I began decluttering purely because I felt overwhelmed by the physical clutter in my home. When I first started clearing my space, I felt an incredible sense of lightness. When I got more serious about minimalism, and was further along in my journey, I hit a bump in the road. Something I hadn’t anticipated is that finding yourself is a side effect of minimalism. And this made me feel very uncomfortable at first.
A couple of caveats before I get started on my minimalist home tour.
Firstly, I am a normal mum with three normal kids. I did put away the toys that were on the floor before I took photos – my house isn’t permanently immaculate! But these photos aren’t staged. This is pretty much how it looks every time I put the toys away.
Ever wondered why minimalism matters? Over the last seven years, I’ve been unlucky enough to lose four member of my immediate family: my last two remaining grandparents, my uncle and most recently, my mother.
It has not been an easy time, and each death has affected me quite profoundly. I was lucky as a child – my brother and I grew up in a family where death remained at a distance. We didn’t know what it was like to lose someone until our grandfather died, by which time I had left home and gone to university and my brother was in his teens. Then, we had another long period of time where death seemed to be something that only happened to other people.
What exactly is the difference between simple living and minimalism? If you’re new to either or both of these terms it can seem as though they are both referring to the same thing.
At its most basic, minimalism is something that is almost completely (but not quite) encompassed by simple living. Let’s have a look at a simple Venn diagram I’ve drawn for you:
Some of the very cool side effects of owning a whole lot less stuff!
1. Finding things is easier
When surfaces and floors are clear, and things that belong together are kept together, losing your passport, your keys or other important items rarely happens.
2. Keeping things tidy takes less effort
There is less stuff to get in a mess in the first place and the things you do have are all easily put away. Getting something out is easier because you don’t have to shift a mountain of other things out out of the way to get to what you need.
When I first started decluttering and sorting through everything I owned, I was a traditional hoarder. A lot of my stuff was easy to get rid of because I had a tendency to save things that might be useful – like old magazines, storage boxes, and old towels and clothes. The appreciation that decluttering time was just as important as decluttering space was a long way off.
In the beginning, clearing things out was easy and I made great progress.
But eventually, I got stuck.
I still had a lot of stuff – more stuff than I wanted – but I didn’t seem to be able to pare it down any further.
As Peter Walsh, the Australian anti-clutter man says:
You only have the space you have.
I have read two of his books and they are very good (see my recommended reads page for all my favourite books). The quote above has stayed with me because it is so simple, yet so fundamentally true.
In the past, I was guilty of keeping things that were earmarked for the vague and far off day when we would live in a bigger house. How crazy is that? First of all, I didn’t have any intention of moving in the near future. And secondly, if the day did come when I could suddenly buy a bigger house, presumably I would also be able to stretch to buying whatever it is was that was being stored, right?
Do you have enough room to grow? Or are you suffocating under a life that’s already stuffed to the max?
You know that feeling… when you can’t seem to breathe for all the demands on your time and the stuff that needs doing.
Whether you work full time, study full time, or you’re a stay at home parent, life is busy. It asks so much of you, not just in the form of family commitments, social events, and your career or life-calling, but also in the form of life admin. And by that I mean all the subsidiary tasks that you have to deal with in order to function like a (reasonably) normal human being.
Cleaning, washing, ironing, food shopping, cooking, tidying, paperwork, bills, letters, repairs, gardening, fixing, phone calls, errands, post, holidays… you get the idea.
Some of us want to live with less, but we carry a fear of minimalism that prevents us from making the changes we want to make.
I went to the post office the other day to post six items I’d sold on eBay. The items in question used to belong to my Mum. She died earlier this year, very suddenly, at the age of 68. It was exactly 1 month before her birthday. My mum lived a life that was complicated and she kept a lot of things. Minimalism wasn’t something that Mum would have wanted to do. And of course that is not a problem – we all walk our own paths.
Her flat was rented and I had four weeks to clear out her possessions, most of which I took home because I couldn’t deal with sorting through them one by one in the weeks following her death.