I have always been a bit of a pack rat. I like my ‘stuff’. I like my books and my clothes and my shoes and my ornaments (‘dust-gatherers’ my mother calls them, but I like ’em) and I like my art materials and my pretty bottles and jars and . . . well . . . stuff.
I doubt that will ever really change but a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough and I was going to at least try to become a little more discriminating about the kind of stuff I keep. And I think I have. My stacks (and stacks) of books are mostly gone (although, admittedly, most of my favourites have managed to slowly reappear on my kindle), clothes and shoes (and scarves and handbags and earrings . . . ) have been drastically reduced and I have even managed to downsize many of the ticky-tacky ornaments I had managed to accumulate over the years.
So, why, after all the clearing out and culling I have already done, do I still have so much stuff? If I sat down and counted every single item in my house, how many ‘things’ would I have? 5,000 . . . 10,000 . . . 15,000? More? That’s a lot of stuff for just one person (and three small dogs). And why, after decades of accumulating, do I now feel the urge to get rid of so much of it?
I don’t really know, I just do.
Well someone out there must have been listening in on my musings and decided to give me a little shove. I was browsing one of my favourite blogs (The Minimalists) and came across what they call the ‘Minimalism Game’. It’s simple enough. You play the game for thirty days. On Day One you get rid of one thing. On the second day, two things go out the door. On the third day, three. And so on. It doesn’t matter what you get rid of (books, clothes, ornaments, furniture) and it doesn’t matter what you do with it (donate, sell it, re-gift it, throw it away)—it just has to be gone. By the end of 30 days you should have 465 less things in your house.
Okay. So, instead of sitting muttering to myself about being weighed down my belongings I decided to take up the challenge. I was going to follow William Morris’s example and only keep anything I thought to be useful or beautiful.
However, having made the decision to go ahead with the challenge I had to also admit that there was absolutely no way (no how) I was going to be able to keep the momentum up on a day-to-day basis. Things would happen (work would be frantic, one of the dogs would go wackadoodle, the phone would ring, someone would turn up at the door) and by the time I settled into bed I would realise I had completely forgotten to toss something out that day.
So I decided I would tackle the challenge week by week for a month. I would gather up my sacrificial items over the week and each weekend I would count them all up, add to them if I had to, and out they would go. (Feeling quite smug and pleased with myself about getting rid of a whole lot of stuff all at once would be an added bonus . . . )
I also made up a few rules of my own. Ordinary trash or recyclables do not count. One piece of paper does not count as one thing—a sheaf of papers can be one thing. One pencil, no. A fistful of old scraggy worn out pencils—okay. (Although you never know when you might need a pencil . . . Sigh. See what I did there? I have to watch myself all the time. I seem almost pathologically unable, or at least unwilling, to get rid of those just-in-case items. I’ll keep that ratty old bag with the handles that look just about to drop off—just-in-case. I won’t toss any of those (dozens and dozens) of old gift bags—just-in-case. And those beaten and battered folders—well, you never know when you might actually need a beat-up, battered old folder . . . )
Week 1—Days 1-7. That means 28 things have to go. Easy-peasy. I was on a mission. I went through my closet and the linen cupboard and had selected 28 things before I knew where I was. This was going to be a breeze . . .
Week 2—Days 8-14. 77 things. This time I moved into the living room and started ransacking drawers. Old cassette tapes (yikes!) and video tapes (Why did I still have these? I haven’t had a tape or video player in years), old remotes, electrical bits at pieces left over from god-knows-what, doggies toys (ssssh don’t tell the girls. They were all fast asleep and I don’t think they’ve noticed yet), and a couple of totally unidentifiable items which I had obviously once thought should be saved but now had no idea what they even were. Out they went.
Week 3—Days 15-21. 126 things. Laundry, pantry, kitchen. Done, done, and done. (Who knew I had so many mismatched cutlery, plates, bowls, dishes and wine glasses in my house?) I even managed to put a couple of extra thing aside to count towards . . .
Week 4—Days 22-30. 234 things. Phew. That’s a lot of things. Time to dig deep . . .
To be honest I am not sure whether I finally made that final magic 465 number, but I made a bloody good stab at it. When I stand back and look at my house now, it actually doesn’t look much different. There are still pictures on the wall, books and knick-knacks on the shelves, doggie toys still littering the floor. But it feels different. It feels somehow . . . lighter.
So I am happy I took up the challenge. There is more to be done but this was a great start and (for now at least) I am happy to wallow in smug self-satisfaction of a job well done.
I am also going to try really hard to keep my promise to myself to not replace all the stuff I just got rid of.
Unless, of course, it is with something very useful . . . or very beautiful . . .