This first post is a confession of sorts. While most minimalists are busy taking things out of their home: decluttering, reorganising and clearing space, we are bringing stuff in. A lot of stuff. Mostly building materials.
Our minimalist journey is slightly ironic because it was triggered by doing something that is the antithesis of minimalism: we bought a bigger home.
In September 2013 we sold our two-bed house in north London and moved just 20 doors down the road to a three-bed house. The house was in bad condition and needed a total refit – electrics, plumbing, plastering, you name it.
Considering we had to rip everything out anyway we decided to go the whole hog and put in a loft conversion with another bedroom, a bathroom and dressing room and extend the kitchen, creating more space we didn’t need.
The fact that we didn’t need the space didn’t occur to us at the time; we were carried away by the London property market and excited by the idea of living in a big house.
The excitement soon wore off when we realised just how much there was to do and all our stuff went into storage, leaving us with a suitcase of clothes and a few other essentials. Nearly two years on and there is light at the end of the tunnel and last weekend we removed our stuff from storage.
In that intervening year a lot has changed. The house has changed significantly but we have changed far more.
As I have said in the ‘about us’ section, Frank and I were both feeling a malaise, a general lack of direction and frustration as we tried to take control of our lives when surrounded by the chaos of the house renovation.
Naturally we blamed the building work for our woes: it was dirty, we were tired, we couldn’t relax. And while this is a big part of the problem, the real problem is the thing we thought would make us happy (the house and the stuff that came with the house) actually wasn’t making us happy.
My first inkling that we needed to get rid of ‘stuff’ and take back our lives crept up on a July evening last year as I opened the door to the storage unit. It was piled to the top and packed solid with years of accumulated things – stuff we’d boxed up months before and hadn’t needed or thought about since (and if I’m honest, I couldn’t even remember what was in a lot of the boxes).
I felt a huge sense of shame that we owned so much. I was embarrassed.
The next day I was scrolling absent-mindedly through Facebook. Looking at other people’s lives and envying their glamorous jobs, holidays and nights out, when I realised that wasting time looking at profiles of people I’d barely spoken to since school was ridiculous. It also occurred to me that these weren’t really people’s lives – only what they wanted you to see.
I emailed Frank and asked him to change my Facebook password and not tell me what it was (I was too chicken to delete my account entirely). He did and I haven’t looked at it since. I can honestly say I feel much better for it.
After that I Googled ‘getting rid of stuff’ and I fell down the wormhole of minimalist blogs including The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist and Two Less Things.
Looking back, I can see how these episodes are connected. Physically I felt overwhelmed by possessions and mentally I felt overwhelmed by other people’s seemingly perfect lives and subsequently what I perceived as my own failings.
It had to change.
Thankfully Frank was sick of ‘stuff’ too (I’m sure he’ll tell his own story in another post) and together we are becoming aspiring minimalists.