My Year of Minimal Living
It’s been just under a year now since I embarked upon the move towards minimalism I wrote about in this post, and even although absolutely no one has asked, I figured now was as good a time as any for a look back at how it’s all been going.
First things first: did the whole ‘minimal’ thing actually stick, or did it turn out to be just another one of those phases I go through where I’m ALL IN… right up until the moment I realise I’m going to have to actually keep on doing whatever it is I’ve started, and then it mysteriously loses its appeal (See also: every exercise regime I’ve ever started. Ahem.)?
Surprisingly, yes, it did: stick, I mean.
And, OK, I’m not claiming that it’s all been plain sailing, or that I’m now some kind of minimal lifestyle guru now: far from it, in fact. Here’s the first – and possibly most important thing – I’ve learned over the past few months, though:
You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to make a start.
This year has been a start for me, but, over the past few months, I’ve come to accept that minimalism is always going to be something of a work in process for us. Back when we embarked on this project, I think I had this idea that, at some point, I’d stand there in my immaculate, clutter-free home, and think. “There! I am finally done!”, but the reality, of course, is that you are never really done. EVER.
Just this week, in fact, Terry and I did YET ANOTHER clear-out of the kitchen cupboards, which YET AGAIN seemed to be crammed with stuff we didn’t need, despite the fact that we’ve done at least two similar clear-outs in the space of the last year. Here’s another thing I’ve learned about the so-called ‘minimal’ lifestyle, though:
However ‘ruthless‘ you think you’re being, it’s probably not ruthless enough…
I mean, I thought we’d been pretty ruthless with those kitchen cupboards the first time we cleared them out: I really did. Actually, though, we were still hoarding stuff: just a bit less of it than usual – and the same could be said for most of the other cupboards and storage areas in the house, too. What we’ve found, though, is that you can’t just clear them out once: you have to keep going back to it again and again, in order to be able to see clearly what you really can’t live without – and also, I guess, to give yourself time to adjust to the idea that, actually, YES YOU CAN get rid of things, even if you’ve been holding onto them for years.
As the year has progressed, I’ve found myself becoming much more genuinely ruthless, and much more honest about what I actually need vs what I’m just clinging onto, for whatever reason. I’ve reached a stage, in fact, where I’ve been feeling increasingly depressed by STUFF. Not ALL stuff, obviously: I mean, you might have noticed that I keep putting the word “minimal” in inverted commas in this post, and that’s 100% because I’m worried that someone who actually DOES have a truly minimal lifestyle would look at the likes of me and burst out laughing, but there are certain categories of STUFF that I just can’t get out of my house fast enough. I’m talking here about…
Stuff that doesn’t get used
Stuff I don’t actually like any more, but am keeping hold of purely because it cost a lot of money/it’s still good quality/what if it comes back into fashion again?
All that kind of stuff, basically.
Not only do I not want that stuff in my house any more, though (And, yes, I’ve used the word “stuff” waaaay too many times: I’ll stop now, I promise…), I actually feel kind of horrified by it, really. It’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for my wallet, it’s bad for my state of mind… the list goes on. I talked in this post about how I’d been using the StyleBook app to track the cost-per-wear of my clothes, for instance, and while I took a couple of months off from that during the summer, I’m back at it again, and getting a not insignificant degree of satisfaction out of seeing the cost go down with every wear.
The items that DON’T get worn, meanwhile… well, they kind of eat away at me, really. As I also mentioned in that previous post, the sheer waste involved in buying tons of clothes, and then not actually using them, makes me feel a bit sick, sometimes, so one of the big advantages of my new mindset is that it has seriously curtailed my clothes shopping habits, (For me, anyway: I still struggle not to keep buying stuff for Max, but, in my defence, he’s growing all the time, and I’m not, so…) I still love clothes, but I have to REALLY love them – AND be sure I’m actually going to wear them – before I’ll be willing to buy them, so my closet has been getting smaller, and no one is more surprised by that than me.
.It’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for my wallet, it’s bad for my state of mind… the list goes on.
