Decluttering Changes Everything

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Cecily Paterson of www.cecilypaterson.squarespace.com

I started out on my decluttering journey because I was tired of spending all my hours at home doing the same thing. All I did all day was clean, organise and put away all of our stuff. I’m married with four children and a dog, so we have a lot of it.

“This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself as I stumbled up the stairs with arms full of plastic toys. “I don’t want to be the curator and caretaker of everyone else’s bits and pieces. I want to live my life.”

So I began to declutter.

It started out as a little bit every day – a pair of old shoes, some toys that the children weren’t playing with. And then I did major cupboards and untouched drawers and corners of rooms that have been stressing me out for years.

Every time I decluttered physical objects and items, I felt fantastic. Every time I was able to make a decision to let something go I felt lighter and a little more free. We’ve made progress: we actually got rid of ‘the pile’ in the kitchen last month. And it hasn’t returned. A few months in and already I feel less uptight and less worried about the things I ‘have’ to do. And I’m getting to spend more time on my writing, which is really why I’m staying home in the first place!

I came across Project 333 in the summer. It was a revelation. Only 33 items of clothing? I went into my bedroom to see how I measured up. Before I even started counting I went through every item with a ruthless eye. After I’d filled two garbage bags with pieces of clothing I hadn’t actually worn in two years or more, I began to count. At 35, I culled a bit more, and now I am at 34 items in my wardrobe.

I’ve been shopping at thrift stores for years. I began because it seemed a very cost effective way to buy as many clothes as I wanted. Back then, I thought, like most of us, “More is better and gives me more options.” Now, though, I’m seeing that having less is freeing. The great items and the ones that really suit me get worn much more. I still love to shop at the thrift store, but from this point, when I go to buy my ‘new’ clothes, I’ll scrap everything in my cupboard that I haven’t worn in the last six months. I can still choose what I like, but I’ll have a quicker turnover of the older clothes. One item in, one item out. It’s more fun to have a wardrobe change every six months!

But the decluttering has affected my life in more ways than I thought.

  • I’m actually telling the truth more. When I ask myself in the cold light of day, “Why do I want this? Will I use this? Do I like this?” I’m having to answer with honesty and candour. Sometimes I hang on to things for reasons of ego (“People will think I’m cool if I have one of those…”) or fear (“If I get rid of that I might find that I have to go without….”) or self-delusion (“I’ll fix that one day…”).
  • I’m appreciating the peace my eyes and body feel when they don’t have to negotiate great piles of mess. I’m breathing more deeply and feeing more relaxed.
  • I’m realising that I have instinctive accumulation reflexes which not only cost me money, but put my energy and enthusiasm into excess stuff rather than relationships. I now have other ways apart from shopping to spend my leisure time.
  • I’m more grateful for what I do have and less lustful after what I don’t have. This has meant a tangible and recognisable change in mood and outlook. I’m happier because I have less stuff.
  • Because I’m more focused on what I’m doing with the minutes and hours of my day, I’m more focused on my writing. Before, my blog was a mishmash of interests and irregular postings. Now I know what I’m trying to do. And so I’m writing about living an uncluttered life, in every area.

Cecily Paterson is an author and editor and blogs at www.cecilypaterson.squarespace.com

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11 Responses to “Decluttering Changes Everything”

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  1. Kait says:

    Congratulations on decluttering and finding a focus for your writing!

    There is something to be said for the “instinctive accumulation reflexes”, I’m glad that you could motivate yourself to really dig deep into the mess and let things go.

    I on the other hand, am overly sentimental with objects, like items I received as gifts that I know i’ll never use or anything that i can justify with an “Awwwww, but that reminds me of ___”.

    It’s a tough game.

    • A. says:

      tough it is. would those people you love be happy that their gift to you is a burden in some regards. Sell several items, take the combined money and buy yourself something you can use that would remind you of several people.
      I’m sentimental too, few things are all or nothing, split the difference.

  2. cecily says:

    I used to be sentimental with objects and then I read somewhere that I could take photographs of the objects I feel sentimental about and put them in one album. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel sentimental about them anymore! The other thing that helped was to put things in a box and leave them for two years. I forgot about them and then didn’t realise I still wanted them.

    • A. says:

      careful. I gave away some treasured items and took pics instead — as I’m a tactile person I discovered I didn’t feel the same (at all!) about the pics. test drive the idea while keeping the items around is my hindsight advice.

  3. Nadia says:

    I love this! Thanks again Cecily for your honesty in sharing your own learning! It motivates me to believe, in the middle pf my struggle against ‘stuff’, that it really is possible to break free :) I don’t have to accept the way it is, just because it seems to have always been!

  4. Chin says:

    I was forced to declutter when I had to move cities & countries. Shipping cost is very expensive and having lived inthe same apartment for 15 years, you can imagine how much stuff I had accumulated! ( being in the fashion industry didn’t help being a minimalist either!) .

    However I did it and yes I do feel better & lighter although I do have pangs of regret for things I had given away or donated. However I am not sure about the 1 year rule. There are things, mainly clothes that I haven’t worn in more than a year but I take them out to use. It maybe that I suddenly remember them or it’s back in fashion again!

  5. Kerry says:

    I am on the same page as you. I am on my way, this weekend I cleared out 3 bags of clothing out of my closet. I was so proud. I am only down to 70 items, mostly clothes and belts. Shoes, I’m working on that :). I also shop at thrift shops. Over the past year or so I have found that shopping doesn’t thrill me anymore, like when I was younger 20-30′s. I would rather read a book or working on my various crafts is where feel most comfortable and satisfying. I only go out shopping if I absolutely need something. I also anaylze more in the store. “is it a want or need?, then If I put in my cart, I do it again near the register….”Pass or Get? If I pass, I don’t feel bad at all. it’s really no big deal anymore.

  6. Zoe Rose says:

    What do you do about formal/occasion clothes like for formal dinners and things? Mine are in a built in wardrobe and rarely see daylight, but most I have worn several times and have saved me spending money every time there is a wedding or similar.