finding the want not the need

Decluttering is a bit like giving up smoking, taking up exercise or trying to lose weight.  We all know we need to do it but it’s just not going to happen unless we want to do it.  There is absolutely no point looking around your house and thinking “I must get rid of some stuff” unless you really have a burning desire to do so.  I gave up smoking over 20 years ago after various futile attempts, when I knew I was only trying to give up because I ought to not because I wanted to.  Fortunately I had that eureka moement and really wanted to kick the habit.  I managed it quite quickly, less than a month of patches and am now one of those holier than thou ex-smokers 🙂

I have been decluttering for years.  I regularly took bags and boxes to the charity shop, various things to the skip and put quite a bit on Freegle.  But as fast as I was taking things out I was happily bringing more things in.  I wasn’t decluttering, I was merely tidying up in order to bring in some more clutter.  I was a frightfully organised clutterbug.  I knew where everything was and regularly sorted out cupboards and drawers.  I had to.  There was so much in them!

The decluttering eureka moment for me was standing in the Gin Gan, watching the mud and water pour under the door and feeling completely helpless as there was so much stuff to move that I didn’t know where to begin.  Suddenly I wanted all that rubbish out of my house and I wanted it out now.  Clearly “now” wasn’t going to happen, but over the course of the year it has.  I imagine if you turned up at my doorstep you would be shocked to see how much stuff we still have.  I am not yet a fully signed up minimalist, but we have come a very, very long way.  That would not have been possible if we didn’t want to do it.

You  have to find your own reason to want to reduce the amount of stuff in your house.  Not the reason that you think you ought to have.  For example “we want to move house”, that is a plausible and common reason to declutter, but it rarely hits your heart.  A practical reason is better than none, but it will never be as powerful as an emotional reason.  For example, a secondary reason that only came to me several  months into our clearout was that I didn’t want to be 80 and living in a house like my mother.  She and my stepfather live in a large 5 story house.  There are only the two of them and they had planned to move many years ago.  Now it is too late, there is absolutely no way they could clear that house, they no longer have the will or the strength.  It is packed to the gunnels.  Some things are beautiful, some are essential and some hold great sentimental value.  Most is rubbish.

Find your reason and you will enjoy the process as well as the result.

I would never have managed this if I hadn’t wanted to do it, and this was just the beginning 🙂


7 thoughts on “finding the want not the need

  1. A five story house? I didn’t know there was such a thing. How sad for your parents to feel stuck in a place they wanted to leave. I can imagine as they get older they will wish for less stairs.

    we have a lot in common, it is rare that a book won’t catch my attention. For years I held on to every book I enjoyed and had piles waiting to be read. My collection hovers around 20 now. When finished most get passed on or donated.

    1. London town house. Bought in Notting Hill when taxi drivers wouldn’t take you there….

      I still have many more than 20 books, but I’m slowly reducing them. Some are much used reference and cookery books so I don’t think I’ll ever make it down to 20 but I can reduce it a lot more still.

      1. I can’t imagine climbing five flights of stairs all day.

        Cookbooks were the easiest for me to cull. I rarely cook with a recipe and the few times I did I would have to first figure out which book a particular recipe was in. Instead, I copied out my favorites and passed on the books.

  2. They don’t use the whole house…. The cookbooks and reference books are the last I will lose. I mix and match recipes but plan weekly menus with an aim not to eat the same meal within at least a two month period. We work our way through various reciples and ideas each Sunday and plan the meals for the following week together. The others are reference books for vegetable and fruit gardening, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, and various medicinal, canning and preserving books. We try to live as self sufficiently as possible. These are my equivalent of the books that were once passed down from mother to daughter.

  3. Oh dear – you just hit on my two weak point – smoking and de-cluttering. Yes to both. A friend used to advice taking photos of all the stuff you “should” get rid of and then boxing it up and putting it in the loft, barn etc. If after a year you hadn’t missed it, keep the photos and get rid of it. Smoking I’m still working on.

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