that you are
carrying, you were
only supposed to
words from Najwa Zebian
that you are
carrying, you were
only supposed to
words from Najwa Zebian
Here is a tip for you.
If you are keeping a book in your collection simply to hold on to a page or two: get rid of the book. Instead, take pictures of those pages, scan them or duplicate the text, preferably digitally. Gain this way actual physical space and freedom as you don’t have to look for that one particular thing between all your other books. I applied this method with a vegetarian cookbook, it was a book that meant nothing for me: there was no sentimental value, it was neither visually nor physically pleasing. I wasn’t fond of the book in any way, except for that one recipe that happened to be a success for us at home and that’s what I chose to keep: just the recipe.
image by Nick prideaux
I admit the whole de-cluttering journey isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. For me it takes a lot of practice to make the slightest progress, whether it’s mentally, physically or emotionally. At the start I wasn’t aware it would entail much trials and errors. Somehow I planned to declutter all my stuff in six months time. That stuff that took more than 20 years to accumulate, I somehow believed that 6 to 12 months would be enough to go through all of that. The reality is: I don’t always have the time nor the energy to dedicate myself fully on this project. Life happens while you make changes for yourself and you have to make room and time to dedicate yourself on your personal goals.
Decluttering is something that happens gradually for me. I was mislead by some minimalism talks and videos I saw before I started my own journey, I saw how others made it look effortlessly, some of them even took a full week or maximum two weeks and that was enough time for them to change their entire life. But that clearly isn’t the case for me here. Of-course I realize now that I was being unrealistic with my ‘goals’ as I should have known that I come from a further place with much more (unresolved) stuff. As a former hoarder my de-cluttering process is taking much longer than expected. I believe that going through this hard effort now, will always remind me to never go back to that crowded lifestyle. Looking at how things came to this point makes me sad that I let it come this far without knowing/realizing, but on the other hand I am really grateful that I am finally doing something about it now. I am finally taking matters into my own hands and taking full responsibility of my own life, without fear. It takes effort, courage and hard work to go trough this mess.
Decluttering thoroughly entails lots of self-realizations, moments of taking a break from it, confronting your issues, experiencing some self-therapy after a big clean-out, and so on and so on. It’s a personal journey into understanding yourself; how you got here, what made this happen and why it’s hard to get rid of it. They say memorabilia and sentimental objects are the hardest to let go, but that has not been the case for me. In my opinion everything can hold some emotional value, especially if you’ve neglected a part of yourself for too long in that case you emotions will irrevocably be triggered in everything you come across and therefore you will learn about you inner struggles. Because when you decide to declutter your life, you have chose for yourself that it’s time to finally confront your personal demons in order to move forward. De-cluttering is a spiritual journey, the journey of undressing your true self.
It’s about taking time to evaluate your life thus far, see what brought you until here and where you want to go from now on. Deciding your own destination, picking your tools, making room for what’s important to you. Letting yourself breathe out the shit that has been holding you from your personal growth. Breathe out the mental struggles, breath out the emotional clog and say goodbye to what has been disturbing your true peace or happiness.
image by Willem Douven
One of the perks of becoming a minimalist is finding your true likings and be able to cherish them.
Fun fact: you might not know this but my blog started out as a cosmetic-related one, luckily that changed along with the course of my personal journey.
Not long ago, I went to Lush for a particular product I needed for my winter-dry skin (that I repurchased a few times previously) This wasn’t an impulse buy, but in addition I also treated myself with a new product for my hair. I asked to my favourite Lush assistant to help me out and she gave me her recommendation of a good vegan hair conditioner. I smelled the product and I instantly knew this was going to be a new favourite of mine.
