Losing and gaining.
The Royal Academy. The Southbank Centre. The National Gallery. The Royal Horticultural Society. The RSPB. The National Trust. I cancelled my subscriptions to all of them today. I don’t go enough to justify the cost and it’s a waste of money.
I started this journey with clothes and I wrote about that here. I haven’t bought anything to wear since the middle of November. I haven’t bought any thing I don’t really need since the beginning of the year. I have been to the theatre and the cinema and I have bought novels on my Kindle. That’s it.
I did a lot of reading about decluttering last year. I wasn’t sure at the time, why I was so drawn to it all. That Marie Kondo book first, leading me to ask myself, whilst feeling slightly ridiculous, whether everything I owned “sparked joy” before deciding whether or not to sling any particular item. Clearly, most things did not, but that didn’t quite work. I got rid of a lot of clothes but mainly because they didn’t fit anymore, which isn’t the same as getting rid of things you don’t really need, although you can quite easily convince yourself that it is. As I did.
Then I read Nagisa Tatsumi, The Art of Discarding. I liked that better, with its straightforward approach. Not, asking do I need this, or could I use it, or does it spark joy, but instead, simply, “can I get rid of this now?”
Still, a few large black binbags later and many journeys to the Big Skip, as I like to call it, and I hadn’t quite touched the sides of the stuff. I was still stuffocated.
A possible house sale jolted me to another level of discarding. At this point I had just read the joyously-named Swedish Art of Death Cleaning. But I’m not 85 and hopefully have a few more years in me before I have to worry about leaving all my shit to my siblings to sort. And then I found a podcast dedicated to discarding: The Minimalists, two young (to me anyway) guys who radically changed their lifestyles so that they could live lives which chimed better with their core values. I liked them. A lot. It chimed with me too, their wish to simplify and to have no more than they need.
So I got a skip of my own and started The Big Throw. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. Before two hours had passed, we had this:
A whole van load of stuff was then allocated to family and friends, tons given to the charity shop and other things thrown away, Yes, I could have Ebay’d some of it but I would have been Ebaying till next year and still be surrounded by stuff I don’t need. I have to deal with the art of the possible given my day job. So I took the direct approach.
Out went the duplicates, the pans I don’t really like, the broken-lidded Le Creuset, the ice-cream maker I have used twice, the coffee grinder I don’t need and oh yes, hundreds and hundreds of books. All sorts. Novels, cookery books, guide books to places I won’t ever visit again or if I do, which will be out of date. someone else can enjoy them. I still have too many, functioning mainly as interior decoration.
And now, everything I look at, I ask myself whether I can give it away. Even food. I was told about the Olio App, where you can give unwanted food (and other items) to people who will pick it up from your doorstep. I left five packages last weekend. So much better than waiting until it has gone past its use by date then binning it. And I don’t need three bottles of vanilla extract and two packs of vanilla pods, so Eduardo is welcome to them.
I am only part way through this process but I have noticed something unexpected. First, discarding is like a muscle. Use it often and it gets easier to do the heavy lifting. In fact it becomes addictive. The hit I used to get from buying has been replaced by the hit I get from disposing. I’ve come full circle.
I have thrown away things that I have been storing for 40 years. I didn’t think I was a hoarder but I was fooling myself. Last weekend I threw away thousands of photos. I went though all of them and kept a few hundred. I’ll probably upload those at some point and get rid of the hard copies, for what are they other than memory triggers? I don’t need the original photos. In fact some of them were painful to look at and throwing them away was therapeutic. And I found things that I didn’t even know I had, which made me cry, in a good way, like this:
The whole exercise has been and continues to be therapeutic.
What I am finding is that by getting rid of the clutter and the excess, I am thinking more clearly and I am unblocking myself. Things that I have been putting off for years now are done easily. A friendship I have regretted ending I have made an effort to rekindle, ready to face the pain of possible rejection.
At a marketing event last week, going up to a group of strangers all chatting together in one of those dreadful circles and introducing myself, rather than my usual hanging around on the outside, waiting for someone to notice I exist. And it was easy. So easy. Wondering why I had found it so hard before. Not fearing the possible rejection.
This is, I feel directly related to the discarding of stuff. I think it will take me a year to do this properly. I feel like I am shedding an old skin. I will let you know how I get on.