The clutter of collections & letting them go

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About 10 days ago I watched a YouTube video that changed everything for me.

I’d been holding on to a childhood collection for years.

Decades.

Well, since my childhood. Which is over thirty years to be precise.

It’s moved house with me countless times. I’ve lugged that collection in-and-out of more vans than I care to remember.

Yet I never unpacked it.

I just kept that collection boxed up. But, importantly, it was with me.

You see, I thought it was a part of me. That the items in the collection made me the person I am. Considering it was a collection from my early formative years, that could very well be true.

But I’d rarely looked at it since becoming a teenager. The collection was boxed up in the loft of our family home. And then it moved to the loft of my own home. And to the next home. And the next.

I didn’t use it.

I didn’t enjoy it.

I didn’t even look at it.

And when I watched a video by Ronald L. Banks last week, I realised something.

I didn’t need it.

The video is titled Minimalism for Collectors. If you have a collection, yet aspire to maintain a minimalist lifestyle, I highly recommend you watch it.

Just because Ron’s video inspired me to clear out my childhood collection, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience. Because, in equal measure, the video validated me in keeping some of my collections. The things that do add value to my life.

But it also allowed me to look at that childhood collection with fresh eyes and motivated me to make a change.

I realised that collection was more of a burden than something I cherished. Worse still – I felt guilty that its condition was deteriorating because I wasn’t taking care of it.

It was time for that 30+-year-old collection to go.

One week later I have an empty cupboard the size of a wardrobe (yes, that’s how much space the collection took up!) and I have made over £1000 selling it off.

I don’t know what happened to me while I was watching Ron’s video, but I no longer felt sentimental about the collection. There was no nostalgia, no memories of happy times playing with it in childhood. I could simply see a stack of stuff that I didn’t even want to touch.

But just because this particular collection was no longer something I wanted, it doesn’t mean I’m against all collections now.

In fact, thank goodness for people with collections, as they are the ones who bought my childhood collection from me.

I picked out the few pieces that meant the most to me – the things that made me smile – and kept those. But all the rest is gone.

I feel so much lighter, happier and at peace, knowing that the collection will continue to be cared for by someone who really wants it.

The decluttering journey – Deciding what to keep

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Despite my desire to follow a minimalist lifestyle and the many years of downsizing and decluttering I’ve already put into my life, I still have a lot of stuff.

I just don’t know how it accumulates.

One month, I can feel perfectly satisfied that I have decluttered successfully and only own the things I need and love. I have the bare minimum.

The next month, I can feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter I still have in my home.

It’s not that I’m going shopping or bringing new items into our home. I’m simply looking at it with fresh eyes. Perhaps more critical eyes.

I could do more.

Maybe I exhausted myself before I had truly finished decluttering last month? Perhaps I was ‘soft’ and allowed myself to keep things that I didn’t really need?

Whatever the reason, the process of decluttering sometimes seems never-ending. (When will it end? Will I be in an empty room, thinking about taking down the blinds?)

So, exasperated with myself, I started looking for motivation to do more. To declutter further. To minimise more.

I uncovered a quote that I hadn’t heard of before and it made a massive difference to how I look at my belongings:

“Decluttering is infinitely easier when you think of it as deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to throw away.”

Francine Jay

MIND. BLOWN.

Unbelievable though it seems, I hadn’t heard of Francine Jay until now. I know, right? Where I have I been for the last decade?

Don’t worry, I’ve put that right – and I now have her ‘Miss Minimalist’ book on my Kindle.

This quite came into my life at exactly the right time. Just when I was getting despondent about my minimising efforts. It has given me a new perspective on decluttering and I am diving back into the task with renewed vigour.

I’m going into every room and thinking in reverse: ‘If this room were empty, what would I put into it? What would I keep?’ Then it’s simply a case of removing the rest.

So I thought I would share this quote with you today, in the hope that it might make all the difference to you too.

Have you discovered an inspiring quote that helped you on your minimalism journey? Has someone said something to you that made you stop and think? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

The Hotel Experience

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If you’ve ever spent a or two night in a hotel and thought to yourself ‘well, this is all I really need’, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I want to achieve The Hotel Experience in my own home.

Hotel rooms contain all the essentials – but none of the faff.

There’s everything you need to live comfortably – bed, television, desk, wardrobe, tea-making facilities.

That’s everything I need anyway!

Which is why I believe that hotel rooms should be the inspiration for our minimalist homes.

When I’m staying in a hotel room, I usually feel relaxed. It’s not just because I’m on holiday – because sometimes I’m travelling for work or just having a night away because the journey home is too far. It’s more than that.

It’s a sense of peace.

And of having enough.

I’ve got all the things with me that I deemed important for the trip. And, when I unpack these items, they never fill the storage spaces available.

I like that feeling of abundant space.

When I sit in a hotel room, the conversation with my husband always goes like this:

“We don’t really need anything more than this, do we?”

“We could quite happily live in this space.”

“It’s got everything we need, so why have more?”

We get settled into a smaller space than we’re used to and it feels like home. I feel like we could live in a tiny studio apartment forever.

And then we go home. And nothing changes.

Of course, I love my home. I’m grateful for every room. It’s our dream location. And I wouldn’t ever want to leave it.

In fact, I don’t really like going away – so I’m certainly not enjoying the hotel experience because I’m a fan of holidays or travel. I’d always rather be at home than away.

