Introducing Hoarder Minimalist: the Decluttering Guide with a Conscience

On my decluttering journey, I found two questions that nobody seemed to talk about. The first was “how”. There were plenty of resources on the “why”, and the benefits that a life with less could bring. More time, and more freedom. Less clutter, less stuff, less frustration and less stress. I knew that was what I wanted. I could imagine what it felt like. But…

How did I actually get from where I was, to where I wanted to be?

I knew that a “packing party” wasn’t going to work for me. (Ryan Nicodemus from the Minimalists famously held a packing party, where he boxed up the entire contents of his house, and over three weeks discovered what he needed and what he didn’t. At the end of the three weeks, he discarded everything he didn’t use.) There was no way I could do that. There was no way I wanted to do that. I wanted to take my time and think through my decisions. But I didn’t want to be thinking through my decisions for the next few years!

Other than a few decluttering games, I couldn’t really find much information on the “how”.

The second was the waste. Everything I read seemed to gloss over the bit where we have to decide what we are going to do with the stuff! It seemed to be whittled down to a few words: “donate, sell or discard.” What was the best way to donate? Where was the best place to donate it? How did I ensure I wasn’t just burdening the already full charity shops? What about selling? And most of all, surely there was a better place for everything else than “discard”?

Was it even possible to declutter without sending anything to landfill?

I’ve always been passionate about living with less waste. Yes, what that looks like has changed over the years (gone are the days when I thought that recycling everything was good enough!). Decluttering and minimalism have been extensions of this for me: both in terms of resources (owning stuff that I don’t use is a waste of resources) and in the wider sense (wasting my time, energy, money and at times, my sanity). I couldn’t declutter if I thought everything was going to end up in the bin; for me, it would defeat the purpose.

I’m know I’m not the only one who feels like this. I know I’m not the only person who dreams of a life with less waste and less stuff, and wants practical steps to achieve it without sending plastic sacks of usable items to landfill!

So how does somebody who cares about waste declutter, and what do they do with the things that they no longer need?

Those were the questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. Now I’ve got to the end of my decluttering journey, I have those answers, and I want to share them with you.

I’ve spent the last few months pouring all of the lessons learned, a-ha moments realised and the actions taken, and I’ve created a resource that I’m really proud of. Called Hoarder Minimalist, it’s a comprehensive guide to decluttering with a conscience. It’s not just a bunch of tips and tricks: it’s a practical plan with actionable steps for anyone wanting to live a life with less stuff, who values experiences over things, and who doesn’t want to trash the planet in the process.

banner_availblenow_940px-latestbook-workbook-plannerDecluttering isn’t something that can be finished in a single weekend, but it doesn’t need to take forever! There is an end and you can get there. I know that by sharing my experiences, you will make progress quicker and see results faster. Whether you’ve been decluttering for a while, you’ve just started out, or you’re still in the thinking-about-it stages, the life you dream about is just around the corner… and whist the journey is rewarding, the end is definitely better! After all, it’s about more than stuff. It’s about freedom.

Introducing…Hoarder Minimalist: Decluttering the Zero Waste Way

Hoarder Minimalist offers a Main Book, a Workbook and a Journey Planner. The Main Book (147 pages) is the roadmap for your decluttering journey: an actionable step-by-step guide to living with less. There’s a whole section devoted to letting go of your items responsibly. The Workbook allows you to explore some of the ideas presented in the Main Book in more detail, and to really personalise them to your own individual set of circumstances. The Journey Planner is for you to track your journey, record your milestones and watch your progress unfold.

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Option One: The Hoarder Minimalist Bundle contains the Main Book, the Workbook and the Planner, and is priced at AU $26.95 (bundled savings $7.95).

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Hoarder Minimalist Main Book

Option Two: Alternatively, if Workbooks and Planners aren’t your thing, and you don’t want to pay for stuff you don’t need (I get that! You’re decluttering, after all!) the main Hoarder Minimalist book is available to purchase separately for $19.95.

