Am I Really a Minimalist? I’m About to Find Out…

Am I Really a Minimalist? I’m About to Find Out…

Since returning from the UK at the end of September, I’ve had a renewed enthusiasm for decluttering. Partly this was inspired by the success I had in finally letting go of old possessions stored at my parents’ house, and realising how far along this path I’ve now come… and that there is an end in sight. Partly it was inspired by Marie Kondo, whose book about the magic of tidying-up even managed to spark enthusiasm in my husband, who for all his dislike of mess and clutter, is never quite as keen to do anything about it as I’d like!

This enthusiasm has meant that every weekend since we have been back (4 so far) there has been some mention of decluttering, some effort made to donate / sell / fix / discard things that we no longer need, want or use. There has been much discussion about whether things are useful or not, needed or not, wanted or not. To be honest, whilst the idea of a clutter-free home is very exciting, the groundwork needed to achieve this is rather less so.

You may remember a few months ago that I mentioned  we were planning to move at the end of this year. We’re buying a flat in a community we love and can’t wait to move in. The only thing stopping us is that it isn’t quite ready, and we’re still unsure about whether it will be ready at the end of the year. We’ve renewed our current lease a couple of times on short term contracts, and the current one is due to expire on 21st December.

We’ve been wondering what to do next, and whilst faced with (yet another) weekend of thinking about decluttering (because the “thinking” part seems to take up far more time than the actual “doing” part), I had an epiphany. Decluttering will take as long as we have. Whether that’s two weeks or six months, it will expand to fill the time and deprive us of spending that time doing fun stuff. What if we set ourselves a deadline…and don’t renew the lease?!

Moving the week before Christmas might not conventionally be the best time, but actually we won’t be doing any last minute Christmas shopping, we won’t be decorating our home and we won’t be having family or friends over, so really it’s the ideal time! There’s just one detail missing…where will we move to?

And that detail is the beauty of it.

What first attracted us to minimalism was the freedom it promises. The freedom of a life not enslaved to stuff. The freedom to spend our time doing the things we love, enjoying the company of our friends and family, taking the time to explore the country we live in. Our possessions restrict us. They take up space and they take up time. We’ve been working to reduce our possessions to just the essentials (meaning the things that we personally need…essentials of course, are different for everyone), but moving out with nowhere to go? That is the ultimate test.

The truth about moving, is that whilst we always tell ourselves that we’ll get organised beforehand, what actually happens is we run out of time and shove everything in boxes, which we move at great effort… These boxes then languish in storage until we (finally) get around to opening them, at which point we wonder why we ever bothered to keep all this stuff (having forgotten that we even owned most of it) before taking it all to the charity shop after all. That isn’t going to happen this time. That can’t happen this time. We will move the essentials. The superfluous will go.

Strictly speaking, we have somewhere to go. The other advantage of moving out at Christmas is that people often go away, and we have friends and family whose homes we are welcome to stay in. The emphasis is on “we”. There may be room for us, but there is no room for lots of stuff.

Is this really a good idea?! I don’t know. Maybe I’m wildly underestimating how much stuff we own, or how easy I will find decluttering. Part of me wonders what will happen if our new place still isn’t ready when our friends and family come back from their Christmas holidays and no longer want us squatting in their homes. Only a small part, though. A far bigger part of me is relishing the adventure. That’s the fun part of life, isn’t it? To explore the unknown, to take risks, to accept challenges, to have experiences…and learn and grow from them, whatever happens and however things turn out.

That’s why we chose minimalism, after all. To set us free.

 I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Does this appeal to your sense of adventure, or would you balk at the unknown? Have you ever experienced something like this yourself, and did you have far more stuff than you realised? Or have you moved recently and discovered that you are far more minimalist than you thought? Freedom is one of the things that appeals to me most about minimalism – is it the same for you? Or are there other motivations for you to live with less? Please join in and leave a comment below!

27 Responses to Am I Really a Minimalist? I’m About to Find Out…

  1. This is such an excellent idea! Yes, you might fail. But you’re also going to get a lot of decluttering done with a very clear head because that’s the only way to tackle this!
    There’s always house sitting or AirBnB if you still need somewhere to stay once the holidays are over. What an awesome challenge!

