I’ve always been a hoarder. Growing up, I was influenced by my mother to keep everything that might come in useful one day. From old boxes that were used to carry the groceries once, to old exercise books dating back to my grade school years.
Over the past 5 years since I’ve moved out, I’ve been gently trying to get rid of my hoarding past but it wasn’t much of a success.
In truth, the issue is because I was bringing more into the house than I was taking out.
Recently, we had to move and the new place didn’t have a garage where I could hide my past life choices that hung around in the form of knick-knacks, clothing and an assortment of things in mysterious black bags. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentally quickly caught up with me and I found myself drowning in my own crap.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been ruthless discarding a majority of my belongings. Some were easy to discard while other things still sit in the corner, awaiting curation.
From this experience, I’ve come to realize that minimalism isn’t just about having 10 items in your wardrobe or only a set of dishes for each family member. Rather, it’s a lifestyle that acknowledges what is essential and gives value to the things that we surround ourselves with.
While there are many guides out there about becoming a minimalist, there isn’t very much content about how to move from being a hoarder to a minimalist.
So that’s why I’ve decided to create this 3-step guide that I’m currently enforcing on myself. So far, it’s working well and might match your situation and needs.
Step 1 – Reduce the Hoard
Before you begin, you have to accept and acknowledge that this step will be a time consuming one. It didn’t take one weekend to build up the contents of your home, so it won’t take a single weekend to clear it all out either.
It’s all part of the process.
Reducing the hoard is an act of letting go of the things you haven’t used in at least 2 years. Some guides tell you that if you haven’t used it recently, you should throw it out. But when it comes to hoarders like us, we need a bit of an extension.
We need that extra time to train ourselves to let go.
Start with a specific space and move the things you want to keep into the room where there’re supposed to be. Kitchen things go into the kitchen. Clothes go into the bedrooms.
As we throw out things from a decade ago, our attachment to general material things should weaken over time. There will be sentimental items like baby clothes and photos, those things you don’t have to throw out.
The purpose of this step is to get rid of anything that is in an unusable state or something that you’d never use in the next 12 months.
By the end of this process, you would have rid of half your home from the things you don’t need. You’ll also start to feel better about your home environment when the spaces you never knew existed started to open up.
Here are some things you’ll need to account for:
some places don’t use rubbish bags anymore, so you have a limited amount of things you can throw out each week. You might just need to plan out when to fill up your bins to the brim and make it a habit to do so every week (or however frequently your rubbish service is)
if you’ve got a recycling center nearby and you don’t have enough bin space, it might pay to load up your car and give them a visit. It might be faster and cheaper than throwing out your unused plastics.
check the location of your surrounding charity shops. If you have a lot of things that are still good for usage, you can spread out the donations and it might have a better chance of getting to the people that actually will use it.
don’t bother too much with this part yet. There’s going to be dust. There’s going to be stains. There’s going to be a lot of things that are moving around and out of your living space. Stoping to clean properly may make your progress feel longer. Focus on getting rid of things before you do anything else.
Step 2 – Reduce the Clutter
Now that you’ve gotten rid of a good portion of your horde, it means that you’ve now upgraded from hoarding to clutter.
I know it sounds strange but a cluttered house is something to be proud of.
A cluttered house means you’ve actually got space to clear and curate. In addition to this, it also means that you would have trained up your letting go muscle.
The difference between this step and the first is that your possessions should be in the right spaces and together by now. It also means that your things should be easier and faster to sort through than before because you’re not moving things around or going from room to room to hunt down things from that category.
The trick to reducing clutter in this step is to start curating things based on categories. Don’t fixate on the number of items you are going to keep. Rather, work on deciding in a split second if you’re going to ever use it or not.
It’s a functionality test.
If you have hesitation, keep it.
If you don’t, put it in the throw pile and take it out as soon as you can.
Step 3- Curate the Remaining Possessions
By the time you’ve finished the second step, your living space should feel a lot clearer. Now is the time to hit the sentimental things.
Remember, these things are things that won’t make anyone else happy but you. You’re allowed to keep them but you also need to balance it out with how much you should be keeping.
No one wants to inherit boxes of a million baby clothes or printed photos.
Give yourself a box – the size is up to you. Only keep what really want to keep in the box.
Review this box once every six months. You might find that your sentimental value may have faded towards the item as you become accustomed to letting go.
Final thoughts on becoming a minimalist
Minimalism is a way of life that isn’t marked by the number of things you own – but the value of each item you possess.
I’ve seen videos and posts about people living off their backpack but if the idea makes you miserable, this reaction is normal.
Everyone has their comfort zones when it comes to functionality and usefulness of the things we own. If having two lamps because it makes a better reading light or night time ambiance, it doesn’t make you less of a minimalist than the person that’s conscious decided not to have one.
Other people’s needs, environment, and items’ functionalities are different from yours and your personal requirements.
The point of minimalism is to make you happy by reducing the noise and chaos of life in general into a state that is much more calming and manageable.