De-cluttering my books

Emboldened by my success in de-cluttering my clothes, some months ago I started to de-clutter my books.

The wise Ms. Kondo, in her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying advises de-cluttering books, after clothes, and this is good advice.  If I had started with books, I would never have moved past them.  But de-cluttering my wardrobe has enabled me to view my books more dispassionately.

I think we have to build up our de-cluttering muscles over time.

I found going through my books a lot harder and far more personally challenging.  I love my books in a way I could never love my clothes. But when I started to question why I had so many, I found quite a parallel with the reasons I had been hanging onto clothes:

  • Many of my books bring me a lot of joy and certainly add value – but not all of them.
  • I like to re-read many of my books – but not all of them.
  • Some of them were purchased new on impulse but I didn’t reach for them – instead I re-read an old favourite.
  • I was reading 20% of my library 80% of the time.
  • Some books I had for years and years – and I was no longer the same person who once found value in them.
  • If I liked a book that was in a series, then I had to collect the whole series, regardless of whether I liked each individual book or not.
  • My tastes have started to lean more and more to non-fiction, yet most of my books are fiction – they don’t align with who I am as much as they used to.

When I moved from Ireland to the UK some years ago, I paid a lot of money for each and every book I owned to be transported over – a costly and time-consuming exercise.  Then they were stored in boxes for months and, to be honest, I would have had a hard time remembering what I had.  But when I eventually opened the boxes and saw my books again, I was flooded with joy and relief.  Looking back, I can see I tied up a lot of my identity with my beloved books.  Moving to a country where I knew no-one reinforced my books as friends and anchor points.

I have quite a few books on my Kindle also but am always mindful of digital clutter – it can be far more insidious than physical clutter as it’s almost invisible and so harder to spot.

I had three book-cases and now have one.  There are some books I think I could never give away but that’s fine – I know now what brings joy and I’m happy with what I have.  Some favourites include:

  • Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – beautiful drawings, that could never be replaced by a Kindle version.
  • Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain – a children’s book that started my life-long passion for the theatre
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – a timeless classic and all-time favourite
  • Somerville & Ross’s The Irish RM and his Experiences – written in 1899 and still hilarious
  • An old, grimy textbook published in 1814, An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences – it’s described on its first page as ‘useful and polite learning’ – how can you not love that description?!
  • And of course Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – a constant source of inspiration!

Have you had any similar experiences?  Have a great week 🙂

Minimalism and shopping

So, I have three handbags:

  • Cross-body bag
  • Large tote
  • One with top handles which I got in the US about 8 years ago

I love that one so much that I rarely use it!!   I annoy myself when I write that.  If a friend told me about a bag she loved but didn’t use, I would be the first to tell her to use it, love it, enjoy it and not keep it for best.  Or even let it go, if it wasn’t bringing value or joy (which is not the case).

I am determined to use it and not just look at it from now on.

It’s a bag not an ornament!

However, my cross-body bag is showing serious signs of wear and tear.  It’s a few years old and the most practical bag I have.  I use it all the time and the cost per wear is pennies at this stage.  It’s so handy for the times when I want my hands to be free or my tote is just too large.

I wanted to replace it but when I went to shop for one, I felt guilty and extravagant.   I went home instead and took out my other two bags, feeling discomfited that I wanted yet a third.  However, my cross-body bag serves a defined purpose that the other two do not.   So I went shopping again.  This time, I approached it in a far more intentional way.  I defined what I wanted a cross-body bag for, when I would use it, how much my budget was and the approximate cost per wear.

I then felt that a second-hand bag was a more sustainable and ethical way to shop and more in keeping with what I am trying to achieve via minimalism.  I found a practical, hardly-used bag on EBay.  It’s good quality and I’m expecting it to last years.  I’m satisfied with my purchase and no longer feel guilty.

 

All this angsting led me to a few thoughts:

 

  • It’s fine to replace an item when it’s worn, once I know I still need it and will use it.
  • Many are minimalists through circumstances and not through choice and I am lucky – so I want to shop with intention and not mindlessly.
  • Shopping and consumerism are not inherently obstructions to a more minimal lifestyle – but for me, intentional shopping and conscious consumerism is the way to go.
  • Purchasing second-hand items extends their life and, for me, feels more sustainable and ethical.
  • I’m going to use and enjoy my new bag – it definitely sparks joy!

Have your shopping habits changed?  I’d love to hear back from you.  Have a great week 🙂

Letting go of clothes with sentimental value

I think de-cluttering is like a muscle.  When you’re not used to de-cluttering, it seems too difficult and even overwhelming to start.  I found I needed to build up gradually, although I know of those who cheerfully threw themselves in the deep end.  But the more I de-cluttered, the easier I found it.   My de-cluttering muscle grew stronger and more toned!  I could make decisions on what to keep and what to let go, quickly and without too much analysis or angst.  Until it came to a sentimental item ….

