Mindfulness and the art of de-cluttering or Why did the chicken cross the road?

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My current experience of minimalism has an awful lot of focus on stuff. While I realise this is a short term cost for a long term gain, never the less I’m still very much in the land of “stuff”. What stuff stays, what stuff goes and where the stuff that is staying goes. My time is spent dwelling in the past (“Why on earth do I still have this?”) or the future (“Do I really need to hang on to this just in case?”). Having been away from the vast majority of our “stuff” for a week in Bonny Scotland I’ve realised what is missing (at times) from my journey towards a more mindfully minimal life – the mindfulness.

Mindfulness is paying attention to our moment by moment experience, intentionally and non-judgementally. When approaching life, or minimalism, mindfully, you do not discriminate ‘good’ from ‘bad’. It is as it is. Through our quiet, focused scrutiny the object of our attention (be it external or internal) may appear more nuanced, more detailed, even more present yet it has always been so. What has been lacking was our mindful attention.

My mother in law, in Bonny Scotland, doesn’t have a dishwasher so I have washed dishes several times in the last week. I was not washing dishes thinking, “It must be someone else’s turn to do the dishes!” (judgement) or “I’m looking forward to having my cup of tea” (future thinking)”, or “I wish people would wash there own mugs when they’re finished” (expecting things to be different) or “I really enjoyed building sandcastles with my daughter this morning” (dwelling on the past). Or at least when these thoughts did pop into my head, I noticed them and returned to washing the dishes.

As I washed the dishes, I noticed the crumbs of food and dried sauce. I felt the cloth going over the smooth surface of the plate. I noticed the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap suds and the light coming through the window. I felt the tension in my shoulders and moved them. I became aware of my breath as it rose and fell. I rinsed the sink out carefully, watching the dirty water run down the drain.

Having fewer possessions is less distracting – physically, psychologically and temporally. Our attention is liberated to focus mindfully on what we have chosen to keep in our lives. However the journey needs our attention too. At times I find myself making quick decisions and tossing things out – literally tossing them across the room towards the relevant box. While this is great in terms of speed, especially when I’m feeling time poor, I can’t help but be left with the feeling I’m missing something.

My wife and I love reading and books. We met in a book group, had a book themed wedding and we own lots of books. Yet in the process of removing a guestimated 50% of our books (so far), we got faster and faster. The last book case was sorted in 5 minutes with most of that time being spent removing the books from the shelves to begin with. The decision process was quick and only 20% of those books stayed so they were quick to put back. I have no idea which books left that day (rather telling in itself) and an idea of what remain but I wonder what I missed in the process.

I’m a firm believer in learning from our mistakes, not judging the but definitely learning from them. Behavioural change is hard and yet my reflections (and revelations) of why it was so hard to get rid of my little black dress have helped to cement a new approach to clothes shopping: when I need to replace something, I buy the best quality I can afford and ensure it is fit for purpose (in style, colour and function).

Who knows what lesson my books would have taught me if I’d paid mindful attention to that part of the process. Perhaps they were simply the vehicle to encourage me and reaffirm my commitment to being a present-dweller and to practice mindfulness in the art of de-cluttering.

And in answer to the original question, posed in the title…

Why did the chicken cross the road


Items de-cluttered this week – We came home to a freezer which had been off for a week (thanks Mr Tripped Switch!) Therefore there was an unplanned bin liner of food, four books, a DVDs, two CDs, a wrap (baby sling) and a car seat.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – Being away from home has scuppered my efforts to reduce my internet phone use and I’ve read numerous fantastic blogs. It has been tough to pick one however, a friend asked me ages ago about how to declutter children’s possessions respectfully. Therefore, for her, I’ll share Janie Baran’s post over at Simple…not plain on Minimalist living with children. Janie is a mother of two and while her Simple…not plain blog has only been active for four months each post is packed full of inspiration and instruction on what to do. It’s the first time I’ve come across the idea of a capsule wardrobe for children! It’s a great read.


