One of the greatest things that travel has taught me is that we truly need very few things to make us happy. That isn’t to say that I don’t also recognize the pleasure that objects can bring nor am I advocating for all of us to have nothing; however, I do thoroughly believe that 97% of what we own (and more importantly long for) is cherry-on-top-of-the-ice-cream extra. By the very nature of them being extraneous, having these items in your life requires you to think a little bit deeper about whether or not it is worth what you have to give up in exchange. Empty space and balance are more valuable—psychologically and physically—than almost any object. So, the question becomes, “would I trade inner peace for this?”
I know a lot about this subject. For two years, I had an overflowing storage unit on the other side of the country that did nothing but sit there in California while festering in my mind. For 730 days, this massive collection of stuff loomed over me, begging for attention whenever I was trying to make life decisions. “First, I need to sort that out…” For many reasons, it proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare made worse by the difficult rulings I knew I was going to have to make regarding the items. This internal mixture of stress, torment, worry, and fear annoyed me to no end. And, it was a ridiculous position to be in, considering I was actually living (thriving???) with one small bag of belongings.
While it was perhaps an extreme example of stuff mixed with chaos, I think it demonstrates quite clearly the link between possessions and emotions. So, over the course of a long weekend, my Mum and I flew out to LA and emptied out the storage unit (here is the vlog). Cue: a massive relief. Whether you are ending a chapter (like I was) or merely wanting to exist in a less-cluttered world, choosing to downsize and declutter your belongings is an intensely personal decision and one that is going to come accompanied by a certain degree of emotion. I learned a lot from the experience and so (obviously) wanted to share my top five tips for decluttering in the hopes that it helps any of you who are looking for more balance with your things.
MY TOP FIVE TIPS FOR DECLUTTERING
KNOW WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS. No matter how ready you are to declutter, you have emotional ties to your items and that is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Taking the time to self-reflect on your clutter personality (Too busy so you buy things you need on a whim? Constantly worried you may need something in the future? Overwhelmed in the rest of your life so it translates to your home?) will assist you in finding your weak spots and will direct you to working on the root cause not the effect. For me, I knew that it was going to be heart-wrenching to let go of almost everything I owned – particularly those that were glistening with memories – so, for weeks, I overloaded my brain with information about the benefits of minimalism, the ways in which our belongings can hold us back, and the reality check that just because we are letting go of the item, does not mean we also lose the memories. Then, when I found myself having to make difficult decisions, I tapped into this newfound wisdom and it helped me power through. Remember: the key to parting with items suspended in time is to not allow yourself to replay their story.
GIVE YOURSELF A TIME FRAME. Only three days to clean out the unit? Well, that sure kicked my a** in gear. While you may not have something as unalterable as a flight out of LAX, I highly suggest making a self-imposed time-frame and then working back. I find that having a timeframe actually makes a once-overwhelming task seem a lot more manageable and also helps to keep your expectations down. Even if my storage unit had been down the road from me, I still think the only way I could have fully dealt with it was to dedicate a weekend of my life to sorting it out – no more, no less. Otherwise, the whole thing would have dragged on for eternity. Alternatively, if you are looking to declutter your entire living situation, I think one of the best ways to start would be to just remove ONE item every day for a specific period of time (one month?) This is a completely doable way to get started on decluttering and will quickly make a significant impact in your home without much extra daily effort. In fact, even if you don’t feel like you need a major declutter, this is a painless strategy for keeping your abode consistently clutter-free and under control.
HAVE A PLAN OF ACTION. I will forever be grateful that my Mum accompanied me out to California to help put execute the plan of action – proving again that teamwork (and Mum’s advice) is what gets things done. On the first day, we surveyed the task at hand and then divided the responsibilities between the two of us. Obviously, I was the one who had to go through everything and decide what was going to fly home with me and what was going to be donated/sold. Therefore, it made sense for Mum to oversee the selling part of everything. So, while I was going through boxes and driving back and forward to the thrift store, she was taking photos of the items we were hoping to sell, uploading them to online selling sites and communicating with those who were interested. Having our defined roles allowed the two of us to just get on with things and maximize our time. No matter what type (or size) of decluttering project you have on your hands, making a plan of action by dividing up the task into steps is key to making any kind of progress.
DON’T CONFUSE ORGANIZING & DECLUTTERING. If you are anything like me, you love nothing more than a good organization session (hence why I just spent five days organizing my summer wardrobe), yet decluttering is entirely another beast. Why is that? Well, while on the surface these two activities may seem similar, there is something very different at the core. Organizing is a temporary thing, decluttering is permanent. Think about it, just because you have organized your drawers once, doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have to do them again in another few months. But, the more you are able to declutter, the less time you will have to dedicate to organizing both now and in the future. Decluttering has to come before organizing, otherwise, you are just going to spend your life moving the same items from place to place. The best organizing happens when you have minimal items to organize.
ASK YOURSELF THE RIGHT QUESTIONS – FOR YOU. If you start searching online for decluttering advice, you are going to find a million and one suggestions of what to do (including this post) which to a certain extent can be helpful but can also clutter up your mind which is the polar opposite of what we are trying to achieve here. As with anything that is so personal, I think it is beneficial to take in some other opinions and then take what works for you and leave the rest. Like, yes I fold my clothes à la Marie Kondo but there is no way in hell I am going to take her advice and minimize my book collection down to three. That wouldn’t work for me. So, while I think it is beneficial to ask yourself questions related to each item you own (Do I truly need it?; Do I truly adore it?; Would I trade inner peace for this?), allow yourself to be real about the answers. Decluttering isn’t supposed to be a punishment. It is supposed to help you find freedom – the greatest reward imaginable.
+ Get inspiration from my clearing out my storage unit vlog
+ Check out the new way I am organizing my summer closet
+ While you are decluttering your belongings, don’t forget about your tech life