(If you change your mind later on, the Workbook is also available to purchase separately for $14.95).

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And of course, I cannot wait to hear your decluttering stories! Any revelations, a-ha moments and epiphanies – share them all! I’d love to see any before-and-after pictures too. If you’ve any questions, suggestions or comments, I will be happy to help. I always love to to hear from you. In short, my inbox is always open, as are the comments below!

Good luck with the journey, and I will see you on the other side : )

A Zero Waste Minimalist House Tour (Yes, Hoarders Can Change)

Last week I talked about how I’d successfully decluttered my wardrobe (after many attempts and years of trying). In my journey towards living with less waste, I’ve learned that owning stuff we don’t use, don’t like and don’t need is as much a waste as throwing it away. After all, it’s taking up space, time and energy, and for what?! It isn’t being used!

Decluttering doesn’t have to mean throwing stuff away, though. There is no need to send anything to landfill – so long as you have the patience and the commitment to seek out new homes for the things you no longer require. Even the act of giving things away has really cemented in me the understanding that if I don’t want to create waste, I have to think very carefully about what I let through my front door. If I don’t need it, it isn’t coming in…because it will only be something to deal with (and stress over) later.

After years of battling with trying to let go; knowing that my stuff was taking up my time, energy and space, but feeling powerless to act, I’ve found my own way. A way that didn’t involve car boot-fulls of stuff to the tip, or black bin liners dumped in the nearest charity bin with more that a little doubt that any of those items would get re-sold. I made peace with my stuff, and my past choices. Rather than wasting my energy feeling guilty and remorseful about those choices, I used this energy to find new homes for the things I no longer used. Decluttering with a conscience.

My driving force has always been to find my “enough”. I’m not interested in pursuing as little as possible, or being able to count my possessions, or fit them into one suitcase. My “enough” doesn’t look like that. My “enough” is everything that I need, and nothing more. My “enough” means several different sized baking tins; it means a collection of glass jars for food storage and preserving; it means more than one pair of shoes. What my “enough” is not: it is not stuff languishing in the back of the cupboard. It is not stuff that makes me feel guilty, or remorseful. It is not stuff that I’m keeping “just-in-case” when I know deep down that “just-in-case” will never happen.

On that note, I’d love to show you round my home! This is what “enough” looks like for me. Your “enough” probably looks completely different. It’s not about right or wrong, or better or worse. It’s about being true to ourselves. I’m sure there are things I own that you can’t imagine why I’d need them, and similarly, I’m sure I don’t have things that you couldn’t possibly live without! (The great thing about this is, when other people have things that we don’t own, there is always the opportunity to share – to lend and borrow!)

The Kitchen:

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Inside some of the drawers:

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Under the sink:

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The Lounge Area:

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Our Dining Table:

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My Desk / The Spare Room:

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The Bathroom:

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The bathroom cupboard:

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Books:

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The Bedroom:

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Under the bed:

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I used to try to imagine what it would feel like to live in an uncluttered home, and let me tell you, it feels so good to finally be there!  Knowing that there will be no more weekends of sorting and decluttering, and that my weekends are mine to spend how I really want to. Which isn’t rearranging my stuff…again.  I’d wonder if I’d regret letting go of things, but in truth, I haven’t missed anything. It’s amazing how little I truly need. I just needed to let go of the excess to find this out. All that extra stuff was just wasted time, money and energy… and a huge distraction. I just wish I’d realised sooner, and made a few less mistakes along the way.

