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3 Assumptions You’re Making About Decluttering… And Why You’re Wrong

If you care even the teeniest bit about our planet and where stuff goes when we throw it “away”, if you see ‘stuff’ as money spent and resources used, chances are you struggle with the idea of decluttering.

I get it.

This used to be me. There I was, holding onto things I didn’t really need or use, seeing landfill as a terrible waste of resources, and despairing of the clutter all the while.

It took time to change my thinking, and more importantly change my relationship with stuff. It was a process, a slow realisation that I needed to change the way I viewed ‘stuff’.

I’d made a few assumptions about decluttering and waste in my time. It turned out, I was wrong.

Here’s 3 things I thought were true about decluttering, and how I’ve reshaped how I think about them.

1. Decluttering is a waste of resources.

Let’s be clear. Stuff is resources. But the idea that decluttering is a waste of resources comes from the mistaken belief that decluttering means sending stuff to landfill (or perhaps dumping it at the closest charity shop – which can often mean the same thing).

Since when was putting something in the bin the only option for our unwanted stuff?

Yes, putting stuff in the bin is a waste of resources. But finding new homes for our old things, with owners who love what we no longer need and will use it often – now that is an excellent use of resources.

Think about it this way. No-one declutters stuff that they love, need and use all the time. The stuff we are trying to declutter is the stuff we don’t like, don’t need and don’t use.

If we don’t use it, don’t need it and don’t like it, how is keeping it anything other than a waste of resources? Sure it might not be in the bin, but turning our cupboards and storage into mini-landfills (which is what they are, when you think about it) really isn’t saving resources.

Owning stuff we never use is a waste of resources.

If we can pass these things onto people who will use them, we allow these things to realise their full potential. To do the jobs they were made to do. Not only that, we are also helping stop the purchasing of more new stuff. Someone uses our old stuff, so they don’t need to buy new stuff.

Making our things available to others slows down the production of stuff, and remember – all stuff is resources.

What we need to do is find new homes for our stuff. To think beyond the bin, and beyond the closest charity shop. Believe me, someone somewhere wants what you have, and it is far easier to find them than you might think.

As someone who is incredibly passionate about zero waste, I say with full conviction that decluttering can be a very zero waste thing to do, and is an excellent use of resources.

2. That stuff could be useful one day.

Of course on one level this is true. That stuff you don’t like and never use could be useful one day. But often we confuse the fact that stuff is inherently useful with a rather different question – is it useful, and is it necessary, to us?

Being useful isn’t the same as being necessary.

The real question to ask is this. If in this future imaginary scenario where I envisage that this item might be useful, and I didn’t have it, would I actually need to own it?

Or could I make do with something else I already have that can do a similar job? Would I be able to borrow from friends, family or neighbours? What would actually happen if I wanted to use the item and was without it?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. It depends a lot on what the item is, where we live and whether we have access to friends, family and neighbours, whether we have access to a vehicle, and the function that the item serves.

Keeping a torch in case there is ever a power failure is a very different scenario to keeping a watercolour set in case we ever decide to take up painting.

So we can be practical about it. We can think about our own situation and circumstances and make sensible decisions around what is likely to be useful, and what is necessary.

And we can agree that yes, all things are useful. But being inherently useful is not a reason to keep things that aren’t particularly useful to us.

Rather than keeping things just in case they might be useful one day, we can pass things onto people who definitely need them now, and intend to use them straightaway. That is a better outcome for those resources.

3. Decluttering is not for anyone on a budget.

The idea of decluttering something, only to realise that actually it was needed after all, and having to buy it back again, does not sit well with anyone on a budget. (Nor does it sit well with anyone who thinks that shopping is not a great use of their time.)

This argument is used often when talking about decluttering – if we realise we need it we can buy it back – because almost always, we won’t regret that decision and actually want to buy it back.

But what if this thing we declutter is the exception? What then?

In the same way that decluttering doesn’t have to mean going in the bin, it doesn’t have to mean giving stuff away for free, either. It is perfectly possible to sell items that we no longer need – either using online services such as auction and classifieds sites, social media marketplaces, or in-person services such as car boot sales, swap meets and garage sales.

Online services have made it possible to connect with buyers beyond our suburb, often nationally and even internationally. They also provide an easy way to find out what our stuff might be worth, and what other people are willing to pay.

