While decluttering and pursuing minimalism, you may notice that you think about your stuff more than you ever did before. Not only do you find yourself evaluating every object in your home, but when you go shopping, you’re hyper aware of everything in your basket and turn the willpower up to max. But it’s only temporary -you’re aiming for your future self to live a much simpler and more serene life by doing the hardest work in the present. The mindful shopping will become far more natural over time and the decision making will become faster and faster until it’s almost instant. Depending on your mindset and circumstances, it can take a few months to a couple of years to reach a state you’re happy with. Once you’ve reached that state, all you need to do is remain mindful of future purchases and stay vigilant with the things which enter your home, be it junk mail, takeaway menus, paperwork or a new set of knives. Today, for example, I bought a new bag, but I did this with the bag in mind that I was going to get rid of. In fact, when I brought it home, I ended up purging two bags in its place. I always aim to do this for every new thing that I purchase; books, clothes, shoes, and recently, my video games.
As time goes on, I find myself purging more and more stuff that no longer complements my lifestyle, but sometimes it can be difficult and take a significant amount of time to let certain things go. Quite often, these are objects with an aura of sentimentality or gift status attached. Such decisions often require a plentiful reserve of emotional energy and inner calm, but it is amazing how once the decision has been made, said object will usually lose the hold of guilt or nostalgia it had over me.
With perseverance and a calm mind, you too, can reclaim that power and one be step closer to a freer, happier, more mindful you.
Whether you go to bed at night to sleep, or simply go to your bedroom to rest and get away from the bustle of life, you want a haven of tranquility. Somewhere you can recharge your batteries. But wait. Your nightstand is a mess of books, medication, coins, makeup, glasses and other bits ‘n’ bobs that have made themselves at home. What’s more, your drawers are full and you hate going through them to find what you need. When you go to get dressed in the morning, you’re paralysed by indecision about what to wear and can’t find your favourite pair of jeans. And forget about sitting on that chair which the heap of clothes is enjoying.
If any of it does, you won’t truly be able to rest or get any quality relaxation because your eyes will be constantly drawn to the clutter and the to do’s.Even when hidden from sight, clutter causes hidden stress and makes you want to avoid certain parts of the room. Like the living room, bedrooms can also end up part of regular mammoth organising sessions, when all you should really have to do is make the bed and put away laundry.
Bedrooms should only ever contain the things you need to get dressed and help you relax.
Because night stands are often a clutter magnet, I am going to bullet point the things to keep in a nightstand so that you end up with a clear surface which only serves to hold a lamp, clock, glass of water, and glasses if you wear them. Surprised I didn’t say phone? That’s because phones don’t belong in a bedroom – ever! Not only can the blue light they emit disrupt quality sleep, they are temptations to access at inappropriate times and clutter your mind with digital noise. They’re also incredibly tempting to pick up and browse after a bad dream, which would, of course, have the opposite effect of getting you back to sleep. In fact, no kind of technology that could pose as a distraction should reside in bedrooms. TV’s and laptops are a no-no because they emit blue light, and also have the potential to take away intimacy and conversation if you have a partner. Keeping technology out of the bedroom trains your mind to associate the bedroom with rest and relaxation instead of entertainment and anxiety.
Without further ado, here’s a guideline to minimalistic and stress-free bedside tables and drawers:
Glasses if you wear them
Glass of water
Lamp or small plant
Alarm clock (NOT a smartphone alarm)
A book or magazine you’re currently reading
Medications you might need during the night such as an inhaler. Other medications should be kept in a secure medicine container in the bathroom or kitchen.
A notebook or journal. Keeping a journal in your bedside drawer is fantastic for brain-dumping worries or to do’s that can keep you awake, and is infinitely healthier than simply picking up your phone to do some mindless swiping. Instead of posting how anxious or awake you feel to social media, journal it. It’s far more therapeutic than a screen. It’s also perfect for recording dreams and for taking inspiration if you’re a writer.
A small makeup bag if you wear makeup (I don’t personally wear makeup).
A small puzzle book. If you can’t get to sleep, some simple puzzles can help your brain to tire and distract it from going around in circles.
Anything else that is personal to you that you frequently access during evenings or times of relaxation.
Now that we’ve spoken about good rest hygiene and bedside drawers, it’s time to tackle other problem areas, such as accent chairs that end up drowning in clothes. As family, chronic illness and work life took its toll, I used to leave my clean laundry for weeks at a time. Clothes would spill out of the laundry basket until it became a makeshift wardrobe full of random socks, crumpled tops and long-missing jeans. Meanwhile, my actual wardrobe would be three quarters empty and it took much longer to find the clothes I wanted, which would often be so creased I simply moved them aside and dug for more until I had no choice. Eventually, I decided enough was enough and that I was going to iron out my procrastinating ways once and for all. Ever since then, I always put my clothes away as soon as they are dry, therefore, I have no need for a spare laundry basket to be taking up space. It takes five minutes and it’s far less overwhelming to put away a washing machine load than a week’s worth or more.