Decluttering hasn’t been an easy journey for me, but it has been rewarding and so worthwhile. Now I’ve had the chance to reflect, I’ve taken all those lessons and insights, and I’m putting them together into a brand new resource. If you’re looking to declutter your life (and especially if you hate waste!) I think you’re going to love it! All will be revealed shortly…

What’s next for me? Well, I’m keen to keep experimenting with the idea of less. To keep questioning if I really need things, and to let them go if I don’t. I’m confident that by choosing more versatile garments in future, I will minimalise my wardrobe further. I’m sure I can make space in other areas, too. Time will tell : )

Now I’d love to hear from you!? What did you think of my version of “enough”? How does it compare to your idea of “enough”? Has your version of “enough” changed over time? If you are decluttering, what are your current goals? What are your biggest problem areas, and where have your biggest successes been? If you’re already living a minimalist lifestyle, what were the biggest lessons you learned along the way? What were the hardest items for you to give away/let go of, and how do you feel about them now? If you had your time again, what would you do differently? Anything else you’d like to add? I love hearing your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

5 Excuses that Stopped me Decluttering (here’s what happened when I stopped listening to them)

My ideal wardrobe looks something like this…

…A small selection of clothes that I like, that fit me, and that I wear regularly. I can remember the last time I wore everything, and think of an occasion where I will wear each item again in the near future.

…Everything fits in the space, it does not feel crammed in or squished, and I can see at a glance everything that I own. Choosing an outfit is easy. I do not spend hours trying to piece together an outfit, or trying on and taking off multiple items before choosing the same old thing I wear every day. I have a clear idea of what goes with what, and most items I own can be paired with a number of other items.

…The clothes I own are comfortable, and I enjoy wearing them. That does not mean I will ever win prizes for fashion awareness, style, or colour coordination. It does not mean my clothes are perfect. But I am happy with the things that I own.

For three years I worked on decluttering my wardrobe. It was a slow and thankless process, and progress was slow. Very slow.

July 2014… [Everything on the rail to the left of grey trousers hanging near the suitcase, plus the two shelves immediately under the towels are mine.]

wardrobe decluttering and minimalism in progress

Jan 2015… [Everything on the rail to the left of the ties hanging on the right, plus the two shelves immediately under the towels are mine.]

Decluttered Wardrobe October 2015

October 2015…  [Everything to the right of the dress hanging in the centre and the two shelves on the left underneath the towels are mine.]

It was only when I really thought about why I was decluttering my wardrobe, and my home in general, that I began to formulate a plan, and over the next six months my wardrobe went from that…

…to this:

Wardrobe Decluttering August 2016 Treading My Own Path SML

My half is everything to the left of the long dress.

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Everything that isn’t hanging on the rail fits in a single drawer.

There are 26 items hanging on the rail, plus 2 jackets. I’m wearing another pairs of jeans, a t-shirt, a jumper and a scarf. The drawer contains exercise wear (2 pairs of cycling shorts, a cycling top and cropped leggings) plus 2 pairs of shorts, another top, 2 scarves, underwear (2 bras plus the one I’m wearing, 7 pairs of socks and 8 pairs of underwear) and a pair of leggings. There is a top in the laundry basket. In total, that’s 60 items, and excluding underwear, 42 items.

Do I have a perfect wardrobe? No. It’s not as mix-and-matchable as it could be, and I’m clearly no style queen. Do I feel that it is enough? Definitely. I wear everything on the rail. And I know that as things need replacing, I will choose better.

For 3+ years I chipped away at my wardrobe. What finally pushed me to declutter to a place I was happy with?

Firstly, I drilled down to what I wanted from my life. More time, and more freedom – who doesn’t want that? But what did it mean to me? What did it look like? And how was my stuff getting in the way of that? (I wrote about this in my last blog post, so here’s the link if you missed it.) This is what I did next.

Long-time readers will know that my wardrobe has been my biggest struggle, but these tips can be applied anywhere. A laundry closet piled high with towels and bedding. A toy cupboard so full the door won’t quite close. A garage or shed stacked high with boxes, some of which you’re not entirely sure what they contain.

I took everything out of my wardrobe and into the lounge, as I had done several times before, and one by one I went through each item. I asked myself – did I wear it (and more specifically – could I remember when I last wore it, and think when I might wear it again in the near future), did I need it, and did I like it? There were only three possible answers: yes, not sure, and no.