The great thing about second-hand stuff, is that it tends to lose its value fairly slowly. Meaning you could sell an item second-hand, change your mind once it is sold and buy back a similar item for a similar price.

With technology it works out even better, because models get superceded so quickly, so re-buying something later for the same price means getting a more advanced version.

Budgets are a reality for most of us. When deciding what your budget can handle, consider these questions:

  • How readily available is the item? Would you expect every charity shop in the country to have one? Is it something that has daily new listings on the online classifieds?
  • How much it might cost to buy-back second-hand? How does that fit with your expendable income?
  • How practical and easy is it to re-buy the item? Is it local, is a vehicle required?

Considering these questions first can help make an informed decision about whether we really need to hang onto something or not.

It might not even be necessary to buy it back – it may be possible to find it for free. There are plenty of “free stuff” websites and networks where items are given away free of charge. Freecycle, Freegle and the Buy Nothing network are just a few great examples. You can read more about buying less (new) stuff in this post.

Budget or not, we’ve got to remember that the stuff we declutter tends to be the stuff we don’t use, don’t need and don’t like. Why then, would we actually want to buy that stuff back?

It’s helpful to try to understand if this is a truly practical consideration for us, or a fear masquerading an an excuse that’s probably unfounded.

For most of us, decluttering does not come easy. But when it comes to the excuses we make or assumptions we believe around why we don’t want to pass on our old things, it could just be that we’re looking at it under the wrong lens.

The fact that things are inherently useful does not necessarily mean they are useful to us. And yes, budgets and expendable income are an important consideration – but we can still be pragmatic. Most importantly of all: decluttering does not have to mean waste.

‘Less Stuff: Simple Zero-Waste Steps to a Joyful and Clutter-Free Life’ by Lindsay Miles is available to order now from all good bookstores and online.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Whether you’re proficient at decluttering, or novice; someone who finds it easy to let go, or someone who wants to hold onto everything; somebody who hates the idea of waste or someone who loves to find new homes for old things, we want to hear your stories! Share your experiences, struggles, successes and any thoughts at all below!

5 Tips for Less (and Better) Screen Time

This year I want to focus more on returning to living a little more simply, and feeling less busy, rushed and stressed. When I think about what this looks like in my life, I’ve realised one area I’d like to work on is the amount of time I spend online: I’d like to spend less time looking at screens.

I know it isn’t good for me to be staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day, only to switch off the laptop and open up my phone to see what’s going on over there.

I love writing my blog, and I love social media, but all things in moderation.

It’s something I’m always conscious of, and often think about, but this year I intend to be more proactive with it. Whilst I don’t feel that I spend a huge amount of time on screens (and I don’t have a TV), there’s always room for improvement.

I don’t have all the answers, but I wanted to share some of the tools and some of the techniques I’m using to unplug a little. And ask for your help in telling me your own experiences and tips. I’m far from perfect, so if you have your own suggestions I’d be over the moon if you’d share them!

Less Screens

For me, screens can be divided into two: my laptop/computer, and my mobile phone. Because the way I use them is quite different, I’ve divided them up to talk about each separately.

Less Laptop / Computer Time

When you work for yourself and you don’t have a defined work day, it’s easy for laptop time to extend into evenings and weekends. I’m definitely guilty of keeping my laptop on well into the evenings. It’s not that working in the evening is bad per se, but without boundaries in place, it can feel like all I do is stare at the screen.

It’s also incredibly tempting to open the laptop for a few hours on the weekend to “get ahead”. Sadly “ahead” isn’t a place or something solid and attainable, it’s just an idea that sounds good.

Changing this is the challenge for the year.

What it’s going to look like, I’m not sure yet. One reason I like working for myself is that I don’t have to subscribe to the rigid 8am – 5pm model, so imposing that restriction doesn’t really make sense.

Yet the idea of saying “whatever happens in the day, the computer is off by 6pm” is incredibly appealing.

I’d like to reclaim my weekends, and keep the laptop turned off for at least one day, and ideally both. I’d like to keep my work day to a reasonable amount of hours, so if I start work early, then I don’t work late. I’ll let you know how this works out!

Less Mobile Phone Screen Time

When I first decided I wanted to reduce my mobile phone screen time, I realised I didn’t actually have any idea how often I used it, or what I was spending the most time looking at.

