I recently had a lightening moment where I realised I just have too much stuff cluttering up my space and consequently my life (see blog posting “too much stuff” from 14th August). As I’ve publicly stated that one of my biggest pet hates are folk who moan about things but then take no action, I’m not going to get away with procrastinating over the issue at hand.
So, I set about doing something about it with the goal to reduce the clutter, increase my wardrobe space, be able to see the ceilings on top of the wardrobes, be able to see the carpets underneath the beds, get in the airing cupboard and
generally get rid of anything that doesn’t have a practical use, fits me, or brings pleasure to my life in some way shape or form.
After starting this final sort out, as I perceive it, I’ve come across the fascinating “movement” around
minimalism. Huge swathes of people who have discovered that filling their lives with “stuff” just means we make it less full of meaning. I’ve discovered interesting facts and figures about individuals who have dropped out of the rat race with a view
to living a more meaningful life. I’ve read about the pressure people put themselves under to acquire more “stuff”, sometimes self-imposed and sometimes a keeping up with the Jones’ mentality instigated by the society we live in. I’ve had a few more light
bulb moments in the last couple of weeks all related to these points of discovery.
The minimalist movement appears to be everywhere, and it receives cult-like status in some part of society. Folks are literally giving up six-figure salaries, corporate careers and wandering off to travel the globe in a camper van or downsizing
to a tiny house the size of a shed. In fact, there’s actually a Tiny House movement with myriads of clips on YouTube, dedicated to people of the world living in the smallest spaces where they can’t hoard stuff because there simply is no room. They come up
with the most inventive storage ideas which are really inspiring but mostly they make me realise you don’t actually need much to have a really comfortable life. I’m absolutely fascinated by the fact that a couple can take a single trailer axle and build a
home on it that’s maybe twice the size of my garden shed, with all mod cons, plenty of sleeping space, sitting/working space, a kitchen and some of them even have a dog!
We’ve unknowingly been conditioned to think that by having more clothes/shoes/handbags or a bigger house/car/salary that we will be happier. I never really thought I was one of those people who believed that, but when I started looking
inward a little, it scared me that part of my subconscious does think that way.
Maybe it has something to do with the ambitious part of me that wants to be the best I can be at whatever it is I do? I genuinely think that’s me wanting to be as useful and helpful as I can whilst getting job satisfaction which makes
me feel worthwhile as a human being, as opposed to thinking the higher up the corporate ladder I go and the bigger the salary I earn, the happier I will be.
Neither do I believe that a bigger house will make me happy, in fact PS4 man and I have agreed we’re quite contended in our modest semi and have just re-jigged our mortgage to increase it and reduce the term so that in 10 years’ time we won’t have a mortgage.
Shopping for necessity is rare, with the exception of food shopping. We haven’t done it for a while, but PS4 man and I quite regularly have days out to The Trafford Centre and Cheshire Oaks – turning shopping into a leisure activity as opposed to going to buy things because we need them.
When it’s one of our birthday’s or Christmas we either take each other on a shopping splurge or buy more of the stuff we already have in a bigger/better/updated style or version.
My wardrobe has always been a problem – because my size has always been a ‘problem’. In my lifetime I’ve been everything from a size 8 to an 18 and everything in between. The longest I’ve ever stayed a specific dress size is probably
only ever been a couple of years before the next health-spurt kicks in (sizes 8-12) or conversely the live-for-today-and-sod-it mentality (sizes 14-18). The consequence of that is that my wardrobe and any other storage space I can get my hands on is crammed with clothes of all descriptions and all sizes for all occasions. Every couple of years I have a cull, give away all the stuff that doesn’t fit any more and buy a load of new clothes.
I wore a size 9 shoe when I was still at school. You can’t imagine the crippling embarrassment of only being able to buy men’s shoes to fit you because retailers didn’t understand the need for “canal barges for ladies” when I was 15. Thankfully a lot has changed since then. The result of those man wearing shoe days has left its mark however, because all it did was instil in me a desire for pretty shoes in a size 9. I must buy them, ney, I must buy them multiple times in as many colour combinations as I can get hold of. At the height of my shoe-buying craziness I was in New York with my little sister and had to buy another huge suitcase for the journey home just to bring back the 16 pairs of shoes I bought and various other trinkets from our trip. There’s an added bit of psychology at work here though, because shoes don’t care what dress size you are – they’re always going to fit!
So dear reader, I’m trying to change. I have bagged up umpteen black bin bags of clothes and they have gone to MacMillan Cancer Care. I have cleared out the kitchen gadgets, crockery and cutlery and donated them to a good cause. Now,
room by room, I’m systematically going through everything and if it doesn’t fit the criteria to stay it’s either given away or put on eBay.
I started eBaying stuff just to see what happened really and 2 weeks later I’m almost £300 better off. More’s to the point, I can’t believe I had £300 worth of stuff just hanging about the house! It’s also quite addictive, in a healthy way, thought my sisters are joking that pretty soon we be left with a sofa, a TV and nothing else in the house. The smallest bedroom is now a treasure trove of stuff which bit by bit is making its way onto eBay to enjoy a second life elsewhere.
The rooms are starting to look tidier, I’m starting to feel free’er and lighter. I’ve actually stopped myself from buying new things completely, thinking before I put my hand in my pocket – I don’t need anything.
I’ve asked my family not to buy me “stuff” for Christmas (apologies for mentioning the C-word in August). I’ve asked instead for gifts of experiences, that’s if I’m lucky enough to be on anyone’s Christmas lists.
I’ve only come across one single example of where this new found attempt at minimalism has come up short. Last weekend I really fancied boiled eggs for breakfast and merrily set about them, wondering how long it was since I last had an
egg for breakfast. Only once they were ready did I know the answer – nearly 4 years, because that’s how long it is since I used the egg cups I gave away to charity the week before! Chopped up egg on toast anyone?