The Bliss and Jitters of Decluttering
It's funny how stories seem to line themselves up in such perfect timing. Today we're
sharing thoughts by Jai on decluttering and letting go of material possesions...which is funny
considering I just bought a new wardrobe and now have to get rid of everything I own because van life.
Jai is a friend of mine down in Australia and I appreciate her perspective on society's attachment to
"stuff" and a bit about how minimalism can positively impact our lives, whether living small or not.
It's not easy to get rid of things we've held onto for years, but it's incredibly liberating to
do so, and you can gain so much mental and physical clarity in the act of letting go.
All my stuff, out the door
As I write this, I’m surrounded by various piles of stuff—ill-defined, ever-prevailing, cluttery stuff. Then there’s the more solid items—the chair I’m perched on, a floral armchair rescued years ago from a suburban opp-shop, bar stools, a toaster, graciously green plants that complete my apartment. And art, travel nick-nacks, little ditties I’ve painted and propped.
I’m getting rid of a large portion of my possessions, and each time someone from Gumtree turns up to take an item out the door my heart hastens a little. And I’ve realised it’s not because I particularly warmed to that bar stool, or really ever loved those shoes, it’s that when they’re gone, I feel a little more out of ‘place’. Place in the sense of who I understand myself to be, how I identify, nurture and tend to that person.
We come to associate ourselves with certain smells, textures, patterns, with pieces of furniture, rooms, configurations, and lights-of-day. I’ve indulged myself with skyline views lazing in my arguably most-loved possession, my hammock, on many occasions, and have come to know its sway—as I sip my coffee, as I stargaze, as I ponder life—as a ritual.
On one hand, how utterly lovely it is to have found such peace in this nook on my balcony. How glorious that we discover routines and relish in them. Routine can be a joyous, invigorating or motivating part of one’s day.
Less really is more
On the other, no wonder we find it so hard to detach; this stuff becomes a part of us, we allow it to take hold, like barnacles. Or rather, we become like barnacles, latching at clothing items we’ve not worn for years, worrying we can’t go on quite the same without the cutlery set or the cheap-but-charming armchair that hardly ever gets used in favour of the lounge. We seem to have mistaken consumerism for safety, comfort and contentment.
I really do believe we must work to become less attached to our stuff. It’s okay to love something, to relish it, but I think our obsession with it all has gone a little too far.
Here are three points on minimalism, and why it could be a positive influence in your life:
- There’s happiness in having less. Buying stuff, or taking free stuff, often just makes us happy for a while. Fumio Sasaki, author of 'Goodbye, things' says, “I think minimalism is a method for individuals to find the things that are genuinely important to them. I think saying goodbye to your things is more than an exercise is tidying up. I think it’s an exercise in thinking about true happiness.”
- Minimalism is about realising what’s important to you. You might find that many of your possessions don’t really serve a purpose in your life. Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus from the Minimalism documentary say, “There’s nothing wrong with consumption, the problem is compulsary consumption. We’re tired of acquiring things because that’s what we’re supposed to do. When I heard about minimalism, it wasn’t about just getting rid of my stuff, it was about taking control of my life and about stopping being told what to do and actually deciding what I wanted to do.”
- You can make it your own. Some people choose to embrace minimalism to the enth degree, possessing only a handful of items while others take photos of the items they throw away or choose to keep a box of ‘sentimental’ values. Others have large homes, while some have gravitated to the tiny-house movement. The important thing is that you're mindful about the meaning and purpose of your possessions.
I sold my lounge today. I was surprised to sink into a mild anxiety on the bus home before a young boy, his sister and mother rang the doorbell to say they’d arrive to pull it all apart and dislodge it from my space. But I had made memories on that couch, it was comfortable, it was where I worked, snoozed, snuggled and caught up with friends.
The thought also crossed my mind that each time a big item is taken away, I’m a little closer to leaving, as though it’s mostly just my ridiculous (and ridiculously under-utilised) wardrobe holding me down.
Letting go: mental house cleaning
But now that it’s gone, I realise I didn’t particularly need it, nor do I feel lost without it. In fact, I feel a little less weighed-down, a little more free; in a sense, the Friheten Ikea sofa was holding me back and I’m just fine without it.
I’m moving seaside for a few months, before heading over to Europe. I’ll return to very little and need to find a shared space to live for a while. I know I’ll look forward to the next set of creature comforts, to creating a new space of my own, embellishing it with keepsakes, embracing cosy nooks.
But I intend to travel, and live, lightly.
And as I venture into 2018 with a great many plans up my sleeve, and into new and unexplored territory, it seems fitting to be stripping back, starting afresh and creating new space—at home, in my heart and in my mind. To take a leaf out of Louise Hay’s ‘mental house cleaning’:
"In order to make room for the new (whether it’s new clothes or new thoughts and ideas), we must release the old and the outworn. This is true for physical items as well as mental ideas."
I’m ready for a year of less stuff and more adventure, surrender, courage, love and creativity.
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