To figure this out, I downloaded a (free) app called AntiSocial. It tracks usage (number of minutes per day), number of unlocks, number of minutes spent on each app, the most used app, number of minutes on social media, and more.

I found it quite insightful, and think it is a good place to start when wanting to reduce phone time. The app also has the ability to block or restrict certain apps, by setting a daily limit, schedule or timer. Personally, I haven’t needed to use these.

There are plenty of other apps that offer these blocking services too.

When it comes to restricting my phone use during the day, I use the oldschool approach of turning my phone onto silent and putting it into another room, unless I am expecting a phone call. If someone calls and I miss it, I can always call them back, and not being able to hear the bleep or vibrate of a notification stops me being distracted.

I’m also conscious of the apps I use on my phone. I do not have Facebook on my mobile phone, meaning if I want to look at it I have to log onto the laptop. This works for me.

I also noticed recently that I have started reading the BBC news app more and more, which tends to tell me about all the terrible things happening in the world and puts me in a bad mood. I’m considering deleting this app too. AntiSocial tells me I spent 4 hours using the BBC News app in the past month. Was that a good use of my time? I’m not sure. Sometimes I’d rather not know what is going on in the world!

Less Ads

When I am on my computer I want to keep distractions to a minimum, and removing ads is one way that works for me. I’ve installed an adblocker on my laptop (you can also install them on your tablet or mobile). They work by removing advertisements from the sidebar and content, and replacing with white space.

I use AdBlocker Plus: it’s free to install.

Removing adverts remove the temptation to click away from what I’m trying to do, and stops me finding myself inadvertently shopping for stuff I don’t really need. It also means that if I do look at a product or service online, I’m not followed around by said product or service through retargeting adverts, trying to encourage me to make a purchase.

Another tip that’s worked for me is to unsubscribe from all shopping websites or anything that sends high volumes of sales emails. I find the constant “sales” and “limited offers” arriving in my inbox to be incredibly distracting, and the temptation to click through is always higher than if the email simply wasn’t there.

Better Screentime (When It Can’t Be Avoided)

I do not want screen time to take over my life, and more importantly, I do not want it to interfere with my sleep. Sleep is important to me, and a good nights sleep makes all the difference between a good day and a bad one.

Computer screens have a lot of blue light, which can affect sleep when we use them late at night. One option is simply not to use screens at night, but it isn’t always practical.

To help with this, I’ve download some apps that reduce the blue light, to help with sleep. On my phone I download the app Twilight, and on my laptop I’ve downloaded the app Flux. I can tell the app when the sun sets, and when I get up in the morning, and it will adjust the amount of blue light.

The screen looks a little strange at first, but I definitely feel that it strains my eyes less. The science says it works, and if I can’t avoid using screens late at night, it seems like a better option.

As I said at the start, I don’t have all the answers, but slowly I’m finding solutions to help me unplug. Freeing up my time from screens is going to let me embrace all the off-screen things I’m dying to do but simply never seem to be able to fit in! Not that I want to fill all the time. White space is good too.

Now I’d love to hear from you! How do you reduce screen time? Are there any apps you recommend? Any old school techniques and tips you recommend? Anything you tried that didn’t work at all? Please share your knowledge and experience in the comments below!

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.

hoarder-minimalist-bundle

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 : )

6 Things Minimalism Taught Me About Tidying

I’m going to come right out and tell you now, I am not naturally a tidy person. I like things to be tidy, but I am less keen to actually tidy them away. What I’ve come to realise is that being in a constant state of not-wanting-to-tidy-but-wanting-it-to-be-tidy means I spent more time thinking about tidying than actually tidying, and if I just went ahead and did the tidying in the first place I’d have far more energy and drive for the things that were important to me. Consequently, I began to embrace the idea of tidying.

These realisations don’t mean that suddenly I learned to love to tidy. Not at all. I would still rather spend the minimum amount of time tidying, but I now accept that it needs to be done, and I’m happier when my home is tidy. In my quest to figure out how to tidy less, the ideas of minimalism, of simplifying, and of letting go really clicked with me. After all, everything we own is something else to look for, find, move, clean, put away, maintain, worry about and probably at some stage, get frustrated with. Less stuff means less of all these things… and more time for getting on with living life.

