For a finite length of time, the road to simplicity can feel exhausting because it involves so much soul searching and decision making. Not only that, but like with doing anything that’s outside the ‘norm’, you will probably encounter ridicule from others before they understand the benefits of what you’re doing. The best way to make somebody else understand minimalism and simplicity is by living the lifestyle and sticking to your values. Don’t be afraid to stand out and keep growing! When people see how much happier and more relaxed you are, they might even become a little curious themselves – just remember you can’t force them.
In the meantime, I’ve endured jokes that I’ll have sold off my whole house if I carry on, and even confusion from worried family members who can’t understand why I’m taking bags of my things to the charity shop every week. The truth is, going from hoarder to minimalist is a long, drawn out process which takes a lot of energy and mental strength, but the outcome is incredible and well worth it.
There are many times I thought I was done, but in fact, ended up finding more stuff I could live without. That’s a common side-effect of minimising: once you start removing things from your home, you find more and more as you slowly discover what it is that’s important to you. I like to think of it as uncovering a fossil: the more you chip away, the more reveals itself until you have a clear observation.
Last year, I had a wake up call when my four year old son smashed an expensive vase I had bought to beautify my living room. Of course, I was upset and screamed at him, and he became extremely upset. But when I took the time to look up from the shattered pieces, at his face, wet with tears, I realised something important: I could replace my vase but not my beautiful son who was growing up so fast. In that moment, I had placed far too much value on a store-bought object and caused needless anxiety in both of us. You could say the event shattered my perception on the stuff I was placing so much value on. That point was made even clearer recently, when just before Mother’s Day, he brought home this lovely plant pot he had decorated for me at school, complete with vibrant pink pansies. He was so proud and it was so much more special to me than any object from a store, no matter how expensive. The flowerpot was made and presented to me with such pure feelings that even if it got broken, I know that love is still there, and in the end, that’s more important than anything I own.
Kitchens tend to be one of the most clutter-filled rooms in people’s homes. They should be a pleasant space to cook and make drinks; instead, they end up as stress hotspots with rammed drawers, bursting cupboards and barely any space for food prep.
But how and why do our kitchens end up so cluttered in the first place? The answer is simple: unneeded cumbersome appliances, barely used cookware, clones of accessories, an excess of silverware, food or condiments you rarely access, and an overwhelming amount of cleaning supplies.
So much clutter in the kitchen can make mealtimes into a nightmare and make you much more likely to spend money eating out or ordering takeaways. It’s hard to find what you need, hard to access what you use the most, and hard to decide what to cook. Deciding what to cook is an extremely common issue with couples and families, but most people don’t consider that it might be due to decision fatigue and the stress of an overbearing kitchen. To jump-start you in reclaiming back a harmonious space you can’t wait to get cooking in, let’s start off with the simplest place: surfaces.
Surfaces in a kitchen should be spacious with as little clutter as possible as they are used for serving and preparing food, and can even be used to host a spread at parties. Lots of surface clutter is also hard to clean under, so could be harbouring more grime and bacteria than you care to imagine. Things you may want to consider removing are:
Breadbin -bread can be stored in a carefully curated cupboard.
Tea and coffee caddies – teabags, coffee and sugar can also be stowed away in a cupboard in their original packaging.
Keys, notebooks and pens should never grace a kitchen work surface. Instead, invest in a nice wipeable board for the wall, and hang keys up in the hall or keep them in your bag.
Recipe books or folders – Keep just one and store in a cupboard where it is easily accessible.
Medicines-These should never be kept out on a surface and should be kept locked up in a suitable container, but I’ve encountered exposed pills and bottles many times. Due to fluctuating temperatures in the kitchen, medicines are perhaps best kept in a lockable bathroom cabinet.
Hair products – Believe it or not, I’ve come across hair and beauty products being kept in the kitchen. For hygiene reasons, keep styling and beauty products in the bathroom or bedroom.
Things that are fine to keep on the surface include kettle, microwave, and toaster. Although, I could argue that if you have a grill, you could easily get by without a toaster. If, like me, you’re prone to forgetting that you have food under the grill , by all means keep it. Your most used appliances will depend on yours and your family’s personal preferences.
