Re-simplifying My Life in a Time of Chaos

Image by dungthuyvunguyen from Pixabay

Being locked down during the Coronavirus has allowed me the time and extra energy to do some deep cleaning. Last week, I decided to go crazy on my living room.

I mopped the floor, took everything off the shelves and dusted them, vacuumed the blinds, vacuumed the whole room, dusted the insides of the cupboards, and cleaned the mirror. Oh, and there were too many cobwebs where spiders had set up home and weren’t paying rent.

The whole process took much longer than expected, and the next day I had a pain flare up from hell that lasted days. One of the many reasons I simplified my life in the first place was to manage my fibromyalgia and ME, just like Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity, who simplified her life to manage her MS. But this pain was a wake-up call that I could do more.

Once again, I find myself thinking about the role of minimalism in my life. 

I’ve also got another child on the way, and it’s made me think about how to best simplify my life for the sleepless nights and mad days ahead. Do I really want to be wasting so much time cleaning under and around things when I will need that time with my baby, and for my sanity?

Many people would advise leaving the mess be, and that it’s perfectly understandable as a new parent, but I simply can’t stand chaos or disorder. Especially if I know there’s something I can do about it.

When you’ve been minimalist for long enough, it becomes as natural as breathing. You don’t really think about it because you’ve trained your mind so well and the habits you adopted don’t require a second thought. 

The problem with that is that you can fall back into a rut without realising. It seems like I’ve been ready to move onto the next stage of minimalism for a while, but not realised as the days have rocketed by or merged into each other.

Since my minimalism journey started, I’ve got rid of so much stuff, that my room cleaning time was dramatically cut.  I unearthed parts of myself I never knew existed and started on the path to a new career.

At the time, I was satisfied with the progress I made, but the pain of that flare up taught me differently. 

I thought my living room was minimal enough yet was surprised to find that a vast majority of the deep clean was spent moving my collection of books and the decorative objects and photos from the room divider, all of which are mine. Then, of course, having to dust every object and put it back, even though it would all be dusty again within days. 

I no longer have the huge collection of books that I had. What once took up four shelves, now takes up one. There’s a few books on my ‘to read’ list that I intend to donate once I’ve finished with them, but the rest are mainly non-fiction hardbacks that I turn to again and again.

When I thought about what I was getting out of the rest of that unit and its decorations, the answer hit me: nothing. It’s just there to stop our long, narrow living room resembling a bowling alley, and to look pretty doing it.

Is it attractive? Yes. Is it worth the extra cleaning and maintenance time? No.

And who doesn’t want more time and relaxation in their day?

After cleaning the living room, I went upstairs to do a quick dust of the gaming room. I say a quick dust because the gaming room is the hardest to downsize for me, and would take forever to clean efficiently.

There’s stuff in there which is close to my heart as a gamer, plus a collection of manga and geeky books which I don’t keep with my main collection.

Not so long ago, I was convinced that having shelves crammed with games, consoles, and figures like my favourite youtubers would satisfy me . I’d always dreamed of having a gaming room packed to the gills, and of having my own arcade full of my favourite cabinets.

But for me, the reality of such a dream has surprised me. Games and hardware require proper storage and cleaning, and it’s all such hard work to maintain. Not to mention the space it takes up.

There’s also the possibility that we will need to give the room up for an extra bedroom a few years down the line if our baby is a girl.

The thought of leaving it be, then having to deal with all that stuff at once fills me with horror.

Despite downsizing my collection last year, I rarely clean the room because it’s so exhausting and time-consuming. Two hulking shelving units with games, figurines, and books, and another medium shelving unit holding more games and my videogame soundtrack collection. 

Then there’s the fact that my husband, my son, and I, each have a PC. Phew!

I’ve been considering going digital with as many games as possible and possibly using a powerful laptop over a desktop. But it’s a costly endeavour to digitise all the games I own, so I have to really think, which games do I love and really can’t live without? Why do these deserve to take up shelf space and cleaning time? How often do I play them?

When you look at your stuff in terms of the time it takes up, and not just the space it requires, the answer will become clear, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

It makes me squirm to think about not having my physical games on show. Why? It doesn’t make me less of a gamer. But it does show the money I’ve spent just on showing this hobby off instead of purely experiencing the joy it brings me.

To be honest, I don’t even get around to playing or finishing half the games I buy, even when they’re digital. The same goes for any hobby that requires a lot of equipment or collecting. There’s only so much you can enjoy.

It shows that, for me, playing games isn’t enough. I have this need to show everyone in the house, and anyone who visits, my love of games and the characters in them, as if my identity is at stake if I don’t.

But, of course, that’s ridiculous.

I frequently find myself dreaming about the kind of life the more extreme minimalists live. Fumio Sasaki, author of, ‘goodbye things’ is a well-known extreme minimalist living in Japan, and is one whose book I’ve returned to several times, because of the feeling of peace it gives me, and the wisdom in its pages.

What I find particularly inspiring is that he’s just a regular guy who decided that enough was enough and to do something about the miserable life of excess he was living. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers to achieve happiness and success, but he discovered that minimalism was a good start.

It’s not just me who dreams of simpler living; my husband has spoken to me a few times about how he’d love to be so free of stuff and obligations that he could live and work wherever he desired and not remain tied to one place. At first, that thought terrified me, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. 

Realistically, I know I can’t live like the more extreme minimalists I admire so much, because not only do I have a growing family, we share a home with my parents. Therefore, there’s only so much I can do, especially regarding shared rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom, and storage spaces such as the shed. 

