The Year of Gentle Decluttering
We need to understand ourselves first before we turn into photogenic minimalists
I’m horrible when it comes to staying tidy. I grew up in a hoarder’s home and when I moved out, my personal hoarding followed me. My partner is not any better.
After moving to a completely unfurnished home, we thought this was our chance to start anew. We were horribly wrong. It didn’t take long for us to fill up our spaces and surfaces with stuff.
With the addition of a baby, more stuff sit in piles next to ours. This time, it’s a multitude of miniature things mixed in with our stuff. Over time, we envisioned that the size of these things will grow to match with the toddler. It didn’t take long for us to lose the floor completely.
I’ve been looking into this decluttering thing for a while now. I usually kickstart my research/binge YouTubing with the positive impacts of minimalism. However, every YouTube video and article I’ve encountered shows off pristine white walls, Nordic styled furniture and a room filled with — wait for it — nothing.
We, the new age hoarders, have tried to get rid of everything so many times. But it all comes back again like in one form or another. The habit of hoarding is like a boomerang — no matter how hard you try to throw things out, more things will always find its way back to you.
So this time I’ve decided to try a different tactic. I’ve decided to declutter instead of trying to go minimalist.
It’s the first step towards minimalism but not the final step.
Decluttering vs Minimalism
Decluttering is the act of getting rid of the stuff you don’t need or use. Old boxes, old shoes, old jeans from your teen years and that Christmas present from the 90s. Some people have dedicated storage space for it.
A lot of people confuse decluttering with minimalism but they’re not the same.
Minimalism is the maintenance of the decluttered space. You can declutter all you want but if you can’t maintain it, then it’s not minimalism.
Our clutter issue has morphed into an entire garage and one of the spare rooms. For a family of 3 (2 adults and 1 toddler creature), that’s a lot of stuff.
Whole industries are based off the hoarding lifestyle. We are probably the second or third generation of hoarders after our parents and grandparents. We tiptoe around our house out of fear from the mountain of clothes, toys, paper, boxes, and an assortment of other random things.
It’s quite bad.
The decision NOT to go cold turkey minimalist
Minimalism is a habit and a lifestyle.
While it’s easy to just get rid of everything in one sweep and hope it doesn’t come back, if you haven’t habitualized yourself in staying clutter free — even if it’s just one tiny little space, then you can’t really go minimalist.
It takes persistence. It takes a cutthroat with quick fire, finger snapping kind of decision making before the decision to keep comes up. You can’t be a minimalist without this essential skill.
Minimalists are brutal when it comes to passing up on things. My partner and I, on the other hand, are useless at this. Besides, when you go cold turkey on a pair of people that are intrinsically hoarders, it’s like asking pop soda drinkers to quit sugar.
It’s going to hurt.
And hurt people tend to relapse to avoid the pain.
Sustained decluttering is a process of removing excess, shifting our perspective and relationships with our possessions.
That’s why it needs to be done one item at a time.
Some memories need closure more than others before they make their way out the door and beyond our external storage spaces — or something else will find its way back into our lives to replace the sudden hole, even if it’s a completely useless item.
Trust us. We’re professional hoarders. We know the patterns. We’ve experienced ourselves.
Are we going minimalist?
Probably not this year.
We’ve got a lot on my list of things to do already. Besides, it’ll probably take us the entire year to get rid of all the stuff.
First, we need to figure out which items are important and which are not. We need to understand what are the things that make us happy, what clothes we actually wear and what things the toddler actually enjoys.
We need to simplify first before we can remain simple. We need to figure out processes to maintain this simplicity — to find our path of least resistance.
Minimalism is an understanding. It’s a lifestyle philosophy and we, as a family, are not even close to it just yet.
We will never be the bloggers and vloggers with amazing open planned spaces and beautiful kitchens — so we can’t do what they’re doing. We’re not the traveling kind either so living out of a backpack is out of the question. We need to find out own flavor of remaining clutter free first before we can reassess ourselves as minimalists.
We need to reform our messiness one weekend at a time — one closet, one drawer, one corner of a room, one wardrobe (or quarter of a wardrobe), one distinct space at a time. The difficult part is always getting started but we’ll get the momentum needed through consistency.
We need to create systems for ourselves and explore our paths of least resistance. We need to reduce the number of surfaces on which to put our clutter on. We need to learn how to maintain our spaces before we reduce and shrink the number of our worldly possessions.
Because minimalism is a lot more complicated than you think. Until we have these things figured out and master the art of maintaining our reduced clutter, we’re not really minimalists.