It’s not just clothes I’ve started to feel this way about either: it’s pretty much everything, really. Because we have too much of everything. For instance, for most of this year, I’ve been on a mission to use up all of the bottles of handwash we’ve been hoarding under our sink. (Not on purpose, just because Terry didn’t realise that’s where I was storing them, so he kept thinking, “Hmm, we’re running low on handwash – better pick some up next time I’m out,” then he’d just get two, because they were on special offer or something, and, I swear to God, at one point it was like those things were breeding or something.
We’ve been slowly working our way through them, though (Last week I got really excited when I took one of the bottles out to decant it into the dispenser in the bathroom, and thought there was just one to go… then Terry discovered yet another bottle during the most recent cupboard clear-out, and there we were, back to square one again…), and honestly, I will get so much satisfaction out of the moment we finally use all of those damn things up that I might even crack open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. (I feel like I should be embarrassed about this, but, well, you all know I have no life, right? Just checking…)
So far, then, so good: there’s one thing, however, standing in the way of true minimalism in our house, and that thing is currently fast asleep in the room next door, hugging no less than three soft toys to his chest. And here’s the thing about THAT:
Small children are the enemy of minimalism
It’s not their fault, obviously: I mean, it’s not like Max went out and bought himself 1,001 toys, books, and other random pieces of equipment, but, seriously, that boy is a STUFF magnet. Wherever he goes, STUFF follows. When he was a baby, it was mostly practical stuff: slings, and bouncers and all of the other pieces of baby equipment that you convince yourself you just can’t live without, when, actually, YES YOU FREAKING COULD. That was bad enough, but these days? These days, it’s toys. Lots and lots of toys. No matter how hard we try to resist, they just keep coming, and there seems to be no way to stop the tide. And, of course, it’s not that we don’t want him to have toys – we do, and that’s why we’re as much to blame as anyone else when it comes to buying even more of them.
We would, however, also like our hall cupboard back (It’s currently filled with boxes of LEGO, toy cars and more…), and to be able to stop worrying about where we’re going to store all of the things we know he’s going to get for Christmas – but that’s possibly another post for another day. For now, my final lesson from this year(ish) of trying to live minimally is this:
It’s a little bit addictive, really.
The more I declutter, the more I hate clutter, and the less inclined I am to go out and get more of it. That doesn’t mean I’ve turned into some kind of Shopping Saint, just because my kitchen cupboards are a bit more organised, obviously – I still have wish lists as long as both my arms, and if I were to win the lottery tomorrow, you better believe I’d be working my way through them. What I really DON’T want, however, is to fall back into my old habits of shopping for things I won’t actually use, purely because I saw someone on Instagram wearing it, and decided my life wouldn’t be complete until I had it, too.
The fact is, as I’ve gone through this process of decluttering and taking stock, I’ve been genuinely horrified by the sheer waste of it all: the clothes I didn’t wear. the products I didn’t use… all of it. I’ve spent SO much time and money over the years on things that have ended up just gathering dust, basically, and while I’m still perfectly capable of having my head turned by something pretty but impractical, these days I’m also much more capable of walking away from it – which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say.
To be totally honest, though, the thought of a bulging closet – which, at one time, would’ve filled me with glee – now just leaves me feeling pretty uncomfortable, really, whereas my newly decluttered bathroom cabinet gave me so much joy last week that I had to open the door and just look at it every time I was in there. And, just as ironing makes me feel a little bit less anxious, I find that decluttering has a similarly positive effect on my mental health, too: I literally sleep better when I’m not surrounded by piles of clutter: I feel like I can breathe easier, think more clearly, and just generally feel more like myself, really. It’s almost like all of the clutter is a physical weight that’s been holding me back: is it any wonder, then, that letting it go makes me feel so much better?
It’s almost like all of the clutter is a physical weight that’s been holding me back: is it any wonder, then, that letting it go makes me feel so much better?
So, here’s to another year of trying to go minimal – or as minimal as it gets with a toddler, a messy husband and a Yankee Candle addition, anyway. And maybe this year will be the year we finally get round to clearing out that hall cupboard…