We’re also not the home-schooling type, so a life of travelling and completely letting go is something that would be far off in the future.

But I can take control of my own stuff, and I’d rather do that than have it control me and sap hours from days, and days from months.

Unfortunately, due to the current situation with coronavirus, charity shops are closed, and selling things on Gumtree or Facebook is a no-no.

Instead, I’ll use the time to list what’s currently bringing me joy and what isn’t.

Life changes all the time, and with it, the stuff that we need to enrich our lives or bring us joy.

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

Stuck Inside – Ways To Beat Boredom and Maintain Your Mental Health

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

It’s like something from an apocalyptic movie;  a pandemic has been announced, countries are in lockdown, people are isolating themselves for months, and businesses are struggling. 

In times like these, it’s easy to panic, and it’s easy to lose sight of the good things around you. And if you’re self-isolating for a long period, loneliness and boredom can set in quickly. 

Humans are social creatures and it’s vital that we find ways to connect with others and maintain our mental health, not just during times of challenge, but as a part of everyday life.  

Here are some things you can do to beat boredom and look after your mental health when you’re stuck inside. 

Feel-Good Productivity 

Deep clean your kitchen cupboards 

You’ve probably been meaning to do this for months, but work and other responsibilities meant you could never get round to it. Now is the perfect time to empty those cupboards and give them a thorough cleaning. For more cathartic impact, imagine that all the grime you’re removing are also layers of negative thoughts being scrubbed from your mind. 

Deep clean/declutter cutlery drawers 

Remove all your cutlery, declutter what you don’t need, and give the drawers a good clean. It’s so satisfying to get your utensils out of a clean and organised drawer, and makes meal times much easier. 

Deep clean/declutter the bathroom

Bathrooms accumulate mould and bacteria quickly. It’s also amazing how many supplies end up multiplying in bathroom storage. Get rid of out-of-date toiletries, makeup, and medications, then remove everything else and make the surfaces shine. You’ll be glad you did. 

Declutter Rooms In Your House 

Start a mission to declutter your home, starting off with one room and gradually making your way round to the others. When you remove what you don’t need and keep only the things you love, you create space and clarity in your home and your life. It also becomes much easier and faster to clean, which frees up time for other activities or rest. 

Decluttering is so incredibly freeing on the heart and mind it can become addictive. 

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash

Wash/clean your curtains or blinds

I don’t know about you, but I rarely think about the blinds in my house when I’m doing a clean and recently I couldn’t work out why my rooms still had a dusty smell to them. The other day, I thought to check the blinds, and they were covered in a thick layer of dust. Giving your curtains a wash or your blinds a good wipe-down will help to freshen the air in a room. 

Wash your bedding 

Bedding needs changing once a fortnight, or even more frequently if you’re a heavy sweater. Dust mites also build up inside mattresses, so it’s a good idea to give the mattress a hoover while you’re at it with a dust mite vacuum. 

Declutter/tidy the shed or garage 

Sheds and garages are clutter hotspots. They accumulate multiples of tools or things get stowed away in them which we believe we might need ‘one day’. If you have a nice sunny day, why not set aside some time to clear these spaces out? 

Fix the thing you never got round to 

You know that broken toy you promised your kid you’d fix two months ago? The shelf that’s been wonky for the past year? Now’s a great time to finally get round to fixing it. Once it’s done, it’s off your to-do list and your family or partner can stop nagging you to do it. 

Self Improvement & Mental Health 

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Take a course/learn a new skill

Always wanted to become an awesome cook, but never had the time to learn? Thought about learning how to write a book or start a blog? There’s no time better than the present.

There’s no shortage of both free and paid courses online to learn anything your heart desires. Some sites I recommend are Udemy, Skillshare, Open university, and Youtube. And there’s an ocean of excellent, insightful books out there for your chosen topic.

So, what’re you waiting for? 

Go for a walk or run around your neighbourhood

Walking or running is a fantastic way to boost your mental wellbeing and should be a part of your everyday routine if you can. It’s also a great way to get your dose of vitamin D on a sunny day. Currently, the lack of cars and human activity in many areas has made for cleaner, fresher air, so there’s no better time to get some fresh air.  

Beautify your garden (if you have one)

Gardening can also have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.  Not only is it a mindful activity, it can keep you fit. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of some beautiful green space to clear your mind after a stressful day.

Journal 

Journaling is a fantastic way of getting your thoughts down on paper (physical or digital). It can relieve your mind of worries that have been building up on you, lead you to solutions to your problems, or even help you build a writing habit.

You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to be able to write well; you don’t have to please anyone. You can be as messy, as creative, or as neat as you like. There are no rules. 

When you go out for or order a shop, buy some flowers or plants to cheer the place up 

It might sound small, but buying some flowers or some nice house plants can really help to freshen up a room and make it feel more cheerful. Believe it or not, houseplants are known for being beneficial to your health and productivity. 

Photo by Julie Marsh on Unsplash

Practise gratitude 

This might feel almost impossible when the world around you seems to be going to Hell, but I assure you, if you set aside the time and put some thought into it, you’ll come up with at least a handful of things in your life to be grateful for. Practising gratitude is great for boosting mental wellbeing and for adopting a positive mindset. 

If you really struggle, there are some lovely gratitude journals out there which give you some gentle prompts and beautiful pages to look back on. 

Colouring

Before you cast this aside as childish, hear me out. Research has shown that adult colouring can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a peaceful, mindful activity and there are hundreds of beautiful or humorous adult colouring books to choose from. It doesn’t matter how good you are because there’s nobody judging you. It’s all about you and your relaxation.  