I’ve written before about letting go of clothes that no longer fit me and this was relatively easy to do.  In fact, when the reason I was giving them away was because they were too big for me, I did it with a sense of relish!   However, there was one dress I never wore but never let go.  When I was reviewing my seasonal wardrobe, I would move hurriedly past it, convincing myself that it still ‘sparked joy’.  I loved it but to ‘spark joy’ it needs to tick a lot of boxes and a lot of those boxes were empty.  It’s a pretty dress but it no longer fit me and was no longer my style.  I had few occasions to wear it and when one did come around, I would always reach for something else instead.

So, this time, instead of racing past it, I took a deep breath and took it off the hanger.  It sparked …. something … I just wasn’t sure it was joy.  I tried it on – it looked awful and I knew I would never wear it out of the house again.  So, why was I keeping it?

I bought this dress for my twin nephews’ christening ceremony ten years ago and the celebrations afterwards.  Every time I saw the dress, I would feel a warm glow when remembering the day.  But that’s what I was remembering – the occasion – and I didn’t need the dress for that.  I was confusing a piece of material with warm memories and the joy of being with family and the arrival of our two wonderful boys.  I am lucky enough to have three nephews and a niece but I don’t see them very often so all time with them is precious.   However, I need to disentangle the memories of time with them from inanimate objects. 

I have photos of the day and me wearing the dress and that’s plenty, it’s enough, it’s more than enough.  Letting the dress go does not mean letting the memories go.   I dropped it off at my favourite charity shop, hoping that someone else will create happy memories for themselves in it.

Why minimalism?

Three years ago, I went through a difficult time, when a dearly loved one was ill.  I felt helpless, angry, upset, out of control and frightened.  Then, I realized, it wasn’t about me.  My focus and energy needed to be channeled where it was needed most but everything seemed so complicated.  It wasn’t really or at least it was as complicated as I made it.  Fewer complications meant more time and energy available, which is what I needed, but I took the scenic route, not the direct one, on the way.

At first, I thought I needed to be ultra-organized.  I’m quite a structured person anyway (I’m a ‘J’ for those of you interested in Myers-Briggs!).  So, I organized.  I had a container for everything and if a container was ever empty, then I ensured I filled it.  Every minute of every day was planned.  Every article on every shelf was straight.  Funnily enough, this didn’t help!   But I didn’t understand why.

At some level, I knew I needed more simplicity and fewer distractions.  So I started to search the web.  My searches focused on ‘simplicity’ as I had never heard of the term ‘minimalism’.  But it kept popping up.  I stumbled across a site called ‘The Minimalists’ hosted by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.   I read a few of their posts with interest and then saw that they were due to visit London, just a train ride away. 

On Wednesday 8th October 2014, I made my way to Parkgate Road in London, somewhere I didn’t know and had never heard of, a prospect that would have daunted me before.  (I’m Irish, living in the UK, so usually everywhere is different and new!).  However, different results needed different approaches.  That evening was a watershed moment.  By that stage, I had read many articles by The Minimalists and even had one of their books.  However, hearing them speak brought the whole concept of minimalism alive for me and more importantly, within my reach.  They also mentioned some of their friends, Courtney Carver, Leo Babauta, Colin Wright  …. I realized there was a whole world of minimalism and alternative views out there.

The weekend after, I looked around my carefully organized belongings and saw them with different eyes.  Yes, I was fortunate to have so much – but I also had so much distraction, so much anxiety and so much excess.   How much did one person need, for goodness sake?!  I saw the difference between organization and minimalism, which is probably quite obvious to many others, but as I said, I took the scenic route to this realization.

My loved one is now so much better than I ever thought possible.  And the dark days which I hated and feared at the time, showed me a less conventional but more satisfying life.   I’m still on a journey to simplicity but I know why I’m doing it.  As Jim Rohn says, ‘ When the why gets stronger, the how gets easier’.

 

Photo courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk

Easter Meltdown!

Happy Easter to you all 🙂  Mr. Minimal-Lol kindly bought me an Easter egg to celebrate the day.  This is what it should look like – viewed in its pristine condition on the M&S website. 

However, in an effort to be super-organized, he purchased it early in the morning and then left it on the back seat of the car, on a sunny day, only to remember it some hours later.   Like my wardrobe, it has undergone some down-sizing and this is what I was presented with this morning!  Nothing like starting the day off with a laugh!

This will be shared between us and enjoyed in stages over the next few days.  There was a time when an Easter egg may not have safely made it to lunchtime, still intact.  I believe there is a real connection between minimalism, healthy eating and weight loss.   I began my minimalism journey about three years ago, when I badly needed to simplify my life, in order to deal with some extra pressures.  It’s a work in progress and I have a long way to go.  However, an unforeseen benefit has been the impact on my weight.

