Is your brain full? Does it sometimes feel like you couldn’t squeeze another thing in? Now take a look at your home. How does it compare? I took a look around our home at the start of the year. Scott & I began our relationship with very little stuff, and we’re not big consumers. We don’t spend a lot of money and we rarely buy stuff we don’t need. I would have said we live pretty simply. But throughout our home I found corners, cupboards, shelves and boxes filled with stuff I couldn’t be sure we needed.
I knew it was time to play the Minimalist Game. Have you heard of it? It’s hours of fun for the whole family. On the first day of the month you find something you no longer need and remove it from your home. You can throw it away, recycle it, donate it or give it to someone; as long as it’s gone from your possession. On the second day of the month you find two things to let go of. On the third day, three things. You can see where this is going can’t you? And you can probably guess why I chose February to play this game.
The aim of the game is to free yourself and your home of material possessions you don’t really need. All that should remain are:
1. items you use; practical things that serve a purpose
2. items you love; possessions that bring you joy that you couldn’t possibly part with
The game starts slowly and I admit I was a bit cocky. I cleared out the stationery drawer on Day 1 and the top drawer in the kitchen on Day 2. It wasnt until about Day 7 that I realised my mistake. Why oh why didn’t I count each individual discarded pen and useless gadget that I tossed on Day 1?? I became more precise with my counting. On Days 3, 4 and 5 I bagged up some clothes Alexa had grown out of and spent day 6 dragging baby toys down from the top of cupboards. I selected a few special activity and colouring books and got rid of the 20 or 30 we’ve been keeping for that rainy day that never came. The kids got involved. We emptied the boxes and tubs in their rooms and sorted them into piles for keeping, donating and binning.
The hall filled up with bags for dispatch, and the op shop piles grew. Anything in great condition was put aside and sold on eBay. The last few wooden toys were delivered to friends with new babies, and a new batch of hand me downs went out to the families we regularly pass on to. I booked a clothes swap session with a group of girlfriends and selected more than 30 items from my wardrobe that haven’t been feeling the love. I pulled out recipe books I don’t use, salad bowls I’ve always hated and little plastic gadgets that never did what they were supposed to do anyway.
Of course the nature of the challenge is that it gets more difficult every day. As the days went by I had to dig deeper into shelves, drawers, cupboards and boxes. I cleared out half a dozen pairs of scratched up sunglasses, bags of old make-up and nail polish, rugs and tattered throws, bed linen from my 20s, kitchen utensils no-one ever cooked with, pots without lids, a lampshade, shoes and a dusty pile of decorations and homewares that haven’t seen the light of day in years.
I’m not really a hoarder, but I do have trouble letting go of useful things. You never know when you’ll need 9 sets of bed linen – what if all the kids had a sleepover on the same night?? One day we’ll need to use all those cardboard boxes for a craft project. And glass jars can be re-used for so many things. Oh yes I confess to operating on the ‘Just In Case’ philosophy. But there comes a time when you have to admit that ‘Just In Case’ very rarely happens, and when it does you can usually get by, even without that stuff. With Scott’s support, I said goodbye to more than 50 glass jars and yoghurt tubs that had been filling shelf after shelf of storage space. The linen cupboard revealed dozens of spare pillowcases, threadbare sheets and doona covers from decades past. I kept a few for dress-ups and cubby house building and donated the rest.
Although it was difficult seeing those boxes walk out my front door, the empty space was liberating. It felt like the house could breathe again and I along with it. As the minimalism hurricane blew through, it left each room fresh and free of the dust of the past. And you know what else I discovered? It turns out there really is a place for everything!
Playing the minimalism game was such therapeutic pleasure. We took to it with gusto and as we neared the end of February we felt revived, refreshed and ready to start a new chapter in our life. Our home felt spacious and open, ready for anything. WE felt spacious and open, ready for anything. A cluttered home really does contribute to a cluttered mind. When you’re standing amidst all that stuff it’s hard to see where to turn to next. Opportunities for growth are obscured by shadows from your past. By letting go of the weight of possessions you no longer need, you give yourself permission to move forwards.