The Declutter Series – My Journey to Minimalism

A few months ago, I watched a show called ‘Selling Houses (Australia)’ at a friend’s place. The owners of the property were serial hoarders and it was fun and almost cathartic for me to watch them get rid of all their junk, overcoming the mental and emotional attachments to the material things. I’ve become obsessed with reading up on hoarders and watching all the relevant HOARDERS TV shows in the past few weeks that it’s inspired me to keep getting rid of stuff while also minimising how much I actually buy.

i must not let clutter beat me

I’ve been decluttering my life for the past few years in every aspect – people, material possessions, files on my cloud and hard drives, thoughts in my head, habits that don’t serve me, and so on. It has been so liberating that I really want to help others declutter their lives in some ways. I’m still only about 10% into my personal project to declutter mine and my family’s belongings, which is actually pretty fun once you get into the hang of it.

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
– Eleanor Brownn

In this post, I’ll focus on the material decluttering since it’s the easiest and most visual.

My Story – Excessive Consumerism

I lived with my parents until the age of 24 while working full-time and making a lot of money for my age. I had so much money to burn so I’d spend it frivolously on ridiculous things like multiple pairs of the same shoes (sometimes 3 pairs, mostly in different colours but not always) because I loved them so much. When I think back to it, it sickens me. How we’re trapped into believing in insecurities about ourselves that we need to buy material things to fill the void in our souls. I’m glad I snapped out of it by my late 20s.

I have over 100 pairs of shoes, wardrobes full of clothes (some with tags still on them) and a host of other things that would take too long to list. When I moved out of my parents’ home randomly in 2009, I started learning how to live with just one set of plates, one set of cutlery, one set of bedsheets and only brought about 10% of my clothes and things that I owned. The rest were still at my parents’ place.

So apart from my stuff, there were my parents’ stuff that they’d accumulated over the past two decades we’ve been in the country, plus my brother’s stuff, his girlfriend’s stuff (as she has also lived with them for several years) and my sister’s stuff. That’s a 2-storey bedroom with 3 sheds and half the double garage full of stuff. Stuff is everywhere.

I started getting rid of the things I own and would start taking boxes of things from my parents’ house to my apartment to continue the process. Right now I’ve counted about 35 pairs of pants, for someone who always complains that I don’t like wearing pants and declare most days as NO PANTS DAY. It’s ironic.

TODAY IS THE DAY YOU LET GO OF THINGS THAT NO LONGER SERVE YOU

Ok, here goes the HOW-TO bit.

1. Get Your Mind Right

Before you start this journey, you have to get your mindset on the right page. You gotta know WHY you want to do this, commit to starting NOW and then the HOW is given in the advice below based on my experience. If you don’t get this right, it’ll be much harder for you to let go of things and you’ll give up easily after a half-assed attempt.

Like anything, it takes time to get your thoughts in order, so just start small and be consistent with your efforts.

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill

2. Learn the 2-Step Decluttering Process

  1. Organise
  2. Purge

The two steps can be done simultaneously and on an ongoing basis. Sometimes I purge clothes before organising them in my wardrobe and other times I’ll organise my clothes (like my new pants drawer) then be able to see just how much stuff I have and what I can then get rid of. Once you realise just how much of one type of item you have, it’s psychologically much easier to trim that down.

Most of the time, people get overwhelmed and have no idea to start. I experience this all the time. So I just choose one small section, like one drawer of a table, and get that in shape. Or I’ll choose a type of clothing (like pants) and focus on collecting all those types to start the decluttering process.

3. Give Stuff Away First

Ok really, you throw stuff away first. That’s a given. Then you give stuff away before thinking about selling it. Selling things take a lot longer and if you approach it by trying to get as much money as possible for your stuff, you’ll delay the decluttering process.

You start with the less valuable items, because as an example – holding onto a few books in the hopes that you’ll get $5-$10 for each might not be worth it when you can easily gift those to people you know might benefit from reading them.

  • Kids/Family/Friends – find some kids you know and give them a whole bunch of your stuff. I brought my nieces and nephews a present each recently, a bunch of hats, jewellery I hadn’t worn or opened, a selfie stick with the tag still on it, an unopened purse and so on. When kids are happy, it’s infectious; they tend to show it a lot more openly than adults do. You benefit just as much as they do from your giving. You can probably find stuff to give to friends and family too
  • Charity – I started with just 2 bags of stuff to give to a clothing drive. Start small and you gain momentum. Do it all in one go: from finding 2 bags, to filling them up with stuff you definitely don’t want, to putting them in the charity bin. Otherwise, they could stay in your home until you ‘get around to it’

4. Sell Stuff In Person, In Bulk

Hold a garage sale, go to second-hand markets, whatever it is, this is the best way to get rid of stuff. Neither of these options appeal to me though, because then you’d have to talk to people and I don’t really wanna talk to people.

5. Sell Stuff Online

Ah, this is more my thing. eBay and Gumtree are really the only sites I’ll post on, though I’m also considering creating my own site with a catalogue of my stuff. That’s more for me to gain hands on experience with eCommerce because I’m a massive digital geek and love that stuff. Plus I have a shit-ton to sell.

6. Digitise Everything

I’m a digital citizen by nature so I’ve done these a long time ago.

