I am 100 kgs lighter than I was last week. And boy, do I feel incredible.
No, this isn’t some advertorial for the newest, hottest miracle weight loss drug. I am lighter because I removed a whole heap of stuff from my life.
We all recognise “stuff”: knick-knacks, bottles, gifts you have never used, old t-shirts and towels, the clothes that line the back of wardrobes, kids toys that they no longer use, dusty books you read or never read years ago, chipped mugs and old paperwork, out-of-date vitamins and cold remedies wedged in the back of drawers. In my house, it’s all gone.
I was inspired to clean out the house because we are about to renovate and move into a much smaller space for up to a year. I needed to live in a really clear, clean environment, minimalist and uncluttered. Now, 100kg lighter, our home contains only the things we love and the things that are practical to our lifestyle.
I went through bookshelves, unused toiletries, my wardrobe, the kitchen – both the pantry and kitchen cupboards. Did I really need four sets of 24 wine glasses? Out they went, together with the old books, reams of old receipts, the fashions of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
You’ve heard this saying before: “You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone.” For me, this experience was the total opposite of that statement. I never realised how much I didn’t need this stuff until it was gone.
Things move quickly through our place now. If I finish a book, I pass it on to someone else straight away. I don’t ask for it back; I ask that they pass it on to others. Bills get paid and future payments are set. Birthday cards get sent on time. Food doesn’t get wasted. And to the surprise of my husband and parents when they visit, things get put away. I love the clear space I have created to focus on my goals.
So how do you change your material-loving ways? When sorting through your stuff, how do you decide what to keep and what to throw out?
For each item, ask yourself:
- Does it bring me joy?
- Does it serve a purpose?
- Do I use it?
If you answer no to all of the above, put the item in your nearest recycling bin, giveaway box or rubbish bin, then move on to the next one.
The Lessons I Have Learnt
Right about now you are asking, “What’s this have to do with positive thinking?”
Well, here’s what else I have learnt:
Less stuff, more gratitude
Accumulating stuff can distract you from the elements in life you truly appreciate: your health, your friendships and family, your safety and security, laughter, nature and kindness.
Focus on who you are not what you have
Minimalism is about appreciating what you have in life, not amassing piles of possessions. It’s about tuning into what makes you happiest. It’s about looking after our environment and being generous with the things you no longer need. It’s about knowing that we are surrounded by what really matters
Cluttered spaces create cluttered minds
Mental messiness can cause stress, anxiety and lack of focus. When you clean out your environment, you are also removing the mental and emotional baggage you have collected over the years. You can then better concentrate on what’s important, on your goals and on being positive and mindful.
Practically speaking, minimalism gives you more time, less distraction, more focus and more satisfaction As well, you have extra confidence knowing that you have the skills to survive with just the necessities
10 Steps to Less Clutter
Here are my 10 favourite tips to help you minimise your stuff and maximise your happiness.
- Get organised. Before you start, put everything in its place and take inventory. Notice what you have too much of and what you don’t have room for.
- Know your resources. There are loads of resources to support you in this shift. For example, the Pomodoro app, a simple timer set for 25 minutes, helps ensure a short period of serious focus on one task.
- Emotionally prepare and disconnect. Remember that you are not tossing out memories or giving away experiences. And don’t worry about tackling your whole house; that can be overwhelming. Start with one drawer, and don’t move on until that drawer is complete.
- Master your clutter. Zen Habits gives 18 five-minute tips for decluttering. Pick one tip at random every couple of weeks, and get it done.
- Wear and assess everything in your wardrobe. At the end of each day, think about how you felt in your outfit. Did it fit well? Would you want to wear it again? If you didn’t love it, toss it in the giveaway pile. Oprah has a similar concept with her Closet Hanger Experiment.
- Similarly, use your feelings as your guide. If you feel confident in a dress, keep it. Confidence is a positive emotion that drives positive action. Guilt and shame have the opposite effect.
- Be aware of clutter. Sometimes we don’t really notice the clutter in our homes, cars and offices. Unclutterer offers some really useful (and hilarious) tips for helping you see your clutter, including inviting a puppy or a toddler over to your house.
- Take it one day at a time. Literally. Give away one item each day…forever.
- Be mindful. Before you clear your space, think about what you want and what you need. Think about what matters to you and what gives you happiness. Let this mindfulness be your guide as you work.
- Be in the present. So often we collect items that we once used or that we plan to use in the future. The rollerblades you will one day lace up, the camping equipment you enjoyed once upon a time. If you don’t use it now, you don’t need it.
Clare Desira is the Chief Positivity Officer over at Top Five Movement. Clare shares over 100 simple tools for a happier life include an award winning, psychologist endorsed happiness tool – the Positive Thought Starters deck.