You might have guessed from the fact that I’m reporting in May on my March “everyday challenge” that something went a bit wrong. Here is what happened:
I keep accumulating stuff, but I hate tidying and house cleaning. So when I came across the Becoming Minimalist website earlier this year, what it said made a lot of sense. I’d also been listening with envy as some friends embarked on “100 things” challenges (giving or selling their belongings until they only had 100), and kept thinking how much nicer life would be if only I didn’t have so much clutter.
I had somewhat of an epiphany, the same kind Liz Gilbert has in her bathroom when she prays for an answer to her life dilemmas and a calm voice in her head tells her to “Go back to bed”. Well, the voice in my head said “Tidy your room”.
So I started doing just that around February, giving a few unused things away (how good that felt!) and when March came I though I’d keep the momentum going with a three-pronged approach:
- Give stuff away: Unworn clothes, unloved gifts, uncomfortable shoes, uninspiring books, and all sorts that fill 75% of my cupboards
- Use what I’ve already bought: apart from the bedroom there’s also clutter in the kitchen (8 jams, 4 soy sauces, uncounted near-empty pasta bags); in the bathroom (cosmetics abandoned after I bought shinier ones); on every shelf where books gather dust while I buy more
- Buy only what I need: Only buy stuff that I haven’t already got (see above), and that I either really need, or will makes me really, really happy
What actually happened:
Folks, I’m sorry to say but life took over (at least some kind of life). I had a humongous project at work which meant head-down on the computer all day and many evenings, thus guaranteeing more untidy mess, unsorted cupboards and dust gathering on my belongings.
But the actual worst was the constant buying of take-away cappuccinos, crisps, biscuits and whatever junk snacks would see me through the day : the ultimate unnecessary purchase, which not only empties your wallet and but actually makes you feel sick.
Of course I didn’t get round to donating anything, not even sorting piles of stuff to donate.
On the upside, I didn’t have time to buy anything much other than comfort foods, and the odd Kindle book (which is also cheating, but at least they don’t take much space).
What I’ve learnt:
I DID realise exactly how much stuff I own that I don’t need: that I bought for the wrong reasons, or was given and kept for the wrong reasons; including items no-one remembers buying but just somehow got itself into the house.
As I considered what to part with and what to keep “later when I have time”, I became increasingly uncomfortable with not only how much space, but ultimately time, money, and worry all these redundant things accumulated to.
It also became increasingly clear while accumulating stuff doesn’t make me happy, some things in particular do. Some of my belongings actually make me smile or feel comforted and using them feel indulgent and luxurious every single time – a stylish handbag, a pretty cup, a lovely hand-cream. T
So while I will be happy to have fewer things, I will also be more mindful in the future of buying only the sort of things that tickle me with happiness every time I look at them.
I was also interested to notice that the reasons I keep clutter in my house reflect, in some sort of annoying metaphor, those that account for the “emotional clutter” in my life:
- Analysis Paralysis (do I keep this? do I not?)
- Imaginary obligations (towards keeping gifts, or expensive purchases)
- Fear (of letting go, of not having enough)
- Procrastination (I’ll take that pile to the charity shop… tomorrow)
So, in fact, getting rid of house clutter may open a whole new life for me. In fact maybe a failed monthly challenge will be a first step towards my new “less is more” life…
Top tip for those who might give it a go:
De-cluttering is ultimately about honesty with yourself and learning to distinguish what you really need from what you’re holding on to for the wrong reasons.
As you clear the physical mess in your house you get to reflect on your choices and values, what you want to leave behind, and what more of in the future.
A chance to go off auto-pilot, and take responsibility for own your choices.