Unless you have a very good reason (and I don’t mean catching up on Netflix) put washing away immediately and never, ever sling them over a chair or other piece of furniture. Once you do that, I can guarantee that the next time you look it will seem as if the clothes have been breeding. Storing clothes on a chair, or even on the edge of a bed, gives subconscious permission that it is OK to store clothes there ‘temporarily’. And we all know that ‘temporarily’ becomes ‘accidentally permanent’, because in the end, you block it out as if it’s part of the furniture itself. In a room of peace and tranquility, that’s not what you want to happen. If you do have a chair in your bedroom, keep it clear and use it for drying hair, reading a book or having a conversation.
A few more spots of interest to consider are the window ledge and the top of the wardrobe or dresser. The top of my wardrobe used to be a miniature city full of boxes, wrapping paper, soft toys and other random stuff. Be aware that the top of your wardrobe is a place which can quickly accumulate loads of storage boxes where random objects get stowed away. It’s fine to keep a box of out-of-season clothing stashed up there, but do not, under any circumstances, start to use it as a general storage area. Remember: clutter attracts more clutter. If you find that is an issue for you, perhaps it is time to consider whether those objects add any value to your life, are simply taking up space, or belong elsewhere. The same goes for under-bed storage. It should only really be used for clothes and spare blankets or linen. With other surfaces such as a dresser or window ledge, it’s perfectly fine to have a plant or a couple of photos dotted around; just don’t go overboard or it starts to become cluttered, distracting, and hard to manoeuvre a duster round. A jewellery box or ‘pocket junk’ dish are perfectly practical things to stand on a dresser, as is a precious photo or object.
Finally, for those of you who wear jewellery and makeup but struggle to store it; a great solution is to buy a standing floor mirror which doubles as a jewellery and storage cabinet. This removes the need for a jewellery box and frees up drawer space, as well as giving you a convenient mirror. They’re often lockable, too, giving you peace of mind for your more precious accessories.
You may be wondering why I haven’t talked about the inside of wardrobes. That’s because I am going to dedicate an entire post to sorting them out once and for all, along with dresser drawers. Now I have covered the main living areas, my next posts are going to cover kitchens, bathrooms, hobby rooms and attics.
Something I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments, or simply tell me about your own minimalism journey. I’d love to hear it.
I know that I said my next post was going to be about bedrooms (it is), but this morning I’ve been thinking about the other ways minimalism has helped me, which doesn’t just involve the physical stuff in my life. It is of utmost importance to share this because so many people think of minimalism as just being an extreme form of decluttering, when it is about so much more than that. What follows is a deeply personal post which I feel could help those of you who have struggled all your lives with your possessions, with the people in your lives, and/or with yourselves.
I was bullied all through school from the day I started to the day I left, had terribly destructive relationships with some of the most important people in my life, and grew up with horrendous self-esteem. This manifested itself in a myriad of ways, including: over-the-top anger, being quick to defend myself in innocent conversations, allowing others to verbally abuse me (and feeling I deserved it), not having a true sense of identity or purpose (which caused a lot of issues in intimate adult relationships), inadvertently hurting others, and clinging onto people much like I did the stuff I continued to surround myself with.
By the time I went to college, a few years after leaving school, I had made a handful of real friends, entered a relationship, and perfected a mask of being happy-go-lucky, which eventually became a genuine part of myself. I’ve always loved helping others and it didn’t matter how others treated me, so long as they were there in my life. Just like I thought that owning more cool stuff would make me happy, I thought that the more people I had in my life, the more worthy a person I was.
As I went through life, I struggled to hold down jobs due to long-term health issues, fought with my identity, and exhibited inappropriate and negative behaviours which caused friction with the people I loved. Eventually, I got diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum ,which gave me answers as to why I struggled so much at school, as well as having chronic illnesses Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Many years later, I learnt to manage all of those things, but I still had major issues with accumulating and hoarding possessions, with the people in my life, and with who I was as a person. Even after landing a stable job and having a beautiful son with my lovely fiance, I was a mess. I wanted to be the best parent I could possibly be, as well as being a reliable partner, friend, and co-worker. I wanted to inspire my son, and others. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t see the light illuminating my path , for all my possessions were hiding it.
