I used to be a sentimental hoarder of many precious treasures. As a child everything, as far as I was concerned, had feelings and certainly invoked memories and strong emotions in me. I come from families, as I’m sure many others do, where certain objects have been bestowed at different milestones on the next generation. A passing of the baton, if you will. Whether attachment to objects was a result of early childhood loss, boarding school years, or just my love of stories, it is true to say that sometimes bearing so many ‘things’ has weighed me down. It doesn’t help that in my adult life I have lived in three countries, five cities and eleven houses to date! So, now, every school holidays I take the opportunity for a big clear out. This means at our house there’s a spring clean, an autumn clean, a summer clean and a winter clean!
My husband and children do not share my strong minimalistic tendencies. The following scenarios are based on true stories: Shoes sitting unworn in the bottom of the wardrobe for five years got thrown, only to be needed for an emergency work meeting with The Bigwigs the very next week. A guitar played twice since it was bought was suddenly needed when someone decided on a whim to take up strumming. I cop the blame for these dearly departed items, and willingly so.
The decluttering started in earnest when I had three babies under four years of age. I soon learned that less clutter = less stuff to clean. Surfaces empty of paraphernalia look tidy. I fell in love with the illusion of neatness whereas it had previously escaped me.
Thanks to the popular rise of Marie Kondo, The Minimalists and other simple living bloggers I felt validated in my trendy way of living. However, what to do about all those really, really special items?
If you’ve ever poured over photo albums of any length of time or sifted across the belongings of someone dearly loved but no longer living, you will understand the tide of emotion welling to the surface as memories are triggered. Some are wonderful and some are traumatic. The idea of turfing out grandma’s teapot, even if it does have a chip in the spout, is terrifying. What if you need it again, what will the rest of the family think?
Like many online minimalists suggest I started small - chucking out ripped towels, tired toys, and donating clothes I was sick of. Books were the next thing. I use to want an entire room filled to the ceiling but after moving heavy boxes around several houses the cost and effort outweighed the goal. Now I have about ten life-shaping favourites that stay on the shelf, otherwise if you come over and see something you like, it’s yours! Stories are meant to be shared and enjoyed (and I apologise to authors for undercutting your profits…)
There is an environmentalist edge to the process as well. The War on Waste is an interesting documentary highlighting the huge cost in terms of pollution and rubbish on our planet if we don’t revert to some of our grandparents’ ways of mending, making do and repurposing.
So the idea, I guess, once you’ve managed to get rid of your huge pile of crap – I mean treasure – is to make sure not to have to do it again. I have since discovered there is a measure of financial freedom to be gained as a side bonus.
Here are some of the ways I have managed to lighten both the physical and mental load: