Decluttering and The Path of Least Resistance

The idea of having fewer ‘things’ has been on my mind a lot lately. This is mostly to do with the fact that I have moved house recently. However, this has also coincided with me finally watching Marie Kondo’s TV series on Netflix.

I thought that Marie Kondo was already fairly popular, but this show seems to have got a lot of people talking about decluttering. I believe that the Japanese word for decluttering is 断捨離:

断捨離 (だんしゃり/danshari)

Decluttering

Marie Kondo and her method might have a lot of critics, but it is obvious from watching her show that having fewer things makes her clients so much happier.

I’ve been on my own personal mission to declutter, which was very difficult at first but has gradually been getting easier. The vast majority of my Japanese books have survived my latest round of decluttering. Nevertheless, going through this process has got me thinking about why decluttering is a good idea both in general and when it comes to language learning.

The Power of Decluttering

I was watching a TV show about a Japanese minimalist called Fumio Sasaki (佐々木文雄). He realised that he needed to make a change in his life and decided to drastically remove the number of items he had. Through this process, he discovered that having fewer things improved his life in many ways. He’s since written a book about his experiences called ぼくたちに、もうモノは必要ない (the English title is Goodbye, Things).

His example is rather extreme but it did get me thinking about how decluttering can be beneficial.

Decluttering helps you create room for the most important things in your life. When you have fewer things, making decisions becomes much easier. It also means you have fewer things to worry about – for example, having fewer clothes means less laundry to do.

The Path of Least Resistance

I recently read about a theory called the Path of Least Resistance. In short, the path of least resistance means us humans will always do the things that it is easiest to do.

Let’s say I have some chocolates near my sofa and some fruit in the next room. I am more likely to eat the chocolate as it is physically closer to me, even though I know that eating the fruit is better for me. This concept applies to all areas of our lives.

It sounds like a very negative thing, but it is possible to use this aspect of human nature to our advantage. Going back to the food example, if I place the fruit near my sofa and lock the chocolates away in the next room, I am more likely to eat the fruit instead of the chocolates.

Ultimately, decluttering helps you to take advantage of the Path of Least Resistance. Fewer things to distract you means you can program yourself to make better decisions more easily. If I don’t buy any chocolate at all, then I no longer have to make the choice between chocolate or fruit – I can only eat the fruit.

How does this apply to language learning?

There are so many different resources out there for Japanese. Truthfully though, I think a lot of people (myself included) would make more progress if we restricted the number of resources we used. Choice is a wonderful thing, but just like when we have too many things it reduces our ability to focus on what we really want.

If you have this many Japanese books, then you should definitely be decluttering!

Most of the time our progress is not dependent on what resources we use, but how we use them. What habits do we have in place that help us learn the language? I’ve explored this idea before when I wrote about ways to simplify your language learning routine. I now challenge you to declutter your language learning resources!

Decluttering for Language Learners

  1. Take stock of the resources you use. Marie Kondo likes to get her clients to put all of their clothes in a huge pile before sorting through them. It’s a bit harder to do this with language learning resources (especially digital ones), so I write a list of all of the websites/ subscriptions/ apps that I am using.
  2. Ask yourself a few questions about each one. Do you use it? Do you like using it? Is it helping to move you towards your language goals? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need it anymore.
  3. If you find it hard to identify which resources are holding you back, stop using one or more of them for a couple of weeks. If you didn’t really miss using the resource during this period, then it might not be as useful or helpful as you think.
  4. Sell/ give away/ unsubscribe from the resource.

The resources you have left should be the most effective in helping you make progress. What’s more, it should be easier to jump into a study session without having to spend time deciding what to use!

I write a lot about various resources on the blog, but in reality, I only use 3-4 at one time. If there is a resource that no longer serves a purpose, I stop using it. You should use the resources that are best suited to your goals. However, our goals and priorities can change, so our language learning should adapt to these changes too.

Sometimes I stop using something, only to go back to it later – I think this is perfectly fine to do. Whilst I believe that consistency is important, I focus on consistency in my habits rather than consistency in the resource I use.

Have you decluttered recently? Do you think it has had a positive impact in your life? Let me know in the comments!

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