How much stuff do you have?
Too much, not enough or just the right amount?
How much is too much anyway?
These are questions that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I have always hated clutter, which sometimes makes things interesting as my husband can be a bit of a hoarder (apart from this he is amazing!). Every couple of months I go on a decluttering spree in the house and get rid of boxes of things we never use and don’t need. Most of the time this isn’t a problem for him provided I steer clear of the two sacred places in the house – his pile of t-shirts and his DVD collection. Sometimes I’ll try to enlist his help as I periodically wage war on all the stuff building up in our home but more often than not I end up battling it out on my own simply because, whilst I may find it therapeutic, he would much rather watch one of his new DVDs (probably whilst wearing his newest t-shirt)! And that’s fair enough.
Given the fact that a lot of my friends and family seem to hold on to things longer than I would (I have a reputation for getting bored of my wardrobe, giving away my clothes and then moaning that I have nothing to wear!), I’ve always considered myself pretty good at keeping the things I own to a minimum. If you’d asked me six months ago if I thought I had too much stuff, I would have unequivocally said no.
But then I did some research. And discovered the minimalists – people committed to keeping their material possessions to a minimum in order to simplify their lives, reduce their impact on the environment and/or enhance their appreciation of what they have. I found out that there are actually people out there who – entirely through choice – have reduced their entire worldly possessions to as little as a hundred or even fifty items!
Fifty?! Reading that blew my mind. And I took it as a challenge. So I sat down one evening and drew up a list of fifty items I thought I couldn’t manage without on a normal working week. I have to be as presentable as possible during the day, use running gear as I’m training for a marathon, and also like casual clothes for the weekends, so the list needed to incorporate all of these elements as well as essentials like basic hygiene products and food-related items.
It was much harder than I expected! After a couple of hours of adding and subtracting I managed to finalise my list of 50 items that, aside from the furniture in our home, would comprise my only possessions for an entire week. I was more than nervous, and if you think I was being overdramatic I challenge you to count up how many items you use on a weekly basis!
You can see my full list of 50 items at the bottom of this post.
Here are the three things that surprised me most about my minimalist challenge:
1. It was hard. But not that hard.
The thing I was most apprehensive about was that it would be too hard. And it was challenging. Having limited food-related items meant that I had to clean them much more regularly than usual, but the plus side was that there wasn’t a huge pile of dirty plates etc. in the kitchen like there normally is by Friday. I did also have to go without some personal comforts that I don’t now plan on giving up entirely (hair conditioner, for example), but I didn’t miss them anywhere near as much as I thought I would. Some items I would consider getting rid of altogether now. For example, I have always used separate face and body moisturisers because the skin on my face is more sensitive than the rest of my body. After seven days of just having my face cream available I’ve learned that it works just as well on my body so there’s really no need for me to buy or make two separate products. This might sound obvious but I honestly just accepted that most women use different moisturisers for different purposes and that I couldn’t do without at least two!
2. It was liberating.
Like I said earlier in this post, I always considered myself as far from a hoarder. But I still expected this experience to be really restricting. I had found it so difficult to keep my list of possessions for the week to 50 items that I felt sure I would almost immediately begin to miss a whole range of items. In actual fact, I didn’t. Having reduced options available to me suddenly made my life feel much simpler and I also started to appreciate what I did have much more. It didn’t take me as long to get ready in the mornings as it usually does because I only had a few items of clothing to choose from and my makeup routine was basic and exactly the same every day. Before starting the challenge I had always been hesitant about wearing the same items to work more than once in a given week as I worried about what people might think. Maybe that sounds ridiculous and it probably was, but the good thing is that having to wear a variation on the same two outfits every day for a week forced me to get over this fear and taught me that actually, people never care as much about the small details of your life as you do! And that’s often a good thing.
3. It was revealing.
I definitely did not expect this side effect of my minimalist challenge. Listing my basic personal possessions helped me to clearly see where my priorities lie. On my original list I had included the Bible and another book to read (I am currently reading a biography) but I swapped these out for other items with the idea that I could just access them on my phone. The sad thing is that at the end of the week I realised that I had barely missed my paper Bible or reading in general and that the only source of entertainment or personal enrichment on my list was my phone. I work long hours during the week and keep busy with a lot of targets and expectations I set for myself but I don’t actually make much time for things that I enjoy or that feed my spirit. It was a wake-up call to me that, like a lot of people, I spend too much time trying to fill myself up on the internet and not enough meaningful time with God, my friends, family and on my own. This is probably the most profound thing I learned from living as a minimalist for a week.
So what about you? What’s your answer to the questions at the beginning of this post? Have you ever taken on a similar challenge or would you consider doing so? Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or by contacting me via email.
Thanks for reading!
My minimalist 50-item list of possessions:
I included every item I felt I would need on a normal, working week. This included disposable items like soap but did not include the furniture in my home (I decided sitting, sleeping and eating on the floor for the week might be a step too far!). I also did not include food.
- My phone. I just couldn’t do without this one plus it doubles up as an e-reader!
- Phone charger, of course.
- Shampoo. Had to cut conditioner out of the list and my hair did not love me 😦
- Soap. To use as shower gel and for washing cutlery etc.
- Toilet paper…
- Purse & its contents – cash, cards etc.
- Moisturising cream. I make this myself and blogged about it here.
- House key.
- Black pumps for work.
- Hair band.
- Workout leggings.
- Workout sweatshirt (it’s COLD here right now!).
- Workout top.
- Sports bra.
- Running shoes. I am hoping to run a marathon in a few months so couldn’t skip the workout gear.
- 1 Pair of socks.
- More underwear.
- Medium sized towel.
- BB Cream aka light foundation.
- Eyebrow pencil.
- Blusher. I have to look as presentable as I can at work so I kept the makeup on the list.
- Water bottle.
- Lip balm.
- Work skirt.
- Work dress.
- Strappy top.
- Smart work top.
- Faux leather jacket.
- Oversized scarf (like I said, it’s COLD!).
- Tupperware box – for taking lunch to work.
- Mason jar with lid – for drinking out of and for storing breakfast.
- Oven tray – yep, had to bake pretty much everything I cooked that week!.
- Necklace (to dress up my plain outfits/distract from the fact I wore essentially the same clothes every day).
So there you have it!
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