There were several factors which propelled me towards discovering minimalism; the fateful day where my mum brought all the anchors from my past down from her attic and over to my house, and the deaths of some people I knew. I haven’t spoken about those deaths but I started to think about how people were remembering them and I wondered if they had any regrets in the ways they lived their lives. If they could go back in time, would they do things any differently? Would they have followed their true passions in life? My passion has always been writing, my ultimate dream to be an author of several books, yet everything I had written was hidden away in the attic and on Google Docs. I was too under confident to share my writing, even though I so desperately wanted to help and entertain others.
Thinking deeply about my own life, and about how I wanted zero regrets, I started on a journey of rapid self-growth, reading every self-help book I could get my hands on and completing all the exercises, consistently applying the concepts to my life the best I could. I read books about how to be confident,how to talk to other people, how to heal from the past, how to achieve my goals, how to recover from toxic relationships, how to heal my inner child, how to discover my purpose in life, and how to handle my emotions in a more positive manner. While all of the books I read certainly helped me to a degree, nothing helped me grow as a person half as much as when I discovered and started practicing minimalism. I devoured every book and website I could on the subject, as well as discovering for myself, the amazing long-term benefits of the lifestyle.
As I dramatically reduced my possessions and started to think deeply about what was important to me and why, my true self started to emerge. My true values, my true beliefs, the false beliefs that had been keeping me chained. Once I was satisfied with my new environment, I began true self-growth which was far more rapid than before. I looked at everything from my job, to my writing passion, to my beliefs, to the people in my life, and I started to intensely evaluate those things just like with my physical stuff. Instead of trying to change the people around me, or hoping they would change, I started to change myself. Because, ultimately, the person I was least happy with was myself. I was giving off a negative self-image, and I certainly wasn’t inspiring to others. By being so ashamed of myself, I was allowing others to treat me how I was feeling, so the solution was to start treating myself with and believing myself to be worthy of love and respect, just like everyone else on this planet.
As my confidence and self-esteem grew, I worked on some of my closer relationships, and cut off some which were bringing me down. Cutting off the toxic ones was even more freeing than decluttering my belongings, because suddenly there was more room, and far more time and energy for the relationships that mattered. I was also able to look at the toxic relationships for what they were, and why I was clinging onto them in the first place. The most amazing thing? I felt no guilt for doing so. Because cultivating my self-respect and self-worth, and putting more energy into the positive relationships is far more rewarding. I’ve since, also taken my writing far more seriously and began working towards achieving my dream of being an author and inspiring others.
Without minimalism, I never would have been able to do that.
I still have a ways to go, for true self-growth is continuous, never stopping, even for a moment. Just like the image above, life continues to be blotched with the shadows of challenging times, but I am far more equipped to take those challenges head on, and learn from them. As I continue on the minimalist path, I hope to continue growing and helping others to do the same.
What do you see when you imagine a living room? Most likely, you think of an organised and stress free room for being with family and entertaining guests. A place to put your feet up, make memories with the ones you love, and not have to be tidying every five minutes. Yet living rooms are usually the one room people overwhelmed by clutter most want to do something about. Magazines, letters, kids homework, books, kids toys, DVD’s, games consoles, spare cables, shoes, trinkets and photos, are all stuff which tend to take over most living rooms. And with so many things, there’s usually many pieces of furniture to accommodate it all, leaving little space for living. Quite often magazines, books, letters and small miscellaneous items such a toys or pens end up strewn all over the coffee and dining table, so it becomes a like a game of chess, negotiating your next move so that you can place your cup down or make space to eat.
However, before you read any further in this post, I want you to think once again about why you are minimising. I’ve listened to so many people rejoice in having tidied their living spaces, only to throw their arms up in despair when they’re back to the same old mess in the space of a week. “I give up!”, they say. “It’s a waste of time and energy!”. This is because people tend to tidy and organise, but don’t confront the main issue: too much stuff. Precious spare time gets spent on cleaning under and around objects, maintaining them, and tidying up again and again and again. Meanwhile, invitations and other more fulfilling endeavours get turned down because things inside the home end up taking priority.
Think about what it is you want from your living space? What does it mean to you? What value will the increase in space provide to you? Why have you been holding on to the objects that keep taking over your space? Without answering these questions, you’re likely to end up throwing your arms up in despair once again as your space gets taken back over.