But just knowing that I could live in a smaller space, with a lot less stuff, is reassuring.

THAT’S why I love The Hotel Experience so much.

HOW TO ACHIEVE THE HOTEL EXPERIENCE AT HOME

  1. Have a thorough declutter so that you have as little belongings as possible in your bedroom. Remove items from surfaces and store them away – or get rid of them for good.
  2. Clear out those bedside tables – mine is packed to the brim with books, pens, hand creams and notebooks. It’s better to keep only the essentials to hand rather than use the bedside drawers as storage.
  3. Minimise your clothing collection so that there’s actually some space inside your wardrobe. It’s lovely when there’s air around the things you’re hanging up – it prevents items getting creased and provides that feeling of having more than enough storage.
  4. If you don’t have a wardrobe or drawers or bedside tables, perhaps adding some more useful storage to the space will make the room feel more hotel-esque. There’s always ample storage in hotel rooms.

We’ve all got boxes we haven’t unpacked

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Which is the perfect excuse for decluttering when you’re becoming minimalist but don’t want people to think you’ve gone to the extreme.

I found myself saying this when my husband mentioned a recent minimising session to some friends of ours. I immediately jumped in with “Yes, well, we’ve got boxes in the garage that we haven’t unpacked since we moved three years ago, so we probably don’t need them.”

Our friends nodded knowingly and agreed that they too probably had the same in their loft. We moved swiftly on with the conversation without any mention of minimalism. Phew.

Now, I don’t know why I didn’t want want to make a big ‘thing’ about our journey into minimalism. In fact, I’m usually rather happy to share my opinions on how less in more and that we don’t need to buy so much stuff.

I mean, I’m writing a book about it now, for goodness sake.

But at that moment, I felt a bit weird about it. Probably because I wasn’t where I wanted to be with minimising our belongings at that moment and I didn’t want people to come into our home and be surprised by the amount of stuff we still have.

On the other hand, I already felt a bit extreme with the amount of minimising we had already done and didn’t want to admit to the vast volume of donating, shredding and clearing we’d already done.

I felt like my innate minimalist urges might not be understood and I didn’t really want to get into a discussion about the mental wellbeing I was uncovering as a result.

My conversation swerve worked. I got away with it. I’d downplayed it enough and made it relatable enough that it appeared wholly sensible to clear out those boxes.

Because we ALL have those boxes in the garage, the loft, under the stairs, under the bed. The boxes we haven’t looked at in years.

Those boxes make it easy to understand why someone would be getting rid of their stuff, and the mere mention of those boxes usually elicits agreement in anyone you discuss them with.

So if you find yourself being questioned about your minimalism journey and want to help someone understand why, just casually slip those boxes into the conversation.

Because we’ve all got them.

And none of us need them.

Why the pandemic turned me into a hoarder

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I’m not talking about stockpiling toilet rolls or tins of beans.

I’ve hoarded my own stuff.

Before the pandemic hit, I was in full minimalist flow. I was minimising my belongings at every opportunity, I rarely bought anything new, and I had boxes of stuff ready to be donated to the charity shop. But then, as soon as lockdown was announced, I stopped decluttering.

Worse than that, I started re-cluttering.

I brought things back into my home that I’d previously packed away on my ‘to sell’ shelves. I was relieved when I re-found things that I thought had already been donated. I brought them back into my home and promised to never let them go again.

I bought new items. Backups of the things I already have but didn’t want to run out of (I’m talking underwear here, not hand sanitizer). Considering I can’t actually remember the last time I bought anything new, my urge to shop was the most surprising of all.

Now, as lockdown begins to ease, I’m looking around myself and I don’t even recognise the space. Where has my tidy, calm, pre-lockdown home gone? Why are there little piles stacked up in every room? My desk is messy, the living room shelves are full, my kitchen cabinets are packed with cookware and the hallway is littered with empty parcels and packing materials.

This was not the plan.

I suppose everyone’s plans changed during the pandemic, but I didn’t expect to be that affected by it. I went into lockdown thinking ‘this will be easy’. I don’t care to browse the shops anyway, I’d rather cook at home than go out to eat, I had no holidays planned, and my favourite place is my calm home and peaceful garden.

I had more time to myself than ever. I was saving money every day. I was having a lovely time. All the while I was completely unaware that my calm, minimalist life was unraveling at the seams.

At the same time, I was hearing stories of people using their time in lockdown to organise their homes, to get rid of unnecessary stuff, clean, tidy and decorate. I don’t know why I went the other way…

I’ve looked into it and there are so many reasons why people hoard but in this instance I’m pretty sure it’s because of scarcity. There were news stories of supermarket shortages, of delayed deliveries and simply not being able to go to a shop to get what you need, whenever you need it.

For me, that feeling of scarcity manifested in the need to keep hold of things that ‘might come in useful’. Things where ‘I might not be able to get another one’. And in some cases this paid off. I was rewarded when I needed something for our home and I could easily it in my boxes of junk. I felt smug that my hoarding had been successful. But, blimey, it’s messy.

So now’s the time to get back on track. My home needs decluttering again. My post-pandemic life is day 1 of my minimalist journey. Sort of.

Do come back to see how I get on with the new wave of minimising, and please let me know if you too have had the urge to hoard during the pandemic.