Photo: Funky Chicken/InAweofGod’sCreation/BY-ND

Declutter 101: How to get rid of clothing

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“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” – Epictetus

While I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on mindful minimalism, I have no desire to reinvent the wheel. This week I’ve compiled a post that gathers the best resources I’ve found, in the great minimalist blogosphere, on how to achieve a minimalist/capsule wardrobe or basically remove items of clothing that are no longer required (either through fit, style or excess). Obviously one size does not fit all so I’ve included a few different links that have helped me at different stages of my journey.

This is partly in preparation for my second attempt at removing things from my wardrobe when I get back from Bonny Scotland. I completed started this task on January 1st 2015 producing 4.5 bin liners and since then a steady stream has continued to leave. Clearly I’ve not done a thorough job and my hope is that in Marie Kondo’s words if I “do it once and do it properly” the stream will cease. Until then I shall leave you with these.

  • Denaye Barahona’s post, at Dallas Mom’s blog, Why I got rid of my wardrobe, helped me believe a minimalist wardrobe is both possible and achievable (for me). I already have a wardrobe of clothes that colourwise work but taking it that step further to think about what combinations work is my next task. I love that this post has before and after photos of her closet and pictures of 12 different outfits she can assemble by simply grabbing a selection of clothes and shoes.
  • I really enjoy the accessibility of Joshua Becker’s posts at Becoming Minimalist and it is lovely to see how he has evolved as a minimalist (and writer) over time. He also includes regular guest posts. One such post was The story of enough by Sarah Peck, which resonated with last weeks post on being a Good Enough Minimalist. Sarah gave up buying new clothes for a year and discovered what she liked and what mattered to her.
  • If you’re still not convinced you can do it, then how about a look at Joshua’s post A practical guide to owning fewer clothes. He outlines 10 clear steps that are practical and applicable. I certainly need to revisit a couple of these!
  • No post on minimalist wardrobes would be complete without mention of Courtney Carter’s Project 333. Wear only 33 items of clothing, shoes, jewellery, and outerwear for 3 months. There are some exclusions such as workout gear, underwear and your wedding ring don’t count. If that is feeling a little daunting, I love her list of 33 things to eliminate from your closet.
  • And last but certainly not least is Janie Baran’s post over at Simple not plain on how to develop a minimalist wardrobe. It contains a step by step formula that combines consideration of colour, style and suggestions on what to have as your base items, secondaries and accessories. She suggests a 50 item complete wardrobewith a 33 item working wardrobe. It is a great guide to getting started and is an alternative approach rather than staring with a remove the excess approach.

I’ve no idea how to approach my next cull. Perhaps I should start with Marie Kondo’s ‘what sparks joy’ and then use Janie’s advice as a follow up. Whatever I decide, I’ll let you know what else I discover when my task is complete. Who knows, I may even find Narnia!


Items de-cluttered this week – From the depths under the sink I’ve disposed of 6 partially used bottles of cleaning product I don’t use, 2 brushes, several items that I’ve no idea what they were for and part of the fridge we replaced two weeks ago. I’ve also (finally) defrosted the freezer and in the process have disposed of a bag of food I would prefer not to admit to or think about!

A blog I’ve enjoyed – I love coming across posts that take ideas that I’ve had and extend them. This weeks post is one such blog. I’ve recently discovered the writing of Francine Jay over at Miss Minimalist and I have loved every post I’ve read thus far. Her post, Declutter your fantasy self, chimed so clearly with my post a few weeks ago about tomorrow is now that I had to share it. Her idea of seriously asking yourself what your fantasy self is like, and then being honest about our real self has already begun to help me think about the task of going through the wardrobes again when I get back from holiday.


Photo: 2015-02-14c Ideal for things to wear — index card/Sacha Chua/

The Good-Enough Minimalist

Person at sunset

Every two years I have to re-register with the Health and Care Professions Council as an Occupational Therapist, to be able to continue practising under a protected title. As part of the process I have to stand up (or rather tick a box on an online form) and say that I continue to meet the Standards of proficiency, conduct, performance and ethics expected of my profession. Having just completed this process for the 6th time (where did all those years go?) I have been pondering about the standards we expect of our selves.

