Minimalism Part 1 – My Never Ending Journey Toward Decluttering My Life

Do you ever get that general feeling of unease and not know where it’s coming from? You begin to feel agitated, or for a more fun word from my Italian heritage; you become agitato.

When you’re agitato you’re not very fun to be around. General symptoms include anger, impatience, and annoyance. Being agitato means that you’d rather curl up into a ball and wallow in self-pity than do anything productive.

I get this feeling quite often. I eventually pinned it down to a cluttered home. I will generally become agitato when I’m forced to spend much longer than necessary finding an item due to a messy home. Sometimes, if it’s super messy, I delve into this state when I’m not even finding anything.

No matter how many ‘big tidy ups’ me and Mrs SavingNinja try and do, it normally doesn’t last that long. I’d like to try and minimize the agitato state as much as possible and remain in a blissful, tidy state for longer. This is where minimalism comes in.

Minimalism is the ideology of living with fewer items. This covers any and all items: clothes, electronics, cosmetics. The idea is that having more shit makes you unhappy.

Like me; you could become unhappy due to clutter. Having much more (mostly useless) items means that it’s harder to keep your home tidy. It’s also much harder to find your ‘good socks’ or realise that you have no pants left if you’ve got to wade through a load of broken or un-liked items of clothing to figure this out…

You can also become unhappy due to the fact that you’re actually-figuratively surrounding yourself in shit. Why would you want your home to be filled with stuff that you don’t really like and/or need? With stuff that won’t last you a long time and will probably break after a few uses?

Minimalism means having fewer things but it also leads to buying high-quality things that bring you joy, are multi-functional and are easy to repair. Why would you want to buy that £20 Primark coat that will break after 3 months? You could buy a £200 quality coat that will last you 15 years, it will also be much comfier/waterproof/breathable.

Having fewer things makes it much easier to keep your home decluttered. I know this first hand. The harder something is to put away, the easier it will be for your brain to tell you “Nope, I’ll leave this item here in the ‘temporary’ corner and put it away later.” Or “I’ll use this item again later/tomorrow/next week, I’ll leave it out.” You want to make something as easy to put away as possible! Your items ‘home’ should be a better solution to you than your ‘temporary shelf’ or corner of the floor. Quick and easy.

This works on the flip side too. If it’s this easy to put away, it will be just as easy to retrieve. No more rooting through piles of stuff until you find the item that you really want. Zero stress.

Ever had one of those ram packed kitchen cupboards full of Tupperware, where it’s like playing a game of Jenga trying to put something away? You fear that every time it opens, it will all come cascading out? If that cupboard was half full, it would be a lot easier to manage. A lot of these items will sit unused most of the time.

Another benefit of minimising is only keeping items that you really love. You all have that T-Shirt/dress that you think is really awesome. Imagine if all of your pieces of clothing were that awesome? It would be much better to have 10 really high quality, thick T-Shirts that don’t shrink in the wash or tear easily than loads of low-quality shirts, some that you probably haven’t worn for years.

Most people actually only wear a handful of their total clothing, meaning the rest of their clothes are just taking up space.

Better yet, you can buy clothes that are multi-functional and can be used in both hot and cold weather. Layers are the key! This goes the same way with all other items. Buy less of, but higher quality items that are multi-functional. The more functions an item has, the more worthy it is of taking a space in your home.

I’m not saying to go all Rambo and get rid of everything other than a spoon and a mess tin. I’m just preaching the benefits of reduction and quality. You can have as many things as you’d like. Just make sure you love all of them, they won’t break easily and of course; make sure that you actually have space to easily store and retrieve them.

Minimalising won’t just bring happiness and clarity into your life, it will also save you money. It’s much easier to needlessly consume when you don’t love (and know about) everything you own. This may even result in buying the same thing twice!

Do I practice what I preach?

Nope. My house is so cluttered right now, I’m agitato 50% of the time! Yeah, yeah, I know – I just spewed to you all of that stuff about how minimalism is awesome, what the hell?

I really really want to get to that blissfully minimized state where I can easily pull out any item of clothing and have it be one that I can wear today. At least half of my clothes seem to just sit there ‘just-in-case’. But, it’s really bloody hard. We’ve had so many big clean ups and reapings that I’ve lost count. Useless clutter seems to continuously build-up, it’s a never-ending uphill struggle.

