Today is the day that I am finally addressing the “mini” in my blog name. Yes, I would consider myself a minimalist, although I haven’t reached my decluttering goals yet, I have adopted the mindset of a minimalist and I’m adjusting the way I live to fit into this category.
I began my journey into minimalism in January 2017, a time when I was suffering from a huge amount of anxiety and distress after leaving university because I couldn’t cope with it. I had nothing else to do in the day as I wasn’t fit to work at the time either and so after watching hundreds and hundreds of YouTube videos, I finally started my own journey to a life with less.
A little background to how different I am now from my younger self, a very much non-minimalist. My family are the type of people who like to hold on to things for sentiment. Well, my mum’s and dad’s things, my mum was constantly clearing out mine and my brother’s things but hasn’t ever really touched the masses of clutter of theirs. My dad is especially bad for holding onto things and even getting new things that he doesn’t need; the second hand shop at the tip is an exceptionally dangerous place for my dad to go on his own.
Even with the decluttering efforts of my mum, my room constantly looked like a bomb had gone off, or I was living at a rubbish dump. There would be numerous toys and items of stationary all over the floor of my bedroom. My room wasn’t tiny, but it also wasn’t huge, and it was very difficult to move around it. When I was very young, maybe until the age of 10, my parents basically had no money and so I lived in second-hand clothes, most of which were boys’ clothes and that’s probably where my “style” if you can call it that, comes from. However, as soon as mum announced that I was allowed to start getting brand new clothes of my own, I went absolutely wild with the Next catalogue, asking for huge amounts of clothes that I probably never even wore because they were way too girly for me. It was at this point that it all started to pile up in draws and cupboards and the infamous chair where you chuck things that aren’t dirty enough to go in the wash, but you don’t want to wear it again just yet. I also collected masses of toys and things at this point, my two favourite collections being Sylvanian Families and Breyer horses.
One of my problems with having so much stuff was that I was constantly reorganising my room, but never getting rid of anything. These reorganising phases happened every few months because, excuse my language, crap just kept getting everywhere. I would tidy up the floor and shove it all into the already overflowing draws of my exhausted desk, put it in plastic bins, try and fold my clothes to find out that most of them didn’t fit in the furniture so then they would end up in bin bags and shoved in the loft.
Anyway, turns out that the clothes stopped being decluttered at about the age of 12 or 13 as that’s approximately when I stopped growing. I only found out about the problem when I went home maybe at Easter after I started my decluttering journey and filled 6 Bin Bags with clothes I didn’t wear anymore! These were just the clothes that hadn’t been deemed good enough to take with me when I moved to Wales for uni, or I had simply forgotten about their existence because I only wear about 4 different outfits consistently. I had another closet and chest of drawers full in my own house which was majorly reduced.
Why I’m working towards being a minimalist
So although I call myself a minimalist, I don’t think I’m quite done with reducing the amount of stuff I have, but I’m definitely on my way there and doing a lot better at it than a lot of my generation. There are some things that strongly influence my decisions on being and becoming a minimalist that might influence you to make some changes.
One of the biggest things that influenced me to make a change that came up again and again when watching YouTube videos was the hugely reduced time it takes to clean your house. Not having to move things out of the way constantly to clean and not having to find a space for everything all the time because it all has a place makes it so much easier when cleaning. I used to just leave things where they were rather than putting them away, but now that there is space to put everything, it is so much easier just to put it back where it belongs, making it easier to keep tidy in the long run.
Having less things also meant having more space. The last two places I’ve lived with my boyfriend haven’t been particularly large. Our first place together was a two bedroom flat in South Wales, where the rooms were also quite small. After the first huge clear out, it felt like we’d added another room to the house, the floors had never been clearer before that. I still had a long way to go but the first clear out made a massive difference to how big that flat felt. We now live in a two bedroom terraced house in Chester. It’s not a particularly big house due to the fact that Chester is an expensive place to live and so we probably live in a house that’s a similar size to the flat, just split into two levels. I’ve had another declutter but at the moment I’m waiting for the charity shops to be open so I can donate a few bags of things.
Another reason for becoming minimalist is that it is making me more intentional when it comes to purchasing things and bringing them into my home which is helping to reduce my impact on the environment. I now only bring in things that I know I’m going to use, or that I absolutely need, such as plastic free bathroom items etc. Being more intentional and thoughtful with what you bring into your home can really help reduce the amount of unnecessary waste you produce.
With buying less, comes the benefit of spending less. I don’t have a huge spending budget anyways, especially now because of the pandemic, but even before then it was tough. My boyfriend and I now budget our monthly spending on an Excel spreadsheet and it really does help to see where your money is going. Our priority spending is obviously rent, bills and food, but also care for our two cats. After that, we have to be particularly careful about what we spend as we don’t really have the money to just shop anywhere at any time. We hardly eat out anymore, something that you don’t realise how much you’re spending on until you see it written down. Quite a shock to see takeaway spending when you have all that lovely food you’ve already bought at the shops. Also, when you have takeout or eat out all the time, is it really a treat anymore or have you become reliant on it? We treat ourselves to maybe one or two takeouts a month, otherwise we cook everything else. It is a challenge to make all our meals, especially when my boyfriend works until 9pm, but I can’t eat late because it makes me sick so a lot of meal planning comes into it and it’s a lot of effort but it saves us a huge amount of money at the end of the day. Just as a little insight, our weekly food shop is usually between £50-£60, and only goes above that if I need lots of cleaning supplies. Our average Mcdonalds takeout is about £15, a huge amount to spend on one meal, when if you think about it, it’s probably about £3-£5 per meal out of our food shopping.
It sounds strange but having less stuff can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. I’m not sure of the science behind it, perhaps it’s to do with less time having to tidy up, or knowing exactly where everything is, but my anxiety reduced by almost half after my first big declutter. It’s now become habit that if I am feeling quite stressed and anxious, I’ll start to look at my things to see if there’s anything I can declutter. My boyfriend has made it very clear, and I respect his choice, that I’m not allowed to touch his stuff or pressure him into decluttering. This is actually very important to remember, you can’t force someone to be the same as you, you have to worry about your own stuff and let everyone else do their own thing. They may see the benefits of minimalism once they see you thriving from your decluttering journey and ask for a bit of guidance on how to get started, but you absolutely cannot force someone into it.
A very simple benefit that I’ve mentioned a number of times by now, but I know exactly where everything is. Having less stuff means you know where the important things are, such as finding your phone, or your wallet, or even that top you like to wear. If you’re not sifting through hundreds of items of clothing that you don’t wear, it’s so much easier to find the 6-9 tops that you do wear and enjoy wearing.
Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but there is a thing called Decision Fatigue. You can actually become tired of making choices throughout your day depending on how many you’ve had to make at the start. One of the biggest choices people make is deciding what to wear every day. On average British and American girls will have anywhere over 200+ items of clothing at any one time in their lives, that’s average so there will be girls with a lot more than that, and guys might too. This means you might spend half an hour to an hour trying to decide what you want to wear, taking up a lot of important decision-making power from later in your day, such as which tasks need to be completed at work etc. I haven’t done an item count for a while but it’s probably in the region of 60-70, maybe a little more and I feel like I might need to go through my wardrobe again at some point. I know exactly which clothes I love to wear; it takes me less than 5 minutes to pick my clothes out, I’m happy and comfortable and that’s me ready for the day.