Why I Consider Myself An Extreme Minimalist

It’s the second year of writing on this blog, and over that time, I’ve grown while my pile of belongings have shrunk.

I’ve written a lot about minimalism and the process of decluttering, but since then, my mindset has changed, what I want has changed, and what I thought I needed to be happy has been challenged time and again. 

I am now what I consider to be an extreme minimalist. 

Minimalism is all about only keeping the things that you love, that you find useful and that bring value into your life. Once the physical aspect has reached a certain point, it extends into other areas of your life such as relationships, career, and personal values. 

Extreme minimalism is minimalism taken even further and isn’t something there is such a lot of out there on the internet. Many extreme minimalists have gone furniture-free to encourage more movement in their daily lives as well as introduce even more space to move around freely. They keep only what is essential for them and live as free as possible. 

What is essential will differ depending on the individual, and that will always be the case no matter what kind of minimalist you are. 

Some extreme minimalists I follow are Youheum on Heal Your Living, and Anja’s Artworld. While my lifestyle is different because I have a family and different hobbies, the extreme minimalist lifestyle very much appeals to me.

As I decluttered more and started asking myself big questions, I realised that I too, wanted more, by having even less. 

Of course, because I have a family, there’s only so far I can go. I can’t go furniture free, for example, as I would have done, because my family loves having a sofa, table and chairs. And that’s fine by me. Extreme minimalism isn’t for everyone, and I’m focusing on what I can do personally to minimise my own stuff so I can maximise my life. 

So far, I’ve got rid of about 80% of my stuff.

It’s strange to think I used to be an organised hoarder. The stuff I held onto caused drawers to break and arguments between me and fiance (now my husband). I didn’t know what I wanted out of life other than to collect and play as many videogames as possible and write fanfiction which I never published. 

I was simply surviving day to day, and was struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. 

Growing up, I had been taught that life is a constant struggle, that money is only for rich and/or crooked people, and that my dreams were unrealistic. For the longest time, I viewed successful people with suspicion and saw almost every opportunity as a con. 

It has taken many years of working on my past, working on my mindset, changing the stories I told myself on a regular basis and becoming minimalist, to unlearn all of that. 

My minimalist journey started a couple of years ago sometime after being confronted with my huge attic hoard by my mum.

Later, we moved into a house we would be sharing with my parents and for a time we had to live in the bedroom while a side extension was built onto the house so we would have our own living room and enough bedrooms for all of us.

Once complete, the living room was going to be very narrow and long, so I knew I had to be selective about my stuff. I wanted a fresh start, anyway. New furniture, new ornaments, new everything. 

Over time, I got rid of bags upon bags of clutter. I must have been walking to the charity shops every other other day because everyone in my family started commenting on it and making jokes out of it. “You’ll have nothing left”, “Their shop will be just full of your stuff”. 

Ironically, I did feel as if I had a shop full of stuff, yet none of it had brought me lasting joy. 

The more I got rid of the more free I felt, and the more my decluttering muscles built. But I also started to feel guilt for the amount of stuff I had mindlessly accumulated. Some of the stuff wasn’t even all that old and was something I had convinced myself I needed but then realised I didn’t or got bored of quickly. 

Some of it was gifts I had kept out of guilt and obligation. 

More recently, we’ve had our second child who is now almost 5 months old, and the gaming room we’ve had will soon need to become her bedroom. As a result, we’ve been slowly getting rid of our large collection of games and merchandise (definitely some of the hardest stuff for me to part with).  

Most of it, I realised, was just to show my identity as a gamer and as an interesting person. I used to want to be like my favourite Youtube game collectors and imagined one day showing it all off on camera. 

I wanted my friends to come over and be wowed as they looked over my awe-inspiring collection. 

Now I don’t want any of that.

Not only have I parted with a lot of my stuff, I’ve shed a lot of my ego and realised the things which are really important to me; writing, taking photos in nature, going on long walks. 

I’m not saying I no longer enjoy playing videogames; that’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was 4, and can’t imagine a life without. What I’m saying is, I want more out of life, and extreme minimalism seems to be the way for me to make room for that. 

I was tired of a layer of dust accumulating over everything. Fed up of dusting huge units of furniture. Exhausted with the decision fatigue when I didn’t know what game to pick. Bored of worrying about what might happen to my collection in any number of situations. 

I consider myself an extreme minimalist because I am almost entirely free of decor and things that might otherwise overload my senses visually, and I’m considering sitting on the floor more and on fold-away furniture to encourage a more active lifestyle. So far, my long walks have been doing wonders for my stamina. 

I’m already experiencing many of the benefits of extreme minimalism: 

  • Less things to clean and maintain, more time to relax, be with my family, or learn something new. 
  • Less visual clutter overloading my senses. 
  • The more money saved by not buying random tchotkes, the more I have to support me in what matters. 
  • Celebrations being focused on family and fun instead of stuff and storage (this is a work in progress as it involves others being on board). 
  • More space to think and for my kids to play freely. 
  • Space for my husband to set up his PC station for gaming and work, and still have plenty of entertainment area left.
  • Less worry about safety and getting angry at superfluous things getting broken by my kids. 
  • Room for growth and potential. 
  • Space for the big questions in life and for self discovery. 
  • Space for silence and a cup of tea just thinking about…nothing. 

I’m quite excited to continue my journey and wonder where I’ll be six months and even a year from now. Likely, I will be returning to posts like these as a fun way to check how far I’ve come. 

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

Why Your Heart is The Best Storage – Decluttering Sentimental Items

In the last quarter of 2020 I decided to have another go at clearing the attic. This time, I vowed to put my heart and soul into it, especially because it was so dangerously cluttered.

There were many times up there I had tripped over boxes or had to do some bizarre manoeuvre to get around them like some sort of contortionist. One of these days somebody was going to fall through the attic floor or have the mass amount of boxes collapse on them. 

Unlike with my previous attempt, this time I was armed with a clear vision of the space above me being spacious and containing only seasonal decorations, luggage, and a box of my videogame cases (because I’ve been keeping the games themselves in special wallets to save space).

It was a good job I had the resolve I did because when I went up the ladder there was no way I could even haul myself up through the trapdoor.  Every bit of space I could have stood was taken up by piles of full plastic storage boxes, carrier bags, and things which couldn’t fit in any of the boxes. Things which had simply been left to the freezing cold of the winter or the sauna-like heat of the summer. 

Faced with the huge mission ahead of me, I envisioned how heavy all of it was above my head. The sheer weight of it in my life. If you’re a believer in Feng Shui, perhaps this was the reason I always felt like everything got so much ‘on top of me’ and I still had parts of me that could not move on from the past. 

I had made a decluttering attempt of the attic once before and did actually clear some space, but it soon became even worse than before, because I didn’t have a vision and was still clinging on to a lot of my past. It was as if the mess was mirroring part of my inner self, and after making such enormous changes in my life already, I didn’t want that for myself anymore.  

