When I was a teen, my walls and ceiling were covered, every inch, in photos, magazine cut-outs, my ticket to go to Rollercoaster to see Jesus and the Mary Chain (amongst other bands), cards and notes... I loved it! I used to keep every letter, trinket, book, folder, diary and felt immersed at all time in a sea of memories.
Fast forward 23 years to the present day, and my walls are white. Clutter destroys my brain and makes me irritated (don't worry, no, not your clutter, just my own!) But I still find myself sorting through piles of letters that escaped the chop and photos that I do enjoy looking through but am enjoying my 'now' life much more than my past. I wonder sometimes if I just 'grew up' but I know plenty of grown-ups with walls covered in memorabilia where their cupboards are staggering under the weight of records, tapes, Mini-Discs (remember those?!) and CDs, photo albums and scrap books.
And it was only two years ago that I had a big change to really clear what was no longer necessary for my life.
And it was the most freeing feeling in the world!
What did I do?
I moved to China!
This gave us all a unique opportunity to look at all our possessions with a new vision.
It also made me answer the age-old question we used to ask ourselves: 'If your house was burning down, what is the one thing you'd want to save?'
As I cast my eye upon years and years of memories, books and pictures, I imagined myself on the plane, moving into our new apartment and starting our new life.
It became easy then. The path was made clear. We gave all of our furniture away (beds, wardrobe, settee) and I kept a very special chair at my mother's. We also gave away our TV and I went through the books with a realistic mind. I said to myself with each book, 'I have read this. I enjoyed it. Do I want to spend another 50 hours reading it again when I have the rest of my life in front of me? NO! It can go!'
It made me happy knowing that others would be made happy by my things!
And the more we cleansed, the more addictive it became!
It started out with me really hanging onto various items. And then my brother offered to help. He literally stood by me for a whole day asking me repeatedly, 'Do you want this in your life?'.
We threw items away that had lost their use. We gave tonnes to charity shops. We gave loads to friends. And then we were suddenly down to 40 boxes.
In those 40 boxes, we kept a few of our daughter's toys (ones that did not make the to 'Come to China' list).
We kept photos and the books I just could not part with. We didn't need them overseas but I knew I would want them again one day (and I am SO glad I didn't get rid of these! Recipe books, spiritual and religious books that I dip into frequently and our daughter's books from her toddler years.)
We gave away most of our kitchen ware but kept a few handy items.
It literally felt as if an entire world was lifted from our shoulders.
We ended up coming back from China after just nine months to have a baby and when we returned and were reunited with our boxes, we realised yet again that a lot of what we had kept, we simply did not want or need.
We made a vow when we got married to never, ever store items in the loft. So now everything we own, is in our home.
We have a few lovely things that were bought for our wedding. Some African masks from when I lived in Swaziland and some Chinese gifts from friends we made whilst living there.
Stuff of course can accumulate pretty quickly so I am still on my de-cluttering journey. It is easy to become attached to things (get rid of your toothbrushes! Do those shoes fit you any more? They have HOLES in! You can't even read the words in those 18 page letters anymore... detach!)
If you are not planning to move any time soon to another country, you can still pare down your possessions.
- Just remember that your trash is someone else's treasure!
- Focus more on where you are heading rather than where you have been.
- You don't have to get rid of every single thing.
- Work on one room or one bit of your home at a time.
- Visualise how you want your home to be.
Victoria Leith is currently de-cluttering her business life and is working on committing to one blog a week and launching a new business called LittleSong.