Daily Decluttering

Ten books, yellow

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.

Clothes in a heap

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.

Ten DVDs

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.

Emotional Attachment

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.

Wooden spoons, plastic drinks bottles

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.

Gaining Space

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.

Old medicines and toiletries

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.


17 thoughts on “Daily Decluttering

  1. Evelyn @ Smallish Reply

    I’ve been decluttering and reorganizing lately too. Well, for me it’s an ongoing thing, but I’ve made an intentional effort to sort through and purge several different spots in our home. It’s a healthy process that is SO worth the effort! πŸ™‚

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Hi Evelyn. I think you’re right that decluttering is an ongoing process for most people – unless you’re seriously strict about what you do and don’t buy, but I’m not so the clutter always creeps back in. I agree, it is worth the effort for lots of reasons :).

  2. Milo Reply

    Hi Cathryn, I’ve just been catching up with Michael’s podcasts and after reading your post as well, I’m feeling inspired to have a go at getting rid of 10 things a day myself! I think it’s crazy how attached we can get to certain objects even if we never use them.

    I have a drawer full of old electronic/computer stuff and it can be so difficult to get rid of them even though they are practically obsolete. And of course books are the hardest to let go of sometimes! Sounds like you’re being very sensible about it though, and giving something to charity means you are helping others too πŸ™‚

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Hi Milo. I think that keeping the decluttering to such a small amount each day means that it’s really manageable, you’re less likely to run out of steam and so the enthusiasm is still there the next day. I think it’s easy to become attached to things without realising it but once you take a step back and start questioning it a bit more it becomes easier to start letting things go. It’s still a work in progress for me too though, and if I was really ruthless I could get rid of a lot more stuff. Doing it in tiny steps is helpful and a bit less painful I think! πŸ™‚

  3. Christy King Reply

    I think you can still call yourself a minimalist. Most minimalists aren’t as much into counting things as they are into having only what they either need or are made happy by.

    Gradually is the only way I can simplify / declutter. I’m too lazy for anything else!

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Hi Christy. Yes, perhaps you’re right. I suppose that, relatively speaking, the amount of ‘stuff’ that I now own is fairly minimal.

      I have a tendency to get carried away when cleaning, tidying or decluttering and end up giving up part way through while things are still in a mess, so doing this gradually seems like a good tactic :).

  4. Greg Reply

    Decluttering as part of the ebb and flow of your lifestyle sounds like wisdom from an earlier age, a more “human” time when he took time to experience and appreciate the moments of our existence rather than the headlong rush toward achieving our goals. Things like Spring Cleaning or changing our environment for the different seasons can be part of that flow of time. Your post reminded me of something important that had lain forgotten underneath the rush of daily life.

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Hi Greg. I’d not really thought of it like that so your perspective on this is really interesting and makes me think of things like mindfulness.

      Having appreciation for the present moment and the often unnoticed things in daily life is something that I’ve tried to get better at over the past few years. I’d not really seen my decluttering as part of it so thanks for pointing out that side to it :).

  5. Joy @ Joyfully Green Reply

    I feel relief when I get rid of things, too. Good for you for whittling down your possessions in a time-frame that’s manageable for you. Decluttering can get overwhelming, but it looks like you have it very well under control!

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Thanks Joy. Looking at the rest of the unpacked boxes sitting next to me as I write this makes me feel like I’ve not really got things under control but actually you are right. Pacing myself with these things is actually a way to stop them from driving me crazy or wearing me out.

  6. Lois Reply

    I think 10 things a day is a good idea when you have a lot to do. I am one of those persons who has to keep working something until it’s done. When I did my major purge I picked one spot a day and worked it. It might have been a single cabinet in the kitchen or the entire bookshelf, but everything was removed, decisions made, then the area was cleaned and only what I was keeping went back in.

    I questioned for a while if I was a minimalist. It was never my intention to embrace the philosophy, but one day I realized getting rid of most everything and moving to a tiny studio apartment was in fact minimal in comparison to the way most people live. I still consider making a list of everything I own, not for the number but to have that one more experience of touching everything and deciding if I still need it. It doesn’t matter the size of your home, the number of items in your home, only that you are happy with what you surround yourself with. A good blogging friend calls this right-sizing your life instead of minimalism.

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Hi Lois. Yes 10 things works well when things could otherwise feel too overwhelming to even make a start. I think that in the past I might have been like you and worked at one area until it was done but this idea seems to be working well for me now as my energy levels are often quite low. I do like the sound of how you tackled your clutter though, it sounds very satisfying.

      I think I’m always reluctant to label myself but I suppose that you’re right. Even if you don’t fully embrace a particular philosophy you can still find yourself behaving or living along those lines.

      I also like the idea of listing everything you own. When all my things were in storage a few years ago we went through every box, numbered it and made a list of what was in each box so that we could find things easily when we needed to. It was good to know what we owned and where it was and doing that now does seem like a good way to actually keep a check on things.

  7. Dale Reply

    I like that 10 items per day idea. I have so much stuff I get overwhelmed by the prospect of clearing it so I leave the room/area that is bugging me instead of tackling it. I could also use the “five-minute” idea that is to give a task five minutes (you usually end up doing more) but at least it gets you going!

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Yes, setting a limit in some way makes it a bit easier to tackle and I think that, for me, sticking to that limit means I’m keen to get started again the following day as I’ve already spotted a few things that will make it into the next batch of 10.

  8. Bethany @ Piercing the Bubble Reply

    Nope, you’ve got too much stuff. Please hand over your minimalist card–now…

    (You probably don’t know me well enough to be used to my occasional sarcasm…LOL)

    Minimalism is all about finding what’s just right for you, and for your lifestyle. It’s not about having few enough possessions, so that you “belong.” (Besides, on the 100 possessions sites, they make so many exceptions that it’s kind of silly).

    Moving helps me declutter too. We left most of our things when we came down here. I actually did count my possessions (not counting things that are not mine at all, like my daughter’s toys!), and I actually had 69! But I’ve just bought Christmas decorations, so I’m no longer a member of the club either. Oh well.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      You have a point about setting a goal for the number of things you own and then making exceptions. Even the suggested number of possessions varies and seems pretty arbitrary so I don’t really see the point of that. I like your idea of owning what is right for you – that makes a lot of sense to me.

      No Thanksgiving for us here in the UK but I hope you’re enjoying your day :).

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