I started off bringing boxes down and clearing as much of the contents as possible. A lot of it was trash. Old posters, old instruction manuals, packaging to things I no longer owned. 

Other things I donated to charity shops and offered on Facebook Marketplace. 

The more boxes I opened, I was faced with a lot of mindless purchasing decisions and things I’d thought I might go back to one day.  But by far, the hardest things I’ve encountered are sentimental items. 

The first one of these things I let go of was a Dick Turpin mug that my Uncle Gordy had owned. I had been very close to him all my life and we used to have a laugh about how terrified I was as a child of this mug he kept in his display cabinet.  What was it doing here in the attic, not even serving a purpose? Gord had displayed it proudly but I was hoarding it in a box. 

I held the mug for quite some time and then I realised the reason I had kept it boxed up was because I was terrified I would lose those precious memories of our laughter together. Yet even without the object on my shelf, I still recalled those memories from time to time. 

There’s a small cup he used to own that we had another memory over that I never claimed when he passed away. I still have the memories of that cup and how he used to say ‘just a spot’ and laugh at me when he was pouring milk into it when I was an infant. 

It dawned on me that I didn’t need to keep this Dick Turpin. Instead, I wrapped it up and sent it to a cousin of mine. Unfortunately, it broke in transit.

For a moment I was horrified, but I realised that even then, I still had the memory. And I’d taken a photo of it on my phone so I could recall it at any time. It also reminded me that physical objects can be destroyed in an instant, either by accident or natural disaster. 

Despite having the photos, it’s amazing how often I don’t look at them. I don’t need to because the memories of Gordy are in my heart, not in the objects I clung to.

Releasing this made it so much easier to let go. And once I let go of that, I found myself moving onto other sentimental things – some of the hardest of all to let go of. Those were my old video game consoles I had as a child and spent many hours on , forming many fond memories. 

As a child, I had everything I could physically ever want, but most of my childhood was full of bullying at school, family trauma, and other things I would give a limb to protect my own children from. 

Videogames were a wonderful escape and there were happy times I played them with my parents, on rainy afternoons, or when I got home from school. Gaming turned into a real passion which I still have now at 34 years old. 

Anyway, one of these sentimental consoles was my Super Nintendo. Here it was, sitting unplugged in the attic and suffering the extremes of temperatures.

Attics are no place to store anything of value – photos and electronics being the main things. Proving this point, many of my Playstation games I kept had started to get disc rot, which was further accelerated by cold and the heat. 

The Nintendo was even harder to let go of because until recently, I had been a collector of videogames and merchandise. We even had a gaming room. Then our second child came along and we needed that room to become her bedroom.

I had to put things into perspective and let go of some of the reasons I had held onto them in the first place (which is another post in itself).

The stuff wasn’t getting used. Its job was to sit prettily on a shelf or to sit in the attic for the rest of time as a memory. That wasn’t treating that stuff with love and respect when somebody else could be playing it or displaying it proudly in their home. Besides, most of the games were now available in HD on recent gadgets such as the SNES Mini. 

So I sold it along with all the games. 

I did feel a few pangs of sadness as I boxed it up for the post office and saw it for one final time. Then I looked at the space that had been created and felt that familiar sense of freedom. I still had the memories and could re-experience them any time by playing the updated versions that now exist. Once again the memories were in me, not in the object itself. 

Once I got rid of the SNES, other nostalgic consoles I was keeping got easier to let go of. I had been through the process already and trusted myself to make the right decision. 

I trust my heart to be the storage space for these joyful memories, not a dusty old storage box. 

When it comes to decluttering sentimental items, whatever you decide to do with them, trust your heart, for yours is the safest place for precious memories to be stowed. Remember,  physical possessions can be destroyed. 

It’s taken me a good few months, but there is now a lot of space in the attic and slowly but surely, my vision is starting to materialise. 

There are a few things left to take care of, such as a huge box of old journals, another huge box of photo albums, and a few boxes of mystery cables and parts. I also have some organisation to do. But I’m getting there. 

Over Christmas I bought some mould resistant bags for my decorations and decluttered the ones that wouldn’t fit. I am now limited to those two bags and once they’re full I can’t buy any more without first getting rid of something older. 

Before, I had an entire box containing several carrier bags of decorations, many of which were getting crushed or broken. Not long ago I had to deal with a snow globe which had smashed and leaked its sticky, glittery contents all inside the box and over the carrier bags. 

Did I need all those decorations to have a good Christmas? No. In fact, it was a huge pain bringing them out, putting them all away and ate up huge chunks of time and energy. 

Going forward, I will be far more mindful of what gets stored up there, and I know that storing far less stuff will mean my close friends and family won’t have to shoulder the burden when the day comes I am no longer around. 

Remember: trust your heart, not a dusty old storage box. 

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Have a Merrier Christmas With Less

It’s almost Christmas, and although it’s different to previous years, what isn’t so different is the mad panic to buy, buy, buy, either to show love to friends and family, or out of sheer obligation. 

But as I’ve turned minimalist over the past couple of years, dramatically reducing my possessions and experiencing endless self-growth, I’ve come to realise that stuff isn’t the key to love or happiness. In fact, an excess causes untold stress, financial hardship, damage to relationships, and to the Earth.

As a child, I’d physically always had everything I wanted, never going without the latest console, latest games, or best toys. The walls of my bedroom were lined with toy boxes, but even back then, I was never satisfied. There was always a new toy I wanted, a new book, or a new video game. 

From my teens to my early 30s, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. I had so much stuff that it was breaking my bedroom drawers, had filled up several storage boxes under my bed and on top of my wardrobe, stuffed every cupboard and lined every shelf. But no matter how much I had, I wanted more, more, more. 

No matter how many games, consoles, books and trinkets I had, it wasn’t enough. I often dreamed of owning a bigger house, certain that if I only had more space to keep everything and entertain my friends, I’d finally be happy. 

It didn’t matter whether I’d just acquired an entire wishlist of stuff for Christmas, either, come January I’d hit the sales to fill the hole inside me. You see, I didn’t realise at the time that one of the sources of my unhappiness was the sheer amount of stuff in my life. Greed and excess. 

Another reason was low self-esteem which was further exacerbated from going down the path people expected of me rather than what I really wanted. Stuff was acting as a bandage for the trauma in my past, and as a smokescreen for decisions I had made that I wasn’t truly happy with. 

I hated myself with a passion, but as long as I didn’t face it and kept the smokescreen going, I convinced myself I’d be fine. 

Except I wasn’t. I was as far from fine as one could get.  All of this hoarding and consuming caused countless arguments between me and my fiance, Leighton (now my husband), and I was forever in overdraft with my bank due to spending splurges. I was also a hot mess inside. 

Then, one day, my mum had a declutter of the attic at her house. A huge amount of the stuff, she said, was mine, and she was bringing it to me to sort through. 

When she arrived, I was stunned. It took her several trips back and forth between my house and the car to bring the bags and boxes. Years of my childhood and school life bulged at the seams and was dumped on the living room floor for me to sort. 