Everything that was a resounding “yes” went straight back into my wardrobe. The “no” pile was put aside for sorting – those items for selling or donating, and any rags. What was left was the “not sure” pile.

Now I went through each piece and asked myself: what story or excuse am I telling myself about this item? What is my reason for holding onto this? Why was I “not sure”?

I found there were a few common excuses I was telling myself.

Excuse #1 :I’ll lose weight and slim back into the clothes that used to fit.

Of course this could be true. But I’d been telling myself that I was going to slim into my clothes for three years. I’d set myself a 3-month deadline, and when I failed to meet it, extend it by another three months. The truth is, I wasn’t increasing my exercise or giving up chocolate, and when it came to it, I didn’t really want to. My weight was unlikely to change. If it did, would I even want to wear those clothes that had been languishing in my wardrobe for 3+ years?

Why allow myself to be reminded of what I hadn’t achieved every single time I opened my wardrobe doors?

Excuse #2: I’ll wear it someday/it might come in useful.

The real question is: why didn’t I wear it now? I found that my reasons included: because I already owned something similar that I preferred, it wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t appropriate for the weather, or it simply wasn’t practical. In the past I’ve been guilty of keeping items of clothing for the time when other, preferred garments wear out, and I’ve learned that well-made clothes take a surprisingly long time to wear out. When they do, will I even want to wear that garment that sat in the closet untouched and unloved for 3+ years?

Uncomfortable clothes rarely (or ever) become comfortable. The weather is unlikely to change much (I’ve no plans to move), and the clothes I own need to be practical for where I live and what I do now.

When I drilled down to it, this idea of “just in case” was generally linked to these next excuses.

Excuse #3: I’ll never get back what I paid for it, so getting rid of it would be a waste of money.

I have purchased items that I then haven’t worn, or have only worn a handful of times. It was never my intention not to wear them, but because they weren’t comfortable or practical, I chose not to. Some of these items were expensive to buy, and others had taken a while to track down, so they had cost me time and money. I didn’t want to feel that I’d wasted my money, and I kept them.

The truth is, I had wasted my money. I wasted it the moment I made the purchase. Whether the item sat in my wardrobe or was given away, that didn’t change. I’d made a poor choice – it happens, and we’ve all done it! But rather than forgiving myself for making a poor choice, I’d keep the item hanging there, unworn. It didn’t persuade me to wear it. It simply reminded me every time I opened my wardrobe doors that I’d wasted my money, and left me feeling guilty.

Excuse #4: If I could find the right shoes/haircut/accessories, it would suit me.

I kept items that didn’t really suit me because I loved the look of them. I loved the fabric, or the design, or the colour – but sadly it didn’t love me back. I was holding onto this idea of my “fantasy self” – the me who looked good in these clothes.

However, the reality was, they didn’t suit me and I didn’t wear them. They weren’t flattering, and didn’t suit my skin tone, body shape, or my age. I realised that loving the style (or the design, or the brand) doesn’t always translate into wearability. Just because it looked great on the model in the catalogue, or in the shop on the rail, that didn’t necessarily translate into looking great on me.

Excuse #5: I hate waste, and getting rid of stuff is a waste.

This was the excuse I struggled with most. I’d justify keeping things that I didn’t wear because “I didn’t want them to go to waste”. Yet there is no rule that says decluttered items need to go in the bin. With a bit of effort, it is possible to find new homes and uses for old clothes.

I turned my idea of waste around. If I had items that I didn’t use and didn’t wear, surely keeping them was a waste? The idea that by sitting in my home unused they were not going to waste was crazy! If I could donate them, that was a far better use of resources.

What about the really tatty stuff? At some stage clothes need to be gotten rid of. I’m happy to darn holes and wear old clothes, but there comes a point when I start to feel miserable and frumpy. For me, that’s when they have to go. I have to let them go. Keeping them and hating them is not healthy, nor is it helpful (and they don’t get worn). It’s fine to have a set of old ugly clothes for the garden (if you actually garden) but there’s no need to have a wardrobe full of them. (That doesn’t mean they need to be binned. They can be cut up into rags for cleaning, composted or recycled.)