Decluttering has definitely made my home tidier. The less you have, the less there is to tidy – there’s no arguing with that. But whilst decluttering has made a big difference, my home didn’t transform miraculously into one which no longer needs tidying. I wanted to believe that it would happen, but of course, it didn’t. Decluttering is not the whole story. However, it has taught me a lot about tidying, and made me realise some truths that I probably wouldn’t have figured out if I hadn’t started down the minimalist path.

More or better storage is not the answer to a tidy house

I used to think more storage was the answer, but in reality it was a way for me to hide my clutter out of sight. At first glance my home might look tidy, but inside most of the cupboards and storage boxes it was chaos. The more storage I had, the harder it was for me to remember where anything was, and the longer it took to search.

It’s not just cupboards and storage that we use for storing our stuff, it is whole rooms. Several years ago my husband and I started noticing that our small one-bedroom flat was getting very full. We didn’t have any space for extra storage, so we considered doing what everyone else does – move to a bigger place with an extra room.

But when we thought about it, we realised that we would be paying extra rent for a bigger home (and going through the pain of moving) just so we could store a bunch of things that we probably didn’t even need. We started to get rid of those things that we didn’t need instead… and we got rid of our storage too. That freed up space, and rather than costing us money (in rent), we made money by finding good homes for the things we no longer needed.

We let our spaces dictate to us how much stuff we have. If we have a big shed, or plenty of kitchen cupboards, or a spare room, we let ourselves fill them. More storage means more space to put stuff, and encourages us to accumulate more – and that means more tidying. We don’t need more storage. We need less stuff.

Better organisation isn’t the answer to a tidy home, either

I will say this first: everything you own needs a place. How can you tidy it away if you don’t know where that place is? Beyond that, there’s no need to over-complicate things. There’s no need for complex systems, or boxes with labels and dividers and subdividers and headings, or neat stacks of things balanced precariously one on top of the other. All that means is extra work, and extra clutter… and more reason not to put something away properly. One moment of “I-can’t-be-bothered-I’ll-do-it-properly-later” shortcut-taking and the whole system crumbles.

If you live with other people, this is even more important. The more complicated your systems are means the less likely anyone else will be to follow them.

When it comes to organising stuff, simplest is best.

Someone has to do the work

Houses don’t tidy themselves. This took me a long time to figure out. I would often wonder how other people managed to keep their houses clean and tidy. I thought there must be a secret, and if I could just discover it for myself, my home would be miraculously clean. The truth is of course, there is no secret. They simply do the work. If I want my home to be clean, I have to clean it.

There’s an interesting lesson there, too. If I want my home to be clean, I’m the one who has to clean it. I can’t just nag my husband to clean it for me. Having tried (and failed) on numerous occasions (and yes, I do still try occasionally) I have realised that if I’m the one who wants the tidy home, I am the one who has to do the work.

Everyone has a mess threshold: the point at which the mess becomes unbearable and they have to do something about it. I consider mine to be fairly high – I can tolerate quite a bit of mess before it annoys me. Frustratingly, my husband’s threshold is even higher. Consequently, when I think it’s messy and needs tidying, he is still oblivious… and of course if he doesn’t think it needs doing, he won’t join in (or he will, but very reluctantly and after much nagging).

If I want to maintain the peace, I either need to raise my tolerance levels or accept I need to do the work myself. (Note to husband – I’m still trying to come to terms with this.)

The cleaning will never be done

When I first realised this, it was something of a shock to me. The cleaning will never be finished. There is no “once-and-for-all” with cleaning. I can clean until the place is spotless, and everything gleams, but soon enough everything is dirty and dusty and needs to be re-cleaned. The dishes will need doing. The clothes will need washing and putting away.

Rather than save up all the cleaning until it becomes a monstrous job, and resenting how much time it takes up, I’ve realised that it’s best to accept that there will always be cleaning, and do a little every day. Do the dishes when they’re dirty straight away, and put them away. Do a load of laundry once the basket is full, and put it away. It doesn’t seem so much of a chore this way.

I’m not perfect, not at all, but when I get lazy and let a few loads of laundry build up or the dishes accumulate in the sink, it’s always far more onorous than little and often. Slowly slowly, the lesson is being learned.