At first, I wanted to put it all in our attic, but Leighton stopped me. “No way!”, he said, “That attic is rammed as it is with your crap and we aren’t having any more. Either you sort this or it goes in the trash!” So, with that, I was forced to confront some of my hoard, and the past I had been clinging onto. 

And 75% of it was trash. 

This experience didn’t instantly turn me into a minimalist, but unbeknownst to me, it was the first step. 

Fast forward to the present day and I can tell you with a hundred percent certainty that freeing yourself from the burden of your excess physical possessions is one of the most freeing things you can do. 

The second most freeing thing you can do is to free yourself from the desire to own more, and the pressure to buy more for others ‘just because it’s the norm’. 

Free yourself from the expectations of marketers and focus on being grateful for everything you already have, especially the people and experiences in your life. Advertisers would have you believe that to ‘give her the best Christmas ever’ you should buy their latest scent or designer handbag. That to be a true friend you should buy any number of random seasonal gifts.

Not true. 

Instead of buying your friend yet another pair of socks and a novelty gadget from the gift aisle, why not connect with them and get them something that aligns with who they are and what they want for the future? Maybe they want nothing at all, in which case you should believe them. After all, most people are already drowning in a sea of clutter and years of unwanted gifts. 

Why not spend time with them or donate to a charity of their liking instead? 

Not only will this be lighter on your wallet and your stress levels, but will help people (or animals) in need, and give you both a far longer lasting glow than any physical possession can. 

According to Nationaldebtadvice.org.uk, over 16.9 million people borrow money to pay for Christmas gifts, and one in twenty will skip paying a bill over Christmas because they can’t pay it. 

That’s madness. 

We’re falling prey to marketing and trying to buy love and connection – things which cannot ever be bought. And when you think about it, would your loved ones want you to go into debt for them? Would you want your loved ones to go into debt for you?

Furthermore, an eye-watering amount of unwanted gifts end up in the trash or in charity shops, 60,000 tonnes of which simply gets sent to landfill.

When there are so many people in need, this is a troubling figure; not to mention the damage done to our planet.

I shocked myself last Christmas when I found there was nothing I wanted my family to buy me. I had minimised so much and had been practising gratitude whenever I could, so I felt grateful for what I already had. I also didn’t want to add potential clutter back into my home, undoing years of decluttering and emotional work. Instead, my husband gifted me money to put towards the counselling course I had applied for. 

Rather than short-lived pleasures from receiving physical gifts, I invested in myself. As it turns out, taking that course was one of the best decisions I ever made. 

Since then I’ve also bought a photography course because I love taking nature photos and want them to be the best they can be. Without minimalism, I’d never have discovered any of these passions or invested in them because I’d be too busy organising my stuff and looking for more. I’d be too broke.

It wasn’t easy to reach this mindset, especially as I was used to always receiving piles of presents and spending beyond my means for everyone else. Most likely, it won’t be easy for you either, but I can assure you it will all be worth it. 

If you’re new to this I suggest starting off with small steps and changes, which will gradually snowball into huge life transformations if you let them. 

With that, I wish all of you, my amazing readers, a Merry and stress-free Christmas. You deserve it. 

My tree

Stuff: The Thief of Time

It’s been a few months since my last post, and in that time I’ve become a mum again to a gorgeous little girl.

I’ve also got back to minimising and simplifying, which is now more important than ever with a family of four, even more so because my six-year-old son has just received an autism diagnosis. I know that simplifying his life and routines can help make a difference in his stress levels and sensory overload, but the same can be said for any child, and of us adults. 

Since having a new baby to take care of and settling into the new rhythm of sleepless nights, exhausting daytime hours when she refuses to sleep, and making my son still feel loved and valued, it’s forced me yet again to look at how I spend my time. 

Because all my time in the week is now spent on changing nappies, doing endless feeds, keeping up with the laundry, and other household chores,  the time I get has to be used intentionally whether that’s an intentional hour of rest, half hour of gaming, reading a book, or decluttering.

The past week I’ve spent a good chunk of my time decluttering the attic, not just because I love the sense of freedom and satisfaction I get, but because I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of my kids. And that involves me facing a prospect many of us don’t like to acknowledge – death. 

One of the many reasons I live a minimalist lifestyle is because when I’m gone, whether that be when I’m a hundred years old, or even next month, the last thing I want is to burden my loved ones with sorting through my stuff, deciding what to keep, what goes in the skip, what gets donated, feeling guilty if they don’t keep something, trying to figure out what best represented me, and frankly, wasting hours of their remaining time on this Earth. 

When I pass, the last thing I want is for people to look for me in my stuff. I want to be remembered for the life I lived, for my personality, for the things I said and how I made people feel; not the figurines I owned, the shoes I wore, the limited editions I collected, or the phone I had.

You may be thinking this all sounds a bit too much on the morbid side, but hear me out.

When I gave birth to my son six years ago, I lost 4 litres of blood when my placenta got stuck to the walls of my uterus. I almost died and one of the nurses told me how lucky I had been to have pulled through. Before that, I’d never really considered the life I was living or the impact my stuff was having. Soon after, it struck me that I wasn’t following my dreams, either. Rather, I was just floating along in life with no clear direction, buying more and more stuff to fill the sense of emptiness.

Back then I was still living as an organised hoarder, and to think back on it now, it’s sad how much stuff my family would have had to go through. Trinkets, old toys, old letters, old party invitations, tonnes of gaming paraphernalia, old stationary, overflowing boxes, relics of my past, painful memories, stuff I clung to because I thought ‘I wasn’t me without my stuff’. 

As it turned out,  the ‘me’ I was clinging to was the biggest piece of clutter of all, and the real me was waiting to be discovered in empty spaces, free of the hoard that weighed me down, free of the physical weight of my past, and with more free time that wasn’t wasted on organising and acquiring more. 

We all have limited time on this planet, and that also goes for our children (if we have any). 

Why keep a bunch of stuff for them, for our partners, for our parents or siblings, to have to spend hours, days or weeks going through our stuff when we pass on? As uncomfortable as it is to realise, it’s not like we can take our stuff with us when it’s our time. Instead, the weight of our life cascades onto family and friends. Sadly, that stuff sometimes even harbours the power to cause heated arguments and family rifts. Families get divided for decades over an antique vase, a china collection, or money, which, ironically, would probably be spent on acquiring more stuff. Stuff that won’t even matter when we’re gone. 

Remember, we can’t take our stuff and whoever deals with it all can’t get back their time. Time which is so important and passes in the blink of an eye. 

But enough about death, let’s go right back to the very beginning. 

We’re born owning nothing. Blank slates of endless potential. All we want is the love and attention of our caregivers, and whatever we need to survive. Then suddenly, at some point along the line, we accumulate stuff. Stuff to speed up our development, stuff to teach us about the world, stuff to entertain us, stuff to distract us, stuff to show us how much we’re loved.

