Tucked away on my Bucket List / Kettle List at number 41 is the simple, but by no means small, desire to ‘Be Happy With My House’. This is no mean feat; I have lived in my 1920’s mid terrace for 16 years and have pretty much done nothing to it, apart from fill it with children.
Happiness, in this context, will mean it is redecorated, has functioning heating, and will have 80% less stuff in it than it currently does. This is precisely why I have been feverously reading anything and everything that will teach me the ways of those Zen Masters that are known as minimalists. I have read so much that I have even started a book on the subject (Yes, write a book is on the Bucket list!). From all of this extensive research I have picked up a few tips so here are 5 things you can get rid of TODAY, that may just set you on the road to a Minimalist life – or may just clear a bit of space, but hey, every little helps.
This will appear on every list you will come across regarding ‘easy decluttering’ purely because it is a bit of a no brainer. How many of each thing in your house do you actually need? I used to have to go out every December and buy in more sticky tape and a pair of scissors ready for Christmas, because I couldn’t find any in the house. I called a ‘present wrapping tools’ amnesty to discover where all of my stuff had gone…turns out we have about 9 pairs of scissors… That’s 1.8 pairs per person! And I know for a fact that at least 3 people in my house never wrap presents (3 is also the number of males in my house, but correlation does not imply causation). If all of your stuff has a specific place to be, AND (the important bit!) it is put back after it is used, you will only need 1 or 2 of an item.
- Books: Admit it, you have some books on your shelf you have no intention of reading but they look good. Or you may have ones you have read, and won’t read again, but for some reason people have a huge problem with discarding books. Go through them. Are they on a subject you are not interested in, or out of date? This is especially relevant for science type books, or ones telling you how to use computer programs that are older than you are. Is your shelf so stuffed with books that you cannot even realistically get to them?
Consider why you are keeping hold of them; if it’s your aesthetic and you are trying to create a ‘brainy’ vibe, then by all means keep them. But how many books are you realistically going to read over the next year or two? If you bought it months ago, actually think about why you haven’t made the time to read it yet.
- Old photos: Don’t worry! I am not about to suggest you bin your precious baby or graduation pics! But, if you are as old as me then you will remember the days when you took 36 pictures, took them to be developed and hoped 50% were passable. Much like with books, there seems to be an unwritten law about throwing away photos, no matter how blurry and bad they are. I have photos of people from holidays past, whose names I cannot recall, sat in a Kodak envelope in a drawer that I have not even looked at for 20 or more years…why keep them? There are so many online options; you could potentially scan all of your pictures and store them in multiple places. This way they would be safer than just relying on the ‘hard’ copy that could be lost in a flood/Fire/Alien attack. Actually consider how often you look at those old pictures you couldn’t possibly part with…
- Clothes: Clothes often appear on the ‘easy to declutter’ lists, but I am not even going to suggest to you that you get rid of half your wardrobe and try to manage on the sartorial equivalent of rationing. How about you have a look, and find things you know you don’t wear because they are stained, or buttons are missing, or there is a tear in it, or it needs taking up/down/in…you brush over these clothes every day; never wearing them, yet still allowing them to take up space in your life and wardrobe. They constantly remind you that: you haven’t cleaned the stain, or replaced the button, or repaired the tear, or taken it up/down/in… Are you going let a piece of material have that power over you (you will never know the reserve it took to not type ‘make you it’s bitch’, but I am above that…) If you are not going to wear it, get rid.
- Unwanted gifts and tat: This seems to be a recurring theme, but guilt can make you keep things you don’t want such as photos, or clothes that you paid a lot of money for but never wear. Another example of this is gifts, or ‘heirlooms’. Have you ever been given a terrible present and have kept it – maybe displaying it or wearing when the person visits so as not to look ungrateful? Maybe you have the ugliest ornament in the world, but you can’t part with it because it belonged to Great Auntie Ethel, and she is dead now? Bestowing emotions on to your possessions is one thing, becoming buried in other people’s crap because you don’t want to offend people is another. If you meekly accept things you don’t want the ‘gifter’ will assume that you like them and continue to give you things you don’t want. Have a word, politely, that you are trying to create a different, more minimalist vibe and that, while you are very grateful, you don’t need any more candles/sequined cushions/penguin ornaments. Then purge your home of any of the things you were keeping for the wrong reasons and make it YOUR home, filled with stuff YOU have chosen.
Decluttering is a marathon, not a sprint, especially when the amount of stuff involved is an entire house full, as in my case. So look on this exercise as a ‘warm up’ – you may not want to sign up for a full race, but you could have a go at getting rid of just a few things and then see how that makes you feel – I am willing to bet, slightly better and a bit freer (especially if it means you don’t have great aunt Ethel’s ugly painting staring you anymore)