I personally love Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

Play some uplifting/upbeat music 

Music can change or enhance our moods, so if you’re on a bit of a downer, try putting on some happy, upbeat music (or whatever chills you out). Music has also been proven to reduce pain in some chronically ill patients. I have been enjoying sitting in my sunny garden with the living room door open, listening to the radio, and have found it massively relaxing.

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Play board/card games 

A few weeks ago I bought two classic board games from my childhood: Ludo and Snakes & Ladders. Despite all the screens and other distractions, they’ve been a surprising hit and are something the whole family can enjoy. When the board games are out, boredom flies out the window, people’s cheeky and competitive sides come out, and screens are forgotten. 

Recently, I’ve discovered Solitaire Klondike and have become somewhat addicted (no, I really hadn’t played this before).

Don’t underestimate board games or card games for some classic family fun.

Play videogames 

I’ve always been a gamer, but even if you don’t consider yourself one, or have never picked up a controller in your life, there are thousands of games out there now to appeal to all ages and preferences.

The Nintendo Switch is a https://www.nintendo.com/games/switch/good choice for access to a massive library of games, as is the Nintendo 3DS.  You can’t go wrong with either and there’s bound to be something you like whether that’s puzzles, point & click, party games, platformers, or action-shooters. 

Multiplayer videogames are also a great way to stay in touch with others, make new friends online, or have fun with the family. 

Help someone in need 

For the ultimate pick-me-up, if you’re not sick you can always help somebody in need. With panic buyers emptying store shelves, and the elderly and vulnerable unable to get supplies, there are multiple ways you can help. 

You can deliver shopping to their doorstep, leave a kind note, or drop off some flowers. Even making a few phone calls to some lonely people would be a huge help with the current situation. 

Here are some links to just a few of the acts of kindness that have come out of the Coronavirus pandemic.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/europe/kindness-coronavirus-strangers-helping-gbr-scli/index.html

https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/coronavirus-how-to-be-kind-random-acts-of-kindness-ideas-helping-others/368441

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-positive-kindness-italy-singing-corner-shop-elderly-postcard-a9404781.html

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What NOT to Do

As important as it is to stay updated, there are some things you shouldn’t be doing, that have the potential to increase your anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. 

Don’t keep checking the news

The news updates to the minute and it’s tempting to keep refreshing it or checking back to see new updates of what’s happening. But as useful as the news can be, it can also be a huge trigger for anxiety and worry.

Every time there’s a new death, there’s a new headline. Do you need to know about every single death and crime? Keep in mind, many articles are written in a way to grab your attention and make you react with a panicked curiosity. These kinds of articles are often referred to as clickbait. 

Set times for when you will check the news. After all, why worry about the things you can’t control? 

Don’t check the news/social media first thing in the morning or last thing at night 

How you start your day affects how the rest of your day will feel or go. If you start the morning reading depressing, worrying news, those will play on your mind for the rest of the day and keep you checking on events.

Similarly, if you start by scrolling through social media, that can have the same anxiety-inducing effect as constantly checking the news, especially as people are currently voicing their constant anger and worry. 

Checking either late at night could keep you scrolling well into the time when you should be relaxing or catching a good night’s sleep.

Not only can the blue light from devices keep you awake, the anxiety from the news or from other people’s feeds can make you too anxious to sleep, and cause nightmares. And if you aren’t getting decent sleep, you’re going to feel consistently crappy. 

Don’t believe everything you see on your newsfeed

Along with the coronavirus came the viral wave of fake news sweeping the internet. Companies are trying to slow the tide of fake articles, but there’s only so much they can do. The best thing you can do is to do your research.

Don’t immediately believe what you read online unless it’s from a well-trusted news source or website (in the UK mine ours is BBC News, Sky News, and the NHS website). There’s also the World Health Organisation who keep their website updated with the latest Coronavirus information. 

But how can you know if what you’re reading is fake? First, check the source. Is it a familiar website? Has it got a weird-looking address? 

A lot of shared fake news starts off with someone who knows someone else, who’s related to someone important, who said or saw something that nobody else knows. A quick Google search should show you if it’s fake or not. 

It’s better to ignore ‘news’ like this, as it’s the equivalent of a game of Chinese Whispers – one which starts off with a lie to begin with.

Remember, if it’s not on any of your main trusted news websites, it’s likely not true. 

Don’t worry about what you can’t control e.g other people’s behaviour. 

In the end, no matter what’s going on outside, you can’t control it all. So focus, instead, on what you CAN control: your thoughts, your reactions, your words and actions. 

Try not to succumb to vices such as excess drinking which can make anxiety or feelings of depression worse. 

In many supermarkets, shelves are being stripped not just of food and other essentials, but of beer and wine. While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, drinking to excess will eventually cause a slew of both physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, weight gain and liver damage.

I hope these ideas have been useful to you, and remember: stay calm, stay healthy, be mindful of others, and follow the safety rules in your area.

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Starve Your Inner Critic and Claim Back Your Power

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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

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

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

“My writing’s crap compared to this”

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

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

“I can’t”

“I’m not”

“I’ll never be…”

“I’m (insert insult here)”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gremlin:

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

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

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

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

Me

Oh shut up, everyone started from zero. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future. 

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



Image by John Hain from Pixabay

From Chaos to Calm: How To Reconnect With Serenity When Life Becomes Chaotic

Image by TRƯƠNG QUÂN from Pixabay

Sometimes, no matter how much you minimise, or how much space you’ve cleared in your home, clutter creeps back. 