    • Thanks! I really hope so! I can feel a mad panic might be coming on…

      Yes, i’m not too worried about homeless. Not me, anyway but the thought of traipsing boxes of stuff all about town…! Minimalise minimalise minimalise!!!

  2. This sounds so exciting and having a deadline is a great way to get organised! I love the idea of having only the essentials and the freedom to go wherever you like without the burden of extra ‘stuff’.

  3. Congratulations with making the decision! Perhaps in many ways, you’ve done the hardest bit – choosing to do something different! Can’t wait to hear more :)

  4. Cool!! I spent the time living at home saving for a house like this! Looking at books and whittling them down. With you guys, the stuff in the kitchen might be the undoing. I find I have a lot of kitchen stuff but it’s almost all regularly used – doesn’t make it fit in less boxes!!! But I definitely think the dread of moving stuff motivates me to declutter!

    • Haha, yes… the kitchen : / Because having every single size and shape of baking tin IS an essential! Definitely need to go through it all. I can probably part with some of it. Cutlery, most likely!

      I have actually just got some new books as birthday gifts… and a couple I “decluttered” from my mum. I actually now own more than 10 books (I count 11) – that’s almost excessive! I don’t intend to keep them all long term, but they are almost a box in themselves!

      You’re right…in the end, the “dread” will be the biggest motivator!

  5. The beginning of this post sounds like or house lately… Except for the moving part! I’ve sometimes secretly wished we would move so I would have to (get to!) organize all our belongings into boxes! We live in a house that we “inherited” although my parents are so thankfully still alive and living next to us! So we may never move. I feel very invested in (and excited about) getting the house to a bare minimum, which probably has a slightly different meaning, having kids. I love your sense-of-adventure idea! If we were faced with the option, I think we’d do it, kids and all! I look forward to reading about what happens!

    • We’ve always known this flat would be temporary (despite living here nearly 18 months) yet we’ve never quite got round to completely decluttering. I used to think it was a never-ending job, but now I’m getting closer to the end point I realise there actually is an end point. Not to say we’ll finish and never have to declutter again, but that we have a choice: we can choose to take our time and take forever, or buckle down and get on with it, and be done. I need a deadline!

      Having kids would be different, but possibly easier than having a disagreeing partner?! (At least you can dictate to your kids – if they’re young!) I’m fortunate that my husband agrees, but I realise many people aren’t in my lucky situation – that must be hard!

      It would be a great adventure… if it wasn’t for all the decluttering we have to do first! ; )

  6. brave! very brave! i wouldn’t be able to do it…i want to have only the essencials but need the calm to sort through things. mostly because i look at things and it rattles me to think they might just end up in a landfill, many of the things i own i just want them to be used or porperly disposed off, some other people might not do that.

    • Thanks Julia…although I’m not sure it’s bravery! I agree, I need calm to sort through my things too, but after 3 years of working on it, I feel like I have enough clarity to get the last bit done. I really want to finish! I agree about finding proper homes for things. Sometimes listing items on eBay or Gumtree can feel very tedious, but it doesn’t feel right just piling the whole lot in boxes and taking to the charity shop for fate unknown. When we took the last two boxes there we saw bales and bales of clothing, shoes and other items…how / whether they will even shift it, or if it will end up in landfill I don’t know. At least finding new owners myself rests better with my conscience!

  7. That´s a big decision you two took! Good luck decluttering! Of all stuff you own, what takes up most space? Perhaps you could start from there.

    I am still working on it… We will be moving again at the beginning of next year. My stuff plus all our kitchen stuff takes up ten boxes (some small, some big) at the moment. In addition, I also have a bike, guitar, suitcase, big backpack, a kitchen aid (extremely big box), a thin mattress, a handful of plants, and a big, fluffy duvet. Although that isn´t very much, I would like to further reduce this. Thankfully someone will come to pick up another pile of books this weekend… I´m getting there!

