It is true that we need uncluttered spaces – remember Gretchen Rubin’s Rule of Adulthood, “Outer order leads to inner calm.” And it is true that we should surround ourselves with the things we love – and for me one of those things is books. But sometimes those two ideas are in conflict with each other. What happens when a principle from your mental health dimension collides with a principle from your environmental dimension?

When this conflict – or any conflict really – arises, we need to consider falling back to our priorities. For example, I love to see books on my nightstand. I am excited to see what potential there is in the books that are coming my way. I think books are beautiful – the colors, the fonts, the pictures or photos all lend themselves to an ever-changing decoration scheme of my side of the bed. It is a priority to have things I love around me and easy to access. Its easy to read before bed when there are options at my fingertips.

I don’t love clutter though. Clutter makes me anxious. As Barbara Hemphill tells us: Clutter is postponed decisions. Postponed decisions make me anxious. Therefore, the photo above would be doubling down on that anxiety for me – clutter and procrastination. My palms are sweaty just thinking about it.

In this example I would fall back to my priority of decreasing chaos (i.e. anxiety) by removing SOME of the books from my nightstand. I usually have a stack of about 5 books that are next in line to be read. This allows for books to be part of my landscape (allowing for beautiful things that bring me joy to be visible) while still minimizing clutter because most of my books live in other places around the house. Additionally, I generally do not reread books so when I am done I am very eager to share them with people so books are always leaving my house. While I do have some books that have meant a lot to me that I do keep (admittedly considerably more than the Marie Kondo recommended 30 books), I make sure they are stored / contained / displayed in a way that does spark joy. I can hold both principles at the same time.

Try thinking of the phrase “both / and” instead of “either / or” when making your decisions. It is a way to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water while still remaining true to what speaks to your soul.