The drawers you so carefully curated are back to looking as if an animal has ransacked them. 

The dining table has become a dumping ground once again. 

And you don’t know where all those scattered clothes have come from. 

It’s enough to drive you to despair and wonder why you bothered decluttering in the first place. 

If you’re silently nodding your head in agreement while reading this, fear not, I’ve been there myself and you can get back to that place of serenity. Permanently. 

Often, the reason our homes become clutter magnets again is because we’ve stopped being mindful about what we buy and what comes through our front door. 

In the bustle of everyday life, good habits might also fall by the wayside. Perhaps you’ve had a busy period and find it difficult to keep up with the influx of paperwork and laundry.

When you’re tired and stressed, all that mindfulness and the good habits you picked up can seemingly poof out of existence. 

The trouble is with letting go of good habits, is that instead of dealing with paperwork immediately, you let it pile up on your dining table until that becomes its function. 

Instead of putting away your clean laundry, you allow it to chill out in the basket forever, foraging for your clean clothes out of that every morning (I’ve been there, too). 

The washing up might stay on your draining board for several days (yup, I’ve done that many times, and believe me, it makes meal times more stressful than they need to be). 

You see, in the end, putting those little tasks off doesn’t make your life any easier. All it does is serve to be a constant reminder in the back of your mind about the things that need doing. 

Clutter and mess is also known to be stressful, sometimes without people even realising. 

If your home has sneakily re-accumulated clutter, visually it can take up all of your energy and attention. 

For example, I’ve seen posts in groups where people have decluttered a shelving unit, only to still feel like something is still off.  Sometimes, the issue is lots of photos. 

They will have decluttered all the random trinkets but kept all the photos displayed for personal reasons, so all of them are vying for their visual and mental attention instead of just one or two special ones. 

If you’re struggling to get back on track, here’s some things you can do to bring calm back into your home. 

Put washing up anyway either after the meal or before you go to bed. 

It’s more stressful than you realise to have to search for a plate or utensil, only to realise it’s among the craziness of the drainer which still has the dishes from two nights before.

A common problem which can prevent you from adopting this good habit, is kitchen cupboards and drawers bursting with clutter.

How rage-inducing is it when you want to put your plates and pots away, but fitting them back in their spots is like a real life game of Tetris?

Similarly, when you want to bring them out, it’s pot luck if everything else doesn’t cascade out. Yes, I know, terrible pun.

Rather than using the draining rack as another storage solution, the trick is, to declutter your kitchen storage and keep only what you need and use often.

Once you make the space, you’ll find it hundreds of times easier, and much more satisfying to both access things and put them back where they belong.

Keep surfaces clear at all times.

I know this is easier said than done if you live with others who are naturally messy, but if you adopt the habit and the rules that the dining table is purely for eating (and maybe for the kids to do their homework etc) others are likely to follow suit eventually. 

You also want to keep hallway console tables free of clutter because it’s one of the first things that greet you when you leave the house and when you return home. 

The last thing you want is to be reminded of all the stuff that needs sorting when you’ve just got in from work, or before you even start the day. 

Kitchen surfaces should definitely be kept clear because it’s often the most functional room where people like to chat, and to cook meals.

 If you’ve got all kinds of stuff over the counters, you’re not going to feel much like cooking or being creative, and it’s not even going to be a pleasant place to hang out. 

Put laundry away immediately 

I used to be horrendous at putting away laundry. I’d let weeks of clothes just pile up in the clean linen basket, and rifle through every morning for what I wanted to wear. 

Not only did my clothes come out crumpled, I couldn’t even find things half the time because they’d be bunched up in the sleeve of a jumper or hidden in the leg of a pair of jeans. 

It also took up loads of time when I finally did decide it was time to put them away. 

When you put clothes away as soon as they’re dry, not only is it off your mind until next time, it saves you time in the mornings, your clothes are neat, and it’s easy to find what you need. 

Deal with paperwork the same day 

When you have paperwork come in through your door, sort through it right there and then. 

Junk mail should go in the recycling instantly, and bills should be filed into action piles for you to deal when you have time.

That takes all of five minutes, sometimes not even that. 

Of course, it helps to get rid of any old documents you no longer need. 

Nothing is more stressful than trying to find some important information, only to have to search through hundreds of older papers that are no longer relevant. 

If you struggle with containing paperwork, you could also go digital where possible. Many companies now offer the option to receive emails instead of paperwork, and some shops will send receipts via email rather than physically, to save paper. 

Never leave things over floors and seating 

It’s easy for floors and chairs to become a landmine of tripping hazards and shoes, especially if you’ve got kids. 

The trick is to never let things stay on the floor, and to train others (especially children if they’re old enough) to pick up after themselves. 

Chairs can also become a dumping ground if you aren’t vigilant and can collect random toys and clothes. 

Make sure that chairs are always free of clutter because they’re a place to relax and unwind, not to mess and stress. 

Make your bed every morning

This one is simple, but it’s far too easy to stumble out of your room and leave the bed a rumpled mess for when you next go to it. 

Why is that a problem? Because it makes a calm room look chaotic, and it can also make you feel lazy and unproductive. 

It’s also probably the last thing you want to be doing before you go to bed at night. 

Stay mindful whenever you go shopping

We’re surrounded by so many advertisements, and shops lay out their aisles in a way to capture your attention. 

It’s why you can go into a store looking for some cereal and toilet roll, only to come out with two new tops and a fancy new glass. 

When you go shopping, it’s always helpful to take a list with you, and anything you’re tempted to buy that’s not on the list, ask yourself why you’re buying it. 