I am not perfect. I know I’m not perfect and I’m glad about it. Perfection is fraught with difficulties both for the individual who is apparently “perfect” and those around them. Perfection is exhausting, unrealistic and as Gloria Steinem said “a pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space“.

Personally, I’m aiming for Good-Enough. To be a good-enough mother; a good-enough wife; a good-enough friend; a good-enough colleague; a good-enough OT; a good-enough minimalist. Being good-enough suggests that failure is tolerable, mistakes can be admitted and progress is sufficient. Inbuilt is the idea that I am able to decide, for myself, what is “good-enough”. I don’t have to try and achieve anyone else’s standards but my own.

I’ve never seen the appeal of counting my possessions. I’ve way too many for a start, but I also know that I will never be a minimalist with 51 things like Colin Wright, 72 things like Tammy Strobel or even 288 things like Joshua Fields Millburn. Each to there own but taken to the extreme I find minimalist environments cold and clinical and I’m just not that kind of minimalist.

I worry when people see a number as being the magical answer, whether it be weight, size, savings account, pay check or number of possessions. The fundamental flaw in this approach is that the number is merely representative of something else. I’m sure at one time or another we’ve all bought into the “if only…” way of thinking. If only I earned more, weighed less etc, etc. The one thing that is guaranteed with “If only” thinking is dissatisfaction.

When it comes to minimalism, the “If only” trap is still a trap. “If only I removed more possessions I’d be…”. Don’t get me wrong, the more possessions I remove from my life, the fewer I need. I’m sure at some point I will reach a point of equilibrium where it becomes more about maintenance and regular review rather than the constant river (sometimes tidal wave) currently leaving. However I’m not aiming for a specific number, either in terms of total number of possessions or in % removed. What will be will be. It just needs to be good-enough. Good-enough for me!

How about you? Do you have a specific goal in mind? What’s good enough for you?


Items de-cluttered this week – Jewellery (I didn’t want to count it all as it looked like a lot. I do know that what is left are pieces that I love and will wear regularly).

A blog I’ve enjoyed – This week’s blog I enjoyed only landed in my inbox 2 hours ago. To be fair I was going to share another blog by Melissa Camara Wilkins however When your life art is messy just resonated so completely with this piece that I had to share it with you. Melissa writes about life artistry and how even when the edges don’t quite line up and what you end up with is nothing like what you imagined, you continue the messy work of creation and revision. After all “It’s art. There’s no wrong answers”.

Tommorrow is now – crafting the life you want.

craft room

Last week I wrote about the associations to the past that made it difficult for me to let go of the little black dress. This week I discovered when it comes to crafting, it’s the future that trips me up. Eleanor Roosevelt said “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.” Mindfulness is all about being in the moment by moment experience of right now, yet our behaviour when it comes to possessions (and clutter) is driven by feelings about the future or the past rather than our present day experience. If you’ve ever kept something you didn’t like because it was a gift and you’d feel guilty disposing of it you know what I’m on about. Feelings about the future can be equally problematic when removing possessions. I no longer get tripped up by the anxiety of ‘just in case’, but the sneaky twins Someday and One day are liable to get me every time.

I’ve always loved using my hands as much as my brain but I’ve only this week accepted that there is a limit to how much I can do and want to do in the future. Letting go of some of my crafting materials has been hard. VERY hard. I’ve had to face the harsh reality that I’ve been fantasising about a future which seems to consist of 30 day weeks, and 60 hour days. This idealised future does not exist. I live in the reality of now (together with 7 day weeks and 24 hour days).

Minimalism is not about being static, it’s about having the freedom to choose where and when to invest our energy. If something no longer matches my passions and values then it can be disposed of leaving room for other things (not necessarily material possessions) to enter my life. Deciding to leave medical school after 4 years allowed me to discover occupational therapy. OT matches both my passions and values, and it brings me immense joy to see clients crafting a ‘Life worth Living’ that they never imagined possible. Saying no to prestige allowed me to discover passion.

I’m not going to feel guilty about making choices, letting go or changing my mind. I want to be able to be in the flow of whatever crafty occupation I choose. Lets face it, it’s not as though there is going to be a crafting supply shortage even if I do limit what is available in my immediate environment.

