Does decluttering really work?

About a year ago I embraced minimalism in my life and I used to be a little bit of a hoarder so letting go of things was a struggle and I would be plagued by ‘what ifs’ when I did give something up. Last year, during the first lock down, was when I discovered The Minimalists and consumed as much of their content as I could from blog posts to podcasts, YouTube videos to their first Netflix documentary. (Their second film is out now!) Something in me changed and I started to make slow progress with clearing my years of clutter (much to my husband’s delight) and embraced living with more intention. After a lifetime of putting my value in my things, my relationship with myself changed and improved and I was able to clear out much of my physical and mental clutter.

If you Google ‘How to declutter you home’, you will be greeted to a plethora of blog posts, how to guides and YouTube videos full of hints, tips and where to starts. The most common I see are, ‘Declutter with me’, ‘100 things to declutter now’, and ‘Massive home declutter video’. I’ve consumed my fair share of this type of video and blog post and I used to follow people on Instagram and YouTube who would upload a monthly decluttering video. Once I started to clear my own mountain of belongings, I started to really think about these monthly uploads. If this content creator was able to upload a 20 or 30 minute video every month of them decluttering, where was all that stuff coming from? Was their decluttering really working? I discovered the reason was alongside the monthly clear outs, there would also be a video with a ‘Monthly Haul’ showing off all the new ‘stuff’ that they had bought. No doubt the same stuff that would make an appearance in a later ‘Declutter with me’ video.

We very much live in a consumer society where shopping is a hobby, and some people judge you based on what you own or the car you drive. When I was younger, I used to want to have a fancy car, designer handbag and all the nice things society show off as a sign of success. When I got older, I tried to live this lifestyle, placing my value in what I could afford or how much I owned and I was miserable, in debt and never had any spare money or savings. Since I started my decluttering journey last year, I no longer think like this. If my car gets me from A to B then it’s doing its job no matter the model or colour, my bag holds everything I need simply fine without a designer name on it and I currently have the lowest number of possessions I’ve ever had in my life and I am the happiest I have ever been. I realised that I used to be caught up in the same ‘Declutter with me’ and ‘Monthly Haul’ cycle until last year.

Twelve months on from starting my decluttering journey, and my home is much more of a minimal oasis. There are no boxes piled everywhere, I don’t have a room cordoned off as a dumping ground for all my ‘stuff’ and my environment brings me calm and joy. I’m at the point where I can finally see the light at the end of the very long tunnel, and I can see the day when I won’t have anywhere else left to declutter. A big part of this has been changing my relationship with my possessions and mainly with shopping. The reason decluttering alone doesn’t work is because if you keep bringing new things into your life that you don’t really need, then the conveyor belt of stuff will just keep moving along, filling our homes until the next declutter session.

Shopping needs to no longer be viewed as a hobby to soothe us when something isn’t right. During the lock down, I’ve grown to appreciate my time more than anything else. My time is the most valuable thing I will ever have, it is finite, and I don’t want to spend as much of it as I used to wandering aimlessly around a shop looking to spend my money on something. It just doesn’t excite me anymore. Not only this, but this endless cycle of buying and throwing away has a terrible impact on the environment and we throw away on average 400kg of waste each per year! (That’s general household waste, not including extra for clothes and that strange ornament you thought would add class to your living room but actually just creeps you out). That’s staggering! I’ve been passionate about the environment for a long time now, but this is one area I wasn’t paying as much attention to as I should have. I buy plastic free wherever I can and recycle and donate as much as possible when I do have to get rid of things, but unless we slow the flow of stuff, it’s not going to be enough to make a lasting impact.

I don’t enjoy these decluttering videos as much as I used to, I enjoy learning about minimalism and slow living much more. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in the last year and it’s so much easier for me to let go of something that isn’t adding any value to my life and to say no to bringing more into it that won’t serve me any purpose. Please share your stories of this subject and let me know your thoughts below!

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