The Declutter Series – My Journey to Minimalism
A few months ago, I watched a show called ‘Selling Houses (Australia)’ at a friend’s place. The owners of the property were serial hoarders and it was fun and almost cathartic for me to watch them get rid of all their junk, overcoming the mental and emotional attachments to the material things. I’ve become obsessed with reading up on hoarders and watching all the relevant HOARDERS TV shows in the past few weeks that it’s inspired me to keep getting rid of stuff while also minimising how much I actually buy.
I’ve been decluttering my life for the past few years in every aspect – people, material possessions, files on my cloud and hard drives, thoughts in my head, habits that don’t serve me, and so on. It has been so liberating that I really want to help others declutter their lives in some ways. I’m still only about 10% into my personal project to declutter mine and my family’s belongings, which is actually pretty fun once you get into the hang of it.
“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
– Eleanor Brownn
In this post, I’ll focus on material decluttering since it’s the easiest and most visual.
My Story – Excessive Consumerism
I lived with my parents until the age of 24 while working full-time and making a lot of money for my age. I had so much money to burn so I’d spend it frivolously on ridiculous things like multiple pairs of the same shoes (sometimes 3 pairs, mostly in different colours but not always) because I loved them so much. When I think back to it, it sickens me. How we’re trapped into believing in insecurities about ourselves that we need to buy material things to fill the void in our souls. I’m glad I snapped out of it by my late 20s.
I have over 200 pairs of shoes, wardrobes full of clothes (some with tags still on them) and a host of other things that would take too long to list. When I moved out of my parents’ home randomly in 2009, I started learning how to live with just one set of plates, one set of cutlery, one set of bedsheets and only brought about 10% of my clothes and things that I owned. The rest were still at my parents’ place.
So apart from my stuff, there were my parents’ stuff that they’d accumulated over the past two decades we’ve been in the country, plus my brother’s stuff, his girlfriend’s stuff (as she has also lived with them for several years) and my sister’s stuff. That’s a 2-storey bedroom with 3 sheds and half the double garage full of stuff. Stuff is everywhere.
I started getting rid of the things I own and would start taking boxes of things from my parents’ house to my apartment to continue the process. Right now I’ve counted about 35 pairs of pants, for someone who always complains that I don’t like wearing pants and declare most days as NO PANTS DAY. It’s ironic.
Ok, here goes the HOW-TO bit.
1. Get Your Mind Right
Before you start this journey, you have to get your mindset on the right page. You gotta know WHY you want to do this, commit to starting NOW and then the HOW is given in the advice below based on my experience. If you don’t get this right, it’ll be much harder for you to let go of things and you’ll give up easily after a half-assed attempt.
Like anything, it takes time to get your thoughts in order, so just start small and be consistent with your efforts.
“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill
2. Learn the 2-Step Decluttering Process
The two steps can be done simultaneously and on an ongoing basis. Sometimes I purge clothes before organising them in my wardrobe and other times I’ll organise my clothes (like my new pants drawer) then be able to see just how much stuff I have and what I can then get rid of. Once you realise just how much of one type of item you have, it’s psychologically much easier to trim that down.
Most of the time, people get overwhelmed and have no idea to start. I experience this all the time. So I just choose one small section, like one drawer of a table, and get that in shape. Or I’ll choose a type of clothing (like pants) and focus on collecting all those types to start the decluttering process.
3. Give Stuff Away First
Ok really, you throw stuff away first. That’s a given. Then you give stuff away before thinking about selling it. Selling things take a lot longer and if you approach it by trying to get as much money as possible for your stuff, you’ll delay the decluttering process.
You start with the less valuable items because as an example – holding onto a few books in the hopes that you’ll get $5-$10 for each might not be worth it when you can easily gift those to people you know might benefit from reading them.