Back when I was renting a house, I used to have several consoles hooked up and video games displayed in the TV unit -there was nowhere else for them to go. I had a bookcase which was so full of books, the books started acting as a shelf for more books, and so many DVDs and Blu-rays that I ran out of space. Yet I rarely watched or played any of them. My window ledges were lined with too many photos and candles. Cleaning took forever because I had to move and manoeuver under and around all the stuff I owned. The one place that was always clear, though, was the dining table, because as an adult I’ve always strongly believed that families should be able to come together to eat. Growing up, the only time my own family tended to use the dining table to eat together was at Christmas;the rest of the time everyone would just gather around the TV and sit on the sofa to eat. As you know, before I was forced to confront my hoarding, everything was rammed into drawers and cupboards – anywhere that was out of sight. I started to clear up my act but hadn’t yet discovered minimalism, and as a result, I still had far too much stuff. That much became apparent when my family moved from renting to owning our own home.
When we bought our home we entered into the unique situation of cohabiting with my parents. So that everyone continued to have their own space, we had a 2 storey extension built which would be our living room and bedroom. Those rooms now occupy where the side of the house where the garden sheds used to be, so as you can imagine, they are long and very narrow. At the time, all our excess belongings were being stored in the attic until we had furnished the rooms. Where on Earth would I put all of this stuff?
When I was searching for new furniture for our living room, I saw so many photos and showrooms of beautiful living spaces, and I always thought ‘Why can’t mine be like that?’. I’d gaze at the photos or walk around the showrooms and imagine myself totally relaxed on the sofa with a book in my hand, and with a clear mind, then I’d look at all my unpacked books, DVD’s and trinkets and come back to reality, thinking, ‘It’s for show, of course it isn’t realistic, my living room’s too narrow, and it’ll never fit all my stuff’. I was wrong.
My problem was, I was more focused on the decor and on the furniture pieces themselves, than on the real reason these rooms were so appealing; the airy amount of space that was being showcased. Dressers with nothing on them except for a small lamp, coffee tables with a single decorative piece or nothing on at all, a bookcase with just a few books which were shown off by carefully selected ornaments. The rooms were completely clutter free.
It took me so long to figure out that simple concept because I was still so attached to my things that I couldn’t imagine being without any of it. While I’d successfully cleared out the relics of my childhood, I couldn’t imagine my shelves and surfaces being completely clear of all the mugs, soft toys, books, DVD’s, gothic figures, candles, and Disney snow globes that lined them. And it was horrific for me to even think about parting with any of my books. All I could think was ‘I need a bigger room so that I can get more furniture to space my things out more’. I was stuck in a consumerist trap, looking to buy the illusion of more space instead of create it.
It was while I was researching the best way to organise my stuff yet again, that I discovered the term ‘minimalism’. Fascinated and delving further into it, I came across a whole plethora of books, websites and groups dedicated to this way of living. Excited and intrigued to discover that there was a much simpler and fulfilling life to be lived, it wasn’t long before I found myself filling up bag after bag with stuff for the charity shop. I didn’t need all those candles and every single photo on display. Nor did I need the sheer amount of books I was keeping, most of them yellowed with age. That familiar feeling of weight lifting from my shoulders, of being able to breathe like I’d never breathed before was immensely exhilarating. And I found that the more I donated, the more stuff I realised I didn’t need.
At first, that set of statuettes on your window ledge may not seem like clutter. But when held in the hand and evaluated, you realise that not only do they not match your current theme, you bought them on a whim in an ‘end of year’ sale. Those books which are using the books below them as a shelf: how many of them have you read? Did you enjoy them and will you really read all of them again? You can enjoy a great sense of accomplishment by donating books you won’t read, or books that are pre-loved so that somebody else can enjoy them. I found that by donating so many of my books, I was actually reading more than I’d ever done with three shelves full. Now I only keep the books I will read again that added something special to my life. The rest I either buy on Kindle or do the ‘one in one out’ method where if buy a book I get rid of an older one or I donate it when I’m finished. It’s the same story for DVD’s. In an age where most movies are available digitally, do you really need five shelves crammed with them? When was the last time you put a disc into your machine? And do you intend to watch them again? If you do, and your joy comes from being a movie buff and showing off your collection, that’s totally fine. But if you said ‘someday’, realise that word is one of the top reasons people end up overwhelmed with their possessions. Magazines are another thing which can turn into unruly piles. You can get rid of old issues, but if there’s a series you can’t bear to part with you can buy magazine cord binders which will keep your collection pristine and like a giant book. I did just that with my Writers Forum collection, now it sits proudly on my bookshelf where I flip through for occasional bouts of inspiration.
Remember: minimalism isn’t about getting rid of the things you love, but about only keeping the things which add value to your life in the present day.
By going through every object in your living room, it’s possible you might end up not needing as much storage or as much furniture as you first thought.Through evaluating and donating so many of my possessions I was able to get rid of two large pieces of furniture which were being used for storage and display. Now, despite the living room being so narrow, there is plenty of airy space to relax, to be with family, to pursue hobbies, for my son to play, and to entertain guests. And there’s nothing I like more than to put my feet up at night, light a candle and read a good book. None of that would be possible if I still had all of my possessions from before. What’s more – cleaning and tidying is effortless and takes a third of the time it used to.