As I went through each item one by one, I reminded myself why I was doing this. What the end goal was. Why each choice mattered. Did I want to keep unnecessary items in my home? No. What would the costs (in time, energy and money) be? I’d attempted to declutter my wardrobe over and over. It really wasn’t that much fun. Did I want to go through the same process in another six months, and then another? What would the time spent decluttering be taking away from?

This time, there were no excuses. There were no ‘if’s or ‘but’s or ‘maybe’s. There was plenty of guilt. I’m not someone who lets go of things lightly. But this time, guilt wasn’t a reason to keep things. It was a reason to let them go.

What’s next for my wardrobe? I’m looking forward to building a capsule wardrobe, with more flexibility and things-that-go-with-other-things. I’m planning to try experimenting with less. But for now, I’m enjoying the simplicity of my wardrobe exactly as it is: no more can’t-find-anything-to-wear sulking, no more guilt, definitely no excuses, and no more weekends spent decluttering…again.

[Want to see the rest of my house? Next week I’ll be sharing how we’ve decluttered and what our minimalist living space looks like, so if you’re keen to have a virtual nose around, stay tuned!]

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you struggle with wardrobe decluttering or do you find it easy? How do you feel about your wardrobe right now? Are you happy, or do you feel like you have a bit of work to do? Tell me about any wardrobe decluttering experiences… the good, the not-so-good and the downright terrible! What have been your biggest struggles? Are there any excuses that you tell yourself? What have been your best wins or greatest realizations? Do you have any tips to share? Is there anything you need help with or ideas? If you were going to add to this list, what would your advice be? Anything else you’d like to add? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

From Decluttering to Done: can this one step make all the difference?

About a year ago, I was in a local town hall, with friends, watching a live band perform on a Saturday night. I was enjoying the music, and the company, but in the back of my mind I was distracted, thinking about other stuff. Or more specifically, I was thinking about stuff. My stuff.

I’d spent the day trying to declutter. I was planning to continue the following day. I was wondering whether I should get rid of something (I don’t remember what – maybe an item of clothing), or if I needed it, and what the best way to dispose of it would be… and then I caught myself. I noticed what I was doing, and realised how absurd it was.

I was letting my stuff spoil the moment. I was letting my stuff take up valuable space in my mind, as well as in my home. I was letting the process of decluttering take over my free time and my thoughts.

I’d been slowly decluttering over the past three years. I’d got rid of a heap of things I didn’t need and didn’t use, but the process had been slow. Here and now, at the gig, I realised that the longer I took, the more I was taking time and energy away from doing what I really wanted to be doing. (Which was not rearranging my wardrobe – again.)

The longer I took, the more I’d miss out on living my best life. “My best life” didn’t mean anything profound – it was as simple as this one evening.

Being able to spend time with my friends, or relax on a Saturday night. I could carry on decluttering the way I’d been going, and I’d still get there, but it would be long and drawn-out. How many moments like this would I miss in the process? I didn’t want to waste any more time. And so I didn’t. I made a plan.

I was clear what I wanted: a life with less stuff. I knew why in general terms: more time, more freedom, more connections and experiences. Yet I’d never really thought about what this actually looked like or felt like for me. The concert seemed to connect those dots. It really drilled down to my “why”.

What did more time look like? What did it feel like? What did I personally mean by freedom? What kind of experiences was I searching for? Was it about the big, soul-searching experiences, or was it being able to enjoy the simple things on a Sunday afternoon, undistracted by chores and clutter?

Why did I want a life with less stuff? There were many reasons.

I wanted more time.

I didn’t want to spend hours cleaning my home, or sorting, or dusting and vacuuming and putting stuff away.

I didn’t want to spend time rearranging ornaments or shopping for accessories.