We grow up and we want more. More toys, more gadgets, more games, more clothes, more, more, more. Where once we were happy with love and experiences of the world, we’re taught by the people close to us,  and through endless advertising, that we can’t be happy without the latest toy, the fullest wardrobe, the biggest game collection, or the trendiest coat. 

We’re taught that we’re not enough, that if we don’t receive more, we aren’t loved or not worthy. Our ‘self’ gets hidden by the sheer amount of stuff, and that pattern continues through life until we break it or we die. 

Let me give you an example of how too much stuff affects us as children. 

Recently, I was forced to declutter my son’s room. He struggles to let go of things regardless of how many years it has been since he last played with that teddy bear or can no longer fit in that favourite t-shirt. Finally, the drawer under his bed broke under the weight of years of artwork and plastic toys that he never played with. Yet despite it all, he complained he was ‘bored’ or would roll around on the floor in a state of overwhelm. Whenever he wanted a particular toy, he always came crying to me or his dad that he couldn’t find it. I’d go to his room and it would look like a hurricane had passed through it on his hunt. 

At bedtime, he couldn’t even decide what book he wanted me to read to him; he either made me choose or constantly chose ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. Even though it’s one of his favourite books, I realized he wasn’t even listening to it anymore, and had become bored with it. He was simply choosing it every night because there were far too many books on his shelf for him to process. 

So, I got to work removing most of the plastic McDonald’s toys, Kinder Egg junk, and things he never touched. I also removed a pile of books he’d either outgrown, or seemed to hold no interest for him. Then, I went through all his artwork, discarding the damaged pieces, paper with hardly anything on it, or pieces I knew he didn’t care for as it was something he had done when he was two. I’m ashamed to say that most of the artwork clogging his drawer wasn’t even his doing; it was pieces I hadn’t been able to let go of because I was still clinging to his toddler stage. Most of those went in the bin once I had taken a few photos. 

Before and after decluttering my sons art drawer. As you can see, the drawer above had snapped off its runners

Bear in mind, instead of instantly donating the toys and risking upsetting him, I put the bags of his stuff into the attic to be sorted at a later date. That way, if he wanted his jingly bells back, or the teddy he had picked up that time he went to hospital when he was 2, he could have them. 

Now, here’s the surprising thing. 

He’s never once asked for any of it back, nor seems to have noticed that 70% of it is missing. And he’s started choosing books other than ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ all by himself. There’s also been fewer instances of him crying because he can’t find his Nerf gun bullets or other favourite things. 

Quite often, we think we need more, and we assume the same for our children. Whenever we’re bored or unfulfilled, we might order something new on Amazon or go shelf-browsing until we spot something we like. 

And when they’re bored, we rush to buy them another toy or download yet another app. 

Instead, we need to rediscover simplicity,  then do the same for our children.

We need to reconnect with loved ones, and claim back the time that is so precious, and we need to remind ourselves that we’re worth it, despite what marketing would us believe. 

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

The Weight of Stuff

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

I realise it’s been a really long time since I posted on this blog. I can’t deny I feel guilty about that because I was going to post an article on being extraordinary. While I do have the article, I couldn’t bring myself to post it because in the current climate, it just doesn’t feel right, and I’ve been sorting out elements of my own life, and thinking about my future, as well as battling pregnancy fatigue. 

I’m now 28 weeks pregnant, and what I have been focused on is minimising and simplifying my life more than ever before. 

This post is a little catch up for this blog about my minimalist journey since the lockdown started, and to share my thoughts about where I am now. 

One way I’ve been thinking about my stuff is the sheer weight of it in my life, both physically and metaphorically. 

I often read about people on decluttering journeys who load their cars with bags upon bags of clutter they’re casting off from their lives, and how many trips it takes to the charity shop. 

Since I can’t drive, whenever I donate anything and as I decide to let go of even more stuff, I walk to town with the weight of those bags. As I walk and the bags weigh me down and cut into my hands, I can’t help but think about the sheer weight of my life. 

All that heaviness. The stagnant energy that clings to it. The burden of guilt and old memories. 

I welcome the relief once the weight is gone, and it often feels as if my arms are floating. Better than that, is the feeling of lightness in my home. There’s more space for energy to flow, space for potential in the future. Not potential new stuff, but opportunities and beliefs that serve me. 

The more I cast off, the less weighed down by the past I feel, and the more hope for the future. It’s true that less really is more. 

Speaking of the future, since I get so much joy from decluttering and love to help others with it, I had a sudden profound idea to look into becoming a professional declutterer – something which wouldn’t have occurred to me had I still been weighed down by stuff.

Clutter really is something that always lurks at the back of your mind, taking up space and valuable energy. Like a computer with an error message warning you its storage is getting too full, the brain is pretty much the same, and lightening your physical load will massively lighten your mental load. 

Being 28 weeks pregnant has made the effects of minimising even more apparent. At a time when I find myself needing more rest than ever, I’ve been able to do just that because there’s no mess, surfaces are clear, and it’s quick and easy to vacuum and dust (our new dishwasher has simplified things even more – especially because my parents live with us).

I’m not having to worry about having enough space for the upcoming new addition to our family, because there’s now more than enough space to accommodate. 

In fact, having a new baby on the way is making me think of the stuff in my life even more. For example, my husband and I have been massively attached to our gaming room. It’s the place we go to chill out and play videogames, display our games, and even use as a workspace. 

But ultimately, we decided we could give up that luxury so that our second child has a room of their own (more essential because it is a girl and she’s going to be 6 years younger than my son who’s growing up way too fast). 

With that in mind I started minimising the gaming room quite early on, and while it started off hard, it’s now got to the point where I no longer feel attached and could happily pass it on , safe in the knowledge that most of it hasn’t been played in years, is realistically never going to get played again, and that most games are now available digitally. 

I also realise that I don’t need to have a Youtube worthy gaming display to prove that I love gaming. The way I do that is by actually playing them and letting them bring me hours of joy and excitement. 

Sitting on a shelf, they do nothing but take up space, look pretty, and add decision fatigue. The digital streaming services available now on all platforms have helped teach me that. And if I don’t play them while they’re available, I was never going to get around to doing so in the first place. 

Another hard thing I’ve done in the past few days is put my wedding dress and accessories up for sale. Initially, I felt sad, but when I brought the huge storage case down from the humid attic, I saw the space that had been created, and reminded myself that it would be far better bringing that same joy to somebody else than it sitting in less-than-ideal storage conditions, taking up valuable space. 

Some people are curious why the whole journey has been a process which has taken a couple of years. 

Before I was a minimalist, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. At first glance, I lived in a tidy environment, but it was bursting at the seams and I was forever organising and wishing for a bigger house so I could store more. Window ledges, cubby holes, shelves, cupboards, drawers and storage spaces were rammed with relics of my past, and things I thought I needed, and it was causing heated arguments between me and my husband (who was my fiance at the time). 