“Are you mad?! I can’t possibly stow any more in my cupboards!”, I hear you panic. If that’s the case for you; you could be pleasantly surprised or even flat-out shocked by how much you’re keeping in your cupboards that you don’t need. Once you’ve cleared your surfaces as much as possible, it’s time to evaluate everything behind those doors and become ruthless.
Outdated food, spices and condiments (goes without saying).
Food you don’t think you’ll ever touch but has a long sell by date – donate to a food bank. There’s much less fortunate people out there who could be delighted by your unopened, unused consumables.
Ingredients you swore you’d get round to using ‘someday’ but are still waiting for that day to arrive.
Unused appliances that haven’t been touched for over a year. Things like toastie makers, and novelty appliances made to save you time that only end up taking space.
The partyware that comes out once every few years – that includes cake stands, paper plates, plastic cutlery and beakers etc.
Cups and glasses which are rarely used, if ever. Think: How many cups and glasses do you really need? Consider how many people are in your household and how many visitors you entertain at any one time. And do you really need a glass for every type of alcoholic beverage? Too many of us keep enough to host our own mini-bar and cafe, and as a result we run out of space.
Plates and cookware. Evaluate what you use the most and how many plates you really need for your household. For sentimental crockery that you don’t like to use, either start using it for its intended purpose, or display across a wall. Get rid of old pots and pans if you have since acquired new. If you have a tonne of baking equipment, think about how often you use it and for what.
Cleaning supplies: you’ve probably got spray polish, bleach, a dozen cloths, furniture spray and just about everything you can think of under your sink for every probable scenario. Just like with bathrooms, whittle down your supplies and seek all-in-1 solutions that can do just about every job. You might want to consider using all natural products which are less harmful for the environment, safer if you have kids or pets, cheap, and easily concocted 1.
Lastly, we get to the drawers. When you get to editing your drawers, it might be easier to dump everything out and go through everything piece by piece. Kitchen drawers can be nightmarish to rifle through the dozens of spatulas, speciality knives, cutlery, medicine spoons, bottle openers, cheese graters, pizza cutters, ladles, corkscrews, and every utensil in the cooking world. This is because when people buy new cutlery, they tend to keep the old ‘just in case’, or buy a duplicate because the original was hiding beneath clutter. It’s also too easy bend to the mindset of ‘I spent good money on that’ – cookware can be costly, after all. But, if you’ve been reading my posts up to this point, you already know that is a dangerous and limiting mindset that ensures we remain trapped and weighed down by our possessions. Realise that you’ve had your use out of the object (or that you made a mistake) and either let it go or donate it. Remember: things rarely hold their monetary value, especially once used. And even if there is something of value – if you don’t use it, your time and space is far more valuable.
As with most other rooms that get minimised, one of the immediate benefits you will notice is how effortless cleaning is. And once you know where everything is and exactly what you own, you will likely feel more inclined to meal prep, and therefore, become healthier and calmer. With space to be more creative, you might even discover a new joy for cooking.
It’s been a busy week – one of selling my excess on Ebay and frantically going and back and forth to the post office. This is a direct result of purging the excess that was in the gaming room,and the attic. Despite this post being about decluttering games, I can assure you that it applies to anyone with any hobby that involves collectables. I recognise that there are minimalists out there who list gaming as one of the many time sinks alongside Netflix and social media, but I believe that as long as your hobby is intentional and brings true value to your life, there’s nothing wrong with that.
I’ve always had a passion for gaming, so I had a grand library of games and figures permanently on display. Even though I thought I had already sold or donated the ones that no longer held value to me, I recently had another look around at my collection. Beautiful and organised, but still too much.
There were more games that I could never hope to play in a lifetime, and it wasn’t all adding value to my life like I had originally thought. You see, I’m not perfect, but the more stuff I purge on my journey, the easier I am able to see the things that don’t matter.