Do you really need it? 

Do you have something similar at home?

Is it because you’re bored?

Because it’s on sale?

Also, it’s never a good idea to go on random shopping trips for fun because there’s nothing you can buy that will make you happier. 

As Fumio Sasaki talks about in his book ‘goobye things’, your happiness levels will always return to whatever its normal baseline is for you. 

Let go of the old 

There’s a reason so many minimalists follow the one-in-one-out rule. It keeps clutter from growing, and your spaces serene. 

For the longest time, whenever I bought something new like a new bag or stationary, I would always hang on to the old. 

This meant that not only did I run out of space, but my stuff was owning me. I certainly wasn’t any happier from holding on to the old, and the ‘one day’ I kept telling myself I might need them never came. 

So if you get a new jumper, get rid of an old one you no longer enjoy wearing. 

If you get a new toolset, get rid of the old ones that no longer serve you.

If you get a new bag, get rid of the ones that no longer bring you joy or suit your lifestyle. 

Sometimes, we hold onto things because we haven’t realised how much our lives have changed since we originally got the item. 

You might hold onto that hiking backpack, even though you no longer hike. 

You might hold onto your old work clothes, even though you now work from home. 

Take the time to evaluate your life as it is currently, and make your home reflect the present, not what was or what might be. 

Take time to meditate or be silent 

You don’t need to sit there cross legged, in a state of bliss if that’s not your thing, but simply taking the time to be silent and present is something that is long lost in today’s world. 

Phones constantly buzz and ding, emails fill inboxes every second, and the world loves to make you feel that busy is best. 

After all, everyone’s doing it. It seems people barely have time to chat in the street anymore, so rushed their lives are. 

Busyness might make you feel productive and on top of things, but let me ask you, how is your life beneath those superficial tasks? How are your relationships?

People who pride themselves on always being busy, may seem to be super-productive, but their lives underneath are most likely unhappy and unfulfilled.

When you prioritise being busy and ticking checkboxes, the tasks never stop coming. You will attract more and more. 

Meanwhile, you’ve inadvertently drifted from your partner, and your child’s suddenly a foot taller without you realising. 

Maybe you’re not happy with your life the way it is anymore, but without slowing down to realise it, you don’t see it until you’re at death’s door. 

Some people use endless tasks or hours at work as a way to escape the realities of their lives, or to run away from negative thoughts. 

Others throw hours and hours of their lives into their careers to climb the corporate ladder and afford more stuff, only to realise that their happiness never comes. Joshua from The Minimalists was a perfect example, and spoke about it in their books.

When you slow down and live peacefully, it’s amazing what you discover. 

Only by slowing down and prioritising the important things can we realise what we already have to be grateful for, and the things that will make us content. 

Only by slowing down and being present with our loved ones, can our relationships blossom and be the best they can be. 

When you’re glued to a screen, people and moments pass you by until the day comes they’re not there anymore. 

You’d give anything to go back to the time they were there, but realise you spent most of that time sitting with them, but clicking ‘like’ on a stranger’s post. I’ve also been there myself, and believe me, it’s the most awful thing to realise when it’s too late. 

Taking the time to be silent and present, allows you to declutter your mind and see yourself for who you really are, what people mean to you, and what your life truly is. 

Take the time to re-simplify your life today. Get back on track and make serenity a part of your everyday life. 

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also felt emotionally drained. 

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

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

The Minimalist War – What Minimalism Is and Isn’t

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Last week, I talked about how success isn’t about wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. This week, I will be applying that same concept to minimalism. It isn’t all about sparse furniture, zero belongings, and white rooms. 

I’ve lost count of the times people have said things to me like, “But you own all these books, that isn’t minimalistic!”, or “How come you’ve bought another game? I thought you were a minimalist!”

But here’s the thing: minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself of having the things that make you happy or bring value to your life. It’s not about white furniture and empty shelves. And it’s absolutely not a competition.

Minimalism is about living a simple and clutter-free lifestyle. It’s about finding what’s important to you and minimising the less important things so that you can maximise your time on the most meaningful.

For me, that’s family, friends, writing, reading, relaxing, watching anime, and gaming. For you, that might mean baking, working out, creating, hosting parties, or spending less time online.

Everybody is different. That’s what makes the world so interesting. 

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Telling someone they can’t be minimalist if they own a certain thing is as crazy as saying to someone, “You play sports? No you don’t because you’re a tennis player, not a footballer. Football is the only real sport!” 

See how silly that sounds? 

I’ve also seen, in several minimalist groups, people posting a photo and asking “Should I get rid of this?”, or posting a photo of a room in their house and asking, “Is this minimalist enough?”

But there’s no such thing as ‘minimalist enough’. Nobody else can tell you to get rid of or keep that penguin figurine collection because nobody else knows the significance of them in your life. 

Only you can answer those questions because only you know the story behind your stuff. Only you know what holds meaning in your life and why. Only your heart can tell you when you’ve reached that level of satisfaction. 

If you rely on others to tell you what to keep and what to throw, or what looks ‘minimalist enough’, you can’t grow as a person because you won’t be developing those crucial decision making skills that come with minimising and decluttering. 

And if the decisions don’t come from you, you will end up living someone else’s version of minimalism. Someone else’s life. 

I once shared an image of my minimalist living room. Some loved it, some thought I had too many books, some thought I had too many photos, some people found it inspirational, and some went as far as to say they what pieces of furniture they would change.  

None of the people who commented were either right or wrong. What I got what a diverse snapshot of other people’s visions for their own lives. 

