I must start with the declaration that I am Houseproud. I love our Home and I spend the majority of my time here due to having such limited mobility. I enjoy cleaning, caring for our home as best as I can and making it a comfortable and calm environment for the both of us. I love learning about ‘keeping house’ and come from a long line of proud Housewives. Our journey into modern minimalism was not to free ourselves of the pressures of over-work in order to enjoy a simpler life (this is not our lifestyle for good reason!), it was simply to find a better way of managing our things and to simplify the organisation of our home.
A few years ago, I got hooked on Youtube. It started gently with ‘How Clean is your House?’ (I LOVE that show) and the ‘Dave Ramsey’s Youtube Crazies’ (right at the start of our Seriously Frugal Journey) and has developed into a shameless ‘Clean with Me’ habit – something my family thought was hilarious having borne witness to a hoarded collection of partially-full water glasses I kept in my room (my personal best was 12) during my adolescence! It was during my marathon ‘Clean with Me’ viewings that people starting whispering about this book – ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ and how it was changing their lives.
I somehow found a free audio-type-book on Youtube for it and let it play. It’s an interesting concept – focus on your possessions, almost anthropomorphise them by thanking them and caring for them. Thank your home (I know Marie greets every home she works with before getting started) and be sensitive to it’s potential. I have no problem with either suggestion (although I am personally not someone who would greet a house), nor the premise of decluttering objects that you have no further use for. What I have a problem with arose from my contribution to this process in our home.
I took to decluttering like ants at a picnic. I was ruthless, shredding documents here, donating masses of possessions there until there was very little left (apart from boxes full of Yarn that I wrote-off as Business Expenses and left alone… I may also have a problem with Yarn!). I did follow the “Spark Joy” feeling for most things – clothes, personal momento’s and trinkets but not for things like paperwork. I decluttered my phone, my Husband’s phone (until he got cross and I had to put everything back! True Story, he is a Saint!), our Laptop – I told everyone I met about how wonderful and freeing it was to declutter, but I wasn’t being fully honest. Decluttering, for me, became increasingly unhealthy. The feeling I would get after seeing a place spotless of clutter was so overwhelmingly positive that I wanted that feeling ALL THE TIME. I know that fighting clutter is a continuous battle but I didn’t want anything coming in. I turned down useful and generous gifts (that have since been lovingly forced upon me, Thank Goodness!) and turned away people’s hospitality. It was a problem and our home was looking empty and sterile.
It was at around this time that ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ aired on Netflix and the World went crazy for her concept. Our local Charity Shops cried “Mercy!” at the mountains of donations that were being dumped on their hands every day and they started refusing to take anymore in – they simply couldn’t cope with the staggering amount of excess that people had to give away.
“But is it truly excess?” I thought to myself and the thought haunted me. We were shopping and spending more than ever and often replacing some of the things (perfectly functional things) that I had “decluttered” along the way. Much of what I had gotten rid of was not excess, they were things we still used but I hoped we could do without (so I could keep the rooms looking nice). It was even a standing joke with my dear Father-In-Law (who I know is reading, Hi Dad!) who has a wonderful South-London-Boy Accent and would openly tease “I won’t mention any names, but didn’t someone just get rid of that – only to be buying it again!”. He was darn right (but aren’t you always, dear?!).
I pride myself on being Cheap – the “Good Cheap” i’m always writing about so why was I doing something that so flew in the face of my ideals? Deliverance came in January this year when Lee and I decided that we’d like to pursue again the dream of owning our own home (after a 3 year long hiatus), something that would only be possible if we were to live on a total no-spend for the foreseeable future. We aren’t wealthy people by any stretch of the imagination so we needed to get smart. We had to go Extreme with our Frugality and find ways to stretch and squeeze our pennies more tightly than ever before. We found ourselves in a unique situation – we needed certain things (certain things I had previously disposed of) and no had no money to buy them/replace them. It’s been a bitter pill to swallow (along with my pride, of course) but it has helped me to see clearly about the issue.
