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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:

kitchen-counter-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path cupboard-open-kitchen-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

Inside some of the drawers:

junk-drawer-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path reusables-drawer-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path saucepans-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path food-storage-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

Under the sink:

under-the-kitchen-sink-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

The Lounge Area:

seating-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

Our Dining Table:

table-window-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

My Desk / The Spare Room:

desk-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path spare-room-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path shoes-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

The Bathroom:

bathroom-bedroom-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path shower-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path bathroom-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

The bathroom cupboard:

bathroom-cupboard-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

Books:

books-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

The Bedroom:

bedroom-bed-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path bedroom-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path bedroom-wardrobe-chest-of-drawers-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

Under the bed:

under-the-bed-hoarder-minimalist-treading-my-own-path

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 is revealed here.

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.

Wardrobe Decluttering Drawers Treading My Own Path August 2016 1000px

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!

The many costs of too much stuff (and some lessons for decluttering)

Over time, we accumulate stuff. Maybe we buy it, maybe it’s given to us, maybe we find it. Eventually our space becomes too full and too cluttered, and we need to do something about it.

One solution is to find some more space. There are a few options here. We can move to a bigger house or apartment, we can rent self-storage or a garage, or if we have amenable parents or friends, we can stash our stuff at theirs.

Getting more space costs us – time, money, or both. A bigger house or flat will mean higher costs, or if we decide to live further away in a cheaper neighbourhood then we spend more time travelling (and on fuel). Plus we have to spend time sorting and boxing our stuff and lugging it across town. If we’ve left our stuff with our amenable friends, there’s also the fear factor – the fear that they’ll appear on our doorstep in a few months with all of our stuff because they’re sick of tripping over it.

Plus this stuff cost us in the first place. If we took the time to look for it, and buy it, it cost us. If it was a gift, it cost someone else their time and money. Also, if our stuff was brand-new, there’s an environmental cost too. The raw materials needed to be mined or harvested, transported, processed, assembled, packaged, shipped, displayed and sold in order for us to have it.

Too much stuff also affects us in other ways, too. Clutter can affect our health. Clutter harbours dust and mould, which we breathe in. It makes us stressed and drains our energy. It can be a fire or trip hazard. Having a messy house that’s too full of stuff can be embarrassing, and make us ashamed to invite friends or family over, meaning we can become more isolated. In extreme cases, people have literally been killed by having too much stuff (I’m not going to provide any links but if you don’t believe me, google it.)

We can become slaves to our stuff. The more we have, the more it demands of us, and we end up trying to make our stuff happy. We spend time cleaning and dusting, rearranging and polishing. We buy more stuff to improve our stuff (a new display cabinet to show off our stuff, a bigger wardrobe so our clothes aren’t so squashed, a new addition to our ‘shiny things’ collection that makes it just that little bit more splendid). It is all consuming.

Of course, there’s another way to deal with having too much stuff.

Getting rid of some of it.

It sounds fairly simple, but it’s something I struggle with. Stuff can have a pretty tight grip on us. Living with my boyfriend in our one-bedroom flat – the smallest place I’ve ever lived in – for the last 18 months has been a great experience in living with less. Slowly but surely though, the amount of stuff has built up and the flat is currently feeling less than zen.

We did think about moving into a two-bedroom place, but it would cost us an extra $3000 a year. That’s a lot of money to spend on an extra room to keep all our stuff in. That money could be spent on a pretty amazing holiday. There was no contest. We’re going to stay where we are and I am going to learn how to declutter.

We’ve had a couple of attempts at decluttering so far, with mixed success, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons. Our first attempt was dedicating a weekend to decluttering, where I mostly just got impatient that our flat wasn’t decluttered already. In reality I didn’t really do much to assist the process. We got rid of one box of things. After reflecting, I decided to try a different approach.

Lesson 1: It’s not enough to want to declutter, no matter how much you desperately want it. You have to put in the physical work too.

Lesson 2: Don’t expect miracles. If you’re new to decluttering, or you’ve been a hoarder all your life, you’re not going to change in one weekend. Change takes time.

Lesson 3: If one method doesn’t work for you, try something else until you find something that does.

My next idea was to try to get rid of 100 things by taking smaller steps, and getting rid of 5 things a day. We gathered together a few bits and pieces for the charity shops and Gumtree, and we recycled some glass and cardboard that we’d been keeping (sorry, that I’d insisted we keep) in case they turned out to be useful. Excluding the rubbish and recycling, we got rid of 36 things. Not the 100 I wanted, but we did clear some more stuff.

Lesson 4: Focus on what you did achieve, not what you didn’t, and celebrate your successes, however small they may seem.

Lesson 5: If it all gets too much, take a step back. Come back to it when you feel ready again.

I decided to take some time out, and now I’m feeling re-energised and ready for another attempt. I’ve decided that this time I’m going to focus on clutter. All the stuff that seems transient, and really should have a permanent home, yet somehow doesn’t actually seem to.

I’m going to tackle the clutter from the other side. I’m going to have a major thorough spring clean, one section of the flat at a time. Rather than imagining a clutter-free space, the idea is that I’ll actually create it. Rather than being a conscious thought, it’ll be a physical manifestation. Maybe if I can see it with my own eyes, then my conscious mind will know what’s going on, can let my subconscious mind in on the plan and we’ll all be on the same page. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I don’t have all the answers to successful decluttering, but I’m learning all the time, and I’m hopeful that if I keep at it, it will get easier!