A tidy home is all about mindfulness

If you have a messy home you’re probably like me: walk in the front door, drop shoes at the doorway, throw coat over a chair, and drop on the sofa after throwing bag on the floor. Whether my keys go in the bag, or on the sofa (probably falling behind the cushions) or remain in my coat pocket, or get left on the side seems to happen at random. Yet it causes panic and stress the next morning when I cannot remember where they are but realise I cannot escape the house without them. This is the opposite of mindfulness: it’s mindlessness, literally!

What if, instead of the above, I came home, left my shoes at the entrance and then walked to the wardrobe and hung my coat and put my bag away (ensuring the keys are in there)? Really, it takes me a couple of extra seconds at the time, but it saves me having to go through the whole process of looking for where I’ve left things and putting them away later, plus it decreases the clutter immediately.

It shouldn’t be that hard, should it? It’s something I’m working on, slowly. Rather than putting things down to deal with later, thinking about putting them in their final place the first time. I have to say, the less you own, the easier this becomes!

Habits take time

If I know one thing about habits, it’s that they take time to adopt. You have to work at them, and if you practice every day you’ll get better faster. You have to do things consciously until they become unconscious.

Tidying is a habit. As someone who is messy and doesn’t naturally tidy, learning to become a tidy person has taken time. Is taking time! It’s not a case of tidying the whole house and thinking – right, I’m never letting it get messy again! (Has anyone else done that? I used to cycle between this and messiness-to-the-point-of-despair, until I realised there had to be another way.) I have no idea what made me think that I could go from messy person to tidy person following one afternoon of cleaning, but I constantly did!

Realising that I needed to be more mindful and tackle things as they happened was the first step, the next step is making them habits that I do without thinking. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Has minimalism (or decluttering, or simplifying) taught you any lessons about tidying? What tips do you have for keeping clutter at bay? What habits you find most useful? What area of your home do you find hardest to keep clutter-free, and what is the easiest? Are you naturally a tidy person, or are you naturally messy? If you’re messy, have you come to terms with your messiness or do you long to be tidy? If you’re naturally tidy, please give some insights into how you do it! I love hearing your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

Suitcase Minimalism and 5 Things I’ve Learned

We gave notice on the flat we rented at the end of November, hoping to be able to move into our new flat but knowing that if we couldn’t, it would be an interesting lesson in minimalism. In the end, the new place wasn’t ready. Obviously we needed those lessons! On Christmas Eve we moved out of the old place and with nowhere to call our own, began relying on the kindness of friends and family. We stored some of our stuff in a friend’s garage and have dragged the rest back and forth across town as we sleep in various spare rooms made available to us.

We’ve been couchsurfing across the city for a month. It’s been novel. It’s been exasperating. It’s been fun. It’s been draining. It’s been challenging. And of course, I have had some interesting insights into my relationship with stuff.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Minimalism for minimalism’s sake misses the point.

We have put stuff in storage. A few bits of furniture, kitchen stuff, a couple of boxes of things. Most of the things in storage are not things we couldn’t bear to part with, but items that were convenient to keep. We are only moving a few suburbs away and we are not paying for storage, so why give items away only to have to buy them again later?

We could have got rid of everything, but what would that have achieved? What point would it have proven? I want to move into our new place and get straight into planting the garden, not spend the first few weekends re-accumulating all the stuff we gave away. Minimalism is about finding out what is enough and getting rid of the unnecessary, not getting rid of everything.

2. Minimalism is not about counting your stuff.

There are minimalists who have less than 100 items, or who can fit their entire personal possessions into a single bag. This is not me. I have no idea how many items I own, although I’m sure it’s more likely to run into the high hundreds or even thousands. And actually, I’m not interested in counting them.

There are plenty of minimalism counting challenges out there based on numbers: Mins game (where you get rid of 1 thing on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third and so on all the way up to 30 – which means 465 things in total) or Project 333, where your wardrobe is 33 items of clothing for 3 months, or the 40 bags in 40 days challenge (actually, this would probably wipe out everything I own – I have nowhere near that amount of stuff in total, let alone that I want to get rid of!) are just a few I’ve come across. Counting the stuff you’re getting rid of, however, is different to counting what remains.