What you need to ask yourself when minimising or simplifying is, “Is this perfect to me?”  Not, “Will my uncle Pete like it?” And certainly not, “Does my house look better than Amy’s on Instagram?”

Minimalism isn’t a war. It is a means to live a simple, more peaceful, and more intentional life. 

Photo by Alex Ortlieb on Unsplash

Comparing your minimalism, or your home to others will not do you any favours unless you’re using it purely for inspiration. In fact, it will drain you and make you miserable and resentful.

Once minimalism becomes a competition it loses its meaning. You become no better than you were when you were subconsciously, or consciously, comparing possessions or status, which is as far from minimalist as you can get. 

So, minimise in a way that feels right for you. Inspire others by becoming genuinely happy and satisfied with your own life. Be simply you. 

The Treasure Map of Minimalism

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Decluttering is good for the soul. Not only does it create more space and lessen stress, sometimes you can find unexpected treasure. 

One of my closest friends was telling me how they were having a decluttering session, and that it made them feel so good that they were going to carry on the next day. But what they didn’t expect was to find was a soft toy that used to be cuddled by a much-loved relative who had passed.

Coincidentally, during one of these sessions, my friend happened to be having a terrible day. Finding this toy brought them a lot of comfort and found a new special place in their heart. 

If it wasn’t for decluttering, that treasure might have remained hidden for many more years, unable to offer the comfort that was so desperately needed. 

How many times have you tidied or had a spring clear out, only for your jaw to drop and you to shout , “So that’s where that went!”

How many times have you discovered something which warmed your heart, but was found among meaningless objects?

When was the last time you felt guilt for finding something special tucked away in a cold, dark place or buried under piles of clutter?

That’s because through minimalism, you can discover what’s important to you, which can, in turn, help you realise that maybe those other things aren’t as important as you first believed.  Sometimes, the recovered space might be your treasure.

On the flip side of the coin, you might also find objects which trigger pain or sadness: a letter or gift from an ex, for example. If you find anything which makes you feel bad, consider letting go to carve a path to the future rather than treading back over the past.

Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash

If thoughts about finding and dealing with such objects make your stomach churn, then this post on decluttering sentimental objects is for you.

In the meantime, here’s a simple list of things you can start decluttering today. Perhaps you will find a hidden treasure…

Living room/Office/Junk drawer

  • Old paperwork
  • Junkmail
  • Old magazines (unless you happen to be collecting a certain one)
  • An excess of books – keep only the ones you love or are definitely going to read. Beware of ‘someday’. If ‘someday’ creeps into your mind, donate. 
  • Pens – they multiply like rabbits, disappearing and reappearing in random places seemingly at will. 
  • An excess of notepads 
  • Old receipts

Bathroom/Bedroom

  • Out of date medicines
  • Out of date makeup
  • An excess of cleaning supplies or half-used ancient products.
  • Half-empty but unused toiletries
  • Freebies that never got used
  • Out of date toiletries

Bedroom/Clothes storage

  • Jewellery you’ve fallen out of love with
  • Clothes you’ve fallen out of love with or that no longer fit
  • Handbags – do you really need one for every outfit? 
  • Shoes – too many lead to decision fatigue and lack of space. My shoes are nice enough to be useful both for evenings out, and for a casual summer day in town. I also have a pair of Vans I use purely for casual wear. 
  • Coats and other outerwear (if you’re one of those people who has a coat for every outfit in their wardrobe and at slightly different thicknesses for every type of weather)

Electronics/Technology

  • CD’s you no longer listen to or that you own digitally
  • DVD’s you no longer watch or prefer to just watch digitally
  • Videogames you no longer play, or that you own digitally (unless you’re a collector)
  • Cables – do you really need 20 USB cables?
  • Broken or extremely outdated technology that’s useless

Kitchen/Dining area

  • Plates and dishes
  • Cutlery and other utensils – watch for duplicates 
  • Cups and glasses. These tend to build up over the years until you could run your own cafe/bar
  • Out of date food and condiments, or food that people don’t seem to eat. Certain types of food can be donated to foodbanks as long as it’s all in date and unopened. 

Airing cupboard/Under bed

  • Old towels – animal centres often need these 
  • Old bed sheets, or an excess of bed sheets- once again, an animal centre or homeless shelter could make use of them. 

Miscellaneous

  • Old school work 
  • Old toys your children outgrew
  • Gifts that you’ve never used or secretly didn’t want or need
  • Photos – ones that trigger bad memories, are bad quality, or have a hundred duplicates
  • Anything broken that you said you would fix ‘someday’ 
  • An excess of tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, spare screws etc. Watch for duplicates. 
  • Souvenirs from holidays that mean little to you (often, it’s the actual memories that bring you joy, not the mug with the landmark or country on)
  • Keyrings (I used to have about 6 on my house key, plus a few more to choose from). Now I have one for my key, and another on my favourite bag. That’s it. 
  • An excess of ornaments and trinkets. These can be a source of hidden stress without you even realising. They take up loads of space and make cleaning tasks take double or triple the time than if that surface was clear.

I talk about some of these things in more detail here

But what if I actually want to refill my space, or bring life to that empty corner?, I hear you panic. In that case, let me tell you; It’s far more uplifting to get plants, instead. House plants give you a sense of being in nature and will help to filter and oxygenate the air. Just don’t be like me and forget to water them.

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

Have you found any hidden treasure from decluttering? Let me know in the comments. 