It started when I became interested in a capsule wardrobe.  I had some major de-cluttering sessions and I found a variety of sizes, for my weight spectrum.  First of all, there were the clothes that fit me at that time.  True, they were uninspiring and boring but they fit – that was the key factor that earned their place in the wardrobe.  Then there were my just-in-case clothes – in case I increased my weight, I had a mini capsule of clothes just waiting for that dreaded day.  Talk about creating the conditions for weight gain.  I had a real wake-up call when I realized that was why I was holding on to these clothes – as though it was outside my control if I gained such a significant amount of weight, that I needed clothes in a whole other size.

Then there were the tantalizing few pieces that ‘when I slimmed down’, I would fit into perfectly.  They never really acted as a motivation but it felt like a goal achieved when I started wearing them again.  But I found that many of them were tainted and heavy with the weight of hope and despondency, so they only sparked limited joy.  They were never going to live up to the expectations I had placed on them.  My transition to a more intentional way of shopping and indeed viewing my wardrobe is my long-term goal.

I didn’t so much minimalize my food as de-clutter the cupboard that contained the sugary foods and that made the most difference.  I realized that the simplicity I craved in my wardrobe could best be attained by achieving a stable weight, which would allow a wardrobe with fewer but better quality clothes that I loved and that fit me well.  So, I will enjoy nibbling on a small piece of the lovely (albeit transformed in a melted sort of way!) Easter egg that Mr. M-L bought me but, as in my wardrobe, less can be more satisfying than more, and way better for body and mind than too much.  Enjoy the break 🙂

KonMari Folding Fun

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was influenced by Marie Kondo and her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  It is a truly wonderful book and well deserving of the hype that surrounds it.   When I first read it, I was inspired to remove my out-of-season clothes from my wardrobe, where they had been residing on hangers, and fold them instead.  I had been using two wardrobes for all of my clothes and now just use one, for this season’s clothes, with the remainder folded in a chest of drawers.  The sense of extra light and space that this brought is so calming and freeing.

However, I don’t think I gave this step as much reflection as it deserved, until a reader and fellow blogger, J. Mordars, commented on my blog that ‘Just the folding techniques alone are life changing’.   This made me stop and think about something I had taken for granted.   The folding tips in the KonMari method are so sensible and practical that they are very easy to put into place, although at first, it took me a while to figure them out.  To be honest, that is more about me than the method and I won’t pretend that my results would stand up to Ms. Kondo’s scrutiny!  But when I got there, it was so satisfying and liberating.  True, it took me a good couple of hours and while I know this may be too much of an overhead for some, I found it almost therapeutic.  Some dedicated work with a tangible result at the end can be almost a novelty on some days!

So the clothes that I reach for daily are hanging in my wardrobe.  My out-of-season clothes are folded away, washed, clean and neatly stored, ready for a future season.  I’ve also applied this to lounge-wear, workout wear, underwear, scarves …..  It’s like a lot of things, once you believe in the principle, you want to apply it wherever possible.

So, thanks to Ms. Kondo and her aptly-titled book and to J. Mordars, for helping me stop and reflect, about something so simple and helpful.  Has the folding bug bitten you at all?  Do you find value in it?  Have a good week 🙂

 

Not Shopping

I felt a great sense of satisfaction recently, when I completed my spring capsule wardrobe.   Not only had I a well-rounded set of clothes, that were favourites and functional, but I don’t need to go clothes shopping again until the next season approaches. 

It’s not that I dislike shopping – very far from it – but one advantage for me of the capsule wardrobe is that I feel a sense of completion and contentment.  If I were to go shopping, what would I shop for?  I don’t need anything for this season and it’s too early to go shopping for next season.  I’m still losing a bit of weight, although within half a stone of my goal, so I don’t want to buy the wrong size.  When I plan my summer capsule, I will do a seasonal inventory before deciding if I need anything and then I will buy for the size I am at that point.

There is a word that I have noticed more and more, both within the minimalist community and elsewhere – ‘lagom’.  Apparently, it’s a Swedish word meaning ‘just the right amount’.  I’m not saying my capsule wardrobe is perfect, but it’s perfect for me at this moment in time.  Another two to three months will tell me what worked and what didn’t, before beginning the cycle again.  But for now, lagom sums up where I am with my clothes.

An added advantage is the feeling of falling back in love with some old pieces that haven’t seen the light of day for a few months, or even longer.  As I do four capsules a year, I don’t have enough time to get tired of any one item.  Unpacking clothes from storage (aka the chest of drawers) is like greeting old friends and gaining new ones, all at the same time.  Some pieces that used to be favourites, but now no longer fit me, I let go with little regret.  The main reason, at the moment, is that they are too big for me, so letting them go is a really easy choice to make.  And, as I mentioned in my last post, I am getting better at resisting the urge to replace them, in my current size, regardless of whether I actually require that item!

Do you do a capsule wardrobe?  Do any of the above points resonate for you?  Or perhaps you have identified different benefits.  It would be great to hear what they are 🙂