This time, though, it will be different… I hope.

I’m going to methodically break down each part of my home into categories. For each category, I’ll ponder these three things:

  1. What would be the perfect state of this category, what’s the goal?
  2. What is the MVP (tech term for Minimal Viable Product[note]A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future development[/note]) of this category? Ideally, where can I get to without having to buy anything?
  3. What is the current state of this category. How did it get like this, and how can it be prevented from happening again in the future?

I’m going to break each category into a blog post with hopefully some successful results!

Currently, these are the categories that I’m going to tackle:

  • Light clothing – T-Shirts, smart shirts, exercise clothes, trousers
  • Warm clothing – Jumpers, coats
  • Shoes – SO many shoes
  • Cat toys – How many toys does an indoor cat really need?
  • Cosmetics and cleaning products
  • Electronics and paperwork – I like ethernet cables, OK?!
  • Cooking/eating utensils and food
  • The loft – I don’t even know what’s up there!

There’s quite a bit to get through. I’ll have to try and rope Mrs SavingNinja into some of this as we’re not going to be able to go through a full transformation unless we’re both on-board.

A lot of this reaping is going to be necessary if we ever emigrate to a different country. I’d rather have a fresh start than pay a small fortune to send a crate full of all my things across the sea. So hopefully doing all of this will pay dividends in general well-being and reduced future stress.

There’s also a lot to be said for being a minimalist in many other ways:

Your finances. Having fewer but higher quality outgoings makes your life simpler and allows you to easily keep track of your expenses.

Your relationships. Focus on building and maintaining high-quality relationships with like-minded individuals, all you need are a few really close friends for a happy life. Focus on the ones that matter.

Your hobbies. Don’t have 100 different hobbies, focus on one or two. You’ll grow and learn more and the better you get, the more fun you’ll have. You’ll also be able to dedicate more money and time into the hobbies you’re most passionate about.

No matter what you apply minimalism to, it all comes down to the same principles…

Less is more.

Choose quality over quantity.

Surround yourself in items that bring you happiness.

The end result will be a decluttered life. You’ll have much more clarity over what’s important and a lot less complexity revolving around what you should own. Each item you own will be of a much higher quality and you can be confident it will serve its purpose well and for a long time. You’ll no longer have to worry about the price tag of an item, your focus will be more on the value and need.

Minimalism ties in beautifully with the financial independence movement as it focuses a lot on what makes you truly happy. It has routes in anti-consumerism and if executed correctly, will save you a lot of money. I really believe minimalism is one of the keys for prolonged happiness. But we’ll see!

I’ll be picking up and reading this book that I’ve seen recommended quite a bit before I start the first category. If you’ve read it, please let me know if it helped you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • What do you think of minimalism?
  • Have you tried to declutter your life before? Were you successful?

12 thoughts on “Minimalism Part 1 – My Never Ending Journey Toward Decluttering My Life

  1. Decluttering and living more minimalist is very high on my list of things that I want to do. I completely agree with you that it is coherent with the FIRE mindset. Like you I’ve tried a few times but “stuff” always builds back up…it’s got to the point where I dread birthday or Christmas presents a little because I’m going to have find somewhere to put them.

    I know for a fact that we don’t use most of our stuff as we moved into a rental for 18 months between houses and put most of our gear into storage. There was hardly anything that we missed in that time.

    I think the key is to do little and often but just to keep going with it until it becomes a habit or a way of life. For example I find books to cull a bookshelf that I thought was completely pared back when I come back to it a year or so later. I find that my mind just needs a bit of time to get used to the idea.

    I would love to hear how you get on with this when you’ve got into it for a while.

    1. I have the exact feeling around present giving. My partners mum is the worst for this. When we were living in a tiny 1 bedroom flat, she thought it would be an awesome idea to buy a wall picture that was no joke around 2 meters long. The picture was embroidered flowers, but worst that that – it couldn’t actually fit on any wall! The cost was said to be a lot as she had the frame custom made (probably because it was so bloody big!) So, we couldn’t just say we didn’t like it. We lived with this behemoth leaned against the wall vertically behind the sofa for over a year. We then finally had the courage to say “Would you mind looking after it for us until we have a bigger house, it’s too big.” We’re hoping she forgets.