I also reacted to every whim for something new, be it a new phone, a new bag, a new journal, or another games console. These whims came all the time because deep down, I wasn’t happy and the satisfaction never lasted longer than a few days at most.

That hoarding and the constant buying was a result of years of deeply ingrained beliefs and trauma, and it’s taken a few years to get to where I am now with the mindset and beliefs I now have. Another factor is the seasons of life we all go through. 

What’s useful in one season of life may no longer serve in the future, so the minimalist journey never really ends. There will always be times where life needs a mindful reevaluation of where you’re going and what may no longer be serving you, although once you’ve done the main bulk of decluttering, it should never be as stressful or as time-consuming again, provided you stay mindful and vigilant of what comes into your life and why. 

Next time I post, I’d like to share with you all, our experience of having a brand new minimalist kitchen, and how it has changed our lives for the better. I feel it is a perfect example of the negative effects clutter can have on an entire family, and the unbelievable change in energy when clutter is dealt with.

Starve Your Inner Critic and Claim Back Your Power

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Almost everybody has an inner critic, that snide, sniggering, scoffing voice at the back of your head that says you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or deserving enough. 

And let’s face it -with all the ways we have to compare ourselves to everyone around us nowadays, as well as intense marketing designed to reinforce beliefs that you’re lacking in some way unless you buy their product, is it any wonder that those internal insults become ever louder?

“I’ll never be able to live like him/her”

“My writing’s crap compared to this”

“I’m not smart enough to go for the job I want”

“I’ll never be disciplined enough to achieve that because I’m a loser”

“I can’t”

“I’m not”

“I’ll never be…”

“I’m (insert insult here)”

Even the most successful and confident people out there struggle with that quiet, doubtful voice most of the time. The difference is, they’ve learned how to control it, and even use it as motivation. 

You’ve probably read and heard that a thousand times, and thought, ‘Well good for them for being born with that ability’. 

But it’s not an inborn ability that people either have or they don’t. It’s all about training and rewiring your brain to think and react differently.  That takes time and inner work. A lot of it. 

Granted, some people might find it a little easier than others, depending on their past, their circumstances, the people they hang around with, and their mental health. 

My inner critic, which I refer to as my inner gremlin,  used to be like a raging tsumani. All- consuming, all-powerful, endlessly destructive. And hungry for more. 

It never used to be like that. When I was a small child, I had boundless confidence and curiosity. I’d sit and write on my typewriter on the living room floor, or write a story in my notebook and race to show anyone who would read it. 

Like most young children, I truly believed I could be anything I wanted; an archaeologist, a TV presenter, a weather reporter, a famous author. 

What happened?

Circumstances growing up, plus being bullied throughout my whole school life, fed the inner gremlin that had started to emerge once all the other children started forming cliques and showing off their own unique personalities. 

I wasn’t like everyone else. I was inappropriate, loud, wore baggy, unfashionable clothes because everything else irritated me, and didn’t understand social jokes or cues. I wasn’t interested in the things others were interested in, or in talking about relationships. 

It wasn’t until early adulthood I got diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum. 

Anyway, the older I got and the more insults were thrown at me, the more I believed them. The more I saw the other people around me, the more inadequate I felt.  I didn’t need to be told I was ugly and worthless by other kids because my own inner bully had grown vicious and gigantic by that point. 

I’d tell myself I was vile and worthless. All the while, my inner gremlin fed and grew. 

Eventually, I stopped showing off my writing outside of school. I went through periods of self-harming, and my self-esteem was as low as it could get. 

As a young adult, I still had my dreams from childhood – my main one to be an author – but I had serious issues with my identity and with extremely defensive and angry behaviour in my relationships. 

Where did all this come from? My inner gremlin which had been gorging itself quite happily over the years on all of my negative thoughts and beliefs. 

Strangely enough, my first step into altering those terrible beliefs started when my mum came to my house one day with bags and bags of my old junk and clutter from childhood, which she had cleared from the attic. 

I was a hoarder, you see. But at the time I didn’t realise because I kept everything crammed out of sight or neatly lined up. 

Confronted with years of my own mess, I realised I had a serious issue with letting go of the past. In many ways, I was still living in it. 

I may have been an adult with a child and renting a home, but inside I was still that angry child pining for acceptance. 

That day, I let go of so much stuff, and when I did, I physically felt like this huge spiritual weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Years of attachments, sad memories, and old work finally where it belonged – in the trash. 

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

Something got sparked in me that day that triggered years of self growth, and opened the gate to minimalism. 

Because I was forced to question why I had been holding onto all that stuff, I started to ask myself deeper things, like where my beliefs came from, and why I felt the way I did. 

I started reading every self-help book I could get my hands on that appealed to the specific issues I had identified. Books about overcoming trauma, writing, confidence, self-improvement, and later on, minimalism. 

I didn’t just read these books once. I read them over and over, completing all the exercises inside them until I knew them off by heart and looking inside myself until it started to feel natural. 

It’s safe to say that those books, alongside the action I took, went a significant way in helping me to change who I had become, and started me on a path of acceptance and becoming my true self. 

For those of you who are interested, I will list some of those books at the end of this post, but keep in mind, your needs and what works for you might well be different, and that’s OK. 

Fast forward to the present and I’ve made this blog, started training to become a counsellor, taken some Udemy courses, written part of a book, and made a new friend (who is also a writer). I’ve also become brave enough to enter a couple of writing competitions. 

How did I silence my inner gremlin? I didn’t. Instead, I got strong enough to fight back and to co-exist with it in a healthy way. It’s nowhere near as big or as consuming as it was, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from writing or going for my dreams. 

It’s highly unlikely you will completely silence your inner critic because for the most part, its job is to try to protect us from pain and humiliation. That’s why so many of us remain stuck in jobs we hate, lives that are going nowhere, and relationships that don’t serve us. 

At its least destructive, it tells you to stay where you are, in comfortable waters, with everyone else. It halts and destroys dreams. 

At its most destructive, it becomes like mine did. A seething mass of hate, doubt, and negativity. 

The trick is to not feed it, and to gain power over it by fighting the inner demons that allow those beliefs to cement in your heart and mind. 

Let me give an example of the occasional things my gremlin will rasp, and the things I now say back. Perhaps some of it will resonate with you. 

Gremlin:

You’re dreaming if you think you’ve got a chance.

Just look at this article – no readers. You’re rubbish, may as well give up now.

You lead a rubbish uneventful life, people don’t care what you have to say.

What qualifies you, of all people, to think you can help others?

Me

Oh shut up, everyone started from zero. 

But I’m doing something I love. Which is more than what you can do. 

You’re just my inner critic, what do you know about writing and having fun? Nothing! 

Inner Gremlin, you’d never get anywhere with an attitude like that. You suck. You’re mediocrity itself. 

I can do what I want with my life, unlike you who can only criticise. 

I am qualified to help people because I desire to, have been through things which could be valuable to others, and am training. You don’t know a thing about helping – just critisising. 

