Over the last few months I have noticed a change in the nature of my ongoing slow ‘decluttering’ process. As in, it’s become harder – much harder! A little illustration: at the beginning of this month I joined 30 Day Clutter-Free Countdown. This is a fantastic fun challenge where you aim to declutter 30 items on day 1, 29 items on day 2 and so on – supported by other people completing the same challenge. So in general I would highly recommend the challenge – but in my case it was a bit of a flop (although I am still enjoying the Facebook group!).
Because I simply do not have that much clutter left to collect these days. Funnily enough, this took me a little by surprise. I have been purging our house of belongings for so long that I had assumed there is always something, somewhere to get rid of if you just look hard enough. But now I realize we are teetering at that point, where if we rid our home of more we will not just be decluttering but intentionally pursuing minimalism. I don’t know if we will ever really call ourselves minimalists, but it’s an interesting place to have arrived at.
In this transition between decluttering and minimalism, I have found that I am moving on from getting rid of extras, spares and unused items. That, to me, is the essence of ‘decluttering’. But I have already pared down my wardrobe, the children’s toys, the kitchen equipment. There are no more bags of clothes or plastic tubs to be shipped easily out of the house. Now I consider parting with clothes I still wear sometimes or craft supplies I could potentially use. The difference is that I am no longer just ridding myself of excess but removing functional belongings because the simplicity of living without them is better than the value they add. Because of this, parting with items now happens at a much, much slower rate and with a great deal of thought.
Read also: The Best Books About Minimalism
Before I declared myself a minimalist, I spent a significant amount of effort simplifying my house and my life. I also know a number of individuals who have decluttered their houses in recent months—many as a consequence of Marie Kondo—but who would not describe themselves as minimalists and have no plans to do so. Although it may appear that one may declutter their house or life without being a minimalist, one can seldom be a minimalist—and certainly not become one—without first decluttering.
When I do decide to let go of something: it’s harder than it was.
There is more of an assessment and a justification to be made. I have a greater attachment to what I am considering parting with. On the flip side… I am better at letting go of belongings than I ever was! In part I think this simply comes down to practice. If you regularly donate belongings, you realize that the pang of parting with them is temporary but the reward of living in a simplified home is longer lasting. You learn that most of what you’re giving away would be fairly easily replaced if you wanted to, but that you won’t want to – because you won’t miss any of it.
As well as being better at knowing what to get rid of, I have discovered that I am better at knowing what I like. These days I know when I look at something if it brings me joy to own. I never used to consider whether I actually enjoyed owning things – they were just mine, and that was that. So through this process I have explored my own tastes and sense of style. In addition, the bar for keeping items is continually raised.
Minimalism is a hot concept right now. It’s also OK to desire a residence that is attractive to the eye. All you have to do now is make sure you’re setting reasonable goals for yourself. Because of the way it’s designed, whether it’s the materials used for the flooring or the colour of your walls, your home may not appear the way you want it to. It’s important to remember that the goal of decluttering is to achieve physical and mental clarity. Discover the beauty in the process.
The more I shed belongings, the more I have to truly love what is left for them to make the cut.
Finally, I have reached a place where I am not ‘just’ decluttering but am actively considering what is important to me. My husband has also become more involved as we work out together what we value and how much ‘stuff’ we should own. We talk about the meanings certain belongings hold for us. For me, a book is just a good story – for him, it’s a reminder of where he was when he bought the book, or who gave it to him, or the period of his life when he read it. So I am treading more carefully now that there is less, and re-evaluating what minimalism means to both of us.
It feels good to have moved beyond the decluttering phase, and yet it’s challenging at the same time too. Minimalism asks us to be intentional about what we own, and what we bring into our homes: I’ve found it’s easy to think about the value of new belongings but much harder to consider the merits of things we already own. Mostly though, I am enjoying teasing out these new considerations. It means living in a house where everything around me is there for a reason. This also means being surrounded by things that I love, and toys that my children love. It means being thoughtful, even in seasons of commercial excess. There are so many good things to come from simply having less.
Creating a new habit so that the house is neatly tidied up every evening in a few minutes is the best way to maintain your home decluttered.
It’s really easy to get things back in their proper position every day if you don’t let them collect. This can be accomplished with the assistance of family members. When the kids go to bed, I ask them to carry their belongings up to their rooms.