So I’ve chosen to keep 20% of my wool and half my knitting needles, my paints (acrylics and watercolours), three embroidery kits, 2 papercraft books & all of my fabric. What I chose not to keep was 4 bags of wool, the other half of my knitting needles, 200 skeins of embroidery silks, tester pots of paints, 10 paint brushes, scrapbook paper, 4 packs of beads and jewellery wire (the rest of the jewellery making stuff went a while ago), vintage knitting magazines, 3 cross stitch books, a knitted dinosaur book & a box of charcoal. I’ve not yet tackled paper-based crafts yet so there will be more but that feels like a good start.

I realised while I was sorting my ‘I could use this in the future’ thoughts were simply another brand of ‘just in case’ thinking. Since coming across The Minimalists post on ‘just in case’ items I have been liberated. Their hypothesis is anything we truly need and have disposed of, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes. It is such a simple idea. It is ok to replace things we truly need. Not rocket science but it feels like permission to make mistakes. I have no doubt at some point I will dispose of something I truly need but it hasn’t happened yet and when it does it’s not the end of the world.

Rather than living in the idealised future I choose to craft the life I want now. After all tomorrow is now!

Items de-cluttered this week – Craft items (see above), 2 duvets, 60l rucksack, 4 holdalls, 3 candle sticks, 3 boxes of candles, red sand, metal bowl, 2 shoe boxes of glass beads, 3 bags of rose petals, bag of pine cones, box of autumn leaves, 2 records, 18 spare lightbulbs (83% of the ones I had!), 1 bin liner of scarves, hats & gloves, hen party decorations, baby shower quizzes.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – Canadian Cait Flanders over at Blonde on a Budget has just completed a year long shopping ban after repaying $30,000 of debt in 2 years. The year I embraced Minimalism and completed a yearlong shopping ban offers her reflections and insights on the year and has made me feel that a shopping ban might actually be possible (I’ve always thought it would be useful). While I doubt I will go straight for a year (perhaps a month), I have begun to think about what my “rules” would be. If you were to have a month long shopping ban what would your rules be? What would be your potential downfalls?

Photo Craft Room/chrissy.farnan/CC BY

Farewell to the Little Black Dress

black dress

I have a Little Black Dress. Black doesn’t suit me and yet I have the standard  Little Black Dress. I’ve known black doesn’t suit me for four years and have said goodbye to everything else in my wardrobe that is black including 2 beautiful black wool coats. However I’ve really struggled to say goodbye to the dress, and I mean REALLY struggled.

I covet a minimalist wardrobe (the irony of coveting while moving towards minimalism is not lost on me). I’ve taken a number of steps along the way and while the first had absolutely nothing to do with minimalism it has had the most profound impact. I had my colours analysed. This simple act has saved me more time and money than I can count.

There are a number of different companies that sell colour consultations and while I take the “science” of it with a handful of salt I do like that I have a clear idea of what colours suit me. I can spot them a mile off so I can walk in a shop, scan it and if there is nothing “in my colours” I can walk out again. In the past I could have spent an hour or more trying on numerous outfits with the running commentary “if only I was…” (Insert thinner/fatter/shorter/taller/more hippy/less hippy etc). This commentary is a thing of the past. Now if it doesn’t look great on me it is either because it is not my colour (or not my style). It makes it about the clothes being wrong rather than anything about me being wrong – the liberation!

The company my wife and I used categorise you into “Seasons”. We went to our consultants home (a slightly eccentric 70 year old who was wilfully blind about our relationship) and were analysed. This involved taking it in turns to sit on a stool in front of a mirror draped in a white cloth to cover our clothes and with a white bandanna covering our hair. The consultant layered coloured scarves on alternating shoulders. Initially I could not tell the difference between them but one side definitely looked better. The colours of each layer were similar however one set were yellow based and one set were blue based. (If you are not sure what I’m on about look at something red. Does it look more orangey-red or more purpley-red?) I’m apparently a “Blue Spring” which means that I look good in brighter yellow-based colours and amazing in yellow-based blues. My wife also looks good in yellow-based colours but at the more muted end as she is an “Autumn leaf”. I’m glad we did it together as I’m not sure I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it done on someone else. Neither of us look good in black!