    • Thanks! Hmmm…aside from the few items of furniture that we’re keeping (the bed, the mattress, the sofa) probably kitchenware and… clothing! (Including bedding, towels) But I’ve had renewed enthusiasm for looking at my wardrobe since writing my last blog post, so I’m confident that will get smaller…

      I’m sure we have more than 10 boxes. I’m not too fussed about how many we have, so long as there is absolutely nothing unnecessary in them! That, I feel, is my challenge!

      Ooh, good news about the books! : )

  8. Wow, good for you! I’d be terrified of doing that. I love to plan things ahead and pin them down, otherwise my mind just frets away about all the possibilities.

    With regards to moving, I’ve moved seven times in the past six years, and every single time I’ve been horrified at how much stuff I have. I haven’t made significant process in decluttering yet but I do think about it a lot. Moving is such a great catalyst for getting rid of unnecessary stuff.

    • Thanks Rach! Regarding moving so many times, I can relate… I lived in Bristol for 10 years, and lived in 11 different places – and yet I always had too much stuff! And moving stuff you don’t even need is so painful, I’m determined – never again!

      I actually think that the thinking part is the biggest part. Really, so much is about mindset, and being ready to let go. don’t underestimate yourself! I know Ryan from the Minimalists *famously* had a “packing party” where he boxed his whole house up, took out what he needed and gave the rest away, but the reality is, for most of us it’s a longer slog!

      As someone who also thinks about decluttering a lot, eventually you’ll think – hang on, if I just got it done, I wouldn’t have to think about it any more – and then I’ll be free to think about fun stuff instead! : )

      • Haha you’re so right – thinking is really helpful for getting into the right frame of mind, but in the end it has to translate into action! I’m a sucker for procrastination, so I’ll have to keep reminding myself how good it feels to actually get things done :-)

  9. I agree that moving is a great catalyst! I moved 4 times in the last 3 years and every move was an opportunity to minimise some more. Ironically I didn’t start minimising until after the 1st move (when we left our 1 bedroom flat)- but I think the process was what made me realise I had too much stuff, coupled with life circumstances at that time. Since then we’ve lived in 3 bedroom properties and I often wonder how we’d fare back in the flat. lol

    You need to make an inventory when you move, so you’ll know exactly what you do have. You could even try ‘The Minimalists’ idea once you’ve moved in, to only open boxes when you need something (that’s when your inventory is key!)

    I am convinced that Minimalism is a journey and not a destination. No matter how hard you try, there will always be a flow of stuff in and out of your life. It’s about how strictly you curate that stuff. Every time we’ve moved I’ve been horrified at the number of boxes, though you do have to remember that you need to pad some items- like crockery, so it seems like it’s more than it is.

    Are you literally going to get rid of everything, or put some items into storage? I also think that your friends and family will have you stay with them for as long as you need, unless that turns into years- they know it’s indefinite.

    • I can relate to the irony! Why is it we always declutter after we move rather than before?! (To answer my own question, I think it’s because we underestimate how much stuff we have until we physically have to move it, and then we question whether we actually need it.)

      I actually wonder whether an inventory is a good idea! Ryan packed his stuff in boxes and just labelled them, and fairly generally. The danger of a list is being reminded of things due ti the list, rather than remembering them… Then again, you don’t want to forget and buy something you have! Have you tried the inventory yourself? Did it work for you?

      I was always convinced of this too, that minimalism is a journey not a destination, but now I’ve changed my mind a little. I still think the journey is the biggest (and most important part) and I totally agree with you that there will always be stuff flowing into and out of your life… things that were useful that no longer are, things we acquire etc. But I think there is a destination too. Like learning what is enough, for me personally. Learning to be able to let go of everything that no longer serves me (as mentioned many times on the blog, I still have trouble letting go of items in my wardrobe I no longer wear). So when I think of the destination, I don’t think of it as that’s it, I’m finished and I’ll never need to declutter again, but more about reaching acceptance.

      No, I’m not going to get rid of everything! I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of boxes. We’re keeping some of our furniture. I just want to get it down to (what are for me) the essentials. When we move to our new home, I don’t want to regret having boxed up a single item that I unpack!