 



Clutter Culprits: How to Remain Vigilant

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

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

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

Pens

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

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

Notebooks

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

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

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

Celebration cards

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

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

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

Invitations

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

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

Newspapers

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

Magazines

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

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

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

Junk Mail

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

Receipts

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

Bills

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

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Keyrings

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

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

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

Cables

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

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

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

Photo by Nick Dietrich on Unsplash

Batteries

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

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

Toiletries

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

Medicine

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

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

Makeup

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

Mugs

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

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

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

Drinking glasses

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

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

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

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


Decluttering Your Attic

This week I’m taking you to a dark place in the decluttering process: the attic.

There may be several reasons you want to declutter the attic: you might want to let go of the past, you might dread going up there every time you need something, like my mum, you might feel that you’ll be too old one day to access your stuff. Or perhaps you just want the satisfaction of a nice airy space above your head.

Whatever your reasons for tackling the attic, they’re one of the most terrifying places to start the decluttering process, and not just because of the cobwebs and spiders. The attic should be the last place you declutter because, for many, it’s such a monumental task that it can drain all motivation before you even start. Just looking at years of accumulated boxes, mystery bags, and cramped walkways is enough to make most people retreat back down the ladder and vow never to look at it again.  Attics also tend to be full of emotional and sentimental objects, including those from loved ones who have passed. Items like these will need significant time to evaluate, which is another reason this room should be dealt with last.

Because attics can be so claustrophobic, and it can be difficult to know where to start, I recommend starting with one corner and bringing the contents down to be sorted through immediately. Notice I didn’t say ‘later’ because the temptation will be to just ‘pop it into the storage room for now’. And ‘now’ becomes days, becomes weeks, becomes years, until your spare room has become a second attic. This is because dumping clutter into one spot tends to act as a magnet and attract even more clutter. Therefore, it’s imperative that you sort the attic bit by bit, just like every other room, but quick enough that it doesn’t become a pile of procrastination.  

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

So what kind of stuff do you usually find in an attic?

  • Festive Decorations
  • Photo albums
  • Old journals
  • Baby and kids toys
  • Old school work or art from yourself or your child
  • Old books
  • Bags of cables
  • Objects that never got used eg.old workout equipment
  • Old furniture
  • CD’s, DVD’s and videogame paraphernalia
  • Family heirlooms and sentimental objects
  • Unwanted gifts
  • Rolls of leftover carpet or wallpaper
  • Old clothes
  • Suitcases

First things first, lets deal with the most common stuff.

Photo albums

I could go right ahead and say that these days everything is digital, but I am a minimalist who loves to flick through a good physical album, so I’m not about to tell you to scan your photos and bin the rest (unless you feel that would be best for you).

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably got a stack of photo albums boxed up, some of them not even completely filled.

To minimise a physical photo collection, invest in a high-quality photo album which holds as many photos as possible, then sort through your collection in chronological order. To free up even more space, feel free to discard of duplicates or those which didn’t turn out very well. How many photos you have will determine the time it will take, but in the end you’ll find that you’ll be down to just one or two high-capacity albums and can donate or recycle the rest.

If you still intend to keep your photos in the attic, be sure to store them in an acid-free storage container which can withstand extreme cold, damp and heat.  

Old furniture

Furniture, especially wood or fabric, won’t keep well in attic environment and is vulnerable to mould and mildew. Dismantle and recycle old furniture which isn’t looking so great, and sell or donate pieces which are still in tip-top condition. If they’re in the attic in the first place, let’s face it, it wasn’t likely you were going to use them at any time in the near future.

But what if that dresser belonged to your dearly departed grandma? In that case, have a long, deep think about what it really means to you. Is it doing any service to you in the dark confines of the attic, never to see another sock or trinket ever again? If the answer is no, and you’re never going to use it, think: was my grandma personified by this dresser or was she a human being who lit up my world for who she was? If the answer is no, take a photo of it and donate it to someone who will love it just as much.

If, on the other hand, you have great memories attached to said dresser, it makes you smile and you can’t bear to part with it, consider replacing a piece of your own furniture with it. And if you have trouble blending it in with your current decor you could even repaint it, breathing new life into an much-loved piece.

Whatever you decide, don’t keep it up in the attic where it will be subject to the extremes in temperature and humidity. It’ll only lead to guilt and upset when you go back to find it damaged.

Festive Decorations

Festive decorations, whether it be for Christmas or some other holiday can mysteriously grow in size over the years. Before you know it, you’re bringing down bags and boxes every year with no idea which decoration is in each. Every Christmas I would just rifle through my lucky bags of tinsel, baubles and other Christmas themed trinkets, some broken and some yellowed with age.

Empty out all your decorations and only keep the ones you consistently use every year. If you add any new ones to your collection then remove an older one. By doing this you will pare down your decorations and keep them at a consistently manageable amount.

Baby and kids toys

If you don’t have children you can skip this part, but if you do have kids, it’s inevitable you will end up storing outgrown toys, books, and perhaps their cot and old baby clothes. There’s a myriad of reasons you might do this including ‘saving them for baby number 2’, or being unable to let go of their babyhood, although the latter is harder to admit.  It happens, and it’s completely normal.

The thing to remember is that children grow up and you want to enjoy them as they are in the present rather than clinging onto objects from the past. The years are fleeting and are gone before you know it, and those old baby clothes and toys will get damp in the attic when they could be serving a less fortunate family.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping one or two things from that period in their lives (I have a beautiful baby memory box with the special things in which are warming to go back to). A potential issue arises when you are keeping a hoard of their old stuff which they have no chance of returning to. Just as your value as a human being is not tied to your stuff, your child’s true essence is,ultimately, in their personality, actions and love for you.