I didn’t want to waste time looking for stuff amidst the clutter, or rummaging through overflowing drawers or cupboards.

I didn’t want to open my wardrobe to find a stuffed closet yet nothing to wear, trying on endless outfits before just wearing the same thing I always wore.

I didn’t want to be preoccupied thinking about my stuff.

What did I want to do instead? I wanted to spend my free time exploring, learning, and spending time with the people I care about. Visiting National Parks, reading, and leisurely breakfasts with family.

I wanted to spend my free time experiencing new things, being outdoors, and getting involved with my local community. I wanted to spend time with my friends, in a local town hall on a Saturday night, watching a band – not distracted by old jumpers and other stuff.

I wanted the stuff I owned to be useful and make my life easier – not distract me and take time away from the truly important things.

I wanted more freedom.

For me, freedom simply means having options. It’s not about being able to pack everything I own into a suitcase and heading off into the sunset. For me it’s about being able to make choices about how I spend my time. Not having to work extra long hours to pay for stuff I don’t need, or feeling burdened by a house full of possessions that need maintaining.

For me, freedom comes from having less stuff. Not owning more than I think is necessary (what I call my “enough”). The less I own, the more freedom I create for myself because the more choices I have. My husband and I can live comfortably in a small space with little storage. In Perth, this means we can live in a central location in a neighbourhood we like, close to amenities and transport. If we needed to move, or to pack up, we have the choice to do so – and owning less makes it easier.

My family live on the other side of the world, and part of this freedom means having enough savings in our bank account that if I needed to make a trip home, I could. It is far more important to me to have the money saved for that than to own a brand new dining suite, or the latest mobile phone.

Owning less also means less debt. The only debt we have is our mortgage. We saved up a sizable deposit to reduce the amount of debt we took on, and we made sure we could comfortably afford the repayments. Taking on a mortgage was a big decision, and we would love to be debt-free, but we don’t feel like our mortgage is stopping us doing the things we want to do – and for us, that is important. Previously we rented, and we loved the freedom that gave us. We don’t really see one as being better than the other: both offer different freedoms to us.

I wanted more connections and experiences.

I want to spend time with friends and family, I want to learn and to travel and to experience new things, and I want to have time to get involved in and contribute to my local community. I used to feel embarrassed about inviting friends over because I always felt that my home was a mess. As I began decluttering, a lot of the mess seemed to go away – and what was left was easier to deal with. I can’t believe I let my stuff get in the way of those relationships!

I also found that by breaking the cycle of working and shopping, I could use the money saved to go out for dinner with family, or take a short break down south to get amongst the trees and reconnect with nature. I created space in my evenings and weekends to take part in community events and contribute in a way that added value to my life and allows me to give something back to my local community.

I wanted less guilt, and less waste.

Every time I was faced with something in my home that I didn’t need, didn’t use or didn’t like, I would feel a wave of guilt. I’d feel guilty that I’d bought something that I hadn’t used, feel guilty that I’d got sucked in by some clever marketing campaign, maybe feel guilty that I wasn’t quite how I wanted to be. (If you have anything hanging in your wardrobe that doesn’t fit, you will know this feeling!) I don’t enjoy feeling guilty, so why didn’t I do something about it?

Somehow I’d justify keeping all these things because I hated the waste. Except, I’d failed to see that by keeping things that I didn’t want, didn’t use and didn’t like, I was creating waste. I was wasting good resources by not using them. If I wasn’t going to use them (and I mean by this, if I wasn’t going to use them properly, or regularly – if I wasn’t going to love them and get the best use out of them) then they were already being wasted.

Rather than feeling guilty about getting rid of perfectly good stuff, I began to realise that it was far worse and less ethical to keep perfectly good things for myself when I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to use them. It would be far better to pass them on for someone else to love them and get maximum use from them. Not only that, but all this worrying and contemplating was wasting my time…time I could spend doing other, better things.