  10. A deadline is a great idea! I just made a massive decluttering effort in time for the Garage Sale Trail. Out of a carload of stuff (the sale was at a friend’s house) I only came back with one storage container. It held all my maybe items; the things I liked, but didn’t need. I’d decided I was ready to sell them but not donate them. The deadline was an amazing motivator. I was decluttering in the evenings, after work, no matter how exhausted I was.
    I think even if you do end up renewing the lease, still set a deadline to be packed before Christmas. You can still live out of a suitcase in your current home. Less risk of homelessness, but it would rely on self control to meet the deadline.

    • I think so too Ania..I just wish it was shorter, because I work better under pressure, and I can’t bear the though of spending the next 8 weekends decluttering! The Garage Sale Trail would have been a great opportunity…shame the next one is 12 months away! : /

      Maybe items…I’ve listed some clothes on eBay. I felt like I wasn’t ready to get rid of them, but if I could sell them it was somehow different. Even the act of listing them helped towards letting go. A jumper sold within minutes of me listing it. A skirt didn’t sell, but now I’m ready to drop the price and try again. Little by little ; )

      Nope, we’re definitely not renewing the lease. This flat was meant to be temporary and we’ve been here 15 months! Don’t try to persuade me! I need to get the letter posted before I change my mind!

  11. Oh exciting! I think its a great idea. I have two problems with decluttering. 1) I feel bad throwing things “away”, so I need to know they are going to be used by someone else, so then we have things sitting around waiting to be fixed when I should just grit my teeth and put them in the wheelie bin (unfixable things like our vacuum sealer that no longer seals and our egg incubator that no longer holds temperature). AND 2) as we are into making and growing things, we tend to have a lot of things just in case, both tools and materials, which are very difficult to unclutter. We are planning a move in the next 12 months and I have started selling and giving away things, but its a slow process. I like your idea of setting a deadline. Root Simple blog had an interesting discussion on Kon Marie and the problem with decluttering when you are into making things….

    • Thanks Liz! Yes, that was my problem for a long time – feeling bad for throwing things away. But I realised that turning my home into a personal landfill does not solve anything, and I can’t beat myself up about choices I made before I became super passionate about zero waste! Now when I buy or acquire something I think long and hard about how it will be disposed of when it no longer works… and if it’s destined for the landfill I don’t bring it into my home! I’m not perfect but definitely infinitely better than when I began!

      Tools etc… I can’t really comment on this from personal experience, as we have no need for these things currently so don’t have them. That said, if they are truly useful then surely they don’t count as clutter?! There’s still a danger of keeping things “just in case” when it probably won’t happen. It will be interesting when we move and need these things!

      Do you have the link for the blog post you’re talking about? Sounds interesting!

    • Thanks Sandy! Turns out the new place will not be ready before Christmas so we will be couchsurfing for a few weeks with friends / family. It will test our minimalism skills to the max! Can’t wait to share pics of the new place when we finally move in though! The thing I’m most excited about is the veggie beds!

  12. This article is so timely for me. I have been on my minimalist journey since February 2015. I started with 40 bags in 40 days. After 40 days I kept going. Then Marie Kondo came along. Magic! Then Peter Walsh, then minimalist. What a ride. I am a different person. All these people and their supporters have helped me. We are moving from a 2100 square foot house to a 1000 square foot. I am so excited. Learning stuff doesn’t control me. Shopping isn’t fun anymore (except food shopping, I do enjoy that). I love sewing and scrapbooking in an way more empty, calm, peaceful room. And now the move!!! Thank you for sharing your story.

    • 40 bags in 40 days is epic, Judy! Go you! When I started, I found it so hard to get rid of anything. I’ve gotten far far better over time. My husband really clicked with Marie Kondo, and I found some of her tips useful, particularly the folding and tackling all the paperwork at once. I haven’t heard of Peter Walsh, will have to look him up.

      Good luck with your move. I can feel your energy and excitement in the words you write! I hope you continue to enjoy the journey (and I know you will) x

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