Unpacking and Decluttering
I’ve been decluttering over the past week or two. Every so often I find it kind of therapeutic to go through some of the things I own and make a decision about what stays and what goes.
A recent house move means that once again I have been faced with the reality of exactly how much stuff we own. Although it’s still quite a lot, it’s a lot less than we’ve ever owned before. Packing and unpacking everything has also given me a chance to look at every single item again and in a lot of cases I’ve put some things straight into bags to go to a charity shop, rather than let them even make their way into a cupboard or onto a shelf.
I’m not trying to live a monastic lifestyle (although I do think there’s a lot to be said for that way of life) and I’m not really into the idea of only allowing myself to own a fixed number of things so I don’t think I’d call myself a Minimalist.
What I Own and What I Buy
Having decluttered in big and small ways during the past 6 years has gradually made me think a lot more about my relationship to material possessions, though. I find myself thinking more about how and why I buy things. Whether I’d be happy with an e-book instead of a physical, paper book that takes up space on a shelf, whether I need lots and lots of pairs of jeans, or whether a few will be enough, or whether it’s likely that one day some sort of cake-related emergency will strike that will mean I do in fact need 8 or 9 different shapes and sizes of wooden spoon.
Over time I’ve started to think more, not just about whether I need the things I own but also about why it is that I want to buy things. I think I am probably a little bit less attached to a lot of the things I buy now than I might have been maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I own more than I need and do still treat myself but I try to be more conscious of why it is that I’m buying something.
That’s not to say that I don’t develop an emotional attachment to the stuff I own. Of course I do and I’m not going to be hard on myself for caring about my wedding ring, the old and unusual copies of books that sit on my shelves, the jewellery box that was my Grandma’s and various other belongings that I will continue to pack and unpack each and every time I move home.
I am, however, happy to let go of DVDs that I could easily watch online and books that I’d be just as happy to borrow from the library, boxes full of fabric scraps that I was saving ‘just in case’ and tools that I don’t use because I don’t usually do DIY in the rented flats that I now live in.
Breaking the emotional attachment to things like that can be hard the first time and even a bit scary. It took me a while to come around to the idea of getting rid of my furniture when it was sitting in storage costing me money a few years ago but letting it go felt like a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders.
Every so often I’ll box up some junk that’s accumulated, or pick out a few bits of clothing that I’ve not worn during the previous couple of years and I’ll sell them or give them to a charity shop. I don’t think that getting rid of the things I own will make me a better person but every time I do something like, put a bag of clothes into the Salvation Army collection bin, or help someone from the local hospice shop load up their car with a few boxes of my kitchen and household stuff I feel a slight sense of relief.
Although I probably still own far more than I really need I’m not going to go to the extreme of denying myself some things that I enjoy. On the whole though, I prefer having a bit more space to being surrounded by a comfort blanket of material possessions that actually hold no real meaning for me.
Decluttering With Low Energy
Even once you get over the emotional aspect of getting rid of things, decluttering can still be overwhelming, especially when you are ill or limited in energy. Along with other members of Michael Nobbs’ Sustainably Creative community my recent spell of decluttering has been done with this in mind – the idea being to get rid of 10 things every day.
I’m not sure how many days I will do this for or if it will always be something that I do every day but creating a limit of no more than 10 things at a time has so far meant that I’m not exhausting myself or using up entire days trying to get rid of things.
I’ve started posting photographs on Instagram of the 10 things I’ve picked out to get rid of each day. Doing that makes it feel like more of a public declaration or commitment – and one that’s been strangely addictive. Once I’ve finished picking out my 10 things I’m already thinking about what the next day’s might be.
So, decluttering in some way every so often means that I gain a bit of physical space, a bit of mental space and for me that means I make my day-to-day life just a tiny bit simpler.