Sunday, 26 April 2015

minimalism - less really IS more

The last couple of weeks have been rather busy at home. I took a couple of extra days off over the long Easter weekend and I really focused on getting rid of some clutter. Most people who come to our home wouldn't think we had a lot of stuff, it's always very tidily stowed away, but still, after three solid days of sorting out everything (I emptied our bedroom of everything except the furniture and only put the stuff we really needed back in) we took a whole carload of stuff to the charity shop (I mean up to the car roof full!) including five big bags of clothing and eight boxes of books. Yup, that one was tough to start with but it did get easier. Those books had served their purpose and are now going to new appreciative new homes while also helping Oxfam so I feel good about letting them go. I also had one box of random electrical bits for recycling (half of which was filled with chargers/adapters for who only knows what) and lastly three boxes of things sold on Ziffit. The following weekend, I finished tackling the kitchen and took another five boxes and three bags to the charity shop.

Having gotten rid of so much, there was a whole bookcase that was suddenly redundant, so out that went too, meaning the hall is now a brighter, freer flowing space. That's a lot of stuff, especially since we only live in a one bed flat and only have one large chest of drawers and a single wardrobe for all our clothes! Where did it all come from?? And how did it all fit in there?? More to the point though, I don't miss a single thing. It might seem hard or scary at first but trust me, you really don't need three electric toothbrush chargers or half a wardrobe of clothes that don't even fit you any more.

I won't lie, although it was fun (really!) it was hard work and setting aside entire days is really the best way to do it. I can now thoroughly clean the whole flat in just an hour and a half and I haven't had  a problem finding anything since. Getting ready for work in the morning is easy and I don't have to fight with the chest of drawers in order to just get dressed so I can have an extra 15 minutes in bed now and who doesn't want that? Cooking is also a pleasure again, we can access every pot and every piece of crockery easily, which also speeds up doing the dishes and the putting away of equipment after cooking up something tasty.

I continued to read some more books on minimalism too, I finally got around to 'Essentialism' by Gregg McKeown which is more about working better but is still a really useful read nonetheless. I also read 'Simplicity Essays' and 'Day in the Life of a Minimalist' by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Milburn. In one of the books I found a concept that was so simple but so eye-opening. Joshua explains that he gave away 90% of his clothes, but now all the clothes he has are his favourite clothes. Imagine that, a wardrobe containing only your favourite things? Read the essay here.

All the while I was sorting things out, I was thinking about something stylist Joanna Thornhill said when I asked her 20 Questions last year:

NBTR - What's the biggest mistake renters make in terms of home furnishing/design?

JT - I guess really it's having the attitude of "why bother when I'm 'only' renting" - I think whether you're into interiors or not, having a nice place to call home can have a really positive impact on your whole life, and as the book hopefully shows, that doesn't mean spending loads of money or investing a lot of time, and that whilst as a renter you might behave more limitations than a homeowner, there is still plenty you can do to personalize your space. If a £30 tin of paint and a day of DIY will make you love your living room, it's really not that big a commitment.

Having a space we love and enjoy being in is very important and the changes from the de-cluttering process are amazing. Our bedroom feels so much more spacious and calming for a start and chores are easier so putting in the effort really paid off. Once it's done right, it's also super easy to keep that way.

You might be wondering about the photo above. Not our flat, but one I finally managed to view a couple of weeks ago. An immaculate conversion in South London. The agent and I disagreed on whether it was possible to actually get a bed in the bedroom (I maintain that it was too small for a double) so you can imagine the rest... (or you can have a sneaky look here) It wasn't all bad though, I got to snoop around a beautiful flat (the attention to detail was almost heartbreaking when I knew it wasn't going to be right for us... and that fireplace!) but it also made me appreciate that even though there are some issues with ours, if we can get them fixed it will be fine, we really do love it here. Firstly, the more we look the more we realize how lucky we are to have so much space. It's a generously sized one bed and the fact that we can have ten people sat comfortably around the kitchen table is a complete luxury. So, I'm going to channel some of this futile flat hunting energy into negotiations with our landlord instead, because mostly, the grass really is greener where you water it... and I'm so thankful we don't have to move, I can't imagine that process with a deadline...

After all the de-cluttering though, I still feel like I'm just not done yet. So In May I'll be undertaking a version of The Minimalists de-cluttering game whereby on the first of the month you get rid of one item, on the second, two items and so on. If you play the full month, that means you'll get rid of a staggering 496 items. Given that I've probably already purged more than that, I'm doing a week then repeating starting from one item again, for four weeks. That's a total of 118 items (if you add the three extra days to get to the end of the month!) Or if all of that still seems too much how about just one item a day for 31 days? The trick is just to start! I'll be tweeting my progress, so please feel free to join me and use the #MinsGame hashtag if you decide to play the game too!

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