There’s nothing wrong with taking time to declutter and make space in our lives. These things do take time. Decluttering is not something that is finished in a single weekend. But time is valuable, and the longer we take, the more we miss out on doing the important things.

I have no doubt that in the three years that it took me to get to this point, I missed out on great opportunities and experiences. After the concert, I was determined not to allow another three years to slip by. I wasn’t putting my dreams on hold for three more years. I didn’t want to ever be at another concert worrying about how many things were in my wardrobe.

More time and more freedom – we all want that. (“I really wish there were less hours in the day”, said no-one, ever.) What was a game-changer for me, what really made me see results, was actually drilling down into the specifics of what more time and more freedom actually looked like in my life, and what benefits they would bring to me, personally. What was it that I really wanted? How would I use this extra time? What did “freedom” actually mean to me? Then the biggest question – how was the stuff I owned preventing me from achieving this? How could decluttering, and letting stuff go, help me get closer to these goals?

Once I was really, truly clear on my goals, everything began to change. Joining the dots shifted my perspective: I was no longer somebody who simply liked the idea of a life with less stuff, and who slowly chipped away at decluttering the excess. The task at hand now had meaning and purpose, and a sense of urgency that hadn’t existed before. Even my decluttering nemesis, the wardrobe, finally came within my grasp. (In next week’s blog I’m going to share some “before” and “after” pictures so stay tuned.)

It’s not enough to simply want to make changes in our lives. We have to know why. We have to be clear on the benefits, and what they mean to us. Change can be hard, and there will be setbacks and wrong turns along the way. Being really clear as to why we’re doing it, and what we truly want, is what enables us to get up after these missteps, dust ourselves off, and try again.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried to make changes in your life? Have you considered your “why”? Have you thought about what success will look like, and feel like, for you? What are your main reasons for wanting to change? Have you struggled with change in the past, and did you manage to overcome those struggles? o you have any insights or tips to share? Have you embraced the idea of decluttering – and has that embrace transformed into action? Are you stuck at the planning stage? Have you had success – and what were your secrets? Do you have anything else you’d like to share! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

6 (Embarrassing) Confessions of a Zero Waste Minimalist

Ah, those embarrassing decisions of the past. We’ve all made them. (Yes, all of us!) When we change our lifestyles, there are all those choices we made pre- lifestyle change that – when we think back to them – just make us want to cringe. Did we really think / do / say that?!

My personal lifestyle-changing epiphany came in 2012, and for the last four years I’ve lived a plastic-free, zero waste and minimalist lifestyle. I’ve embraced the idea of having “enough”, and slowly reduced my annual landfill waste to fit in a jar, and decluttered all the unnecessary things that were going to waste in my home. But for every “after” there is a “before”.

Let me tell you, my pre-2012 self made some pretty cringe-worthy choices. Here are 6 of my worst.

I “collected” single-serve sachets.

As a kid, I liked to collect stuff. In addition to my collection of National Trust bookmarks and interesting pebbles and rocks, I used to collect single-serve sachets of sauce and sugar. I have no idea why. I had no use for sachets of hollandaise or tartare or French dressing, yet I was fascinated by these tiny plastic portions of sauce.

I’d clear out whole condiment trays at cafes, and store them at home in a box. Sometimes I’d take them out and admire them. I loved how small they were, and all the different colours. But I never used them. Now, the waste of single-serve items means I’d never, ever take one – and I certainly wouldn’t admire them!

I used to ask for an extra straw.

As a teenager and in my early twenties, if I ordered a drink in a bar, I used to ask for an extra straw. One straw wasn’t enough for me, I had to have two! I wish I could shed some sort of light onto why I thought this was necessary, but to be honest, it completely baffles me. Now I live with straw shame.

I purchased (and used) a coffee pod machine.

This must be my most embarrassing, shameful confession. Yes, in my mid-twenties I purchased a coffee pod machine as a birthday gift for a partner… and of course, I used it. It wasn’t a Nespresso machine with those metal pods, it was a cheaper version with the plastic, non-recyclable pods. Not that the recyclability of the pods matters, because the waste that goes into the production of new pods cannot be offset by recycling the old ones, whatever the material.

