I was afraid of my own house.
Every morning I would flee out the door as soon as I possibly could. Not because of the allure of the outdoors, or pressing matters to attend to, but because I actually could not stand being home.
There was nowhere to sit. Nowhere to peacefully eat. Nowhere to write.
Or so I thought.
Now, of course there were plump cushions on available leather seats on which I could rest my tush. At least four tables or desks to plonk my laptop and type away. And pretty things everywhere to inspire me. But there was no room for me.
I had too much stuff. Too much mess. Too much clutter, even in my head. I still do, but this post is really about a journey, not an accomplishment. But oh, how good things are feeling already!
When you live with another person, the home becomes filled with their stuff as well as your own. In my house, though, I am the main culprit- at least it is more productive for me to think this way!
When I started this process of decluttering the thought of it felt better than actually doing it. For one, it is kinda daunting. I can be super motivated, so I like to do everything well and preferably at once, but such a feat is not attainable in the case of cleaning and decluttering my home.
And it was painful. The stuff I have had to look at, process, and decide whether they bring me joy or good use hold too many limiting emotions. Rather I had too many limiting emotions, but stuff can bring up your stuff.
I just want to acknowledge a few things that felt a little painful, even when I tried to be stone cold about them.
- I have run several workshops I have some handwritten testimonials and excess resources that I had kept. It was a promise that I might use some of the stuff again, but also a reminder that 2016 was the first year I had not run a group workshop of any kind. I know that I always completely remake my resources anyway, so I threw most of it out, but not before that slight twinge of regret for not doing more. Lesson: My mind is my greatest resource.
- I have costumes, cables and instruments from old bands and music projects that didn’t work out at all. I know that where I am musically is where I need to be, but there is still an attachment to other collaborations, especially ones that cost a lot of money. Giving away my tutu from the Something Blue clip was a little sad (even though I feel way beyond this!). Lesson: There is always something even better waiting for me.
- Getting rid of clothes is difficult for me, because most stuff I don’t wear, I don’t wear because I don’t go out to enough events that warrant dressing up. So giving away some of my dresses represented my severe lack of a glamorous social life! I also have a lot of clothes my family love and think are adorable on me, so giving these away made me feel sad for my mum, even though she doesn’t know about it! Lesson: Don’t idealise a lifestyle that doesn’t necessarily align with where or who I am right now.
- I felt like a thief because in the midst of decluttering, I found stuff that I had borrowed but never returned. Things I had lost for years. And things I ignored for years. Like books I have been leant and clothing I had borrowed to keep me warm. Lesson: Don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep. Say no more often.
- I gave away and threw out gifts that may or may not have been chosen especially for me and with love. I know that there is love between me and that giving person, whether or not I keep all their presents, but this gave me a surge of guilt. Lesson: Be a better friend.
- I have so many journals, scrap bits of paper and lists filled with brilliant ideas that either I have never done OR seem so outdated that I am embarrassed to read them. Some of these drafts I send out publicly so they made me cringe. Lesson: I am always growing.
The amount of money I have spent on stuff absolutely blows my mind. From top of the line skin and hair products, to clothes, ornaments, contraptions- it’s just endless. There is nothing really wrong with this, but I am going to adjust my buying strategy. And since decluttering, I have found I have got way more use out of what I do have.
Above all, most of what I found made me think I have to get my shit together. And it was really inspiring to see how stuff can completely dominate our lifestyle. Discovering things I have never seen nor cared about felt like discovering dark secrets, and when they didn’t feel good they were like black spots on the soul of my house. A touch of melodrama.
So in the process of decluttering there has been some immense joy!
1. Seeing people excited to receive the clothes and jewellery I don’t wear.
2. A cleaner house and fresher air.
3. Mental and physical space has seemed to open up and I am far more in sync with what I am meant to be doing.
4. A real sense of possibility.
I’m excited for what is next now that I am committed to decluttering over the next year. That’s right, taking the pressure off by giving myself a year to get it all done. It is work, but it is energising every step of the way.
Here are some tips for going through your own house.
First of all you would want to read or learn about the Konmari method, which is really useful and has the most practical and holistic advice on the process. Then you can apply the following to make the decluttering even more cathartic. This worked for me, but I would say it is a little more confronting than the Konmari method- rather it faces difficult aspects head on. You can just as easily have a single affirmation like ‘I don’t need stuff to make me happy’ and cull away. But this is some advice based on how I approached it.
Really focus on each item by looking at it, picking it up and for the more sentimental stuff, sitting with it for a tad. That way you can gauge how you feel about it. If you somehow feel bad, ask why. If there is an opportunity to be grateful for the item or the moment it represents, go ahead and do that. Immediately seek a lesson from it, or a positive affirmation so that you can keep the learnings and move on from something you may or may not need. Usually if something makes you feel bad, it’s not worth holding onto. Occasionally it may reinvigorate you to use and enjoy the item if you feel bad for not using it, but want to make it a core part of your life from now on. Your past behaviour is typically a good indicator of the future, however, after mindfully going through this process, you could be a whole different person!
And if you live with someone who also has a lot of stuff, I can say now from experience that seeing the space open up just from passing on your stuff makes a huge difference. It also does inspire the other person to be more realistic about what they are holding onto. In the space of a couple of days, I saw my hubby go from caring about a CD rack to being totally ready to give it away. I asked him about keeping model cars about 3 years ago and his response was ‘They’re mine’. But now he wants to give them away. Trust that you taking care of things from your end will make a big difference.
Some final thoughts.
I started this because I wanted my home to be a sanctuary, not a place I dread being in! I also did it based on the principle of letting stuff go so that more goodness can come in. I have a tendency to feel full to the point of overwhelm so this is a nice mental trick that encourages me to be and do more- not ‘have’ more.
I am in a fairly conservative Phase One of all of this. It has been time consuming and I have the luxury of a break from work where I can do this without too many pressing or urgent tasks arising. It will truly take about a year to do this well.
If you would like to join me on this Phase One and be rid of stuff that no longer makes you feel good or (almost literally) skeletons in the closet, please leave a comment about what you will be decluttering. Share any insights and feelings that arise along the way.
Oh, and I’m also interested to know about weird things you find!
Let's create more space to LIVE!