Tag Archives: clutter

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ William Morris.

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 . . .


Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘When I look down I miss all the good stuff. When I look up I just trip over things.’ Ani Difranco

Once upon a time long ago (mostly in the 1980s) big was beautiful (remember all that hair—and the shoulder pads), more was always better, and, according to Gordon Gekko and Wall Street, greed was good.

It was all very simple we were told.  If we wanted to have more, we had to spend more.  Saving wouldn’t get us the things we wanted.  We were openly encouraged by the government, the manufacturers and retailers (and the Joneses next door) to spend, spend, spend.  And it worked.  We got all the stuff we wanted: a better standard of living, flash new appliances, bigger and better cars, rooms full of possessions, and wardrobes full of clothes … and shoes … and handbags … and scarves … and ….

But can we have too much of a good thing?  Come on—admit it—how many others of you out there (yes—I am counting myself in here) have cupboards full of kitchen gadgets you’ve never used, books you haven’t got around to reading yet, drawers full of ‘things that might come in useful’, closets stuffed with clothes and garages full floor-to-ceiling with barely room for the car?  If having all these possessions makes you happy—great—but if look around and wish most of it would just hurry up and tidy itself up, or even better, go away, you could be at extreme risk of ‘Stuffocation’.

Stuffocation is, James Wallman (journalist, author and trend forecaster) says, “that feeling you get when you look in your bulging wardrobe and can’t find a thing to wear; when you have to fight through piles of stuff you don’t use to find the thing you need, and when someone gives you a present and your gut reaction isn’t “thank you”, but “what on earth makes you think I could possibly want or need that pointless piece of stuff?”  Sound familiar?  Well it seems that you are not alone.

In our busy cluttered lives it seems more is no longer better and research suggests that ever increasing numbers of people are now focusing their energies, time and money on experiences, rather than possessions.  Reasons given for this change in thinking include everything from carbon footprints, landfill, climate change, ‘affluenza’ and status anxiety.  The ‘material’ mindset is so last century darling!  Whatever the reasons, people are getting rid of their physical stuff and going travelling or hot air ballooning, or spending their money on festivals, concerts, theatre, eating out, or buying services that make their life easier or more enjoyable. So if having too much stuff has become a problem for you, why not take yourself in hand and ‘de-stuffocate’!

I have recently started to practice what I preach and am slowly clearing my clutter one box of books, one black bin-liner of clothes, and one wheelie-bin full of unwanted stuff at a time, and, once over the initial shock of getting rid of things that took me years to accumulate, I am now enjoying the process and feeling ‘lighter’ for it.

suitcases(A quick hint though: box, bag and bin what you have decided to get rid of and get it out of the house as quickly as you can so you don’t give yourself enough time to second guess yourself, change your mind, and re-open a bag thinking ‘I might just keep this … you never know if might come in handy’.  Re-gift, give it to charity or sell it on ebay—just get it out of the house!)  And, and this is important, once you have successfully de-stuffocated, DO NOT start to re-stuffocate all over again!  That, for me anyway, could take some practice.

One final point—although James Wallman may have coined the absolutely apt word ‘de-stuffocation’, it is not an entirely new concept as it seems one of my favourite quotees, Albert Einstein, already had his own take on the issue when he said, ‘Long hair minimizes the need for barbers; socks can be done without; one leather jacket solves the coat problem for many years, and suspenders are superfluous . . .’.


Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


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