You may be wondering where the ‘how to’ guide is in this post. The truth is that living rooms are such personal spaces that it’s hard to write a specific ‘How and what to declutter’ guide. Walking into our living room, one can instantly tell that I love books, specifically books about writing. One can also instantly tell that we love our family and our space. It is my hope that you will come away from this post better equipped to think about what is truly important to you, and therefore, discover what isn’t. Only then can you make true and lasting progress.
In my next post, I will talk about the bedroom, and how to make it into a haven of peaceful sleep and relaxation.
How to declutter and create a welcoming entrance to your abode
When people first think about decluttering they automatically tend to think of the living room; the knick-knacks, newspapers, books, toys, mystery objects and paperwork left laying around. What people rarely mention is the hallway or entrance to their home. The entrance to your home is the first thing you see after a long, hard day, and the last thing you see after leaving. It makes an impression on everyone who walks through it, especially you.Therefore, your hallway or entrance should be one of the most welcoming places in the home, there to remind you that you will soon be able to put your feet up, be yourself, and spend time doing what matters. Walking into your home should be like a warm embrace, yet I’ve seen a lot of these spaces being used as open-storage for things which don’t otherwise have a place, or being overrun by eight coats and twenty pairs of shoes.
Hallways and entrances should only contain the things that you need for leaving home such as coats, shoes, hats and umbrellas. Of course, you can have decor which adds a vibe of your choosing- everyone has their own style. But there shouldn’t be an overabundance of clothing or objects.
Let’s talk about the issues with having too many coats and shoes. You and I both know, that such attire tends to take up a lot of space – so much, in fact, that when guests arrive, you just tell them to sling their coats over the stair post, or leave them draped on your dining chairs. Not to mention, each time you leave the front door you have to make a decision about what to wear, which takes precious time and energy.
Imagine walking into a spacious hallway with plenty of free coat hooks and space for guests to leave their shoes. The feeling of airy spaciousness and nothing for you to tidy when you walk through the door. Imagine being able to quickly made a decision about which coat and shoes to wear when you leave, no visual clutter stressing you out and no worrying about the impression on visitors. Relaxing, isn’t it?
So if you find yourself drowning in your hallway and rushing through it to escape the clutter,it’s time to take action. I realise that many people have issues with their families’ belongings when it comes to the decluttering process, but unless your significant other or family member is already on-board with the idea, just focus on your own stuff for now.
Firstly, take down all your coats and evaluate each of them. Ask yourself; how often do I wear this coat? Do I enjoy wearing it? Do I really need three different coats for a rainy day? If you struggle to get coats to match your outfits, the trick is to get a coat that is neutral and will go with most things you wear. It may even be worth checking your wardrobe for the clothes you wear the most (more about wardrobes and clothes in later posts).
One of the best methods you can adopt when it comes to clothing is an ‘in with the new, out with the old’ philosophy. That way, when you buy a new pair of shoes or a new coat, you do so knowing that you intend to donate, sell, or trash the old one. Failure to follow that simple rule will ensure that you’re always drowning in decision making, tidying and searching. And nobody wants to live life like that.
Aside from coats and shoes, there’s another thing that tends to clutter up hallways and imbue a feeling of dread or procrastination -paperwork and unopened mail. I’m not talking about the mail that simply lands on your mat as it comes through the letterbox, but the mail that is left to pile up in the next available space. Some people leave it lying around on hallway consoles and on window ledges so it is bugging them as they leave for work and greeting them with a ‘to do’ list as soon as they re-enter the home. My recommendation for mail, is to have a specific drawer, cupboard or folder where everything can be effortlessly accessed at a moments notice. “But I need a reminder to pay my bills”, you say. In that case, I recommend using a calendar, either physical or digital. Personally, I use a physical diary, preferring to cut down on the digital cacophony that has become part of modern life. Everyone’s methods will be slightly different.
Lastly, don’t leave kids toys, rogue bags, receipts or any other miscellaneous items hanging around your entrance. If anything is out of place, put it back where it belongs immediately, preferably before you even leave your home. That way, you know you’re leaving the place exactly as you want to return to it (unless, of course, you have messy family members, in which case, further posts about living with other people’s clutter might be for you).
But what about creating a relaxing vibe that you’ll always be happy to walk into? If you’re worried about things looking too sparse or are worried about other issues such as lighting, there are several things you can do:
Plants and greenery do wonders to spruce up any room, and having one or two in your hallway can make the environment feel fresh and airy. You can also use a diffuser to ensure you are constantly greeted by a pleasant aroma of your choice, although you’ll want to keep them in a spot where they won’t get knocked over or explored by tiny hands.
