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Simplifying my life: decluttering

Posted on Feb 9, 2020 by in All Photos, Thoughts | 0 comments

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It’s been a few years since I first had the feeling that my life was too busy, the days were going too fast, and it felt overwhelming at times. You probably know that feeling, because most of us have it nowadays. And you know, the problem is not even that life is busy, but that this busyness comes from the wrong stuff, from non-important things that easily make their way into our lives and we keep dragging them along without realising. It’s easy to get caught in the spinning wheel and stop only when you’re sick or something bad happens to the loved ones. Since I first had the realisation that I needed to slow down, I tried different methods; I read different blogs and books and heard many motivational speeches on how to slow down, simplify your life, live minimalist, etc. These are each subjects that you can study or talk about for days, even weeks. All of them promise to save you from the burdens of life, to make you happier – or are they? I like to consider them merely guidelines towards living a life as we feel it should be.

I tried to take breaks, to make more me time, to live more mindful. I decluttered, but not as much as Marie Kondo would have liked. I meditated, but I didn’t make it a habit. I tried to buy less, live with less, enjoy more the experiences and less the possessions, live more in the moment. The conclusion I came to was that simplifying your life is not simple! It requires setting alarms, moving your posterior from the couch when you don’t feel like it, because it’s yoga time, and accepting the frustration when you didn’t buy that dress you’ve seen in the shop, the one that would have looked great hanging in your closet while waiting for the right occasion to be worn. From all the things I’ve tried, minimalism appealed the most and came the easiest to me. I was already not a big buyer, by today’s society standards at least, I didn’t have much stuff because of moving houses often, so I could easily incorporate more minimalist ideas in my life. Therefore I thought I was on the right path to a minimalist life.

Simplifying life 01

Now, if you remember, I moved houses in December last year. That was the moment I realised that this particular minimalist owned quite a lot of stuff. The moment I had to take everything out from the drawers and pack them into boxes, it hit me: there were so many things! It was the best moment to do another big decluttering, which I happily did, but because I had only a very short time to pack I quickly became overwhelmed and incapable of deciding on what to keep and what to give away. So I ended up moving more stuff than I would have liked to the new house. There were 15 boxes coming from a small home, plus some extra things that required two car trips on the final moving day!

I still don’t understand how I managed to gather so much unnecessary stuff. Apart from clothes and accessories, which were the main problem, most of the decluttered things were gifts, but there were some things that I bought as well. I had a lot of storage space in that house so I wasn’t realising how much it piled up over the four years I lived there.

The final decluttering moment, the one where I went into the last details, very satisfying but also very tiring, came when I unpacked the boxes in the new house. I could then select what I needed with more clarity, had more time to think about certain items that were hard to let go of, and to bring everything to the right place, for a second (or third) life.

So, what things I got rid of after my move?

  1. Most of the donated things were clothes and accessories, the kind that don’t fit anymore but you keep them there in the hope they will fit again someday. Or you don’t like them anymore, but they have some kind of sentimental value. I can now say that all the clothes I have in my wardrobe fit me, but I still kept two purses that I won’t probably use ever again but couldn’t let go. Maybe they will go away in one of the next decluttering rounds.
  2. Knick-knacks: most of them were gifts received on different occasions. They brought me joy when I got them and I cherished them all but now it was time for them to go to someone else. I brought them to the kringloopwinkel (thrift shop).
  3. Cat toys and accessories: my cat received almost as many gifts as I did during the years, and I kept them because I liked to rotate his toys from time to time to keep him entertained. But while packing, I realised there were way too many toys in his box and I sent some to other cats.
  4. Miscellaneous: solitary things waiting for their time to come and have a purpose. There was a Sauna Belt (which was supposed to warm my back when it would hurt), forgotten in a drawer somewhere; a bike chain waiting to be fixed; decorations; travel size toiletries bottles; jars (these were actually useful, but I had to send them to the recycling bin, because they took up too much space in the moving boxes). And so on and so forth, I don’t even remember all the items now. 
  5. Sentimental items (the ones that were in the box with sentimental items but I didn’t remember what were they supposed to stand for) and stationery.
  6. Books that I had no intention of reading again. Except the ones in Romanian, which I’m still trying to circulate somehow in my Romanian circles.
  7. Shoes. These were the hardest to let go, because I wear a special Cinderella size, hard to find, so when I find shoes that fit me I feel like I need to keep them forever, even when I’m not wearing them anymore.
  8. Make-up. I never had too much make up anyway, but there were still some expired pieces that I needed to get rid of.

I regret I didn’t record my process, but there was no time for that, so maybe I will document the future decluttering rounds.

Simplifying life 02

As for the future:

This is a long-term process, a work in progress, not a one time effort. There’s not much space in my new home, and this motivated me to do the merciless declutter when unpacking. The weird thing was that while decluttering so many items I had to buy many others at the same time. That’s because while I owned many useless things, I missed on so many necessary ones, like glasses and dishes for example (the place I rented before had a fully equipped kitchen). Very frustrating!

It was such a tiresome process and I promised myself to never repeat it again, at that scale. So I set a few rules to live by and a monthly declutter reminder, when I’ll open each drawer in the house and look for unused or useless items that found a hiding spot in my house and get rid of them. No more paper stacks on the table, no more clothes that I don’t wear, no more extra jars, or clutter of any kind. But there is an exception: there can be plants. There are never too many plants!

Buying habits need to be refined once more. I will think even more carefully than before when buying something, anything! I’ll try not to have too many objects that fit the same purpose and I’m trying to implement a new rule: if I feel the urge to buy something — a mug, for example, I’ll give away one that I own, to make space. It will surprise you how efficient this is when you try to buy something, because you don’t want to get rid of what you already have and you’ll most probably choose not to make the purchase.

I will not hold on to gifts just out of guilt: if it’s not something I consume or use often, I will pass it on to someone else. Guilt is not a reason to keep things in your house.

As a follow up, I recently decluttered my emails, my Google Drive, phone and computer. I now feel completely refreshed. There’s a weekly reminder in my calendar to declutter them too; it shouldn’t take more than half an hour, if done often. The control freak in me is thrilled now with all the decisions and hopes I’ll stand by them in the future.

How is this going to simplify my life? 

The clear space is easier to clean and maintain tidy, so I spend little time on this activity. It relaxes me to see things neatly arranged in my house and knowing where everything is, or being able to find it quick. I’m not at that point yet as I am still working on decorating the house, so I keep moving stuff around, but I’ll get there. Trying to live more simply makes me feel free: there is a certain freedom coming from not trying to keep up with the latest fashion or latest technology, from not having the need to constantly consume. Saving money is another aspect of this kind of life. Why not keep my money for what’s really important instead of spending them on a hundred cute crappy things that might even end up unused? 

So there you have it! The journey on simplifying my life. I would love to make this a two-way conversation. Tell me in the comments if you are interested in minimalism and simple living and if you have any tips for me!

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