- Kids/Family/Friends – find some kids you know and give them a whole bunch of your stuff. I brought my nieces and nephews a present each recently, a bunch of hats, jewellery I hadn’t worn or opened, a selfie stick with the tag still on it, an unopened purse and so on. When kids are happy, it’s infectious; they tend to show it a lot more openly than adults do. You benefit just as much as they do from your giving. You can probably find stuff to give to friends and family too
- Charity – I started with just 2 bags of stuff to give to a clothing drive. Start small and you gain momentum. Do it all in one go: from finding 2 bags to filling them up with stuff you definitely don’t want, to putting them in the charity bin. Otherwise, they could stay in your home until you get around to it’
4. Sell Stuff In Person, In Bulk
Hold a garage sale, go to second-hand markets, whatever it is, this is the best way to get rid of stuff. Neither of these options appeals to me though, because then you’d have to talk to people and I don’t really wanna talk to people.
5. Sell Stuff Online
Ah, this is more my thing. eBay and Gumtree are really the only sites I’ll post on, though I’m also considering creating my own site with a catalogue of my stuff. That’s more for me to gain hands-on experience with eCommerce because I’m a massive digital geek and love that stuff. Plus I have a shit-ton to sell.
6. Digitise Everything
I’m a digital citizen by nature so I’ve done these a long time ago.
- Receipts, documents – I started by using Shoeboxed where they send me envelopes and I stuff these with my receipts and any documents I want to keep a record of, then post it back for them to scan and upload into my online account. Then when Xero introduced the file storage feature, I switched to them so I can link the receipts to the transactions
- Books – I love my Kindle. It was a present from one of my exes who was thoughtful enough to allow me to read my supernatural erotica discreetly when I used to catch public transport to work. I also have over 1,000 books on it (obviously most were free). I also lost this Kindle during a holiday in Honolulu and was reunited with it about a month later. That’s a story for another time
- Books Part 2 – Another great option is audiobooks. I’ve just gotten into them a few months ago and enjoy walking around listening to a good non-fiction piece. I subscribe to Audible.com which is part of Amazon.com (and you can try Audible and get two free audiobooks)
- File Storage – now with cloud storage services like Dropbox, Box, Evernote and so on, I barely need my computer’s hard drive let alone external ones (of which I have 3 totalling 6TB)
- Music – Spotify and YouTube are all I need now. I am on the extreme sides though, since I love vinyl and have a healthy collection that I can’t part with just yet
- Movies – Netflix has most of what I want to watch and you can stream anything else. I don’t own a DVD player; Apple TV or Chromecast does the trick unless you’ve upgraded to a Smart TV that has WiFi built-in
7. Get Support
Don’t be afraid of asking for help. It might be fun with someone else you trust. Then you’re more likely to be able to hold a garage sale or market sale with those that support you. You can also reach out to me, even just to mention you’re starting on the journey and I’ll be glad to cheer you on.
I will update this post regularly to document my physical decluttering journey. How fun!
I won’t take before and after photos of my parents’ house to leave them with privacy, so I’ll share the progress in my own home. I don’t have too many ‘before’ pictures and there’s a lot more stuff stored in hidden areas.
BEFORE (My Bedroom) as of 29 April 2015
8 May 2015
24 May 2015
6 June 2015
I visited my parents’ home to clean out my stuff. We chucked out 3 large bags of rubbish + 2 bags of donations + 3 bags of eWaste and 1 bag of recycling.
My dogs supervising the cleanup
A box of CDs from my childhood… 90s gangsta rap. Gone to a good home.
A photo posted by Mz Trina (@mztrina8) on
12 July 2015
I visited my parents’ home again to clean out part of the wardrobe in my old room. Chucked out 2 bags of rubbish + 1 bag of donations + 1 bag of recycling + 1 bag of eWaste. I found stuff from high school which was over a decade ago. More CDs and lots of paper crap. Oh and my birth certificate, which is handy.
14 July 2015
I’ve decided to move back home in 3 weeks time, which means I want to get rid of as much stuff as I can before then. I’ll list them on the relevant sites and maybe on here too.
11 Dec 2015
I’ve had to move out of my apartment, back to my parents’ house while I travelled the world for 3 months. So I’ve created an updated post, more on the eBay selling side of things based on my experience so far, “The Declutter Series Part 2 – eBay Selling Tips”.