Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Decluttering Our Home

We've been becoming more and more minimalist over the last few years. Not that we're not consumers - that's something that we'd still like to cut back on, but rather than adopting a simple 'one in, one out' policy for things like books, clothes and even furniture we've been going more for a 'one in, ten out' approach. We've also become a lot more choosy about the things that we buy. We're now amazed when we see someone go into a shop and buy something straight away (these days we only do this with food). I spend hours shopping around, not just for the best deal financially, but also to get the exact thing that we want, rather than just the things that are available to us in our local shops. Of course there's the disadvantage that each item we buy is likely to have travelled further than those we've bought in the past, but if we're buying fewer things and choosing things that will last a lot longer then I feel that it's worth it.

One thing we've realised is that the process of sorting through and getting rid of possessions is an ongoing one. Of course everything takes time, but what we've also found is that if you sort through something one month then you can do it again a few months later and find that you're less attached to things that you wouldn't have dreamed of getting rid of only a few months before. I can't quite explain it, but it's some kind of reduction in emotional attachment that seems to occur, not only with time, but as we realise that we've been doing perfectly well without the things that we got rid of in the past.

I've also made some decisions aimed at reducing clutter and complications regarding possessions in the future. For example, I've always loved patterned crockery and tableware and only a couple of years ago was dreaming of getting a full set in some form of wildflower pattern, but the few patterned pieces that we have don't match and I think that would always be the case. There's also the issue of seasonality. Whilst these beautiful buttercup plates from Corelle would look perfect on our table in summer they would hardly be appropriate for Christmas dinner.

This little sandpiper jug is adorable, but would look lost on a table without matching pieces.

So we've decided to collect only plain white crockery and tableware and to use napkins, flowers and food presentation to dress up our table. Of course if anyone wants to buy that little jug so that I can visit it at someone else's table that would be just fine!

We're finding that having fewer possessions makes us happier people for a number of reasons. Firstly we can realistically achieve our aspiration of  'a place for everything and everything in its place'. I rarely lose anything anymore because there are simply fewer places to put things and fewer things in drawers and cupboards when I do have to search for something.

Secondly, the fewer things we own the less worried I am. I'm not sure if worry is exactly the right word, but I did use to 'worry' about all the books on my shelves that I hadn't read, for example. Now I genuinely only have books that I've read (and will read again) or intend to read soon. I know exactly what is on my shelves and can look forward to reading those books that I have decided to keep. Similarly I've got rid of the journal articles that I'd kept to use as references and which every day seemed to almost accuse me from their place on the shelves of not having written up various thesis chapters etc for publication. I have now accepted that I will never write those articles and am happy with the decision.

Thirdly I find that having fewer things makes it easier to plan our time. There are far fewer half-finished projects about the house. Also, when we decide to do something like have a carpet fitted or wallpaper a room it's much easier knowing that there's less to move about in order to make it happen.


  1. I don't think I could ever go minimalist although I have tried to cut down on the amount of work stuff I keep at home; a lot of my undergrad textbooks are now in the office at work, where they get more use with other people borrowing them, and I've checked most papers I printed out.

    Mind you it would be nice not to have to hunt for hours to find things!

    1. >I don't think I could ever go minimalist

      Well at least that means that some things that otherwise might not have will remain in the family.

  2. Those last three paragraphs should be printed off and put on our kitchen wall for Jo, Richard and I to look at regularly. (Actually that's a bit unfair on Richard he's not half as bad as Jo and I.)

  3. Crockery is an interesting aspect of minimalism. In NZ I have changed most ofl my crockery to plain white. My Scottish crockery is (almost) all plain and will eventually be plain and white too. However my reference books will not be disappearing any time soon although my other books have reduced significantly (from far too many to too many) over the last few years. Unfortunately I'm very much a gadget person and I can't see my gadgets being disposed of although I have stopped buying many more in the last few years. It's very interesting being able to compare two different lives: my relatively minimalist NZ life and my far-from-minimalist Scottish one.

    1. That's interesting that you too have gone for white crockery.

      Reference books can be tricky. Most of ours have now gone to charity, but I still have an entire shelf of natural-history field guides that I'm unwilling to part with. At least I can justify that by the fact that the internet still has some way to go before it will be capable of replacing many of them.