I’ve always been a hoarder collector by nature. As a child, I had the eye of a magpie, collecting and displaying little things I’d find, but while this habit started out innocently enough, lately I’ve felt the need to simplify. Remember Jana’s recent post about feeling lighter physically? Well, for me it’s time to feel lighter spiritually. It’s time to un-complicate.
There are countless articles, essays, blog posts, and lists available online, all offering up their tips and tricks for adopting a minimalist approach to life. Each time I read them, I think “Yes. That’s what I want!” – it’s easy to be seduced by a picture of a pristine white room with a single plant, or a tiny house arranged just so, but let’s get real, I have no plans of trading in my four-poster bed for a modern platform (it’s just too awesome), or donating every book I own…pure minimalism isn’t in the cards for me. For a long time I felt caught in the middle, I knew there was a correlation between the clutter and my feelings of unrest, but I didn’t know where to start. Lucky for me, moving offered the perfect excuse to sift through everything and pare down, and along the way, I learned a few things about my habits and how to realistically and intentionally curate the things around me for a less-complicated existence.
Write daily and look inward: I’ve always been pretty unsuccessful at keeping journals, usually only filling a few pages before losing interest. But I made writing a priority when I began the process of paring down my stuff. Clearing the clutter is an emotional journey, and I found making time to write and also clear my thoughts especially helpful in working through why I felt the need to hold on to certain things for so long. Looking inward can be a difficult, and sometimes painful journey, but you’ll come out the other side with a better understanding of yourself and your habits, and you’ll be better able to question your motives the next time you’re tempted to bring another object into your life.
Nix doubles first: If you have a lot of excess stuff, sometimes the hardest part of getting rid of it it is knowing where to start. For me the easiest place to begin my journey to simplicity was to start with the doubles. While packing, it came to my attention that I owned five or six nearly identical cork screws. No one needs six cork screws. I chose the nicest one and donated the rest. As I worked through my house, I took the same approach with other belongings: I donated the less-frequently-worn of two black midi-dresses, the worse-off spatula that was inconveniently shaped like a cat (really), and the winter boots that weren’t as nice as the other pair. These things might sound little, but they all add up.
Ask yourself the hard questions: If you’re hopelessly sentimental, like me, you may have a surprisingly difficult time parting with items that, to others, seem incredibly insignificant. Ask yourself why you’re holding on to those pieces. Is it because you’re afraid you’ll forget the memory? Afraid of just not having it? Worried that you’ll be unhappy without it? In my case, I had a few things around my home that had been given to me, but really weren’t my style. I’d been lugging these items around for years, through three states, and I worried that if I donated them, I’d feel really guilty. But when I sat down to think about it, I felt much worse about not putting those items to use than about donating them, and as soon as I dropped them off at the thrift store, I felt instantly lighter. Those things that sat unused in my home for so long will now bring someone out there joy.
Choose beauty: Let’s go back to those cork screws for a minute, how many times have you kept something not for it’s beauty, but simply because it’s a functional object? For me, countless occasions. This post of Brigette’s really resonated with me, and inspired me to look around and really question why I was holding on to things that I didn’t like to look at. While some necessary items in our homes will never be that pretty, making the conscious choice to choose beauty can help you rid yourself of excess items that you don’t actually need. Conversely, once you’re purged the unattractive items from your home, be conscious about what you choose to bring back into it. Don’t settle for an OK rug simply because you need a rug, hold out for the gorgeous vintage kilim that you’ll eventually stumble across at a flea market or estate sale. The same goes for your wardrobe, you should love your clothes! We all have those items we only sort of like, that maybe only sort of fit, lurking in the back of our closets. If it’s not something you would buy right now, sent it off to a new home. And make sure that the next thing you add to your wardrobe is something that you absolutely love.
Understand the journey: Your path to a simpler life won’t be over in an afternoon, it won’t even be over once you’ve sorted, packed, moved, and unpacked. It’s an ongoing process of questioning yourself and your decisions, and constantly being on the lookout for ways to de-clutter. Recently, I unearthed my collection of ten year’s worth of photo booth pictures, all arranged in various frames. As a 2o year old, I loved displaying these as I collected them in my first apartment, but years later, I was ok with taking the pictures out, placing them in a photo-safe box, and passing the frames on to a friend that needed them. Always be open to ways to scale back, and soon your head will feel clearer and your soul will feel lighter, and the next time you move, it will be that much easier.
Do you have tips for de-cluttering your life? I’d love to know — Be sure to sound off in the comments!