I came across games I hadn’t touched in years, games I had bought years ago for the sake of collecting, games I already owned digitally, and games that I owned improved versions of. There were also figurines that had long since been out-favourited, and a few shelves of CD’s I hadn’t opened in years. So, I went through the usual process of evaluating every object, and as I went along I started pulling things out and piling them against the wall where it eventually formed a mountain.Then I did something that my old self would have found abhorrent just a few short weeks ago – I put all of my treasured CD’s and their booklets into a CD binder, and threw all of the cases away; even the ones I’d had since I was a teenager. One might argue that there’s no point in keeping CD’s at all in an age where everything is digital: that’s down to you to decide. But I will say this: if one of the services ever went down or one of the companies decided to revoke licensing for any of the tracks, I still have access to my favourites on those discs. It also prevents me from repurchasing songs if I can’t find them on Spotify.
Going back to my mountainous sell pile; it was astonishing to think of the weight these items were adding to my life, both physically and metaphorically. All of them had been sitting on shelves collecting dust, or hibernating in storage boxes never to grace another surface again.
Through further minimising the gaming room, not only did I find myself not needing my CD tower anymore, I made a nice amount of cash out of the items which were worth a significant amount. Cash which I’m learning to be mindful about. While on the subject of money, I’d just like to remind you not to get caught in the trap of keeping things due to a made-up monetary value in your mind. Do your research, and if it’s not worth the effort to sell it, donate, instead. Let go of the guilt of spending money from years in the past and make a new start, today.
Since freeing up all that extra space I’ve been able to display things which do mean a lot to me, that I had no space for before. Things like my Sega Mastersystem II which has a lot of happy memories attached and makes me smile whenever I see it. After all, why should my treasures have been collecting cobwebs in the cold, dark attic, while superfluous things took the spotlight? There may come a day when I decide I no longer need half the stuff that I find valuable to me now. And that’s OK. Because when it comes to letting go I will be ready and,hopefully, so will you.
Bathrooms don’t have to be a place of dread, lost time, and rifling through hundreds of cosmetic products. Did you know that with some mindful minimising, you can achieve a bathroom which is airy and perfect for a long soak in the bath or shower? We’re talking space for some thoughtfully placed candles and a spa-like experience. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
How many people are sharing your household can, of course, have an impact on how minimalistic you can make it, but just by going through your products as an individual, you’ll likely be amazed at how many bottles, sachets and poufs you can live without.
Bathrooms often brim with half-full and unused shampoos, conditioners, beauty products and freebies. Quite often, even when a product has been replaced because the old was no longer suitable, the old is kept because ‘good money was spent on it’. But why not free up the space and breathe a little easier? It will save you valuable time during chaotic mornings and be so much simpler to find what you need. Not to mention, cleaning will be far less demanding.
Here is a checklist to help minimise your bathroom:
Get rid of half-full and unused shampoo and conditioner
Bin expired products (which likely mean it wasn’t being used)
Donate or recycle freebies which have been stashed away at the back of a shelf or cabinet
Dispose of unused beauty products
Regift or donate unopened gifts such as that Lynx Africa set that’s been sat there for half a year collecting dust.
Once you’ve been through everything you can, consider these tips to prevent your bathroom from becoming cluttered again.
When it comes to hair products, buy 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioners where possible to reduce the amount of bottles.
The same goes for body wash. It’s possible to buy an all-in-one which washes the body and the hair and is especially easy to find for children.
Frequently replace sponges and poufs if you use them
Have no more than two towels per person hanging up
Use multi-purpose cleaning products to reduce the number of sprays and bottles.
Don’t buy new products until the current one has run out (or is very close to doing so).
A Tallboy bathroom unit can store most, if not all, of your supplies in one place.
Be sure to recycle where possible: keep your eye out for the recycling logo on the back of most bottles and cans.
Following these tips won’t just help create a serene space for all your bathroom needs, but will minimise your impact on the environment. Minimising your bathroom is also fantastic if your room happens to be small like mine (my bathroom is also shared with 3 other adults and a child-none of them minimalist). If you do share your bathroom with others, and they have a lot of clutter, consider having a gentle talk with them to see if you can get them on-board with some of the ideas above. If not, don’t push it and just bask in the satisfaction of your own hard work. I know that shared rooms in larger families can be incredibly frustrating if you’re a minimalist, but refrain from nagging or shouting at them about their ‘mess’, as all you’ll succeed in doing is creating an air of hostility. They may even cling more tightly onto the things they do have. More on living with other people’s clutter in another post.
I hope you find this post useful, and as usual, if I’ve missed anything out or you have something to say, leave a comment.
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.