I don’t shop as often as I once did and therefore I truly enjoy my purchases, whereas a few years ago I wouldn’t have gotten much joy out of this. I used to buy lots and lots of skincare, make up, cosmetic tools and I just couldn’t get enough. I am quite embarrassed by how much I owned at one point. It wasn’t until I actually cleared out almost 80% of my stuff that I got a better look at what I truly love using. There was a point in my life where I even used to buy cosmetics just out of curiosity, without truly looking at the ingredients or at the company’s policy and then regretting the purchase afterwards. I was left with many unused stuff and I rationalized my obsessive shopping addiction by claiming that I was writing reviews about these products on my blog. My room was piled with perfumes, nail varnishes etc. and It’s funny how today I don’t need nor use any of that stuff any more. The bathroom counter was always full with products, whereas today I only have a few utilities that can easily be put away to clean the surface: it’s such a blessing now. I know what I like, I use it frequently and I can truly recommend a good product.
Here is another embarrassing story due to having too much stuff: I remember getting a rash at some point and not knowing what specific product caused the allergic reaction, because I used so many of them at once. That was such a low point for me, I knew then that I needed to cut down the use of products and find out what ingredients are working for me and which ones aren’t good for my skin type. We are constantly being told by advertising, the media, companies.. to “need” more than 1 or 2 products for taking care of your skin and hair, but that is really overdo.
I remember feeling liberated by getting rid of almost all my skincare products, I reduced all that stuff to just a few ones and I know now ‘if it doesn’t work for me or I don’t like it: get rid of it, give it away or give it back’. Do not let it sit on your bathroom counter looking at you, waiting for your attention to be removed. Give yourself a break and use only what is good for you. Don’t waste your time with stuff you don’t need. And when in doubt: ask for a sample of a certain product before making the full purchase.
The photograph in this article is one I took a few years ago
and never got around using it.
If your stuff isn’t serving you,
it won’t be serving you any better packed away in a box somewhere.
I always wished that stores would take back the trash of their used-up products. Even when it comes to food-packages or worn out shoes with holes, I believe stores or at least the manufacturers should take their responsibilities for creating non-recyclable or non-biodegradable trash in the end.
I’ve watched a interesting talk a few days ago, from a man called Thomas Rau (you can watch it here, but it is unfortunately in Dutch). The man has an interesting outlook on circular economy. He believes costumers aren’t interested in the ownership of some products, he feels that people buy things to use them, not to own them. Therefore people should pay for the use of things and manufacturers should provide quality products to establish a profitable and sustainable economy. For example: a person who buys a lamp just want to have light in his room, that person doesn’t want to own a lamp but he simply wants to enlighten his place. Rau believes that companies should provide their costumers the service of the use of their appliances. In this way, costumers shouldn’t be concerned about quality or recycling, because companies would eventually provide their best possible quality as the product still belongs to them in the end. It’s an interesting theory I believe and I hope companies would listen to this man’s ideas to improve their ways.
During my decluttering journey, I really encountered my dread and loathing of throwing things away that sadly had to end up on a junk-yard. My respect for the environment really stood in the way of my personal progress, because for such a long time I couldn’t throw things away that were no longer loved and won’t be used afterwards. I have the perfect example, that is also a true story: I used to own a large teddy bear that I had to throw out eventually. I really wanted to find a kid who could benefit from this toy, but I also realized that this bear had been collecting dust for the last two decades and that this toy wouldn’t be safe to use. Sadly this bear was too large to go into a washing machine and it wasn’t made out of good quality either to even survive a hand-washing. When I was ready to part with it, mentally and emotionally accepting its fate, I threw it on a container and I was physically freed at last. I know I tried really hard to come up with a better solution, but unfortunately this was in the end the only thing to do. I couldn’t sleep well for the first few nights, my guilt really can’t be quieted down easily. I do know that I’m overly sensitive about this, because in the end nobody bothers this much about trash like I do. And I wasn’t even responsible for getting that bear in the first place. It was a gift at my birth I believe. At least I can ease my heart knowing that I learned some valuable lessons there. I will no longer buy compulsively stupid unsustainable products, I won’t gift someone a poor quality product and I must think ahead about the use and the longevity of a product before purchasing it.