Single-use convenience at the expense of the planet. There are so many other ways to make and enjoy a decent coffee. I thought that pod coffee tasted good. Now it leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

I bought “novelty” gifts.

Novelty gifts. Those “humorous” items that get a laugh, and maybe a few minutes of pleasure, before spending the rest of eternity in landfill. The presents you give to people “who have everything” – yes, I fell for the marketing.

If someone truly has everything, they definitely don’t need novelty gifts. No-one needs pointless tat. Was it really worth spending my money on stuff like this, and creating the extra waste for a couple of laughs? No. Now, if I need to buy a gift for somebody who has everything, I buy tickets, or a restaurant voucher, or an experience. Or toilet paper. Because even people who have everything need toilet paper.

I bought things I didn’t need because they were “bargains”.

Who doesn’t love a bargain? Bargains are one thing, butI used to confuse bargains with “stuff that’s been reduced in the sale”. Actually, these are quite different. A bargain is something that you need, that is available to buy for far less than it is actually worth. Something in the sale is an item that is being sold at a cheaper price than it once was. That doesn’t mean it’s a bargain (it could be on ‘sale’ from a heavily inflated price). If we don’t need it, it definitely isn’t a bargain!

I used to shop in the sales. I’d buy things that were heavily reduced (the big red tag told me so) simply because they were reduced. I didn’t think about whether I needed it, would wear or use it, and how much I would have paid if I had seen it without the red tag. Saving money was a reason to buy it – except I wasn’t saving money at all. I was spending money. Buying stuff I didn’t need was a waste of money, time and resources… and it just added to the clutter and stress of my home. Now I’m clear: a bargain is only a bargain if I need it.

I owned stuff I never used.

Pre-2012, I never really thought about how wasteful and unnecessary this was. It wasn’t that I intended not to use things, but I’d somehow entangled my sense of identity in with the stuff I purchased. I’d pin my dreams of being slimmer on buying tighter-fitting clothes. I’d attach my hopes of mastering a new hobby by buying all the equipment. I’d envision the life that I imagined for myself, and choose things that fitted in that life, rather than the one I actually lived.

I’d buy products before the act, so to speak, and these things remained unused, singing my failures softly to me whenever I saw them in the back of the cupboard. Both minimalism and zero waste have taught me that if it’s not being used, it’s going to waste. Keeping things we don’t use isn’t an inspiration to change, it’s a reminder that we didn’t. If it’s not useful now, it’s better off being given to someone who will use it. Now I only own things that I use.

Why am I sharing this with you? Not because I enjoy embarrassing myself! I want to show you that people can change. We’ve all made poor choices in the past. I certainly have! Those poor choices don’t define me though, just as they don’t define you. We all have the opportunity to do things differently next time.

We can take those poor choices and learn from them, and make better choices in the future. We can look back and laugh (or cry!) at the memories, but we don’t need to hold onto them. Those choices represent who we were, not who we are, nor who we are capable of becoming.

It doesn’t matter if those choices were years ago, or last week, or even this morning. Mistakes made in the past, however recent, are no reason to avoid trying again in the future. Whether that’s reducing plastic consumption, refusing single use items, stepping off the consumer treadmill or something completely different, we can all make different choices. Forgive yourself for those cringe-worthy choices of the past. Know that next time, you can choose better.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Were there any of these that you could relate to? Any that you (fortunately) never made the mistake of choosing? If you’ve made lifestyle changes, did you have an “epiphany” or was it more a gradual process that led you to make changes and see things differently? Was it one thing that inspired you to live life differently or a number of different things? Do you have any confessions of your own? What embarrassing secrets do you have from your past that makes your present self cringe in despair? If you’re in the process of making changes, are there any current habits you have that you’re beginning to question and wonder why you make those choices? Is there anything else that you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

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