Confessions of a minimalist hoarder

Recently I have spent a lot of time looking into the concept of minimalism and what it would mean for me to start minimizing my life.

I love the idea of eliminating aspects of life and material possessions that are bringing you little or no value. It is a process of de-cluttering not only your physical space, but also freeing up your mental space, so that you are able to focus more clearly on what you find to be truly important.

Historically I have been a bit of a hoarder. To clarify, I am not a hoarder in the sense that my house is so crammed with things that there is no visible floor space, but in the past I have had a hard time saying goodbye to things that I’ve held some kind of nostalgic attachment to.

I have clung on to old movie tickets for years to the point where the writing has faded beyond comprehension. I keep mementos from all of my holidays – postcards, old ticket stubs, brochures and other paraphernalia I picked up along the way. I cling to clothing that I haven’t worn in years with the thought that one day there may be an occasion to wear them…one day. My PVR is filled with TV recordings and movies I am adamant that I will watch when I can find the time – which is often never.

At the beginning of the year I decided to reverse some of my hoarder tendencies by clearing out most of the old clothes I had left behind at my parents’ house. As a former charity shopper I had piles and piles of clothing to sift through and set aside to donate and the feeling of clearing everything out was positively liberating.

After going through the process of eliminating so many clothes I realised that I have more than enough clothes, to the point that I really shouldn’t be buying any more. So as part of my attempt to become more minimal I have decided that I am not going to buy any new clothing unless I have items that are close to falling apart and need to be replaced. So far so good – I haven’t bought anything for three months and counting.

As part of reclaiming my time I have become more purposeful about how I spend my free moments. As an avid reader of the news I noticed that the largely negative focus of mainstream news on my commutes would start my days off with a cloud of negativity hanging over me.

I realised that part of clearing my mind in the morning would involve cultivating a meditative state and reading more optimistic articles, all of which has helped me to start the day from a more upbeat and positive place.

Another tenet of minimalism is to consume less and create more, which is where this blog comes in. Being productive and creating content as opposed to simply consuming it all the time has given me a more purposeful way to spend my free time.

Adding to that, the act of writing has not only provided a great form of creative expression, it has also provided me with time to focus and centre myself, akin to a state of meditation.

With all of the changes I have made towards leading a more minimal life, I can see that they have gradually made me happier and healthier by extension.

There is further to go, more ways that I can minimize going forward, but starting the journey is the hardest part and I feel good about the fact that I am on the path to a simpler, more minimal life.


Mary Poppins Syndrome: the curse of our bottomless handbags

The defining feature of Mary Poppins, for me, is not that she was wonderfully chipper or that she could really hold a musical note. It was that she had a bottomless bag, and I could really use one of those.

I have been called Poppins for the very reason that, like Mary, I try to be prepared for every eventuality. My oversized handbag is filled to the brim, packed with my necessities – umbrella (for rain), sunglasses (for rays), tissues (for sniffles), plasters (for scrapes), lipsticks (to transform), water bottle (to avoid dehydration), almonds (to snack on). It also happens to be filled with all sorts of floating debris, from opened, faded packets of gum which may no longer be edible, rogue nuts and half nuts, torn receipts and more.

Many woman understand my plight. I know this because on occasion I have held another friend’s bag and buckled under the weight of it, sighing with relief that I am not the only person to be suffering from what I like to call Mary Poppins syndrome.

I think it is a good thing to be prepared. The Scouts obviously think it’s a good thing to be prepared too. But on occasion I have had to pay the price for this.

Case in point being on a trip to New York when I ended up being labeled “Disabled Poppins” when I injured my leg after attempting to carry around all of the above contents whilst traversing the city day and night for two weeks.

Once my limp became unbearable I sought refuge in the nearest Duane Reade and bought a leg support band. This allowed me to continue to hobble around for a few extra days but I knew then that I needed help. Out with my 24/7 supply of water and any nice to have items, in with the bare necessities – wallet, keys, phone.

I have since discovered that I got off light with a leg injury. Apparently heavy handbags are a major cause of back pain, headaches and muscle stiffness. This is not in any way surprising but is still somewhat alarming given I live in London and must carry a bag when travelling by foot, bus and train.

The good thing is I have changed tack and bought the ultimate utility item for those days when I know that I am going to be pounding the pavement for hours – a backpack. It is medium-sized, black so that it goes with everything, and I can fit everything I need and still have plenty of space. This has been a revelation for me and there can be no turning back.

Here’s to being prepared – without causing grievous bodily injury.