When we left our stuff in the garage, we didn’t count it. We felt everything in there was useful and we needed. What does it matter what that number of things is? What would we use the number for? To compare ourselves to others? Minimalism isn’t a competition.

Minimalism is a personal journey: finding out what is enough for you. Enough isn’t a number.

3. The less you have, the more you can focus.

It has been a revelation to me how much easier it is to get stuff done when you remove most of the distractions: and by distractions I mean stuff. With most of our stuff packed in boxes we are operating out of a few bags filled only with the basics, and it’s been surprising how productive I’ve been.

Jobs that I’ve been putting off that come under the “need to do but really can’t be bothered because they are boring” category, like finally tackling my ridiculously non-minimalist inbox, laptop saved files and hard drive and filing / organizing / deleting thousands (yes, thousands) of unnecessary emails and files. Tedious but oh, it feels so good to be onto it!

Also the jobs that come under “procrastination central”. The things I’ve been saving for when the time is right… which of course, it never is. When you completely run out of distractions the only thing for it is to stop procrastinating and start getting stuff done!

4. Too little stuff can stifle your creativity.

It’s been great paring down to the absolute basics. On the plus side, I’m getting lots of stuff done. On the downside, I can feel my frustration rising because of the limitations I have.

By limitations, I don’t mean distractions. I mean the things I love to do that I can no longer do. Like baking and cooking. I can cook still cook dinner, sure, but without utensils and ingredients and storage space, we’ve had to stick to the basics. We ate the same vegetable lentil ragu for dinner 4 days in a row. I miss my kitchen.

Getting stuff done is fantastic, of course. But I’m not a robot. I can’t just work at 100% capacity all the time. I need rewards and down time – and that is what cooking is for me. It nurtures my creative side. It gives me happiness.

Finding “enough” is finding your sweet spot, when you don’t feel frustration because you are constantly looking for / maintaining / cleaning your stuff, but you also don’t feel frustration because you don’t have what you need. Living out of a couple of suitcases has made me realise that a couple of suitcases is less than my “enough”.

5. However many clothes you have, it’s (probably) still too many.

Okay, so I don’t know how many clothes you have. But I know how many I have…and it is still far too many! I’ve written about my wardrobe decluttering struggle many times, but after posting most recently back in October I had a major epiphany and decluttered a whole lot more. I didn’t think I was done, but I thought I was getting close. Now we’ve moved I’ve observed I still have too many clothes. It seems you really don’t need to own that many outfits at all!

The main reason I’ve found this out is that there is very little wardrobe space where I’m staying currently, so most of my clothes are still in my suitcase. Being lazy, it’s far easier to wear the things on the top, wash and repeat. Which means I’ve probably been rotating the same 5 outfits over the last 2 weeks. Which means I could probably manage with 5 outfits most (all?) of the time. Not that I intend to cut it back that far (yet) but I’ve noticed that I haven’t felt restricted, or lacking in choice. In fact, it’s been super easy to get dressed every morning!

Post writing that October article, I thought I’d made great progress. Now I know I could get rid of more. I’m rather looking forward to unpacking when we finally move and seeing what else can go. Maybe Project 333 (which I’ve always considered completely impossible) may be within my grasp after all!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever tried to find your “enough” sweet spot? What did you learn about yourself? What was “more than enough” and what was “less than enough” for you? What would your one thing that’s you’d never want to let go be? Have you ever tried living out of a suitcase? Tell us about it! What did you love and what did you struggle with? Any other insights you’d like to tell us? Please write a comment in the space below!

The One Golden Rule of Decluttering

We’re moving home in just over a week, and there’s nothing like a house move to flex that decluttering muscle and have a clear-out. All that stuff piled away in the corners of our flat that we’ve probably forgotten about?

It’s one thing to let it sit there, not bothering us; but it’s quite another to have to drag it out, dust them off, pack it into boxes, lug them somewhere else, unpack them at the other end and then find somewhere new to stash it all until they’re forgotten about once more.

As a natural hoarder, one of the hardest things for me to do is to let go of things that might be useful in the future. Which basically means, stuff that I don’t need now. Or probably more accurately, stuff I don’t need.

I can get rid of things that aren’t useful at all and I know won’t be useful in the future. I try to avoid getting these types of things in the first place, but it happens.

