Thank you guys so much for your encouraging words on my Minimalist Monday series - I really appreciate that, and your feedback gives me more ideas for future posts! That's exactly how this one was born: in part inspired by your comments, in part the result of my own reflections towards the process of achieving a simpler lifestyle.
The thought that has recurred the most in many of my conversations about purging and minimalism in general, and which has stuck in the back of my mind for the past couple of months, is that 'decluttering is just a trend'. Yes, if you're observing the whole phenomenon from the outside or have just dipped your toes into it by throwing out some old T-shirts, it seems to be exactly that - the Marie Kondo obsession, the whole series of make-up collection declutters on YouTube, popularity of Project Pans, blog sales; everyone is loving it at the moment. Everyone is throwing this out, everyone's reducing, everyone is simplifying... Or are they, really?
Here's what I think really happens to most us during the decluttering process, even with the best of intentions. You've either just finished reading 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' (here's my review, if you're curious about my thoughts), or have watched a bunch of 'beauty gurus' purge and reorganize their closets and make-up drawers - and now you can't wait to start your own 'journey' (yes, that's how it's being called these days; sounds better than 'getting rid of a bunch of crap', doesn't it?). Usually, it goes two ways from there: either you get completely overwhelmed by the task and only manage to tackle a very small space, if that; or, you do actually go through all of your closets, junk drawers, document folders, and yes, make-up collections, and get rid of quite a significant amount of stuff. Which camp are you in, by the way?
I'm firmly in the second camp - I did go slowly and carefully through most of my stuff, and got rid of (threw away/ gave away/ donated) A LOT of things. I would estimate at least 50% of my own clothes, 30% of my make-up stash (over a period of a couple years - I started well before decluttering became a trend), 20% of other things like documents and miscellanous things; this last category had the least amount of progress since it includes things I share with my husband, and he's still not very interested in getting rid of anything. It felt AMAZING - I was on a decluttering high. I could see visible changes to my drawers and cabinets, everything looked cleaner and more organized (look at the pretty rows of my vertically folded clothes! Yes, they still look that way), and I was able to rediscover so many beautiful things I've owned for years but wasn't using because all that other crap was obscuring it from view. It was magical, just like in KonMari's book.
Well, okay - but what do I do now? I feel that this is something that isn't really mentioned in the book at all; Marie simply states that once you go through the total, all encompassing purge, you will never want to go back to your old ways, and your home (and life) will remain clutter-free. But unfortunately, I don't believe it's all that simple.
If you think about how all those things you just got rid of made their way into your home in the first place, they were not just 'junk' to begin with. You bought them because you needed or wanted them, or they were generously given to you as a token of someone's love and caring. No one came in with a shovel and showered your space with trash - that's clearly not the source of the problem.
The heart of the problem is that we're part of a consumerist culture, and we've been brought up associating all kinds of important feelings with physical goods, thinking about them as status symbols, problem solvers, or happiness bearers. Oh, the stuff! Stuff is important. I need more stuff! I believe that if you do not take time to address those feelings, and if you don't try to change your attitude towards stuff, you'll be just facing the same clutter problem again and again over the course of your lifetime (how depressing). There won't be any 'life-changing magic' to your hard work in purging your closet; things will just slowly revert back to where you started.
But changing your attitudes and thought patterns is not easy, and it won't happen overnight. That's the not-so-fun part of attempting a more minimalist lifestyle that's rarely mentioned, much less executed, by all those trend-setters showing us their perfectly decluttered and reorganized spaces. Essentially, if you truly want to change your consumerist ways and lead a simpler lifestyle, you need to acquire MUCH less stuff in the future, on top of continued efforts to downsize what you already have.
This is precisely why I put in place my two make-up products a month allowance two years ago (I'm considering changing it to one product a month next year) and started documenting my empties and doing Projects Make A Dent/ Project Pan. This year, I've also started writing down a list of every make-up item and every piece of clothing/ accessories I buy, along with their prices. So far, I've resisted doing a complete inventory of my make-up/ nail polish/ skincare stash because I think I'll be too overwhelmed with the results, but it's a useful tool, and I may consider doing it at some point in the future.
And while all of these strategies are helpful in keeping me on track of my stuff-reducing goals, it is still not easy - I get tempted, like we all do. I continue to purchase unnecessary things that I'll probably regret later. I don't want you to think I'm some sort of minimalist lifestyle ideal - you should see my bathroom cabinet, or my skincare back-up drawer - and remember those 70 nail polish bottles still remaining in my collection, even after various purges? I'm still a beauty fantatic at heart, and I love trying new products and reviewing them on the blog, even though I know I don't actually NEED them. Simplifying your life is definitely a long process, difficult and mundane at times (you know, like actually trying to use up all those extraneous bottles of stuff instead of just pitching them in the trash...), and finding your personal balance between living with less and living a full life may take months. Or years. I fully recognize that.
What I'm trying to say is that making a lasting change is challenging, and it may not even be for everyone. If a mere thought of getting rid of your things is giving you the heebie-jeebies, or you've finished your declutter and you feel happy with where you are now, then good for you - you certainly don't need me to tell you what to do, you just do you. But if you still feel overwhelmed by what you own, or you feel stuck, not fully content but not knowing where to go next - just give yourself some time to think things through. I've found that my comfort levels keep changing all the time (specifically, I'm comfortable with simplifying more and more stuff in my life; just look how skeptical I was back in February...), and what you deem impossible right now may seem quite effortless in a couple months. Minimalism isn't some sort of trendy race or competition (and if you hail the benefits of your newly decluttered closet just to turn around and haul MORE stuff into your life, then you're clearly missing the point - hint hint, YouTube), and it doesn't help to compare yourself to other people - just do it at your own pace, with your own set of rules.
I do my best to try and enjoy it despite the difficulties - like coming up with new ways of simplifying my life (for example, recently when I needed a new suitcase for international travel, I intentionally bought a smaller one to practice more efficient and minimalist packing - or trying to decide which personal care products in my bathroom I could do without), discovering more books and blogs about minimalist lifestyles, or combining my remaining clothes into new outfits I've never thought of before. I would love to hear your thoughts about your own decluttering/ simplifying/ minimalist experiences, what you struggle with the most and what you find the most helpful - we're all in the same boat! On a different note... Happy 29th Birthday to me! - I'm writing this post early in preparation for our Italy trip, and I'm hoping that as you're reading it, I'm off somewhere basking in the sun between hills of Tuscany, sipping Chianti and enjoying a fabulous gelato :D Thank you for reading!