I Threw Out 500 Personal Belongings And This Is What I Learned
Minimalism is truly having its moment right now.
I still can't bring myself to watch 'Tidying Up With Marie Kondo'. I have no interest in people crying over their 19th pair of gym tights and a bridesmaid’s dress from 2006. Instead, I opted for my minimalism journey to follow the path of The Minimalists.
See, about three months ago, my flatmate Katie insisted I watch their documentary, 'Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things', on Netflix after I witnessed her do the challenge that saw her throw out most of the contents of her bedroom and clear out the bookshelf in our living area. I was curious, mostly because I’d never seen her dispose of, donate, or sell her things with such militant discipline.
Straight after I watched it, I busted through Katie’s bedroom door and sat with her on the bed for 45 minutes talking about how gross I felt that I had a triple wardrobe filled with clothes that I either:
- didn’t like
- didn’t wear
- didn’t fit me
- all of the above.
I needed to do something. My bedroom (and the whole apartment, for that matter) no longer felt liveable. I would go to sleep looking at my wardrobe knowing that it was absolutely overflowing with stuff that was occupying too much mental and physical space in my life.
If you're anything like me, your space tends to reflect your mood and vice versa, so I've started to make a point of taking care of my space, to take care of myself.
For the month of May, I was going to do the minimalism game, which involves throwing out 496 things in 31 days. One thing on day one, two things on day two, three things on day three, etc. I could throw out clothes, shoes, accessories, towels, sheets, useless knick-knacks I’d held on to because I thought I had to, kitchen utensils, old medicine, makeup that had expired (yes, that is a thing), essentially anything that I decided needed to go could count.
I’d already tried it and failed miserably. I got eight days in… and then I forgot to do day nine… and then day 10… and then all of a sudden it was day 26 and I was behind on throwing out 315 things and it was just too hard, so I stopped.
One thing you need to realise right now is that planning is everything.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
It doesn’t mean you have to stack up 500 things at the beginning of the month and just pick at the pile day by day, but you do need to stay aware of how you’re progressing.
On day 12, I made the mistake of telling my Instagram that I was afraid that I was running out of stuff… Katie quickly pointed out the 30 DVDs in our TV cabinet (we don’t own a DVD player), and the heels I owned with a broken strap, and the fact I still hadn’t touched my 'sentimental drivel' box.
The point is, she was right -- there was so much stuff that I just wouldn’t have thought to get rid of because I had gotten so used to it taking up space that I didn’t consider I could reclaim that space.
Over the past month, I’ve spoken to friends about the challenge and, usually, their first response is: “I couldn’t do that, I don’t have 500 things to throw out”. Let me disavow you of that delusion, friend. Unless you reside in a tiny house and already live the #minimalist life, you absolutely have 500 things that you could do without.
This challenge has been about taking an honest look at my life and thinking about how I use material things to deal with certain situations. This year has seen me go through some huge life-changing events including physical illness, new lows in my mental health, and a breakup at the end of April, and the minimalist journey has given me back some control and helped pull me out of what could have been a really serious slump.
Five hundred of my things are gone and I feel lighter. My room feels bigger, the weight on my chest has lifted, and I have donated more than 250 items to charity. The point is: nothing bad can happen from taking stock and thoughtfully cleaning out your life.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or like you're drowning in your things, get yourself comfortable on the couch, watch the documentary, and challenge yourself.