I dare get my words out there regardless, and that’s awesome and more than most people will continue to do.

And you know what? Time after time of practising inner dialogue like that has turned the balance of power. 

I’ve taken its energy source, cut off its supply, and shrank it down by doing the thing it hates the most – taking action. 

Try it today. Argue back with your inner gremlin. Do it time and time again until it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance. 

Wage a war and confront your inner demons. Cut off its food supply. 

Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future. 

Oh, and here are the books I said I would link, but before I do that I would also like to give a mention to Anthony Moore on Medium whose stories and articles help keep me going even through the tough times.



Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The Helping Hand of Failure – Why I Recover Faster

Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

I’m not perfect. 

Nobody’s perfect. 

Yet there’s this expectation in society that if you don’t have a high-profile job and don’t own the latest and greatest stuff, you’re no good. 

Marketers constantly try to convince you you’re lacking in life if you don’t own the latest phone, celebrity endorsed cologne, or the sexiest sofa.

You’re not a good parent

You’re not a good runner

You’re not beautiful enough

Not smart enough

Not cool enough

Not happy with your life

But that’s OK because if you buy today, you can rest assured that you’ll be the envy of your friends, and you’ll be so much more interesting. 

We rarely realise it, but after a while, those messages add up into an essay about how much we lack,  and life starts to feel intensely unsatisfying. Depressing, even. 

While embracing minimalism definitely made me see that happiness doesn’t come from a delivery van, it certainly hasn’t made me immune to slipping up and making bad decisions. 

On this blog, I talk about achieving goals a lot and simplifying your life so that you can discover what’s really important to you. I even share my successes so that you can hopefully start to realise the potential in you. 

But what I don’t talk about often enough are my failures along the way. The times where I take five steps up the ladder but fall down ten. 

Let’s face it, even though we need failure to grow,  it’s embarrassing to talk about and even scarier to experience. 

First off, here’s a little bit about me so that you get a little bit of context: I’m generally happy and cheerful (sometimes to an annoying degree according to my husband), I have several obsessions including writing, reading, gaming, minimalism, and self-growth.

Come into my living room, and you will see that everything is a calming white and pastel green with loads of empty space. I’ve got my future planned out, an incredible family, and quality friends. 

But it wasn’t always like that, and sometimes I fall into the same quicksand I had escaped before, slowly sinking back into old habits and ways of thinking. 

I used to be a hoarder. Not the kind of hoarder you see on those TV shows, but an organised hoarder. I was in serious denial about how much I owned. It caused arguments with my fiance, and allowed me to carry on hiding behind my stuff. 

You can read the story here, but basically, I was keeping it all because I was deeply unhappy, didn’t believe in myself, and identified strongly with my past. 

It took my mum bringing it all down to my house and my husband threatening to bin the lot, for me to finally confront the lonely memories and dusty old beliefs that kept me clinging on. 

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Now, I am living and loving a minimalist lifestyle but although I’m reaping all the benefits, I’m not totally free of my old coping mechanisms. 

You see, minimalism will make your life a hell of a lot calmer and easier, and it will help you to discover yourself, but it won’t solve every problem for you. Especially those that are nestled deep inside. 

It also won’t cure bad habits because they won’t go straight in the trash with your physical clutter. Rather, they get recycled into new, useful habits. 

Sometimes, when things get me down like an argument, symptoms of chronic illness, or even writer’s block, I will find myself clicking over to Amazon and Ebay. Other times, I just feel stale in myself, like a mouldy piece of bread. 

Suddenly, the bag I bought just months before has a fault and I need a new one. I need a new game despite having a mile long list of unplayed titles. I could really do with that lovely looking lunch box as it will ensure my food doesn’t leak in my backpack (despite never having that issue).

Of course, those are all elaborate stories I weave in my mind which will lead to me buying the product of interest. 

As I click ‘buy’ I feel the anticipation of the item’s arrival and start getting rid of things that are relatively new. The dopamine rushes through me, even though I know deep down that two clicks and a parcel won’t bring me satisfaction. 

But my brain doesn’t care about that fact because of the temporary feelings of elation.

Days later, the package comes, and as the packaging goes in the bin, so does my excitement. I realise I didn’t really need it, that I could have saved the money, invested in more skills, or gone on a day trip.

‘Call yourself a minimalist? Ha! You’re a phoney, you’re weak’, my brain chatters. 

Just to be clear, I don’t have a shopping addiction, because these slips ups don’t happen very often. But the shame is no less intense, and the bad decisions can lead to me making other bad choices such as eating a luxurious helping of Nutella on toast when I know I’m gluten intolerant, or having a second glass of wine even though I know I’ve had enough. 

However, unlike in the past, I find that I can get back up from the fall much faster than before. The injury doesn’t go as deep. 

I know that I’m not a phony because I strongly believe in what I practise and what I say. As sickening as it sometimes feels, I acknowledge my mistakes, and that makes me self-aware. 

Experiencing failure makes you feel like masking the feelings that come with it, and all the mean things the gremlin in your brain might be hissing at you. 

But here’s the thing: the more failures you have, the more wise and resilient you become. You grow. You learn. You start to become aware of why you made those bad choices. 

I’ve discovered that, generally, when I’m craving something new and making up stories of validation, it’s not the stuff I’m craving but experiences. 

It’s not a new outfit I’m after, but love and acceptance. 

I don’t want to own new stuff, I want to see new places, learn new skills, walk a new path, blossom into who I know I can be. 

However, even though I’ve taken action and forged a new path for myself, the path is long, sometimes a forest gets in the way, and you know how excruciating it can be when what you want is just a little bit further, and a little bit further. 

But what we often forget is to enjoy that journey. We can get so focused on hacking through that forest that we don’t see the beauty, or notice the undergrowth teeming with life.  

The trick is, to not lurk in that beautiful forest for too long, and if you fall, get right back up. 

Remember who you are and what you stand for, and walk hand-in-hand with failure no matter how scary, because it is your best teacher, and your greatest friend. 

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

Clutter Culprits: How to Remain Vigilant

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Even the most seasoned minimalists will end up overwhelmed with more clutter if they don’t regularly keep on top of what comes in and what goes out of the home. Left unchecked, it’s easy to become complacent and end up back where you started. 

Below, I’ve listed some of the clutter culprits which you should be especially vigilant of. 

Pens

These get everywhere because they often get bought in packs. Unless you work at a school or in an office, don’t buy pens in packs because you’ll never get around to using the rest before they dry up and they will make your drawers messy.

Pens are also numerous in gift shops and are the next most common keepsake along with keyrings. Don’t be afraid to discard old pens, and if there’s one you love, see if you can buy refills instead of retiring it to a drawer. 

Notebooks

People are suckers for brand new, fresh notebooks or journals – myself included. I have so many journals from the past that are half-filled because I got fed up and wanted a new one. The same thing happens with notebooks, but people keep the old ones ‘just in case’, and before long there is a pile of half-full notebooks.