So back to the Little Black Dress. I know that black doesn’t suit me. In fact black makes me look jaundice and as though I’ve not slept in a week. So why have I had so much difficulty in letting go of the Little Black Dress?

I recently came across Jennifer Skinner’s blog The Very Small Closet. Unfortunately this ceased to be in 2009 but has some great posts about wardrobe management. She did a few on why it is difficult to let go of clothes and I could certainly relate. Three key factors are:

1. Clothes represent an investment of our money

2. The association factor (holding on to the memories associated with the item)

3. Imagining the future: The Someday… factor

I consider myself to be quite reflective and psychologically aware (I have to be in my work life) so I decided to spend sometime while on my recent staycation investigating the hindrance. After much deliberation I finally worked out it was the feeling. Not the feeling of owning it but the memory of the feeling of wearing it. It felt amazing. The dress in question is a beautifully tailored number by Reiss. I would team it with blue suede stiletto heels that I love (and which are in my colours) and I looked amazing! I remember very clearly buying it. I remember the day (it was sunny). I remember the location. I remember who was there. I also remember that I bought the shoes at the same time as they looked so amazing together…7 years ago! Powerful associations! I am not the type of person who remembers where and when I have bought my clothes.

When I was speaking to my wife about my difficulty her passing comment was “I don’t think I’ve every seen you in it”. Ok so I’ve not worn you in 5 years, farewell beautiful dress. Go make someone else happy.

 

Items de-cluttered this week

Zilch, zip, zero, nowt, nothing. We all need time off every once in a while and the Little Black Dress was de-cluttered last week.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

apron day

Yesterday my daughter put her apron away. She is 13 months old. This was a fringe benefit of decluttering I did not see coming.

Many advocate don’t organise what you can discard or discard first, then tidy and sort. This was certainly my downfall in the past. I’ve spent years organising clothes I never wore, books I hadn’t read, cds I never listened to and ‘stuff’ I didn’t need. The illusion this creates is both powerful and painful to break. I recognise now that I wasn’t ready, psychologically or emotionally, to part with the mountain of possessions I owned. Equally I have found forgiveness to be a necessary and important part of the art of decluttering (but that is another blog post entirely!).

As we reduce them, our possessions increasingly have a place of belonging and thus are tidied away without a second thought. The munchkin has learnt to walk fairly recently and with it has come tidying things away. Yesterday she was assisting me with the dishes and after I helped her remove her apron she carried it to the pantry, opened the door and said ‘uh uh’ while raising her arms. When my wife lifted her up, she hung her apron over the rolling pin (it was easier than the small hook). Needless to say, my flabber was gasted!

I realise my walking mirror absorbs and understands far more than we realise. I have not appreciated the importance of minimalism in her life beyond the impact having fewer toys has on her ability to play. Teaching her that there is more to life than what you own, that having less does not make you less and that there is freedom in having a simpler life has begun sooner than I had imagined. While it is never to late to start minimising and decluttering, I’m glad I started when I did.

Items de-cluttered this week 

Under bed storage box, yet more clothes (perhaps that is another post!), 1 cd, 1 book & 2 over the door coat hooks

Header photo Apron Day/Playing with brushes/CC BY

Aim for progress not perfection…A progress report

Holding It

So last week I wrote about some of the things that were weighing me down and that when de-cluttering and minimising it’s not done until it’s done. I made a commitment to focusing on de-owning rather than simply decluttering . This blog is going to be a progress report mainly so I can look back and remind myself what I can achieve when I put my mind to it. I’m not affiliated to any of the companies or charities I’ve included links to but figured it might help inspire others regarding where it is possible to de-own possessions to in order to help a variety of people (including yourself). So in the last week…

