Loving Living with Less

Marie Condo made household cleanups cool by taking a gentle, graceful and serene approach. Here was this sweet, neat, petite Japanese woman who spoke in soft tones to her clients about whether or not their possessions ‘sparked joy’. Her method struck a chord because she’s been a household name for many years now and has a number of hugely successful books.

We take a quite a different approach to clear outs by being blunt and brutal. It’s not everyone’s formula for success but it works for us so we figured it might work for others too. We’re not looking to become a new style Ninja Marie Condo but we are advocating a life with less stuff and always choosing to buy quality wherever possible.  By being ruthless about what you need around you in your home and having regular small cleanouts, you can free yourself from the clutter and prevent your possessions from taking over your life.

We’re not afraid to admit that we’re reformed ‘keeper’ addicts. We weren’t at the stage of being swallowed by our possessions but we had multiple boxes of things in cupboards throughout the house that we didn’t know we had and they seemed to be multiplying fast.  We held on to things we thought we ‘might use one day’ only to find that a decade later these items remained untouched. It wasn’t until we moved house that we realized the extent to which our possessions were weighing us down. There were collections of old cassettes and CD’s, little boxes of teeth from our childhood, old magazines, unworn clothing and shoes, old bills and paperwork, chords, cables, broken computers, excess bedding and linen, bags of old rags, unused toys and clothing from when the kids were little and countless other items that were doing nothing more than taking up space.

Slowly over the course of several weeks we shed about half what was stored in cupboards and realized much of it had served only as dust collectors or moth food. The clear out process was sometimes painful and not without stress or arguments but the result was so uplifting that the habit of shedding started creeping into all parts of our life.

In the kitchen we got rid of excess utensils, plates and platters and donated old unused appliances including an ice-cream churn and waffle maker. We kept the three vases and gave away another ten which freed up a whole cupboard leaving room to properly store board games and sports equipment that had previously been boxed up.  We made a point to plan meals around food from the pantry that had been sitting for too long that was in danger of walking out itself – hello polenta we’re looking at you!

We gave away most of the kid’s old clothes and kept just a few items from their baby years as keepsakes. We gave away books – particularly novels that we would not read again. We stored or donated ornaments that were dated or that needed a rest.  It was then that the whole house started to actually feel more spacious.

In the bathrooms we used up old creams and bathroom products and vowed to keep just the essentials.  We threw away out of date medications and deteriorated medical supplies and replaced them where necessary.

In the garage we removed anything in cardboard boxes (disaster for pests and dust) and moved them to transparent airtight boxes that were clearly labelled. All tools and equipment were stored in tool boxes or hung on hooks. Coincidentally it was around this time that we designed the stainless steel pegboard storage system when we couldn’t find a high quality one for our newly organized garage.

Our addiction was morphing from hoarding into shedding and it felt great. We gave away anything that hadn’t been used for more than three years. It should be noted that we’re not minimalists by any stretch but we’ve worked out how to enjoy the feeling of living with much less in our lives. The clean out also made us realize how much average quality stuff we were buying. We made a conscious decision to buy less and to buy the best quality we could afford.

We’re not claiming to be perfect consumers and we probably still have more stuff in our house than we need. We still battle the temptation to buy cheap products that are dangled in front of us all at every turn. It’s something like the battle to eat well and stay fit – it’s a choice you have to make every day. The great thing is that it gets easier and if you make the conscious choice more often it becomes a habit.

There’s never been a better time to get brutal and start on a household cleanup, particularly with all the extra time we’ve all been spending in our homes over the past few months. But differently to the  Marie Condo approach we’re asking you to arm yourself with a sharp pointy stick and poke yourself in the leg every time you hear yourself say ‘I’ll start that next week’.  Begin with one cupboard or drawer each week and in a few months your home will be cleaner, leaner and you’ll feel a new sense of calm and tranquility come over you as you rid yourself of the excess ‘baggage’.