  • Receipts, documents – I started by using Shoeboxed where they send me envelopes and I stuff these with my receipts and any documents I want to keep a record of, then post it back for them to scan and upload into my online account. Then when Xero introduced the file storage feature, I switched to them so I can link the receipts to the transactions
  • Books – I love my Kindle. It was a present from one of my exes who was thoughtful enough to allow me to read my supernatural erotica discreetly when I used to catch public transport to work. I also have over 1,000 books on it (obviously most were free). I also lost this Kindle during a holiday in Honolulu and was reunited with it about a month later. That’s a story for another time
  • Books Part 2 – Another great option are audio books. I’ve just gotten into them a few months ago and enjoy walking around listening to a good non-fiction piece. I subscribe to Audible.com which is part of Amazon.com (and you can try Audible and get two free audiobooks)
  • File Storage – now with cloud storage services like Dropbox, Box, Evernote and so on, I barely need my computer’s hard drive let alone external ones (of which I have 3 totalling 6TB)
  • Music – Spotify and YouTube are all I need now. I am on the extreme sides though, since I love vinyl and have a healthy collection that I can’t part with just yet
  • Movies – Netflix has most of what I want to watch and you can stream anything else. I don’t own a DVD player; Apple TV or Chromecast does the trick unless you’ve upgraded to a Smart TV that has WiFi built-in

7. Get Support

Don’t be afraid of asking for help. It might be fun with someone else you trust. Then you’re more likely to be able to hold a garage sale or market sale with those that support you. You can also reach out to me, even just to mention you’re starting on the journey and I’ll be glad to cheer you on.

My Progress

I will update this post regularly to document my physical decluttering journey. How fun!

I won’t take before and after photos of my parents’ house to leave them with privacy, so I’ll share the progress in my own home. I don’t have too many ‘before’ pictures and there’s a lot more stuff stored in hidden areas.

BEFORE (My Bedroom) as of 29 April 2015

Two tables and a side table with stuff on it, in it and under it
Two tables and a side table with stuff on it, in it and under it
Shoe cabinet by the door, boxes from my parent's house with stuff to sort through, stuff on the boxes
Shoe cabinet by the door, boxes from my parent’s house with stuff to sort through, stuff on the boxes

Right wardrobe (half of it)
Right wardrobe (half of it)

Right wardrobe part 2
Right wardrobe part 2

Left wardrobe (only half of it)
Left wardrobe (only half of it)

AFTER

8 May 2015

Mz Trina - Declutter Series - After 1
AFTER – My underwear drawers have been consolidated from 2 drawers to 1 and laid out in a more efficient way

24 May 2015

AFTER - My organised pants drawer filled to the max, but there's another 8 pairs needing to be stored elsewhere
AFTER – My organised pants drawer filled to the max, but there’s another 8 pairs needing to be stored elsewhere

6 June 2015

I visited my parents’ home to clean out my stuff. We chucked out 3 large bags of rubbish + 2 bags of donations + 3 bags of eWaste and 1 bag of recycling.

My dogs supervising the clean up

A photo posted by Mz Trina (@mztrina8) on


A box of CDs from my childhood… 90s gangsta rap. Gone to a good home.

12 July 2015

I visited my parents’ home again to clean out part of the wardrobe in my old room. Chucked out 2 bags of rubbish + 1 bag of donations + 1 bag of recycling + 1 bag of eWaste. I found stuff from highschool which was over a decade ago. More CDs and lots of paper crap. Oh and my birth certificate, which is handy.

Some more CDs (that I'm keeping), a booklet from D2MG O-Week 2006 which was my first year as President and my birth certificate
Some more CDs (that I’m keeping), a booklet from D2MG O-Week 2006 which was my first year as President and my birth certificate

14 July 2015

I’ve decided to move back home in 3 weeks time, which means I want to get rid of as much stuff as I can before then. I’ll list them on the relevant sites and maybe on here too.

11 Dec 2015

I’ve had to move out of my apartment, back to my parents’ house while I travelled the world for 3 months. So I’ve created an updated post, more on the eBay selling side of things based on my experience so far, “The Declutter Series Part 2 – eBay Selling Tips”.

-K.

4 Comments

  1. The Declutter Series Part 2 – eBay Selling Tips | Mz Trina

    11 December 2015 at 10:57 am

    […] 5 months ago, I published my first “Declutter” series post and updated that for a few months afterwards. Then I decided to quit my job in August and ended up […]

  2. 6 Months Jobless & Why I’m Loving It | Mz Trina

    29 February 2016 at 10:59 pm

    […] mid-November, I kicked back and hung out at the beach, caught up with friends and continued my decluttering obsession by posting my first items on eBay on 1 […]

  3. How I Quit My Job: My Detailed Escape Plan And Journey To Freedom | Mz Trina

    7 March 2016 at 6:42 pm

    […] start (about 3 years actually) but I finally got there – I’m talking about writing and decluttering. […]

  4. Life Goes On: What’s Happened In A Year Since I Quit My Job | Mz Trina

    18 September 2016 at 7:50 pm

    […] my large disposable income allowed me to maintain. It was a few years before I quit my job that I had embarked on a decluttering and minimalist journey after my regular overseas trips showed me how happy I was to live with just 15-20kg worth of stuff. […]

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