If you use physical notebooks, avoid buying them in packs unless you work at a company or school.

You can also consider using apps and take notes electronically, but this option isn’t for everyone. I’m a pen and paper person myself as the notes stick in my mind easier and I get more creative. 

Celebration cards

Recently, I recycled piles of these after discovering boxes full in the attic, some with names of people I no longer knew.

Cards multiply very fast because we appreciate the words that people write inside them, or people pass away and we can’t bear to throw away their handwriting.

When it comes to cards, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a select few  (I keep some beautiful and thoughtful ones in a photo album), but be sure to recycle the ones that just say ‘to’ and ‘from’, or from people you no longer recognise. You can also take photos of old cards and do away with the physical copy. 

Invitations

I once kept a hoard of old invitations in my bedroom drawer. They were so pretty and I was so honoured to have been invited to events that I kept them as a reminder. Ultimately, however, all I was keeping was junk and they got in the way.

A great event will stick in your memory so there’s no reason to keep an invite. But if there’s one you simply can’t get rid of, you could always place it into a photo album or a memory box. 

Newspapers

There’s no reason at all to keep newspapers unless there’s something valuable to you inside it. Even then, you should cut such a thing out rather than keep the whole thing. Nowadays, the same information is available online so it’s highly unlikely you’ll miss out by recycling. 

Magazines

Magazines cost more money than a newspaper, are eye-catching, and over-spilling with information. It’s no wonder that we find it so hard to throw away old magazines in case there is something great inside that we’ll never be able to read again.

But do you really ever go back and read that old information? I doubt it.

That being said, you can cut out the stuff that really interests you and recycle the rest. If it’s a collectable series, however, you can buy magazine binders which will make them beautifully presentable and read like a giant book. I took the latter option for my ‘Writers’ Forum’ collection. 

Junk Mail

Unless you’re genuinely interested in an advert or service, trash it as soon as it enters your home. Be fast and ruthless. 

Receipts

These end up yellowing in drawers and wallets until they become invisible. Bin old receipts, and better yet, if a shop offers you a digital receipt, opt for that, instead. 

Bills

Out of a sense of security we keep old paperwork and old bills, but more often than not, we don’t need them and they pile up into a miniature towers. It’s so simple today to scan and digitise anything you’re unsure of, or even to go paperless with companies.So ditch any old paperwork unless it’s very important. 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Keyrings

These get bought as gifts and holiday souvenirs more than anything else. But they’re so common as gifts we can end up with a whole haul.

Just a few weeks ago, I was travelling with a mass of about six keyrings on my house key, yet didn’t even notice until my husband stopped me before leaving for work and asked “Emma, why on Earth are you carrying such a heavy mass of keyrings for one bloody key?”. I didn’t know, either. Somehow, they had become invisible to me.

Once I realised the absurdity of it, I chose two favourites and used one to identify my house key, and another to give my bag some character. I donated the rest. 

Cables

Eventually, cables end up making a mini jungle. In today’s tech heavy world we own so many devices and all the cables and spares that come with them. Sometimes, we think we lose cables so end up buying even more, only to find the old one but keeping them ‘just in case’.

Years of this will not only make specific cables or parts hard to find, but you will end up with ancient, mysterious ones which are no longer relevant to anything you own.

As a gamer and a previous gadget addict, I have been to cable hell and back, once discarding of about three large carrier bags of unknown cables and ten USB leads. I’d say it’s fine to keep one spare, but any more than that and you’ll be lost in the cable jungle before you know it. 

Photo by Nick Dietrich on Unsplash

Batteries

Batteries end up all over the house or breeding in the ‘junk drawer’, especially if you have kids. Old batteries can explode or leak battery acid if they aren’t stored correctly, and can eventually drain of their power. Not to mention, they are extremely hazardous for small children.

Only keep the batteries you need and don’t bother holding on to any mystery batteries that don’t seem to fit into any device you own.  

Toiletries

Old half-full bottles of shampoo, freebies, Lynx gift sets and other toiletries will take over your bathroom if you don’t throw the old stuff away. If you have unused gifts, consider either using them before you buy more of a similar product, regifting or donating them. 

Medicine

Seasons come and go, and with them, coughs, colds and other ailments. One thing I’ve noticed with medicine cabinets is that nobody tends to throw old medicine away, keeping them ‘just in case’. Yet more medicine gets stockpiled every month or so until we are prepared for an apocalypse.

So, whenever you acquire new medication, discard of any old ones – it’s not healthy to have old medicine anyway, and they can also lose effectiveness over time. 

Makeup

Like with medicine, new makeup gets added but the old tends to stay in the back of the drawer. Always throw away old makeup because it’s the perfect hangout for bacteria. 

Mugs

People buy new mugs yet still hold on to scratched or chipped mugs ‘just in case’. People also like to prepare for huge tea parties that never happen, so every cup is a keeper.

Cups and mugs enter the home as gifts at various times of the year, as holiday souvenirs and as classy new kitchenware, and over time they fill every cupboard and end up stacked haphazardly.

Only keep the mugs you use and never keep scratched or chipped mugs because bacteria will thrive in them. 

Drinking glasses

These are another thing which enter the home as gifts, souvenirs and new kitchenware. I’ve seen families of three and four with enough glasses to host a party of a hundred, yet only a handful of them are ever used. Consider donating or recycling unused glassware. 

I’m sure I will have missed a category or two out, but as long as you keep an eye on most of the stuff mentioned above, you will have a fighting chance to keep your home calm and clutter-free.

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

Next week, watch out for ‘living with another person’s clutter’.


Decluttering Memory Lane

It’s time to take a trip down memory lane; this time to confront the emotional and sentimental objects in your life.

Sentimental objects are things which typically have memories attached or represent a happy or sad time in your past. For example, you might be keeping your old prom dress, a trophy you won back in school, or jewellery from an ex.  The hardest ones to deal with, however, are those you obtained from departed loved ones.

Before we go ahead, I would like to point out that there’s nothing wrong with keeping one or two objects of sentimental value to you, but once you own more than you can count on one hand, that’s when it starts to become emotional clutter which can keep you from moving forwards.

Most sentimental objects end up in attics, crammed to the back of drawers or line our shelves with an aura of wistfulness and guilt. Mine were mostly in the attic, hidden away in boxes which were buried under other boxes.

Last month, I started thinking about my old typewriters I kept as a kid because they reminded me of the time I first started writing. At the time they were painful to get rid of because of the words I had punched onto paper, but I’ve since realised that getting rid of my typewriters never made me any less of a writer, nor did I need an object to remind me of who and what I am.

However, I kept other piles of sentimentality stashed away.

I kept old school work because I liked to look back on positive teacher feedback to be reminded that I was a capable human. I also couldn’t bear to throw away years of work.

I kept boxes of old Christmas and birthday cards, some of which I didn’t even remember the names written in them. I even kept cards from where I was first called ‘Sister in Law’, and ‘Daughter in Law’, because it felt amazing to be accepted into my fiance’s life.

