After procrastinating for a good few weeks, I finally got round to starting the much needed clearing out and decluttering process in my flat. This was a key To Do item for me to complete before leaving the country for a number of reasons, and whilst it was difficult to get started, the process turned out to be easier than anticipated once I was actually in it.
I am fortunate enough to own the flat I live in and at this moment in time, will not need to sell it in order to go on my extended period of funemployment. This means that I (thankfully!) will not need to sell furniture or core appliances before I leave. Another good thing is that I already tend to live somewhat minimalistically (made that word up!) and generally do not like or want to have a lot of stuff and clutter around me. Irregardless of this, there are still a good number of things lying around the house that if I’m honest with myself, could probably go and wouldn’t be missed.
The fact that I have now rented out my flat also means that I need to clear things out as much as possible, as there will no longer be any spare room to store the things that I hardly need but keep anyway because “y’know, you never know”. To remove the emotion out of the process, I made a rule – if it hasn’t been worn or used in the last year, it would have to go.
Why IS it so difficult?
The self-imposed rule helped, but I still had to think twice about tossing some of my items. My main reasons for hoarding tend to fall within the falling categories.
- Wastefulness – “I paid so much for it. To throw it out would be such a waste!”
- Nostalgia – “This was my first ever suit!” or “These shoes remind me of the time when…”
- Reluctance to move on – “Who knows, I might need this again in the future”
Why it needs to be done
Ultimately though, I knew it had to be done and that it was the right thing to do.
- Yes, it will be a waste if I can’t sell it on, but there are two things to learn from this.
- If I never had need for it, I should never have wasted my money in the first place
- If it was needed in the past, but no longer needed, it has served its purpose. That’s not a waste.
- Things may indeed bring back certain memories from the past but really, it’s not the presence of the physical object itself that preserves the memory. A photo stored online would, for instance, do the same job. Whilst the memory should be preserved, it is not necessary for the item to be.
- This was maybe the toughest one for me to deal with. I had about 20 suits in my wardrobe as I used to wear one to work everyday. It wasn’t easy to get rid of them as I kept thinking that they may be required in a year’s time if things don’t work out. However, I came to the decision that thinking like that at this stage was not at all helpful to what I was trying to break out of and was in a way, preparing myself for a return to my old life.
Most importantly for me, I find that clearing physical things out also gives me mental clarity. The act of getting rid of things and the resulting cleaner and more spacious environment I live in clears my mind, relaxes my body and allows me to think better. It’s the same reason why I never start working without first ensuring I have a clean desk! [P.S. I also feel this way about messy email inboxes – I need to ensure my inbox remains organised and uncluttered to be able to work efficiently!]
Leaving open space also means more room for the entry of new ideas and yes, also new physical things that will hopefully be of more use in this new phase of my life.
The end result
I got rid of…
- Over 25% of my shoes (I only had about 12 to begin with)
- Over 80% of my “office” clothes
- Over 35% of the rest of my wardrobe
- All of my CDs (ripping them to my computer first) and 75% of my DVDs (leaving only my all-time favourite movies)
- All of the unnecessary appliances and unused electronics around the flat
- Unused books
I’m not quite done yet and still have some small items to advertise as “for sale” on eBay, as well as a pile of documents (old bank statements, bills, etc.) that I need to work through and dispose of as necessary. I am however, 80% there and already feeling a lot lighter and freer to embark on my travels.
My items left my flat through a number of routes, namely:
- musicMagpie – sell your CDs, DVDs, games, technology, electronics and clothes. They offer free pickup of items too!
- eBay – self-explanatory. I tend to use this for items with a larger resale value, e.g. old iPhone
- Freecycle – instead of throwing away or recycling, for items that were still in good, working condition, I posted an “offer” ad on the London Freecycle board and had people take, for instance, my no-longer-used iron off of me for free. Everyone wins!
- Gumtree – online classifieds. Like Freecycle, but for items to be sold. I managed to sell my old vacuum cleaner through Gumtree which I was happy with as it was so old and decrepit that I thought I would have to throw it out!
- Recycling bins – I used the RecycleNow website to find nearby recycling centres at which I could recycle specific items like old, broken electronic items
- Charity collections – for all my old clothes! Anyone need suits?
- Bin – last resort for all the items that no one wants to buy or take off my hands for free
Finally, consider watching this TedTalk by Graham Hill entitled “Less stuff, more happiness” for some food for thought.