  • 5 bags of baby clothes, toiletries and toys have gone to my local Besom who make up hampers for families living in extreme poverty.
  • A floor lamp and mirror have gone to the Community Furniture Store.
  • 3 boxes of books have been sold. I use Momox, Ziffit and Webuybooks. I compare prices between them and I’ve never had any problems with them.
  • 3 bags of books to a charity book shop who I gift aid with.
  • 1 bag of bric-a-brac and a few clothes to a different charity shop I gift aid with.
  • Door catch that broke and a few items I’d purchased and hadn’t used were returned to a chain hardware store for a credit note which I used to purchase a roller blind to replace one I cut incorrectly. If you have unused items still in their packaging from a large chain store, it is worth seeing if they’ll exchange for a credit note. I recently returned stockings we didn’t use at our wedding (3 years ago!) and received a credit note which I used to buy balsamic vinegar – something we actually needed.
  • The aforementioned poorly cut blind has gone to a mum from my local parenting network.
  • I’ve listed more things on ebay and in local selling groups.
  • Arrangements have been made with three friends to return/pass on/give/lend things to.
  • I visited the local household waste centre to recycle batteries, metal items, light bulbs, electronics and 6 mobile phones! We had a mobile phone grave yard that was worse than our laptop grave yard (which is pretty horrific and still exists).
  • I’m in the process of arranging a drop off of old bedding to a local homeless charity.

As for how I feel this end of the week…Like a weight has been lifted! There is now room in the loft so that I can start to declutter more. Perhaps I’ll even declutter some of the loft it’s self! Hmmm. Where to start with that just right challenge?

Items de-cluttered this week (while focusing on de-owning) 

Roller blind, Bamboo wind chime, pot of bamboo, 4 drinks coasters, 1 pair of shoes, 1 dress, 4 tops, 1 cd & the content of the basket!

Header photo Holding it/JD Shippel/CC BY

It always seems impossible until it’s done

https://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/6977262826/in/photolist-bCyi9W-mYGLBH-mYGGRD-6tUDZt-4h8fTR-4FLFMK

At the weekend my wife and I had a conversation about expectations. Chiefly about when we imagined our decluttering efforts would be coming to a close. Turns out our expectations were different…like an entire year! She hoped to be done by next summer and I plan to be done with the major efforts in 3 months. I think on her part, she did not dare to dream it could be done so quickly for fear of disappointment but as Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Gestalt theory talks about “The whole is other than the sum of the parts”. While I dream of the day the whole of our home and lives are minimised to contain only that which maximises our mindfully minimal lives, completing “the parts” is as essential as having the long term goal. The ‘whole’ is other, not necessarily greater but definitely more than simply the sum of the individual parts. I cannot yet fathom what the ‘other’ might be, although if today is anything to go by it involves sewing and a random solo dance party in the kitchen (think Callie from Grey’s Anatomy and you get the picture). Completing the parts along the way however helps to build momentum, motivation and gives you glimpses of what could be. This weekend we completed the decluttering of our “spare” room. We now have a room that is a pleasure to sleep in. It has been transformed from a campsite to a restful space which makes me excited to go to sleep (yes I realise that is an oxymoron). However the removal and relocation of several items from the room reinforced, it is not done until it is done. I use the bin/recycle/donate/relocate system, although I also have an extra category of selling as I’m attempting to self-fund further study. I have dedicated areas for each type of item and if it is necessary to relocate the item I deal it then and there rather than it accumulating into another area that needs to be sorted again. This doesn’t always work. I’ve a basket on the kitchen table that has been there for three weeks full of bits and pieces. Some bits would be easy to relocate, others require decluttering and it feels too much right now. My donate/sell items end up in the loft and despite having a large floor space it is not possible to see the floor. It is buried under

  • things that have been relocated to the attic but need to find homes which isn’t possible until the attic is decluttered,
  • 3 bin liners of items for selling,
  • 3 boxes of books ready for shipping (finally),
  • 3 carrier bags of books for a charity bookshop,
  • a bag of household bits to take to work for clients who are moving on,
  • the start of a generic charity shop bag,
  • pillows and toiletries for the local homeless shelter,
  • a bag of art supplies that I keep adding to,
  • a bag of books, curtains & table cloth for a friend to collect,
  • 5 bin liners of children’s toys, books, and clothes for a local charity.

