Those that know me in real life are probably aware of my penchant for decluttering and minimising, which started a few years ago when I lived with the messiest pair of manchildren in the world. Bless them because they were great dudes, but they were young and excited about living out of home and had just not accumulated the years of experience in shared housing that is necessary to really master tidiness. We actually had a junk room filled with their general shit like random cables and gadgets, just because these guys were incapable of keeping their things organised and out of sight! When you have a room filled with crap that never gets used and hasn’t been stored properly, it starts to set your teeth on edge and because of this, I developed a fairly moderate phobia of *having stuff*. It truly affected me mentally, far more so than I could effectively communicate to two dudes who just really didn’t get it – and from that point on, I vowed to never put myself in that kind of living situation again.
Feeling a bit panicky about the amount of stuff that was residing in our house, I decided to whittle my possessions down immediately, with a view to leaving that house as soon as the lease was up. I owned quite a lot of random stuff myself, and I adopted a steely judgment system in deciding which stuff would get the hatchet. Basically it came down to three simple questions:
1. Have I used this in the past six months?
2. Is it easy to replace if I want another one in the future?
3. Does it have a function/purpose in my life?
Everything that didn’t pass my beady-eyed assessment got given away. There was a LOT of stuff, and in order to get rid of it, I posted pics of each item in a Facebook album entitled “FREE TO GOOD HOME”. Many people thought it was weird that I was giving away so much stuff, when I “could be getting money for it”, but I had truly become so squeamish about having clutter that it was more important for me to get rid of it all as soon as possible, rather than dick around posting multiple ads on Gumtree and dealing with flaky buyers etc. I didn’t need the money as much as I needed everything gone.
I don’t assign value to an item just because I paid money for it once upon a time. This is, I think, a very important thing to wrap your head around if you ever want to truly stop having so much attachment to shit that you just plain don’t use or need. Crazily, everyone absolutely jumped at the chance to take all that stuff off my hands – people are pretty indiscriminate about what crap they will bring into their home, especially if it’s free (probably part of the reason so many people have so much useless crap).
The more stuff you have, the more time and energy you eventually waste just keeping all that shit clean and in order. Solid things actually attract dust, so the more you have, the more cleaning you will have to do. Your stuff can end up owning you in a lot of ways. In our society, people tend to have a lot of possessions because they have excess space – and when you have a lot of space, it ends up getting mindlessly filled with junk. A friend of mine recently cleared through her parent’s home while they were on holiday, and after dealing with all their masses of total junk, she came home and started systematically getting rid of her own crap – because it hit her that if her and her husband passed away, she didn’t want to leave a house full of junk for someone else to have to deal with.
For all the stuff that I’ve decluttered in the past few years, I have not, at any point, regretted getting rid of any particular item – I’ve never said to myself “oh I shouldn’t have given away xyz”. Before I started decluttering, I would have been afraid to part with a lot of stuff, thinking that at some point I’d need it. But that just didn’t end up being the case! There’s nothing more satisfying that being able to move houses with one carload, or knowing where everything you own is at all times because you don’t have heaps of different drawers/boxes/cabinets for stuff to get lost in. I think that the only thing that was really difficult to get rid of at any point was my Jem collection – it had taken me years to accumulate everything and they were all mint in packaging pieces, but sadly they lived closed away in a wardrobe out of the sunlight – because I rented in a share house and was not able to have a custom-built display case made for them, which I would be doing if I had my own home. I just didn’t see the point of having them now when they couldn’t serve a purpose until much later down the track (when I’d someday have my own home).
I fully intend on keeping my belongings down to the bare minimum until the day that I buy my own house, because I consider renting to be too unstable to be loading myself down with bulk shit that I will just have to cart from place to place. It’s such a mentally draining concept to me! When I do buy my own place, it will be a fairly small house, so that I’ll still be mindfully selective about which belongings I choose to keep. I just can’t see myself ever going back to the stage of having lots of stuff again – my life is far too uncluttered and stress-free this way! And cleaning my room takes about 30 seconds – that’s if it ever gets messy.
Do I recommend decluttering for everybody? Hell yes – decluttering is a subjective task – you can choose to be quite brutal and minimalistic like me, or you can decide to just declutter one area – a good place to start is the kitchen. Do you*really* need 23 mismatched plates? Aren’t you just creating a situation whereby you end up with a giant heap of dirty dishes because your flatmates are too lazy to wash them and will continue to use the 500 clean dishes you own until there is nothing left but a giant pile of mismatched crockery? Or you could even just declutter your wardrobe (no, that orange lamé trenchcoat won’t be rolling back into style, and you probably don’t need to hang onto that Oktoberfest beermaid costume from that one party ten years ago). You can even digitally declutter – uninstall old programs on your computer or tidy up your music/photo folders, perhaps. Paper decluttering is great too – clear out those old papers you have stashed away in random drawers and file/trash them properly, then focus on dealing with your incoming paperwork better in the future.
I firmly believe from experience that our environment plays a huge role in our mental state, and it’s no surprise to me that hoarding is borne from serious mental issues. It’s also a very overwhelming feeling when you have too much stuff or clutter and your house constantly gets messy due to this. When you’re too overwhelmed, tasks often only get done half-heartedly and it can really add to depression and cause lack of motivation in other areas.
My advice to everybody is to try to be mindful about your stuff and really consider how much your possessions are doing for you – weigh up what they are costing you mentally or spacially to hang onto, vs. what you are getting out of them.
Love Chelle xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo