As I walk around the house in which I currently live, I am reminded how many items I have mentally (and usually physically) let go of and it is freeing to realise that I can do without them.
Fifteen years ago, I lived out of a backpack for a year and that experience has shaped the person I have become, more so than I previously realised. I never feel more content than when I am free of possessions (such as when I am on holiday or travelling) or when I am identifying and removing items I no longer use. It creates space in my surroundings, but also in my mind.
I believe that all the items we own have a space in our brain; a little corner of our subconscious is constantly aware that they need us to tend to them, look at them, clean or order them, reassess our need for them and justify their existence.
Do I need ten champagne glasses? How often do I use them? Are they clean? Are they stored safely? Do I even drink champagne? Will the person who gave them to me mind very much if I declutter them to a better home?
Here is an inexhaustive list of all the things I have said goodbye to over the last few years (updated May 2021).
In the garden
This is a no-brainer. No garden, no garden tools! We used to have a huge garden and accumulated a ton of garden equipment. Now we have a yard, a few shrubs and a small hedge to look after, I just keep some shears and secateurs. My son has a trowel, fork, watering can and a collection of plant pots because he enjoys sprouting seeds and potting them out.
In the kitchen
This was an easy one. We left our dishwasher in the house we own for our tenant to use. At first, the thought of having to wash dishes by hand seemed like a chore, but now I rarely think about it. I keep quite a minimalist, mostly vegetarian/vegan kitchen and make simple meals so there is rarely a lot of messy washing up to do.
First, I got rid of a large frying pan I rarely used and then, as mine and my family’s diets changed to be more plant-based, I realised I just didn’t particularly enjoy this way of cooking. So, after the non-stick lining started to degrade in the small frying pan, I ditched it and decided to see if I missed having one. So far, so good.
As above. I used to keep some olive oil for salad dressing but these days I prefer to dress salad simply with citrus fruit juice – lime, lemon or orange (whatever we have to hand). My son prefers his salad this way too.
While we’re in the kitchen, I stopped using salt a few years ago and no-one in the family seems to miss it. We do sometimes buy items (like breadsticks or nuts) that are pre-salted but I never add salt to anything I’ve made. We have recently been buying unsalted crisps and now prefer them to salted ones.
I prefer to sweeten things naturally with fruit juice or dried fruit.
We do still have a kettle but only boil it to make pasta. Tom uses a coffee machine and I don’t drink coffee or tea. I’m not sure we would replace the kettle when it breaks (as it inevitably will some time soon as we’ve had it for around six years). It takes up valuable space in our tiny kitchen and, considering the number of times we use it, could probably get by with just a pan on the stove. I would prefer to use an induction stove but our current rental home has gas.
I stopped buying this because we seemed to go through loads of it and it was a terrible waste of paper. Now, if we need to mop something up, I keep some old clothes or tea towels on hand as rags.
Why have a large collection of cups and glasses when liquid can be contained in either? We have more mugs than we can use so when glasses break, I don’t replace them. Update 2021 We have two glasses left, but still many mugs.
This is a recent one. I had pared back so much on the kinds of foods we were buying that I was only using the freezer to store bread and garden peas. We still have the freezer because it belongs to our landlord, but I relished unplugging it and cleaning it out. It now houses our collection of shopping bags. Update 2021 We plugged the freezer back in as we moved back to a weekly shop during the pandemic. I was very glad we still had it.
Spare cutlery set
Another recent declutter victim. I had an extra set of cutlery that used to belong to my grandparents and was sitting in a drawer unused. I would have brought the extra knives, forks and spoons into use had I needed them, but it seemed that we had enough. As it was in its own varnished wooden tray with felt liners and separate compartments for each item, I felt I should either keep it or let it go as a complete set. It has gone.
In the bathroom
I realised my hair was fine without it. I’ve cut back on the amount of times I wash my hair (I can now go for five or six days, when previously it needed washing every other day) and I only use a very simple shampoo with four natural ingredients. Update 2021 I have stopped using shampoo too and have found a gentle soap bar which I use for hair and body.
I don’t have any make-up whatsoever. I gave up wearing it long before my son was born and have become accustomed to seeing my face unadorned by cosmetics. It did take me a while to feel this way (after years of wearing it), but gradually reducing the amount I used helped.
I don’t own any cosmetic moisturisers. If my skin feels dry I apply some organic coconut oil.
In the bedroom
I have so few clothes now, after gradually paring back to just a couple of pairs of leggings, a couple of pairs of shorts, a few tops and jumpers, that everything pretty much fits in one drawer. We do have a massive wardrobe that was left in the rental house we currently live in. It is empty apart from a few shirts. We could quite easily manage without it. Update 2021 I no longer have shorts and only one pair of leggings, plus a pair of trousers and a very small number of tops.
In the living room
I have gradually gone through the process of minimising my book collection. It has taken time, but I have decided to keep only the books I may want to refer back to. I have probably whittled down from a whole bookcase to a small shelf of books. Update 2021 I have a love of biography and read avidly during the pandemic. I get the books secondhand and pass them on once finished. I really believe books should pass through numerous hands through the course of their lives. I don’t read books on a device because I think my eyes benefit from a screen break.
We left our massive secondhand sofa at our old house and just brought our small fold up futon for guests to sleep on. It is upstairs in a bedroom. We don’t have a ‘lounge’ set-up downstairs. The two reception rooms are currently a dining room and my son’s craft room. Update 2021 The two reception rooms are now storing all of our possessions in boxes, plus an area designated for items ‘to go’. We are preparing to move in the next couple of months. The futon is going, as has an armchair and we don’t have anything to sit on upstairs other than cushions!
What’s on your declutter list? Tell me about your minimalism journey below.