Our journey into minimalism began in late 2014, prompted by moving house and wanting to downsize our belongings. My husband and I realised that we had acquired too much ‘stuff’ that was not adding value to our life, and so we began to look for opportunities to live a little more lightly and with greater intentionality about our consumption.
Since 2014, our journey has evolved, and our minimalism looks different now to what it did back then. When I think back to how it began, it was prompted by an overwhelming urge to declutter. I had just discovered the television series ‘Clean House’ and loved nothing more than seeing (admittedly rather extreme) cluttered homes transformed into truly peaceful sanctuaries for their residents, through a process of removing the excess possessions and a little elbow grease. More importantly, it was the transformation of the residents themselves that resonated with me – people who went from being overwhelmed and profoundly stressed by all their ‘stuff’ suddenly became calmer, happier and were better able to function and rest in the homes they had created. It makes sense that if you are not tripping over your belongings, you will find greater peace.
One of the first steps I took in minimising our life was to do an extreme declutter.
I went room to room and looked with an eagle eye (you might find benefit in reading Minimalism: Taking The First Steps) at what we had and what we needed. There is not one way to do this and the process will be different for everyone. What I did notice is how much ‘stuff’ remained from previous seasons of life – not even what could be classified as sentimental, but just ‘noise’ from another life. We also had a lot of duplicate objects, and items that had overstayed their welcome and functionality. And so – we began to chip away at the decluttering.
Like I have said – minimalism looks different on everyone. For us, and in no particular order, here are the first five things we minimised.
- Clothing – it was so interesting to me that despite having changed clothing sizes and preferences over the past decade, I had systematically held on to most of the clothing I had purchase since my early 20’s (and some from the late teens – I won’t lie). Did I do this out of sentimentality? Perhaps a little. There were also some clothes I had kept because I had loved them back then and thought they may make a revival at a later date. All seasons of clothing were jammed into boxes and storage bags. I will explore this topic in depth in later blogs because minimising my wardrobe has had a huge impact on my happiness – but in the beginning, I found it easy enough to start minimising by tossing or donating a) things that didn’t fit; b) things that looked tatty beyond repair; c) things that I had purchased and never worn; and d) mismatched things e.g. socks with no friends.
- Cars – This is a big one that has made a huge impact on our sanity and our bottom line. We downsized to one car for the two of us. This is not extreme, I know plenty of families who operate on one car. But it was a big decision. For us, it came down to economy, and value – while lovely to have two cars, we felt that the value of having one car and less overhead cost complimented that fact that we also now get to spend more time travelling and commuting together instead of apart.
- Kitchen – I have spoken about how I am a reluctant cook but somehow I had managed to accumulate an extraordinary array of kitchen and cooking gadgetry that came tumbling out of cupboards and spilling out of drawers. We had inherited, received and accumulated surplus containers, utensils, equipment, cookbooks, cutlery and crockery. I discarded most duplicate items and paired down to the essential cooking tools that I use every day. This has been a process revised a few times over the years. In particular, the draw underneath your cutlery draw – you know the one – mixing spoons, measuring spoons, nesting containers, bottle openers etc. – is an ideal place to begin the purge. The benefit? Reaching into a draw or cupboard and instantly finding what you are looking for. Additionally not being assaulted by your tumbling Tupperware. Bliss.
- Paper – I am a stickler for keeping paper records – receipts, certificates, warranties and the list goes on. The digital age has been a blessing in that we can now quite comfortably and safely move to a paperless system of record keeping. One of the first things we did was get rid of the paper junk. This ranged from everything from paid bill records, opened envelopes that had not been binned, catalogues and brochures, receipts no longer required, old bank statements, and paper trails from school and university days. We scanned and saved what was required, and recycled or shredded the excess or redundant. It’s amazing what this process can bring mentally – when you remove the outdated, the things that no longer matter in your current season – you can gain a lot of mental clarity, focus and calm.
- Storage – This is a big one. We had acquired an unbelievable number of storage containers, zippy bags, and boxes to comfortably house all of our ‘stuff’. Most of the time they were poorly labelled, so in addition to the stuff taking up space in our home, I had no idea which ‘stuff’ was in which container. We had purchased stuff to store our stuff! Through the decluttering process, we were able to get rid of the excess storage. When you own less, you have less to store. We do still store some of our possessions, but they are purposefully stored for an identified future need, and clearly labelled so that we can find them easily. It’s amazing how much space you can acquire when you are not scrambling through a sea of storage.
I found these five areas – clothing, cars, kitchen, paper and storage – an easy enough place to begin. Where did you begin in minimising? If you are new to minimalism, where do you plan to begin? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you and let’s have a conversation.
Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.
Photo Magic: Jaroslaw Ceborski