How a hoarder became a minimalist

Minimalism | Yes Starling

It isn’t hyperbole to say that minimalism changed my life. I have gone from a borderline hoarder to a minimalist.

A few years ago, I used to have a lot of stuff. Dozens and dozens of items of clothing, pairs of shoes, hundreds of books, and boxes and boxes of ‘bits and bobs’ that I didn’t have room to unpack. I thought I loved all of the things I owned, but I began to feel weighed down by them. I got to the point where I didn’t have room to set down a cup of tea without first creating a space.

I was forced to get started with decluttering when the time came to move flats. I was moving from a shared flat where I had a huge (albeit cramped) bedroom which could hold all of my belongings into a much smaller room. I physically couldn’t take everything with me, so I had no alternative but to evaluate what I had. As I started to pack up my boxes, I kept in mind an abbreviated version of Morris’ famous quote, and only kept things that were useful or beautiful. I found it easy to get rid of clothes I had stopped loving, and books I had read and didn’t want to re-read. During this process, I managed to give away maybe five or six Ikea bags of belongings without too much difficulty. But I still had stuff I didn’t really love but I kept because was a present, or because it might fit me again one day, or because I’ll get round to fixing that zip, or because it cost a lot of money or for any one of a hundred other excuses.

We moved into our new flat, and while more cramped than my previous home, my belongings were more organised. I knew where everything was, and I had purchased bookshelves and storage units to put it all away. It was amazing to finally get things out of the cardboard boxes that I had lugged from move to move. I’d brought a huge, ancient sofa with me as it was very comfy, but we couldn’t get it into our new flat. It had to be chopped up (it didn’t meet fire regs so couldn’t be sold) and taken to the tip and I realised how glad I was to be rid of it.

One day, horror of horrors, I discovered that we had a fairly major moth infestation. It was hideous, but enforced another declutter, especially of clothes. After that, little changes were made; I got rid of an entire box of CD’s, and put all of my DVD’s into a folder rather than having all the plastic cases taking up space. At this point, I didn’t really get any joy from decluttering, but the seeds had been sown, and I started to take pleasure in a more orderly environment.

A couple of years passed, and my husband and I moved into our current house. That move prompted further decluttering, and I was starting to be able to be more evaluative of what I owned. One epiphany that I had during this period regard gratitude; I realised that one of the reasons I had held onto so many of these tiny ‘bits and bobs’ is that a lot of them were gifts and it felt incredibly ungrateful to give them away. I realised that the person had given me that item to make me happy, and that they would not want me to feel burdened by it. That realisation enabled me to get rid of lots of items in one fell swoop. By this point, I had started to really enjoy the added space that came with having less clutter around. Our house is a tiny terrace so every gained inch makes a difference. ‘Stuff’ started to feel less important to me.

Some time later, I started reading ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ on a friend’s recommendation but found the religious aspect wasn’t quite right for me. I was, however, interested in Marie Kondo’s method so have ‘Spark Joy’ a go. ‘Spark Joy’ focusses much more on the practical side of decluttering and it immediately resonated with me. Marie Kondo has a very structured, methodical approach to decluttering which I found really useful. She breaks items down into categories, and there is a prescribed order in which to tackle them. I started to follow Marie Kondo’s method, but quickly found that I wanted to go further.

In January 2017,  I came across ‘The Minimalists’ podcast. I had recently changed career and had a bit more free time, so I listened to podcasts. Over the course of a few months, I worked my way through their entire back catalogue. Listening to those podcasts gave me tips and tools to continue to go through my stuff in a much more deliberate manner. Not only did I have a practical guide about how to declutter, but also why to declutter. I started to realise that ‘Stuff’ wasn’t important, and I became very aware of my shopping habits; if I was in a shop, I would look at any item that caught my eye and think, ‘Do I really want this or I going to want to declutter this in a few weeks?’

So how has minimalism impacted my life since then? You might notice that I am a conscious consumer and that I don’t waste my money. My house is very tidy (most of the time) and has as much space as a tiny terrace is ever going to. I am not interested in the changing tides of fashion; I love all my clothes and don’t feel the need to buy more. I don’t want or need presents. And yes, I do have a nice tidy house now, but I’ve come to realise that minimalism isn’t about what you get rid of, it’s about what you keep and I find immense joy in space and light – far more than I ever got from piles of junk.

If you enjoyed this, you might be interested in this post on how to get started with minimalism.





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