I can also get rid of things that are useful, but that I have no use for – especially if I know someone else who will be able to use it, or I know that we could sell it (so there’s a financial sweetener to counter the pain of getting rid of it).

However, things that might be useful in the future translates as things that are broken and need repairing. Cables for some kind of electronic device but which one exactly I’m not sure. Stuff for hobbies that I don’t even do but think I might try in the future. Half-used toiletries or jars of strange ingredients that I don’t really like but know I paid money for and can’t bring myself to throw away.

When we move, I’m going to have to challenge my resistance to getting rid of things that might be useful in the future. We’ve lived in this flat for almost two and a half years. If something hasn’t been useful in all that time, and I still can’t actually envisage when it will start becoming useful, then it needs to go.

Sounds easy enough, but will I be able to follow through? To help strengthen my resolve, I’ve been thinking about what I tell myself in order to convince myself to hang onto these things. If I can counter these arguments in a logical way, maybe I’ll be able to let these things go.

Here are the three top excuses, and my counter-arguments:

But I feel so guilty!

Most of this stuff is stuff that no-one else will want. Broken bits and pieces, scrap, textbooks, centuries-old cosmetics, random condiments that I wouldn’t trust to eat, unused kitchen tools… and so on. Why then, do I feel so guilty about throwing it away?

One reason, maybe, is that I paid for some of this stuff. It cost me money. To throw it away is to admit that I made a bad purchase. I like to think of myself as good at managing money, but these items make me feel like I was reckless – a spendthrift! I feel guilty. The paradox is that every time I see these items, I am reminded of my bad purchase.

If I got rid of these things, I wouldn’t think about them again, and I’d actually be free of these emotions!

Another reason is that these things may have some functionality left, but I don’t want to use them any more. This is the case with toiletries that I have since discovered contain toxic ingredients, or plastic cookware, or foodstuffs that I don’t like. Yet to get rid of something that still has some life left seems wasteful, so they remain, just in case. Yet if I don’t want to use them (and I don’t want anyone else to use them, either), then actually they don’t have any life left. It’s an illusion.

The guilt I have, I’ve realised, is misplaced. When I got these items, and started using them, I didn’t know they were toxic/unsafe/unpleasant. If I had, I’d never have bought them, or never have used them. We make decisions based on what we know at the time. I can’t feel guilty about what I didn’t know.

I’m saving it from landfill

If it’s something that I’m genuinely going to use, then yes, I’ve saved it from landfill. If it’s something that just sits in my house, gathering dust, then I haven’t actually saved it from landfill at all. I’ve just delayed the process. It’s still as useless as it was, and it will end up in landfill eventually (if not by my hand, by someone else’s).

I’ve picked up things from the verge (old carpet, reticulation tubing) that I’ve thought would be useful once I have a garden. I don’t have a garden, and I won’t have a garden when I move, so I still don’t need these things.

Maybe in the future I will have a garden and need these things. But that’s a maybe. (Actually, I don’t know that old carpets are good to use in gardens anyway, because of the chemicals that leach out of them.)

This wasn’t my waste, it was someone else’s. It’s waste that I tried to save. I failed. But we all fail sometimes. That’s how life works.

What if I do need it later?

You know what? If it so happens that I suddenly need that item that I finally got rid of, I’ll check with friends and family to see if they have one I can have, or borrow. I’ll check in the classifieds and see if there’s one for sale second-hand. If not, maybe, just maybe, I’ll have to buy another one. If I really genuinely need it, then the new one I buy will be a useful purchase! I think the risks are pretty small, and I’m gonna take my chances.

 The Golden Rule of Decluttering

There’s a quote I see bandied round the internet a lot. A motto maybe, of minimalists everywhere. Words to live by or strive towards. When it comes to decluttering, I think it’s perfect.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ~William Morris

What I have come to realise is that I cannot feel guilt for things I purchased in the past, or for decisions I made before I started on this journey. I cannot feel guilty because I don’t find something useful or can’t make it useful. Just as there is no space for junk, there is no room in the tiny flat for guilt, and there’s no room in the new place either.

As we pack up this flat to move, this quote is our mantra. If it isn’t useful or beautiful, then it’s not coming with us.

How about you? What do you find easy to get rid of, and what things do you struggle with? Do you have a motto or rules that you live by when it comes to decluttering? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!