I kept objects from past relationships, even old jewellery which had long since tarnished.

I kept a Dick Turpin mug which once belonged to my uncle and which I was terrified of as a child. We made it into a constant joke as I grew up which is why I kept it – to remember the smiles and laughter we always shared.

I kept my old Woolworths uniform because I had been so sad when it shut down.

I kept my old school shirt from when I left school. It had yellowed with age and gone damp from being kept in the attic. School was not a place of happy memories for me, yet I clung to the memories with this top.

When I became minimalist and finally confronted my sentimental items, I felt so light inside that I could have floated away. For the most precious objects I ordered a beautiful ,small memory box to keep them in.

With a small memory box, I would be far less inclined to fill it with every passing moment instead of the warmest, most treasured memories.

Here’s how you too, can release the anchors of the past, and let go of the guilt:

Cards and letters

We tend to keep cards and letters because they remind us of the people we care about or once knew in our lives. Some even remind us of significant milestones in life such as moving house, having a baby, or passing exams. Others might be written by people who have passed away.

We imagine we will revisit and read them in years to come, but of course, we never do. Over the years these written treasures stack up and take up lots of space in your home and your heart.

With cards and letters the best thing you can do is to go through each one slowly. If you no longer remember the person whose name is in the card, or they’re no longer relevant in your life, recycle them.

It’s amazing how fast time passes and how our lives change so dramatically in that time, not just with circumstances but with people and feelings.

You don’t need to keep cards from milestones in your life such as passing an exam or moving house. They would’ve made you feel great at the time, but if you got rid of them, does that mean you’ll no longer have your qualifications or the roof over your head? Of course not!

If, however, a specific card or letter warms your heart, you can do what I’ve done, and keep them in a photo album alongside photos of the person or happy times. Not only will they be protected, they will present beautifully for your pleasure in the future.

You can also keep them in a memory box for those days you’re feeling especially nostalgic.

A nostalgic, yellowed pile of old letters and photos

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Objects from loved ones

Objects from loved ones can be some of the hardest things to deal with, so if you struggle, take your time to evaluate each once. Don’t rush and don’t feel as if it all has to be dealt with in one day (unless that’s how you operate and you know that leaving it would lead to procrastination).

Accepting that part of your life or that a person is no longer in it is difficult, but when you let go of the objects that are tethering you to those times, you will instantly feel as light as a passing cloud.

For the longest time I kept an old teddy bear keyring that my childhood best friend had bought me from holiday. We grew apart once we went to secondary school (which upset me a lot at the time) and I held onto that bear until I was in my late twenties.

As soon as that bear was donated to the charity shop, I found I didn’t even think about it or feel the guilt I imagined I would.

Stuff from people who have passed away will require deeper contemplation. In my previous post, I talked briefly about furniture belonging to passed away loved ones.

If it’s kept in an attic, it will eventually get warped by heat or damp and mildew, so if you don’t plan to use it, it’s better to pass it on rather than waiting for that inevitable moment you find it damaged.

Like with cards and letters, we cling onto such objects because of the memories and the people we associate with them. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few objects like grandma’s sentimental necklace or aunty’s favourite teacup, but if you aren’t mindful you can end up with a shrines worth of stuff accumulating in your attic and other parts of your house.

When this happens, your home can end up becoming a portal to the past rather than a place to be present and aim for the future.

Rest assured, by letting go of the objects you’re clinging to out of guilt or fear of losing those memories; you won’t lose the memories and you aren’t dishonouring the person by passing their things on to people who could give them a second chance.  

What would be sad would be to hide it away, unused, unloved and with an aura of stress and guilt attached. Objects that mean a lot to you should be being used or displayed in some way, or stowed in a small memory box, and if they aren’t they’re serving as nothing but an anchor which others will have to deal with when you’re gone.

You can preserve memories of sentimental objects by taking photos and either putting them in an album or storing it digitally. That way you can look back on the sentimental stuff and instead of taking floor or cupboard space it takes up data.

Remember: people aren’t their stuff just like you’re not your t-shirt or your CD collection. Strip your favourite things away, and you’re still the same person you always were, with the same traits, same people you love and same values.

You wouldn’t suddenly forget your uncle because they gave away their thirty-year-old vinyl collection, so why assume you will lose memories of them if you do so? The true memories are in your heart.

Family heirlooms

Family heirlooms are similar to dealing with objects from people who have passed away. That antique mirror may have been in your family for generations, but if you don’t like it or will never use it, try asking others in your family if they would like to take ownership. If not, that’s a sure sign that it can be donated or sold on.

Don’t keep the object out of guilt, just waiting for it to be passed on to the next generation who may feel obliged to keep it and continue the cycle of guilt.

Old hobby equipment

As the years pass our hobbies and interests can change. I used to be obsessed with fossils as a child and kept a tin of them along with some pretty stones I had collected on the beach with my parents.

I no longer collect fossils, and know that if I wanted to see some, there are plenty of museums near me to satisfy that itch.

With the pretty stones, I repurposed them into an eye-catching display on the window ledge in my hobby room. It just so happened that their pastel shades matched my colour scheme perfectly, as well having joyful memories attached.

Letting go of collections for old hobbies is freeing because it allows you to let go of your old self to fully embrace the present you.

For example; I used to like working out and applied for a gym membership, but my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome meant I had to treat my body much more gently. So I eventually let go of my workout clothes and now take weekly walks, instead.

You might simply lose interest in a hobby and that’s perfectly normal. If you’ve owned the related stuff for over a year and can’t see yourself going back to it, pass it on so it can be useful to someone else with that hobby.


Photo by Justin Bashore on Unsplash

Old clothes

When I was doing a clear-out of my attic last year, I discovered bags upon bags of maternity wear and baby clothes. In a strange effort to hold onto the memories of carrying my little boy inside me, I had kept those clothes, and then kept the clothes he wore up to his first year.

The sad thing was, some of them were too damp and smelly to pass on, even when put through a wash. And it wasn’t as if I’d ever gone up to look back on them, or that either of us would be wearing those clothes again.

You might keep sentimental clothes for similar reasons, or you might keep clothes as a reminder of when you were a certain weight, or attended a memorable event.

Clothes take up a lot of space and if they aren’t stored correctly, end up getting damaged or unwearable. Not to mention, they can cause endless frustration when stowed away and mixed up with all your current wear.

The bottom line is, if you don’t wear it, donate it. Make space for the new and the current.

And if there’s a special t-shirt you simply must keep but no longer wear, why not iron it and put it in a frame? It would make a deeply personal and unique decoration in any room you desired.

On a similar note, if you’re especially creative with crafting, you could cut up and repurpose old clothes into new objects.

The purpose of this article isn’t to get you to give up everything you love, but to help make the space in your heart and your home for the things that you do.


Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

If I’ve missed anything or there’s something you would like advice on, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. It may even end up in the next post. Next week, I will talk about sheds and garages.