Blog, Minimalism

The Filing System- how to have a proper clear out

My problem was the sentimentality. INFP problems. Attaching emotions to inanimate objects. Coming round after 5 straight minutes, with an object still clutched in my hand, realising I’d been off daydreaming about when I bought it, and then my thoughts had gone off at a tangent again. Again, again.proper clear out floorboards

I didn’t want all this clutter. But I couldn’t get rid of it. My brain was full and felt even fuller when surrounded by all the junk I’d accumulated. I dreamed of bright, airy, white rooms with one or two beautiful ornaments. I wished for a closet with a capsule collection of beautifully made, classy clothes. I wanted floorboards, gleaming, uncovered. I wanted to surround myself with inspiration, nature and room to grow. Not with piles of cheap seasonal clothes, years’ worth of trinkets, ornaments just collecting dust.

I found it so hard to differentiate between want and need. I made myself sad thinking of how the object I was ‘throwing away’ would feel, alone and unwanted. I know, I know. Sad, aren’t I? And I’d end a ‘decluttering’ session with everything still piled back in a cupboard and a growing sense of defeat and unease. How do I become a Minimalist if I think everything is alive? How do I bring myself to chuck all the memories? How can I truly declutter, not just cherry-pick?

I had to detach myself. I had to take a deep breath and I pretended it wasn’t mine. I pretended all the junk, all the hundreds of items, all the mess…I pretended it was someone else’s stuff. I mentally prepared and I went in like a whirlwind. It didn’t matter what it was. It all went. I knew, as soon as I started to think or make excuses to ‘save’ something, I wouldn’t be able to carry on.

I prepared. I got boxes. I swept, cleared and chucked everything into those boxes and sealed the lids down tight. I used heavy duty binbags so things wouldn’t rip through and remind me. It was extreme but I needed to do it. I created a picture in my mind of how I needed my home and my life to be. I was drowning in a sea of consumer purchases. I couldn’t even remember why I’d bought most of them.

And I was sure I’d need to unpack my boxes right away and use my things. All those pounds I’d spent. All that money. Of course I needed most of the things, didn’t I? I waited. And I waited some more. And a few weeks down the line, when I couldn’t even remember what was in the boxes, I gave them to charity.

I got my floorboards. I’ve almost got my capsule wardrobe. I’ve got my headspace and a new vigour for life, for creating, for growth.

proper clear out mossI still buy things. But I exchange and declutter and pare down more. I research and buy if I need, not if I want. Of course, I’ve slipped up a few times. I blew some hard earned money on a few cosmetics just the other day. And it felt brilliant. But then, I got home and deflated. I didn’t need them. I didn’t even want them, really. But instead of feeling guilt, I accepted I’m just human. Minimalism is a journey. I’m testing my boundaries and I slip up from time to time. I find what fits me.

Since my year of buying nothing, shop and adverts fill me with dread. Sometimes it makes me feel physically nauseous to look at the money people throw away and the uselessness and poor quality of most items on our high street. The stories of the people paid next to nothing to satisfy our throw away, wasteful culture.

It might seem strange, that I found it hard to get rid of all my junk. You might ask why I would do something if it made me unhappy to do so? You might think I was crazy.

The truth is, it made me unhappy to have all that stuff. It was painful to clear everything out, but I knew I needed to do it to take the next step. My stuff was holding me back. I knew, no matter how hard it was, the result would be more beneficial than ever. It was like shedding a security layer. A caterpillar. A butterfly. A proper clear out.

The last few things you’re hanging on to? Ask yourself why. If it’s true need that’d keeping them with you, embrace that. But if it’s fear, examine it. Why do you need to keep them? What’s stopping you taking that step? Are there memories, is it the unknown, or do you just think they’ll be sad, like I did? (stop laughing at the back)

There’s always a way. And sometimes, you need to clear away the clutter to give your mind, and self, space to expand and for your journey to lead you forward. Have a true, proper clear out.



2 thoughts on “The Filing System- how to have a proper clear out

  1. It is that next step…I bagged up loads of clothes and fabrics and put them in the attic. I know I am not missing anything but I just can’t take that next step. I have a huge box of memorabilia from a gap year in Japan nearly 20 years ago. Won’t I miss it if I throw it away? It feels like it would mean it didn’t happen, yet I know that’s not right, I can’t even begin to start on it…any advice?

    1. Hi Tamsin,

      It’s really hard to let go of sentimental items, and if you’re not ready to, then that’s ok. Sometimes, after decluttering other things, it becomes easier and easier to let go of sentimental items as time goes on.

      Commonly, it’s not the actual physical items that mean a lot; it’s the memories they invoke or the emotions they bring back. I found that taking photos of each item helped me, this meant that I could have a memory of the physical object and the experiences it reminded me of, without it sitting alone and unused in the attic. I really recommend The Minimalists essay on this as well, it’s over at I kept all my photos on my computer, and a few things I wrote about what they meant to me. I no longer had the item, but I still had all the memories 🙂

      You could also start by just paring down on the amount of things. Don’t get rid of everything in one go. Decide which items mean the most to you, and keep those, whilst letting the things you’re less attached to go out into the wide world to find new owners and new uses. Eventually, you may end up with just one or two special items to remind you of your trip, things which truly have the most meaning to you. And again, one day you might find its finally the time to let them go too.

      Courtney Carver wrote a great article on Joshua Becker’s site becoming minimalist, where she suggests making a memory book with photos of all the items, and writing about your memories of that time. Well worth a read:

      Remember, minimalism isn’t about giving everything away and regretting it later. It’s finding a balance for you and making minimalism your own tool to use.

      Hope this is some help, let me know how you get on :):)

      Sal X

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