Do you ever have an overwhelming urge to declutter? To sweep through your home, and your life, and rid it of anything that no longer serves you or – at the risk of going full-blown Marie Kondo here – brings you joy? I talked a little in my recent post about how my physical environment has a direct, tangible impact on my wellbeing. Spending more time at home last year meant that it was a priority for me to make the space I live in is as comfortable as possible. Alongside the practical clear out, I reassessed other things in my life too.
2020 was the time to say goodbye to stale relationships, those that had naturally drifted yet we kept clinging on to out of a misplaced nostalgic obligation. This also applied to my social media. I finally stripped my personal Facebook account back to the bare bones, removing all connections and historic posts (I still need it ‘active’ to access my blog page and work accounts). I’ve set limits on my phone apps so I can stay connected without giving into temptation and wasting time scrolling away in an evening, as I often would, leaving me annoyed and unfulfilled.
It came as something of a revelation when I realised that I can choose where I put my energy. I started nurturing the things and people that matter, instead of dwelling on the things that don’t. This allowed me to rediscover the simple delight of writing to a dear friend (like some kind of twee ‘Bridgerton’ character) and chatting to my sister on the phone, rather than interacting purely through texts sent when we could find a spare second. This mentality extended to my home and spending habits.
When I first heard of minimalism, I associated the concept with white, clinical homes lacking in personality and warmth; an NYC apartment containing nothing but floorboards and a futon. People living with the bare essentials and tight restrictions through choice. This lifestyle was not something that appealed, nor applied, to me.
Some people find great comfort in being surrounded by the items they love, things that hold value to them for many reasons, and I’m no exception. I habitually collect magnets and trinkets from the places we visit. My bookshelf hosts my favourite reads and Lego and photographs of loved ones. My living room is filled with plants and cosy velvet cushions and lamps. But I do know that if I allow myself to mindlessly over-consume, these things have the opposite effect for me and begin to feel stifling and heavy.
It turns out the whole minimalism thing may be slightly more relevant to me than I’d first thought. After being brutally honest with myself, I actually need very little ‘stuff’ in my life to be truly content. Having less clutter – physically and mentally – makes me feel liberated and free; the exact opposite of being deprived or regimented.
I still get tempted to impulse buy, mainly through sheer boredom these days, but that’s when I force myself to pause for a second. I’d rather step back and make the conscious decision to put that £20 into my savings account, ultimately allowing me the freedom to travel one day, than buy yet another jumper that will likely end up being demoted to the charity shop bag after a few seasons.
Instead of having a suitcase filled with remnants of fond memories, I have condensed these items into one small box. I know that those memories are not attached to the physical, albeit sentimental, things that box contains, that they can just as easily be evoked by a picture or scent or place. Instead of having a wardrobe filled with clothes that remain neglected, I have a clear out every few months and, rather ruthlessly, donate anything I haven’t worn that year. I have scaled my bookshelf right back and now take full advantage of my library membership, listening to plenty of free ebooks while I enjoy my daily walk or cook tea.
I should probably mention here that of course it’s ok to want things – I’m certainly not demonising that. Fuck, whatever it takes to get you through life, more so now than ever before, is absolutely valid. It’s not all or nothing either. It’s about moderation and purpose. While many people desire a bigger home, my personal long-term aim is to downsize once the girls leave home. I can’t stand the idea of being tethered to a mountain of needless ‘stuff’ when the opportunity arrives for me to discover new horizons. Since I began living more intentionally, I feel so much more in control of my life, of my future, and I can’t wait to see where that takes me.