is a mindset.  You learn to think critically about your belongings, purchases, and activities.  You stop wasting your assets and start investing them in things and projects that return value to your life.

Editing produces quality.  You stop adding freebies and junk, and opt for things that will last.  You might spend as much money as before, but you spend it on the good stuff.  You raise your standard of living without increasing your cost of living.  You own fewer, but better.

Editing is a practice, like yoga or piano.  You improve slowly, over time.  Pretty soon you're reasonably skilled.  It becomes part of you – second nature.

3 steps to start

comfortable minimalist living room
Stephen King has published dozens of best-selling books and hundreds of short stories.  He's known not just for horror, but for page-turning plots and compelling characters.  He's also the author of one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Nonfiction Books of All Time, the now-classic On Writing.*

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

One of the best takeaways from this book is the "10 percent rule."  After completing a piece of writing, determine the word count, then go through and ruthlessly remove at least one-tenth of the words.  How?

  • Cut unnecessary details or digressions.
  • Eliminate redundancies.
  • Replace each weak phrase with one powerful word

Can you apply this to decluttering?  Remove just 10 percent in any area, such as a kitchen cupboard, clothes closet, living room wall, or bathroom drawer.

  • Remove what you don't like or haven't used in the past year or more.
  • Remove extras and duplicates.
  • Remove shoddy items to reveal quality pieces.

The same idea can be applied to your calendar, phone, or filing cabinet, or even your diet or address book.  Edit everything, and you'll be happier with what remains.


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