In loving memory of the huge bear
drawing by moonassi
I want to share a dream I had a few nights ago, that really mad its impact on me. I won’t share all the details, just the important details related to minimalism. In my dream I smashed a glass-jar on the ground out of anger and short afterwards I was feeling somehow responsible and accountable for my action so I immediately started picking up the glass pieces on the ground. For some reason once I’ve smashed the object to pieces, I found some tranquillity and got the answers to my frustration but that is not the point. While delicately picking up the glass shards in my bare hands, I came across many other stuff on the ground. Stuff that never got my attention, nor was I aware of their existence. I was astonished by how much “valuable” stuff I could find there. With each piece, I wondered how it got there, who it was from, why was it there, did someone lose this or did they on purposely got rid of it. It was like I’ve never seen so much stuff on a floor: shiny objects, colourful shapes, things that caught my attention and my hands became too small to hold them all. I was somehow childishly happy by what I’ve ‘found’ but once I actually took a good look of what I was holding, I saw those objects for what they really were: garbage and not useful to me, clutter.
I remember waking up from that dream thinking to myself: ‘why do I even have to declutter my dream-landscapes?’ and sadly this is not the first dream I dreamt about clutter, it’s just one that somehow made sense to me and that I chose to share with you. I ensure you, the dreams become more bearable after a while. I am not afraid of the clutter any more. Right now I am learning to just accept the messy places I haven’t decluttered yet. Being stuffocated (=overwhelmed with stuff) is not productive and therefore shouldn’t prevent you from moving forward. Sometimes I purposely close a door from a room or so, just to block that sight from my focused eyes. One session at a time. One day at a time..
I recently put a used shoulder-bag of mine online to sell for a reasonable low price (a price that to me seems respectable for a second-hand object and would be the price that I am willing to pay for today if I was in search of this item). I have this idea that some things should not be given away for free, because it somehow feels wrong; maybe you paid a lot for this and it’s still worth a great deal of money today or in my case: you believe that if you would give this specific thing away for free that a person might take it for granted. I somehow believe that when someone is willing to search for a specific item on-line and is willing to pay some money for it, then this person should be the kind of person to take good care of the item. It’s just a reassuring thought I give myself when letting go of stuff that was very much loved by me.
So when someone contacted me to buy this shoulder-bag, I suddenly experienced an instant panic. It was the fear of letting go. There were two reasons I couldn’t part with this item easily:
First reaction was an emotional panic, it struck me: I will have to let go of this now. Secondly, I wasn’t sure if I could do this. I needed more time somehow. So I didn’t reply instantly to the potential buyer. I took some time breathing, checking with myself if I was ready for this. The answer was: yes. I was going to let go of this item eventually. I just wasn’t aware of the sentimental value of it, until it was time to let this one go. I knew I wasn’t using this bag any more and I know that it’s only picking up dust now. I know someone would benefit from this more than I can. And I am happy that someone else loves this bag already and that this person would be glad to own this item now. My mind was completely ready to say goodbye, but my heart wasn’t. My head understood ‘you will never use this again’, but my heart feared ‘I will never be able to use this again’. Fear itself is irrational, but still I couldn’t wrap my mind about what has caused this fear. Is it the anxiety of throwing something away that holds a precious memory? or the fear of regretting your choice afterwards?? In times of desperation I gravitate towards inspiration, for me it’s; books, certain blogs, youtubers or podcasts with valuable messages. So I reread this blog from the minimalists(dot)com about sentimental stuff and listened to a podcast of theirs. I re-established my inner peace in the meanwhile and regained my confidence. I acknowledged that it is time now, time to say goodbye and let go because I was ready after all. I reminded myself of my goals and why it is important for me to do this eventually: I want to be able to do this. Letting go is much more rewarding than holding on.
The transaction was made. And I took one last photograph of the bag before sending it away. It was a close-up of the stitching, the detail that meant so much for me. I think this photograph reminds me to hold on to the appreciation for my mum’s expression of love and care in these overlooked details. I used to take such things very much for granted. Now I’m glad to be aware of these precious gestures. I’ll try to be more attentive from now on and enjoy such moments mindfully and above all be thankful they (still) exist(ed).