Personalise with photos of friends and family, or give the walls some character with a few select pieces of art – don’t go overboard with this, however, as too much can make a room feel cluttered.
Furniture doesn’t have to be boring – for example, you can buy stylish and decorative umbrella stands for a very affordable price. Having an umbrella stand will also take away the temptation for people to leave wet umbrellas draining over the floor.
Think about lighting – a hallway struggling for light may benefit from a strategically placed mirror. Mirrors can also help make narrow spaces look a little wider. Failing that, a beautiful or stylish lamp can make a big difference. In my own home, we had the living room and kitchen doors replaced with glass panelled ones so that the light from those rooms would filter through.
The most important thing, however, is to treat the entrance to your home with love and respect. Doing so can and will make a big difference to your mood and your attitude to the rest of the house.
Next, I will be talking about how to declutter your living room and make the perfect respite for you and your guests.
If you have any questions or if there’s something I haven’t covered, feel free to leave a comment.
Over the years there
are many lessons I have learnt when it comes to decluttering, and it is these lessons
I will share with you before going into decluttering specific rooms and
furniture. Without these small nuggets
of wisdom, it is easy to lose motivation or even hamper your attempts to live a
Firstly, it’s counter-productive to buy more
storage. Once-upon-a-time, whenever I ran out of storage space I would either
buy one of those plastic under-the-bed boxes, or I would buy larger pieces of
furniture. At the time I didn’t realise
that all that was doing was encouraging me to keep stuff that no longer served
me. I was organising and re-organising my clutter again and again, whilst
telling myself that more storage was the answer. It isn’t.
Secondly, clutter is something that you need to
keep on top of every single day, because clutter accumulates over the years as
our tastes change, as Christmases, birthdays and other celebrations fly by, and
as paperwork comes into the home. Once you become complacent and allow the odd
piece of paperwork or the occasional old t-shirt to remain in storage, before
you know it, the paperwork has become a mountain of overwhelm and the clothes
are back overflowing the drawers. You’re
back living in Clutterville and all your hard work feels completely meaningless.
I’ve watched people despair that they had an all-day tidying session, only for
it to look ‘as if a tornado passed through the house’ days later. To truly be in control of your environment,
not only must you be mindful of what goes into your shopping bags and what you
already own, you must continue to be in tune with your emotions, and the
tendency to hold on to your possessions. As I discussed in my previous post, it
is of utmost importance that you understand the relationship between you and
Thirdly, it does get easier. The more you declutter, and the more of your true-self that emerges, the easier it will become to discern between what’s important to you and what can go to be loved by somebody else.
So how exactly does one go about decluttering so many years of stuff? You start off small, and with what is immediately in your line of sight.
For example; if you’re
more like I was, and drawers and cupboards are hiding the mess, then start off by
emptying one. Just one. By setting yourself that one small challenge to begin
with, you’re much less likely to become overwhelmed and give up. Tasks are much
more do-able and easier to stick to when they are chunked. However, if you feel
the motivation to keep going, then definitely do so! Just focus on one small
part of the room or on one piece of storage at a time.
If surfaces are an issue for you and are crowded with years old trinkets that have gone through many themes of decor in your home, it can feel almost impossible to get started. In that case you need to ask yourself some serious questions: How many of them do you really need? Do they add anything of value, or do they make you feel stressed and uncomfortable? Do they have memories attached? Were they just on sale at the time? Were they an unwanted gift? Go through each item and feel for which ones truly make you happy to display.
As you get into a
flow of decluttering, you’ll naturally start to notice other objects that completely
eluded your attention in the past. Perhaps you’ll discover handfuls of ballpoint
pens and several pads of unused paper – I did. And what about those old books? Should
you donate the ones you know you will never touch again so that somebody else
may enjoy them? Why have you still got that old chipped mug?
With all this in mind, please remember that you don’t have to get rid of everything all in one go, even if you are just working on a small corner. If getting rid of one object a day is all you can manage to begin with, then go with that. Any progress is better than no progress at all. For many people, the path to minimalism is a challenge because of the deeply ingrained beliefs that come from marketers, a consumerist society, sentimentality, and guilt. If you struggle with letting go, it is a lengthy and emotional journey, and it is important to tackle large projects with a calm mind, in bite-size chunks.
Persist in the journey towards minimalism,and you will find that the long-term rewards will far outweigh the allure of material objects.
My upcoming content will be a series of ‘how to’
posts to declutter specific rooms, starting from when you enter your front door.