What happens after? After the “stuff” is gone. After the newness and novelty of having a beautifully organised, stunningly simplified, expertly folded pants drawer wears off? I can only answer for myself, I feel – the same. This form of Minimalism has not been an answer to life’s problems, it hasn’t solved any real issues for us. Decluttering (as part of general cleaning) HAS helped us greatly and has helped us to prioritise but just because something hasn’t been used for 12 months, 6 months or 2 weeks doesn’t mean I should get rid of it, only to purchase it again. I still see “Shop with Me” and “Haul” Videos from people who sparked my obsession with Minimalism, just months before. Being hung-up on how the inside of our cupboards look hasn’t done us any favours and now i’ve come back to my senses, I realise how inefficient some of the purpose-made storage we purchased really is in our home. We are very tight for space in the kitchen, for example, and although the cupboards look beautifully neat with all our organising systems in place, they are also impractical. They took up LOTS of space and once removed, we found that the old systems of stacking worked much better. This is not to say that, given a larger space, we may again use these organising systems we’ve purchased (I will NOT throw them away, i’ve learnt my lesson there!) or that purchasing these systems was wrong, it just wasn’t what we really needed.
What this journey has done is open my eyes. I see now the terrible waste, the harm (all financial, physical and mental) that having “too much stuff” can do, the shameful waste of natural resources and the devastating impact on our world that this level of consumerism has – both on our people and on our planet. Having gone very much ‘Back to Basics’ in our home has had the side-effect of Contentment and all-in-all, I believe THIS is what Marie Kondo aims to communicate with her process. It is a philosophy of Contentment, as is Minimalism in essence. This is a point that I would have missed completely if our Journey into ‘Living with Less’ were not also an Extremely Frugal one. Everything Matters.
When you look to our Ancestors, we can see how they lived with very little and did-so in a way that is almost completely lost on mainstream society today. We all want our clothes to last longer, our phones to last longer – but do we actually follow through with caring for them, taking time to help them serve us the best they can? Or do we just expect them to because they’re under Warranty or from a High Quality source? This is a huge, if not the most important part of our journey – Extreme Frugality requires Extreme attention to detail and Extreme care. It involves your time, your intention, your willingness to learn and all your resourcefulness.
We have taken ‘Minimalism’ forward in this way – bring only what you need into your home and care for it as much as possible, to help it serve you as long as possible. If there is anything in your home that no-longer serves you (because it requires more care than you are physically able to give it or, for example, it consumes too much power per use to be affordable – especially if you can perform the function yourself) remove it and dispose of it the kindest way possible. Be content with what you have and most importantly, be a Good Steward of it.
I noticed that during our Marathon Decluttering sessions, Lee would hold back a lot of his supplies (that I would pretend to be OK about until I could get out there a next time and rectify the situation – I REALLY had a problem!). I’m talking about bits of wood, thousands of nails, screws, fixtures, bolts, etc. These are the supplies that now help us to live extremely frugally by making what we need instead of buying. They are providing us with a means to earn money and stretch our money to the furthest extent and I am so grateful for his good sense. He was able to see what I wasn’t, that everything has value. “Just because it isn’t useful right now, doesn’t mean to say that it won’t be useful in the Future” – Lee (Did I mention he is a Saint?!).
Decluttering is a balancing act and it’s imperative that it MUST be balanced with good sense and timing. We don’t know what the future holds and the things that we dispose of today, may well be the saving grace of tomorrow. That doesn’t mean to say “Horde, Horde all you can!” but it does say “Take a step back and really think about what the implications of discarding this might be, financially and sentimentally”.
In Conclusion then, I am so pleased to see home-pride being promoted positively through the example of people like Mrs Hinch, Marie Kondo and all you lovely ‘Clean with Me’ video producers (i’ll be seeing you all online, very soon!) but the real message of Minimalism can easily be lost in the chasm of modern medio or overwhelmed by our personal reactions to the overall process. The Objective it clear – Get back to basics and really LOVE what your have. Afterall, when you love something, you really take care of it. Let both your home and your possessions be as precious to you as the people who use them; and keep your money, firmly tucked away in your pocket. This has been a journey of self discovery in many ways and we are richer (in spirit) for it. If you are walking a minimalist path right now, I pray that it is as awakening for you as it has been for us. Peace be the Journey ❤