Right now it seems that minimalism is becoming very popular. It’s a great thing to have a free space in your home, or hopefully, your whole home. Minimalism through de-cluttering and living a simpler life really does make for a more simplistic lifestyle, leaving time to concentrate on the important things (friends, family and experience). For some people though, the thought of going through all their ‘stuff’ is intimidating and a bit scary. I have been practising living a minimalist lifestyle for just over a year now.
At first it was hard, our society has an ingrained culture to consume and buy more, the sheer number of bargain shops opening up are tempting us to refill our empty spaces with even more stuff. I would set off on regular occasions to buy an item such as toilet paper and come home with that, BUT also some bunting, some notepads (didn’t need them, just liked them), a few packets of pens, some sign things to hang in the garden, some make up or face cream that I would never actually use… you getting the picture? The one where you can’t actually close a drawer with ease because there is too much stuff. I can never understand why I bought eight pairs of extra-long shoe laces when none of my usual shoes don’t have laces and my walking boots are unlikely to need a pair for many years to come.
When I moved back from living abroad, I arrived with three suitcases. Somehow within four years I had accumulated so much stuff that it took two big vans to move from our last house to the current one. The sheer amount of hard work and frustration involved in packing, moving, unloading and putting the ‘stuff’ somewhere seemed quite normal. For a year I had boxes stacked up in outbuildings, always irritating me whenever I stepped into the buildings, but I just thought I’d find space somewhere someday.
One rather un-seasonally cold day left me thinking about why I had so much ‘stuff’. There were five big suitcases of clothes and literally fifty boxes of things that I wasn’t quite sure what was where. I decided to have a bit of a sort out and it was only two hours in, when I was disheartened and looking at an array of items resembling a jumble sale, I made a decision to say goodbye.
The thing is, in our part of the world, stuff is so easy to accumulate, we are rarely either twenty minutes or twenty miles from a shop that we can repurchase if necessary.
Did I really need ten pairs of trousers suitable for going to work in an office as a professional? (I run a minimalism and counselling practice from home – http://www.maholochi.com). Did I also need a huge collection of tee shirts, shorts and jeans that I had lugged from one place to the next for the last fourteen years? Or the huge collection of shoes that are suitable for posh do’s etc – seventeen pairs). Obviously the answer is a big fat no. Brought even more to the forefront when I tried on some of those smart trousers and found that either they had shrunk or I had grown a size.
I am not going to say that it didn’t hurt me to get rid of the ‘stuff’. Not physically hurt, but I had always been a fan of ‘just in case’ and ‘I can make that old dress and other material bits and pieces into something’. Something has never actually happened, although I did buy a sewing machine but broke the needle and haven’t ever replaced it yet! I have found a lot of my clients have similar ‘stashes’, but as they haven’t moved home as often as I had, it didn’t seem such a problem.
I set myself a task to spend one hour per day sorting and organising my home made jumble sale.
This was important to me, because the thought of sitting amongst my stuff often finds me daydreaming and edging towards the kitchen to make more coffee. However, I was not going to be dissuaded. I decided to start with the clothes, picking either tops, trousers or coats and not stopping within the hour to procrastinate. It worked! Suddenly I had big bags full of things that I could donate to charity – or sell – whatever works best for you. The first one-hour session actually left me with lots of energy and enthusiasm to do more. The next hour was spent sorting out tops and skirts, with just a couple in the save pile. I was unstoppable.
Over the next few weeks, I carried on with my relentless decluttering and found a change in my brain pattern when going anywhere near any shop – suddenly everything looked so unappealing unless it was of important practical use. The thought of polluting my clear space with loads more items and, of environmentally friendly ways of disposing of the packaging, really stopped me in my tracks.
I still, to this day, make regular sweeps of the house, trying to look out for things that I am continually putting away but never really using. I have found that the space brings me a calmer frame of mind and everything here has a place to go, otherwise it’s on its way.
What I noticed, and continue to notice, is the lovely excited feeling in my stomach when I have successfully finished clearing and de-cluttering an area, doesn’t matter if it’s the garage, a chest of drawers or the kitchen – a tidy space creates a tidy mind.
I have lots of ways that I work with clients to start de-cluttering, but here are my five steps to start practising minimalism – and by minimalism, I mean keeping all those things that are truly sentimental, useful or necessary:
- Do: Set yourself a time limit.
- Do: Set yourself a targeted area – chest of drawers, kitchen cupboard, shoe cupboard etc.
- Don’t give up.
- Don’t leave the items you have decided to part with just sitting in a box or bag – make the effort and take it to the Charity shop or find out if they will collect.
- Do: Really consider what each item brings to your life – if its good, keep it, if it’s an item that is continually in your way and never used – say goodbye.
I am continually taking on new clients and have great pride in their commitment to make a clearer and positive change in their lives. If we think about the environment, the ethics and the accountability we each have to preserving our personal wellbeing and the world around us, it gives a clearer process to minimalizing our stuff and setting our intentions to living positively, with time to enjoy experiences and our loved ones, rather than working to survive in order to buy more things to impress people, who often don’t even notice.
Enjoy experiences – Live life fully – Take care of yourself.