Stay tuned for my next post about hallways and entrances.
Before we get into the details and all the nitty-gritty of decluttering, I want you to know that the process can seem very difficult at first. If you’ve been reading my posts up to this point, you’ve probably acknowledged that you have too much stuff, and maybe you can’t wait to get started – if so, that’s great – but know that at some point you’re likely to meet a wall of resistance and feel overwhelmed. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice, and it’s not just your clutter that you will be dealing with, but your whole mindset.
Once you feel the journey becoming difficult ,don’t despair. It will get easier, and it’s completely natural to experience those feelings. We’ve spent our whole lives being convinced by companies and advertisers that we need more,bigger, better, newer and shinier to be happy, when what we really crave, are satisfying moments, relationships, careers, and experiences. Most of society is sold on the idea of happiness and success being a bigger house and a posher car…all in the pursuit of storing and acquiring even more stuff. When does it stop?
Many years ago, I saw a TV program (that I can’t remember the name of) which was showing the lives of people who were rich enough to afford gold-encrusted toilets and gold-flecked perfumes. Some had priceless works of art. The kicker? Most of these people were more miserable than some of the poorest people I know.
As long as your belief remains grounded in material objects being the key to satisfaction, the mission won’t ever end. It’s like eating a slice of gooey chocolate cake: you’re satisfied for all of half an hour and then the lingering aftertaste has gone and you want more. There will always be a bigger house, a smarter phone, a better gadget, a shinier car, a new craze, a newer fashion trend, and a sale on ‘must have’ items. Always.
Let’s admit it, keeping up with all that is not only a permanent leak in the wallet, but exhausting to keep up with, which ultimately leads to feelings of emptiness and intense dissatisfaction in the long-run. Sometimes, it can even cause feelings of guilt which leads to you desperately trying to justify your latest purchases to others – I’ve been there. Chasing happiness through material goods is a vicious circle. A never-ending sprint up a backwards escalator. You see, happiness doesn’t start with what’s in your wardrobe, but what’s inside you.
Because our possessions are so often entrenched in our emotions and core beliefs, before you start the decluttering process, I want you to clear your mind and think about your buying habits and the items you already own. What caused you to hold onto all your stuff in the first place? If you find yourself always buying more stuff, think about what it is and why? Do you really need it? How does it make you feel afterwards? And the most important question of all: Why do you want to change? I recommend writing it all down and letting your mind go as free as a butterfly. Nobody has to see it but you. Your ‘why’ is so important to understand in anything that you choose to pursue in life because without it, there’s no strong motivation and you will find yourself giving up before you’ve even started.
In upcoming posts I will finally get down to talking about the decluttering process itself, and you will learn how to let go, as well as how to cope with sentimental objects, and how to live with someone else’s clutter. I’ve been there, so I will be with you all the way.
When I was a child I had a bit of a hoarding problem, as most kids do ;toys which I outgrew, and books which I no longer read yet insisted on keeping. I also kept old magazines and piles of school work.
Whereas most children tend to outgrow their old belongings as they blossom into young adults: I didn’t. I continued to hoard well into adulthood.
I wasn’t the sort of hoarder where everything covers every corner of breathable space – I’ve always been incredibly meticulous about tidiness. Instead, every available surface was neatly lined up with soft toys; figurines; ornaments from seaside resorts; books I didn’t read; DVD’s I didn’t watch, mugs from the Disney store, and those mugs you get free with Easter eggs.
What I couldn’t display on the sides I either stashed in the attic for the future or stored in my bedside drawers, which bowed under the weight and became a pain to open and close.
Things would fall out of the insides and down the back because there was simply no room for the immense amount of junk I was keeping in them: Keyrings; dried-out pens; old party invitations; old cables; small ornaments; needles;old school crafts; unworn jewellery, and unused makeup, were rammed into any available storage space.
I dreaded searching the mini-city of boxes atop my wardrobe because spiders often took refuge in the alleys between them. Even beneath my bed was edge-to-edge with plastic boxes full of clothes, games, cables,workout equipment, and everything else that didn’t have a home.
Out of sight, out of mind – or so I thought.
I was in my late twenties and renting a two-bedroom house with my fiance and toddler son before I realised how much stuff I had accumulated, and it took some hard truths to finally make me see it.
The day of truth started with an irate phone call from my mum, who’d just spent the day clearing her attic. Most of the stuff was mine and she was ‘not hanging on to it all anymore because she was getting too old to keep manoeuvring around my stuff up there’.
Anyway, she loaded the car and drove it all over to my house. Anyone watching out of their windows at her bringing the stuff to my front door may have been mistaken for thinking that she was moving in, because there was a terrifying horde of bin liners and boxes.