If, however, you’re keeping the stuff for another child, you’re best not to keep these things in the attic unless they’re tightly sealed in an acid-free container which has no chance of damaging the contents.

Photo by Lauren Lulu Taylor on Unsplash

Old school work or art from yourself or your child

I used to keep every bit of my old schoolwork in several boxes. I rarely looked back on it but it was there because I was clinging to that painful part of my life. I liked to look back on the praise I had got from teachers because I had such low self esteem, and I liked to imagine a happier school life and what I would do differently.  More on this part of my story here: https://minimalistmojo.blog/2019/02/04/anchors-of-the-past-my-hoarding-story-and-how-i-woke-up-to-my-mess/

If you’re keeping old pieces of your own work, keep only one or two pieces which really mean something to you, otherwise just let it all go. I guarantee you won’t miss any of what you do let go, but you will appreciate the lightness, especially if it was linked to unpleasant memories or being used to fill a void.

When it comes to your child’s schoolwork (if you have children), keep a few meaningful pieces or curate it all into a scrapbook for pleasant viewing. I recently bought my child a scrapbook and printed a personalised cover for him and he loves it. When they get older you can ask your child which pieces they want to keep and then arrange them into a beautiful, personalised scrapbook which they can browse at their leisure or show off to friends and family.

When special pieces of work are kept in a beautifully presented way, they don’t even have to be kept in the attic and can be kept on a bookshelf, in a cupboard or in your child’s room. As always, if you choose to keep it in your attic, keep it in an acid-free storage box just like you would with photos.

Objects that never get used eg.old workout equipment

You know the kids of stuff I’m talking about here: those weights you kept ‘just in case’ you decided to work out, that guitar you’re saving for when you take those lessons you will get around to ‘someday’.

Here we are again with the ‘just in case’ words that derail every attempt at decluttering and simplicity. If such items are in the attic, the chances are extremely high that they will still be there for the next generation to sort out after you’re gone. Such items are kept for the ‘dream version’ of yourself (which we all have to some degree) and quite often doesn’t align with who you really are. I kept my work out clothes for a few years, seeing a version of myself jogging through my neighbourhood with headphones on and my running trainers pounding the pavement as I got fitter and fitter. It never transpired, and I realised that with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, it wasn’t viable for me. I’m not saying it’s not doable for anyone else with a chronic condition, but for me, personally, that vision didn’t align with the gentle pace I have set for my body.

Do away with anything you’re keeping from the you in an alternate reality and breathe in the space for the person you really are.

Unwanted gifts

I know how hard it is, when you receive a gift and feel too guilty to get rid of it so you keep it on display for a while then stow it away in the attic.

By storing unwanted gifts you are storing negative emotions including guilt and obligation. In most cases, the giver wouldn’t want you to feel this way, and it’s mostly in our minds. If you know that the giver would be offended, it might take some more careful consideration and some gentle words, but you should never be forced to keep something which doesn’t add value to your life. People who are easily offended when it comes to gift giving may well have issues with showing their emotions and attach their feelings to the stuff they give and receive, so do be sensitive and mindful about the process if you’re in that kind of situation.

Otherwise, lift the burden by regifting to someone you know will love it, or by donating to a charity for the less fortunate.  

CD’s, DVD’s and videogame paraphernalia

This kind of stuff, particularly discs, will not do well in an attic. For starters, discs eventually get what’s known as disc rot, and will eventually cease to play. Being stored in an attic speeds up the process as I discovered when I looked at some of my old PSOne games. https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-dvd-rot-1845719

Electronics that are of value to you shouldn’t be stored in an attic if you can help it due to the extremes in temperatures. Recently I decluttered my gaming room https://minimalistmojo.blog/2019/04/04/how-i-minimised-my-gaming-room/ and that gave me the space to bring down and display my beloved Sega Mastersystem II.

If you don’t have any such space, and you know you rarely access or even love the item ,then sell it on or donate it. Otherwise, invest in decent storage that will protect it in a harsh environment.

Old clothes and books

Over time, in an attic, clothes will get damp and grow mildew, and books will rapidly yellow.

Last year I came across some bin liners of old quilts and maternity clothes, and they weren’t in any fit condition to be donated. Not only were they damp, they stunk. Even the seasonal clothes I had been keeping in plastic containers had a funky smell to them.

For that reason I suggest you keep seasonal clothes on top of your wardrobe in a wicker storage box or under your bed. And for any clothes you’re keeping for the ‘alternate reality you’, don’t. Just get rid.

As for books, if you’re keeping them in the attic, you’re not likely to ever read them and they will quickly degrade if not stored in an acid-free container. Books are there to be read, to impart knowledge and entertain, and they aren’t doing much of that in your attic – donate them.

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

I could go on with the many other categories of stuff you find in an attic, but some, like sentimental items and heirlooms, deserve their own post.

The benefits of decluttering an attic are whatever you make it. You can revel in the newly created space, relax in the knowledge that your family won’t have to deal with it all when you’re gone, feel the lightness as you live for the future, and enjoy accessing your treasures.  If you wanted to and you had the money, you could even convert your attic into a study or a spare bedroom for guests.

I hope this post has given you the boost you needed to climb that ladder and come back down it a lighter person. As always, if there’s anything you want to ask, please drop me a message in the comments session. In my next post, I will be talking about dealing with sentimental items.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash


Curating your Kitchen

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.


Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

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.

Clear out:

  • 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.


Photo by Jarek Ceborski on Unsplash

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.