As I binge listened to the Bixchix podcast former episodes, I came across “Married with Luggage“, where I got to meet this entrepreneur who left her life with her husband to go travel the world. No, I am not here to talk about quitting my job and travelling the world near and far (I have 2 children remember?). What called my attention was that as part of this process, she had to declutter, sell her stuff, carry a suitcase to another country and at the end leave no house behind. Decluttering for growth.
Mid last year, I have had a good decluttering spree so I relate, and I am not quite done yet. There are always bags to be taken to charity in my (mini) storage room, especially as children’s birthdays bring too many toys. I have explained to Little Girl C that we had to give at least 3 things away ahead of her birthday. We did it with a very half-hearted buy-in, she will get there…
As the seasons pass or kids grow I take constant looks at what has been in the closet untouched for too long and commit to a decision of wearing or bagging. I am better with my clothes than the children’s but their wears off fast as they grow.
Moreover, in the summer, and ahead of having a 5th person moving into the house with us, I forced de-cluttering of our spare room, which has a magical ability to accumulate all that we don’t remember. I did it again in the new year and I feel it is a never-ending exercise. This is, however, the extent of my traditional decluttering, stuff.
Where I thought this episode brought a new perspective was on how de-cluttering is about so much more than stuff. Betsy Talbot argues it is actually about de-cluttering from habits, from needs and even from people that may be toxic. The newspaper you get but never really read. The breakfast out spending double the money without real need or difference. The regular dinner out just because.
I thought it was pretty amazing that she was able to change her life on the basis of decluttering. It was actually only because she did so that she was able to make fundamental changes – she was able to not only save but more importantly make space in her life for new opportunities, new ways to enjoy her social life, new people to meet.
In fact, I see decluttering as an opportunity for growth rather than a net reduction. Granted, there needs to be a gross reduction of stuff, things, habits. But I am still not convinced the net effect is that you have less stuff. At least at this stage of life with children and increasing needs. But at least decluttering gives you space (especially in London) and the opportunity to replenish with a world of new things or new experiences.
Decluttering creates space
No, I am not a shopaholic trying to find a way to find more things and fit more into my wardrobe (except maybe on Amazon Smile). You will actually find that I am the one with the least amount of clothes in the house. I am still torn on who is winning between Hubby B and Baby S. I think the latter in quantity but the former in size. Little Girl C has been forced away from the competition due to school uniform.
In fact, I am quite the opposite, I am a practical shopper, which means that if there is something in my closet that remotely looks like what I am trying to buy, I am unlikely to make that purchase. So last summer I removed the cardigans that never got worn from my drawers, and I got myself into the sales season, cashmere and all (yes, I do cashmere, at least until someone puts them in the washer again, then my daughter’s dolls may do cashmere with my size XSS cardigans).
I find that decluttering allows me to feel like I have earned my shopping, as I really “should” not live on a pair of black pants if I wear black pants 3x a week. As I pressed Hubby B on the cardigans I never saw on him, we doubled the number of charity bags we took away from our room.
This is it, a post about stuff Sara?
Decluttering for time
Enough about stuff. If I look back, I must admit I have decluttered much more than stuff in the last few years, I just didn’t phrase it as such. There was a time in my life I was overwhelmed with all that was going on. (Hard) working wife and (perfectionist) mother, social mantelpiece, social entrepreneur and board advisor investor to a troubled startup, with friends in more than 3 continents and tight relationships with people in 3 different timezones.
I decluttered my social life.
It was out of need, and not a conscious act. As I navigated my mental overload I just did not feel like seeing people, I just could not cope with filled social events. That was a dark time, and but a symptom of my mental health. As such, I focused on the few relationships that I thought I could manage, mostly through WhatsApp really. I knew I would be back to life, but that was not an immediate action.
I have not yet fully recovered my social life – indeed I am far from it. And it will probably take until kids are a bit older or I have less need for my evenings that I am able to do so. It is hard to do it amidst family and charity commitments. And my writing these days. But I have maintained and recouped a few meaningful relationships and I keep in mind to always prioritise to invest time in people and relationships.
I decluttered my life goals.
Again, I did not get rid of them, but they were clearly all happening (or not) at the same time. I reduced the number of business plans I allowed myself to pursue a year and I reduced the number of startups I was involved with. I also reduced the type of work I allowed myself to do in the charity. At work, I reduced the solo execution mode to hire a team.
It was a long process of dealing with limitations in the 24 hours of the day and the troubles of actually having to spend a few hours sleeping.
Funny enough, as I decluttered I now do more, sleep more and feel less of the overwhelm. I had no written goals at the time, just a bunch of to-dos and things that in my head I was trying to do. Now, all the pieces are very clear and (mostly) tie nicely together, mostly because at some point I decluttered, stopped everything, only to realise what I was truly missing. I did the same at work recently, to allow me space to grow into a new role without constant overwhelm.
Decluttering for growth
Looking back, I certainly decluttered. And that has given me a world of opportunity. I could see with greater clarity where new opportunities lie, I allowed myself to meet new people. I even tried new things. Most importantly, I now protect myself from hoarding again. Hoarding too many expectations about myself.
That gave me a real opportunity. To grow. And to be happy.