Part of me wanted to just store it in our shed and deal with it another time, but my fiance had threatened to bin the lot if I didn’t sort through them there and then. He and I had had a few rows about the amount of stuff I had, and now it was coming to head.
There was no way that it could all go into our attic because even that was brimming with paraphernalia, so much so that I pictured the ceiling collapsing into one of the bedrooms and killing someone. A bit over-dramatic, I know, but it was a sure sign that something needed to be done, so I reluctantly started sorting through the bags, placing items into separate piles of things to keep and purge.
At first, the ‘keep’ pile far outgrew the ‘purge pile’, and as the clock ticked on I came to realise that all I was doing was moving stuff around the floor. I wasn’t making so much as a dent, and the living room looked like an obstacle course. With a small toddler running around, there was no way I could leave the room the way it was.
Not only was I suddenly forced to confront all of my stuff, I had to dive deep into my psyche and find out exactly what was keeping me attached to items I knew I was never going to use again, or that were quite simply, rubbish. I had to become ruthless right on the spot, so I started evaluating the objects one by one, thinking deeply about why I wanted to keep them.
If I really cared about it all so much, why was it that I didn’t even know I had them until just now?
It was a slow and exhausting process, but eventually, all that was left was a single plastic box of some old school reports and pieces of school work that legitimately made me smile. As it turned out, there was no discernible reason I could think of to keep 90% of what was in those bags.
As bags started going outside ready for the charity shop or the wheelie bin, I realised something that forever changed how I live my life: I felt free, as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and a part of my mind had had years of grime removed.
I hadn’t realised just how stressed I had been from keeping all my stuff, even in places I couldn’t see. It wasn’t out of mind, it never had been. All I was doing was storing emotional anchors from my past.
Almost all of what I had been keeping was nothing but emotional baggage; things that were anchoring me to parts of my life that I simply couldn’t let go of, or had never dealt with.
In my childhood, fights were often repaired by the buying of gifts, so I clung to the items as if they were real feelings. I didn’t have many friends at school and was often bullied, so I kept presents that old friends had bought me in the past – even those I hadn’t spoke to for years and never would again.
I kept keyrings, soft toys, letters and postcards from people I no longer knew. I was so under-confident in my abilities that I’d kept all of my school work just to look back on the praise I had received for good pieces of work. Most of it was essays, stories, leaflets and any other writing assignments I had worked on in class. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer ever since I was a small child, so I would keep essays and stories with teachers praise written on, which reminded me that I could, in fact, write.
I was an adult child, clutching onto the past rather than letting go and embracing the future. Simply put, I was substituting my lack of satisfying attachment to the people in my life, and my lack of self confidence, to things.
Aside from the more depressing reasons for my hoarding tendencies, I was addicted to the temporary excitement of buying new stuff, and therefore, terribly prone to buying things as soon as my wages went in the bank.
I’d come up with convincing reasons as to why I needed to add to my DVD collection, or why I needed yet another snow globe to add to my window ledge. One day, I even bought a cheap CRT television, convincing myself I would find the space for it. I didn’t.
An old picture of me with the clunky CRT TV I bought to play my old consoles on, knowing that we didn’t have the space. Just look at my guilty, caught-out expression.
I used to convince myself I was tidying and ‘decluttering’, when all I was really doing was moving stuff to another location.
Rather than dealing with the problem, I would hide my past under the bed or buy more storage, which would inevitably get filled with more clutter. The more storage I bought, the more stuff I consumed, the more clutter I kept, and the more my space shrank. My true self was being crushed under the weight of material possessions, but it wasn’t until we finally bought a home that I realised my work was far from over.
If it’s the first time you’ve heard about minimalism, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. If you’re anything like I was, the term, minimalism, might conjure images of empty rooms with surgically clean white walls and a single chair. You wouldn’t be wrong, but you might be surprised to learn that you can still be a minimalist whilst keeping all the things that you treasure. First of all, let me tell you what minimalism is and isn’t.
Minimalism isn’t about purging everything you own and love. Nor is it about white clothes, white walls and white furniture. Minimalism is about only keeping the objects which are important and meaningful to you. It’s about creating space and discovering who you really are beneath the clutter. It’s about prioritizing your life and making the most out of moments rather than things. It’s about you.
In the coming days I will be telling you my personal story of how I went from hoarding to minimalism, and, most importantly, what caused me to hoard in the first place.
Welcome to my minimalism blog – a place where you can learn how to live clutter-free and live the life you dream of. On this blog, I will share my personal story of becoming a minimalist, and share advice on how, you too, can create a spacious and serene home. Watch this space for upcoming content.