Over the past couple of days I’ve been mulling over why I, and what seems to be a lot of other people, have caught the decluttering bug. Of course, people declutter all of the time. If you move house you are forced to sort through every possession you have as you pack it away (or throw it out). It might be something you do on a regular basis. It might be that you have a house so full of clutter that you can’t open your doors properly and have been forced to confront it. But it seems to me that suddenly a lot of people are doing a lot of decluttering. While I think this is generally a good thing I have still been wondering why – right now – people seem to be doing such a lot of it.
Why is it that those of us who are, in one way or another, starting to take our finances seriously suddenly consumed by the desire to get rid of things? Why does looking at our finances trigger a need to declutter and make life more simple?
Isn’t decluttering in some way a contradiction to the current economic climate? If we should all be spending less why aren’t we hoarding more? For example, what happens when the remaining articles in our wardrobes wear out? The less we have, surely the sooner we’ll have to buy more? Why, when we worry about our finances and our ability to ever buy anything again, are we suddenly obssessed by going through our homes and trying to find ways of having less?
A lot of writers and bloggers have discussed the growing awareness of the difference between need and want. And a lot of debt and spending seems to be based on consumer confusion between the two (one brand tells us that we should buy their products not because we need them but because we are worth it). We’ve had months and months of TV, radio and newspaper features on the state of the economy, the housing market, personal debt and so on and it has forced a lot of us to look at our attitudes towards spending. And the second you really, really look at what you’ve been spending your money on, whether that be funded by your income or your credit cards, you realise how much of it has been wasted.
Once you realise how much you’ve spent on things you didn’t really need, you start looking at the purchases themselves (everything from complicated kitchen gadgets to dodgy dresses bought because they were on sale) and you want it out. That’s how it was for me anyway. I wanted a clean slate. Before trying to address it I felt as though I had been fighting a never ending battle against clutter/crap for a very long time. For example, my wardrobe and drawers were so full of clothes I had no idea exactly what I had. By getting rid of items I knew I was never going to wear again, didn’t really suit me, didn’t fit properly etc I discovered lots of things that I would actually like to wear – I just forgot that I had them because I couldn’t find them through the piles of stuff that didn’t need to be there.
Most of the things I threw out I hadn’t had enough use out of to justify the cost of purchasing it in the first place. It wasn’t just the waste of money in itself that annoyed me. If I had pots and pots of money that I’d never had to earn it probably wouldn’t have been so galling. But I did have to go out and earn it. I dread to think how many days, weeks and months worth of work I had to put in to buy all of the things that I have thrown away in the last few months. It wasn’t just money I had wasted – it was massive chunks of my working life. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had then wasted precious and limited space storing it all and had also wasted my spare time trying to keep a house tidy that had too much crap in it for that to be possible. If anyone else feels the same way about it, it is hardly any wonder that we are all trying to liberate ourselves from all of our junk!
Here’s what I have found: Over the past few months I have got rid of more clutter than I can begin to describe. I have made repeated visits to charity shops, have given clothes and bathroom products away to friends, have shredded 6 binliners full of old paperwork, cleared my kitchen of any gadgets that I never used, emptied cupboards and thrown away junk and old boxes -I couldn’t comprehend how I ever thought this stuff might be useful. And I’m still not done. But I am getting there. Already I am spending a lot less time on housework. The less clutter I have, the less time I need to spend putting things away and cleaning. And I can actually find the things I do need because they aren’t stuffed away at the back of a cupboard. It is bloody brilliant.
I’m not interested in creating a clinically minimalist home – I like pictures and pretty pots and odd knick-knacks too much. I’m also not interested in shunning the shops. If I see something I can really use or something I really love then I’ll buy it. I’m just not going to waste any more of my time and money on stuff that really isn’t worth it!
Have you been decluttering recently? What has been driving you to do it?