      Recently she bought us a life-sized statue of an Orangutang because my partner ‘likes-monkeys’. Not that bloody much! That thing went straight into the loft.

      So apparently, the way to decluttering success (as said in the book I linked to) is going gung-ho and doing it all in one go. I’m hoping that after writing down a few ideal solutions for different home categories it will be easier to work towards them.

  2. I have absolutely no urge to be or live as a minimalist. I like being surrounded by stuff and in fact, this is one reason I’ve barely bought anything these past few years because I don’t need to!

    However, I would very much like to reduce some of my stuff – I’m a lot older than you so have many more years of stuff accumulated, particularly during decades when things were not digital so were in paper form! Think photos and photo albums!

    I don’t think my clutter gets to me so badly but I’m sure there will be benefits to reducing it!

    Anyway, you are sure to be getting some hints from the book you are currently reading (we’re reading the same one :-D)

    1. Yeah, I think things that you have an emotional attachment to, like photos, are harder to cull. I listened to a TedTalk once that said things like that you should just take a picture of to store. It’s difficult though, just like giving away a book. Can hold a lot of memories!

      Oooh, I’ve just realised 😀 I’m going slow with that one as I’m making notes for a review. I’m on the chapter about minimalism now 😀 We should start a book club!

      1. I love the idea of a book club but I like the freedom to read what I want, when I want, so struggle with the limitations of having to read a specific book within a specific time.

        That said, we appear to have similar tastes in reading so perhaps something to consider in the future, if I know I’ll be reading genres I’ll enjoy! 🙂

  3. I love ethernet cables too! You never know, when it’s going to come in handy!

    I grew up in my granddads workshop (he was a blacksmith) where he would have so much clutter, that he would spend most of his days, looking for something that he had lost. When he died, my dad and my brother spend an entire summer cleaning out the shop, and a lot of it was just trash really. Litteraly!
    He wasn’t a horder – you just never knew if you suddenly found a use for half a soda bottle, or half of a broomstick! (you decide which half is most useful – he probably had both halfs).

    So you see, I also kind of had a nack for “you never know, if this might become of use some day – I better keep it” growing up. It’s amazing the shit you can accumulate over time, when your default is to KEEP stuff – rather than just get rid of it. In recent years, I’ve gotten better at getting rid of stuff – but my default is still to keep it – just in case!…When we moved last year, we packed 97 large moving boxes (my wife numbered them, and kept track of what was in them in a spreadsheet, so the friends who helped us move could place them in the correct rooms – they were pretty amazed by the level of organization in that move!). To this day (more than 1 year later) we still have 10-15 boxes that haven’t been unpacked. We probably also have 10-15 boxes worth of stuff besides that, that we don’t need!

    This summer, I’ll get rid of it! I promise…maybe…- You never know, if half a soda bottle might come in handy! 😛

    1. Haha, you’re exactly like my partner 🙂

      I am an only child so growing up my house was generally quite tidy and clutter free. It’s probably why I get so agitated when my own home is a mess now I’m grown up. My partner, on the other hand, lived with 2 other siblings and had quite a toy filled, cluttered home.

      It’s funny how much our parents influence us 🙂

      You should read that book with me! It’s meant to do wonders for kicking yourself into gear. Knowing my luck, I’ll need all the ethernet cables as soon as I chuck them away! I just went and Googled the cost of an ethernet cable and I found one for £2.79. I don’t think they’re worth all the space they’re taking up haha!

      1. Hmm. I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read, but this book has too much of a “self-help”-book vibe for my blood. However, check this out:

        Marie Kondo will help you declutter your life with her new major Netflix series Organise the World with Marie Kondo, coming soon

        I already have netflix! $10 saved right there! 😛 HAHA!

        1. Oooo, awesome!!

          Thanks for sharing this 😀 Unfortunately it’s US Netflix at the moment, but I’m sure I can use a VPN or proxy to get it 😛

          Let me know how you get on!

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