You’ve probably seen the meme: “Turn all your clothes hangers backwards. Whenever you wear something, turn the hanger the right way. In six months/a year, donate every piece of clothing still hanging on a backwards hanger”.
I know you’ve probably seen this because my mum told me about it. My test for viral is if my mum knows about it. Anyhow, she was very enthusiastic about giving this a try. I didn’t want to rain on her parade, but I don’t think it’s very good decluttering advice.
This meme is a simple and catchy application of the “do I use it?” approach to decluttering. There are two reasons why I think focusing solely on “do I use it?” isn’t helpful.
Somehow, we ended up in the toy aisle, probably something to do with it being located right next to the kids pyjamas. My son was examining a display of dinosaurs from a well-known movie franchise.
“I’d really like one of these,” began his spiel.
“My friend Johnnie has one of these. He has lots of cool toys; way more than me”.
This was the first time Mr 6 had volcalised a difference I was wondering if he’d notice – most of his friends have more toys than he does, some have a lot more.
A forlorn expression sets on his face. Is he just putting it on or is my minimalism harming his self-worth? I stop freaking out and give him the facts, he likes facts.
“Johnnie does have more toys than you,” I tell him. “But, did you know those are the only toys he gets to play with? He doesn’t get to go to the toy library and choose new toys like you do.”
“He doesn’t get to go to the toy library?”, my son replies in concerned disbelief.
“No,” I explain, “You’re lucky you get to go to the toy library. What would you rather have: all of Johnnie’s toys or go to the toy library?”
“Toy library, definitely” is the firm reply.
We’ve been using the toy library regularly since the wee guy was six months old (not that he had any interest in toys then – just as well we didn’t buy any!). He loves the toy library – every couple of weeks he gets to pick out new toys to bring home. I love it too. If there’s a toy library near you, I highly recommend using it – even if you have too many toys already.
What I like about the whole sparking joy thing is the acknowledgement that our attachment to stuff isn’t purely rational. What I don’t like is some of the practices I’ve seen it lead to – what I categorise as rampant updatism. Like getting rid of all your towels, which, until yesterday, were perfectly functional, but now no longer spark joy and must be immediately updated to something more joy sparking.
Well, this month I did some updating of my own and it sparked a ridiculous amount of joy. We have new bar stools and every time I glimpse them I smile. I’m now considering updating something else. Is this the beginning of the end?
April has been about two things: school holidays and decluttering. Term 1 was long and we all needed a break. I get the feeling that as a parent, I’m meant to dread the school hoidays, but I like them. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our moments, but I enjoyed not having to be anywhere by a certain time and having my wee buddy around more.
I just completed a round of the Minimalism Game. I did this for the first time nearly three years ago – wow what a difference.
I thought it was going to be more difficult than the first time around as I don’t have the same quantity of excess stuff. Gone are the days of finding a bag full of plastic takeout cutlery (that we’d taken when we moved house, twice!), 50 or more plastic bags and hundreds of old magazines. It was even difficult to find pens that didn’t work.
My first decluttering project was the linen cupboard. It was full to overflowing. I mainly used what was on the top. Putting stuff away was a delicate game of linen Jenga. One day, I took the plunge and pulled everything out. Over a couple of nap times I went through the lot. There was stuff in there I didn’t realise I had, stuff I’d never use, stuff it was time to pass along.
The result was fantastic. I knew what I had and could actually get to it all. Linen Jenga was no longer required. It was life-changing. Well, maybe not quite, but I loved the result. I wanted to do this to my whole house – now!
And then something happened. A tragedy that eventually befalls all parents of young children – my son, then two and a half, ceased napping. My child, who’d reliably slept a solid 90 minutes in the middle of the day (even during the neighbours building work), gave up napping cold turkey. Stuck in the house, during naps was the ideal opportunity to declutter. Without it, what was I going to do?
At high school, I wore a uniform. It was hideous. An itchy brown jersey, yellow polo shirt and a brown box-pleat skirt. Maybe it was the height of style in the 70s when the school opened, but definitely not in the 90s when I wore it. At least we all looked hideous together. I remember my glee on the last day of school as I dumped the old thing on a desk in the school office and told them to pass it on to someone else. Finally free.
Back then, I didn’t appreciate the freedom that a school uniform gave me. Four years of freedom from deciding what to wear to school, trying to keep up with trends, arguing with my parents over what was appropriate, and spending my babysitting money on an extensive wardrobe. While my school uniform was terribly ugly, it was also beautifully simple. Twenty years on, I’m grateful to that gaudy uniform for making my teenage years simpler.
Each day, we face so many decisions. The vast majority of them are inconsequential, yet they add to our mental load. Simplifying everyday activities, like dressing, is easy, with a great payback in terms of reducing your mental load.
I’ve decluttered thousands of things from my home. I love it and I want to keep it that way. I’ve also set an audacious financial goal that excites me. Does that make me immune from buying crap on impulse – no!
Despite all my good intentions, I still find myself in a shop, a prospective purchase in hand (or in my online cart), on the precipice of a not-so-great buying decision.
Occasionally, I slip up and make a random impulse purchase. However, while I’m still tempted – often – my powers of resistance are much improved. Pesky social conventions like actually buying the thing I’ve stood in line for five minutes waiting to purchase are no match for me! So, what’s my secret?
I can’t quite believe I have been blogging for over over two years. I still feel like a beginner, finding my voice. I recently read a post by Cait Flanders on slow blogging. It prompted me to reflect on why I blog. For me, it’s about connecting with others. To increase connection, I want to put more of me into my blog. To date, I’ve shared a lot of advice about decluttering and slow living based on my experience, but not a lot about myself.
So here goes, I’ve put on my big girl undies and I’m going to get a bit more personal. I’m starting with a regularly monthly feature on what’s happening in life for me, right now. Let me know what you think.