It will come as no surprise that I’m feeling rather weighed down by it all. Despite decluttering unless you de-own the stuff it doesn’t make a difference. This week I’m going to focus on de-owning. Actually removing things from the premises! Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist wrote a lovely blog that I read at the end of last year entitled “Don’t just declutter, de-own”. He highlighted the major shortcomings of organizing our possessions rather than removing them and that ‘owning less is better than organising more’. With these in mind I can move closer to my mindfully minimal life in the knowledge that by actually removing my possessions (soon to be former possessions)

  • It will benefit others.
  • It will get me closer to my further study.
  • It will be assisting me to turn back my desire for more.
  • It is forcing me to evaluate my life, forcing questions of values, passion, and what is truly important.
  • It is paving the way for other changes (which I’m already starting to see).

Once I have achieved what currently feels impossible, I intend to remember my own advice!

  1. Start with the end in mind

Decide before you start what you are going to do with the possessions you remove. Refuse and recycling are usually fairly straightforward either at kerbside or at the local household waste centre. Find out what they recycle at your local centre. If you want to donate, work out where it is going so you only have to sort once. I currently donate to 5 charities regularly (with 5 different locations in the attic). At Christmas this increases as I also donate to toy appeals and the local women’s shelter. I’m currently developing a list of charities in my local area and what they collect/accept. There may already be a list in your local area, why not check? Similarly for the items you are selling. Work out where you’ll be selling them before you start. Be warned: selling takes time! Lots of it, both to list items and arrange collection/dispatch. It is far easier to donate unless you need the money.

  1. Start as you mean to finish

Set time aside in the process to physically remove the possessions you no longer want. An artist must put as much effort into selling art as making it and similarly to declutter fully you need to put effort into de-owning. Make the phone call to arrange for things to be collected. Plan when you are going to the tip or the charity shop. Then do it!

  1. Be a completer-finisher

Less is more as they say. Break down your overall goals into smaller, manageable chunks with a just-right challenge so you can finish them. It is better to accomplish three discrete areas of the kitchen than to become demotivated by the whole kitchen feeling impossible. Aim for progress rather than perfection and the rest will follow. My under stairs cupboard is broken into over 10 areas of which I have done 5. The last area I did was the alcohol (yes, I decluttered alcohol) over three months ago. The whole cupboard may not have been decluttered but I still have a sense of achievement and progress. That said there is no time like the present to finish. I’m off to de-own boxes of books! Items decluttered this week: Brand new shower curtain, 34 books, pair of curtains, 14 stuffed animals, 1 (broken) lampshade, floor lamp, 2 pillows, dried rose petals, 1 glass tumbler, 2 carrier bags of baby clothes and 1 sippy cup. Header photo Finish by Jeff TurnerCC BY

A Confession…

Plage Nature Deco

My name is Catherine and I am a hoarder. Well I guess it’s now technically WAS a hoarder, but up until a year ago it definitely was my natural predilection. I wasn’t quite to the stage of Hoarders [TV show] or receiving a diagnosis but I had a lot of stuff. More stuff than I needed. More stuff than I had a place for. In fact despite having a middle room with a sofa, the sofa NEVER got sat on because it was always hidden under a pile of stuff. This pile would be organised every fortnight (the day before our cleaner came) and while it was usually reduced, it was never fully cleared. It just looked neater…for a day!

In my paid employment I am an Occupational Therapist and have spent a decade apparently understanding the impact our environment has on our engagement in occupations (the stuff we do every day from getting washed and dressed, through to paid employment, school, leisure activities and sleep). So it is rather embarrassing that only when I started to declutter I realised the immense weight of stuff I had been carrying around with me. The stuff has meaning: it has a past and present but it doesn’t necessarily have to have a future in my life.

I’m 18 months into this journey and apparently others have been inspired by my sharing  what I’ve come across on other blogs, ideas that I think might work (although some haven’t for me) and images I use for inspiration. I therefore decided to start this blog partly to get into the habit of writing and partly to have a resource of inspiration for others by sharing my journey.

Items decluttered this week:

107 books, 7 mugs, 1 work top saver, 1 cushion, 2 audio books and a partridge in a pear tree (only kidding it was Angel season 1 on DVD)

Header photo by Plage Nature Deco/Plage Vinilos y Adhesivos/ CC BY