Twice a year I like to declutter and I usually end up with at least a couple of large bags of things to donate or sell. This is in addition to the fact that when we emigrated we donated more possssions than we brought with us. Every time I do it, I am always suprised at the amount of stuff we have accumulated since the last time I decluttered so this time I took a very careful look at what I collected before stuffing it into bags.
What I realised is that apart from items that my children simply grew out of, most of what I collected had not been bought in the past few years. Yes there were a handful of t shirts that I bought in an online sale when I was in a bad mood last winter which didn’t fit and couldn’t be returned. Yes there were some recent DVDs that were only watched once because they were so terrible. Aside from that though, most of what was there we have had for a while and lots of it travelled with us from the other side of the world.
This was a relief because every time I declutter and end up with so much to donate, I start to worry that I have a secret shopping addiction….Looking at the pile of soon to be donated clutter, I reflected that as I have systematically worked through our clutter in recent years, I have been shedding the past and breaking free from the burdens of the life we used to have. Back when I thought the more stuff we had, the better our lives would be. Back when I thought new stuff would stop the ache in my heart.
There are two practical things that have helped me get to this point:
1. Lack of space
In the UK we had an attic that was crammed full of hidden ‘stuff’, but our house here in New Zealand has very little storage space and as a result, I am very aware of every possession we have and know it’s time for something to go if it hasn’t been used, moved or noticed for a few months. Nowadays I think very carefully before buying something about where it will live in our little house and for the most part try to avoid buying ‘stuff’ when I feel bad or are just plain bored. Having very little storage space makes me mindful of all we already have and as most of our things are visible I can see with my own eyes that we don’t have room for much more. If you are living in a house with lots of storage ask yourself whether you are holding into things that you no longer want or need just because you have the space. If you no longer really want something or really need it it is clutter.
2. What we learned from living out of a suitcase
It took three months for our stuff to arrive in New Zealand via container ship back in 2012 and when it finally arrived we were so excited to sit on our comfy old sofa, sleep in our beds rather than on air beds and watch our old favourite DVDs. It helped us learn to appreciate what we already had and also showed us that we could live without so much of what we had accumulated over the years. We lived for three months on what we carried with us on the flight along with the basic household supplies that we purchased when we moved into our first rental. Without their toys, the children spent ages playing with cardboard boxes. Without our furniture, we sat on the floor and slept on the floor and we visited the library practically every day for entertainment. We had very little and money was tight but we were happy and I realised that while I was grateful for what we had once it arrived, there was so much that I no longer needed. Look around your house. What are the things you really love? What are the things you need? Ask yourself why you have stuff that doesn’t fit into either of these categories. Maybe it’s time to sell it or give it away.
Decluttering makes me feel purposeful. It makes me feel brighter and makes my home appear lighter. For anyone else who is considering some decluttering here are my top 3 tips as I see myself as something of an expert….
1. Clear one space at a time- adopt a methodical approach and and take it steadily. Don’t burn yourself out by trying to get rid of everything in one morning. Once an area is clear I place the stuff in a rubbish sack and put it at the front of the garage. This way it is out of my way but still visible every time I go outside so I don’t forget to donate it.
2. Be ruthless- ask yourself when you last used something. If it was more than a year ago for most things it’s probably times to say goodbye.
3. Sort clutter into things to donate and things to sell. Last year I made $600 by selling some of our clutter but I don’t try to sell everything- so I donate most of it and try to sell nicer children’s clothing and toys, for example.
I believe decluttering our physical space is so energisising because it taps into that part of ourselves that yearns for a simpler life- a clutter free home and a clutter free mind.