Decluttering: Creating space for a simple and meaningful life.


I have been thinking for a while about creating a more minimalist lifestyle.  Why?  Because I want to give my time and energy to the things that matter most to me.

I’ve discovered that desiring this isn’t enough.  There is so much competition for my time and energy, that if I don’t reduce things that matter less to me, they will always take precedence over things that matter most, for like toddlers they have a way of demanding my attention.

Inspired by watching The Minimalists documentary on Netflix, I decided to start with decluttering my house.  I thought this would be an easy win for me as I am not a particularly messy person.  I was also recognising a level of psychological stress that was caused by the endless management of possessions.  Every time I needed something from the garage, I had to spend time searching for it, shifting endless items around to find it.  Often, I avoided the frustration by just purchasing another one, only for it to turn up later.  More stuff to add to the pile.  The amount of time I spent cleaning, organising, and maintaining my stuff, or worse, thinking about the fact that I ought to, was time I wanted to spend differently.

Everything has a price that we continue to pay long after the money has left our account.

Everything has a price that we continue to pay long after the money has left our account.

This weekend I went all in.  Room by room, drawer by drawer.  Emptying everything out and only putting back items that brought value to my life.  I asked myself the following questions:

    • Have I used this in the past 6 months?  Will I use this in the next 6 months?
    • Does this serve a purpose in my actual life, as opposed to my past life or an idealised life!
    • Do I like it?  Does it bring me joy?

I was shocked by what I discovered.  Crockery for entertaining large groups that I have moved from house to house for nearly 30 years. I had stored, organised and cleaned it but rarely, if ever, used it.  In my mind I was a hostess, not because I like hosting. I don’t. Nor because I am particularly good at it. I’m not. But because I was raised in a family that always hosted and believed that this was something I “should” do.

I found a drawer stuffed full of all sorts of gift-wrapping paraphilia and crafting materials.  I loved the idea of wrapping beautiful gifts and making cards on a rainy afternoon.  I have never done either. This is not me; it is an idealised version of me I occasionally indulge.

As I emptied my bookshelves, it felt like peeling back the layers off my past life.  Books for a degree I did over a decade ago and have never opened since; who was I trying to impress? the dinner guests I haven’t invited on my homemade gift cards?  Books about religion that no longer fit my current spirituality.  Books about raising children that have long since flown the nest.  All valuable seasons of my life, but no longer relevant to my life today.

This level of decluttering was emotionally challenging and revealing.  I hadn’t thought of myself as being particularly attached to things, but parting with some of them felt like losing a familiar part of myself.  An identity formed from things is not something I want to hold on to, so the pile grew.   I was surprised to experience a low level anxiety when parting with items I had no use for.   I had spent my hard-earned money on these things and invested time in their upkeep.  Letting them go felt like a waste.  I had to admit to myself that I wasted my money when I made an impulse purchase, and keeping hold of it would not change that. 

At the same time, something strange and magical happened.  As I emptied, reduced and decluttered I felt a weight lift from me.  A shedding a life I have lived and a person I have been.  A way of life that once served me but had overstayed its usefulness and become a burden I carried from home to home, room to room.   I felt a sense of inner peace reflected by my surroundings.   As I stood back and observed my uncluttered shelves and empty surfaces I saw a blank canvas on which I could paint a life of my choosing.