Stuffocation – a new challenge for 2016

stuffocation new year resolutions 
The issue of stuff seems to be a popular one right now. Not only is it the time of year to de-clutter our cupboards and minds but two books that came out last year are still being talked about now: Stuffocation by James Wallman, about excessive consumerism, and The Life Changing Method of Tidying by Marie Kondo, Japan’s expert declutterer who everyone seems to be quoting. I haven’t read either but I feel like I’m on a similar mission of mindfulness right now.

Basically, I’ve always owned way too much stuff and it’s been bothering me for some time. I’ve always been a thrift lover, never one to miss a charity, vintage or second hand shop and always spotting a hidden treasure in a junkyard, brick a brack shop, sale or market. Between the ages of 15 and 17 I would quite often come home to tell my parents of yet another ‘amazing’ wardrobe or dressing table I’d just bought from our local charity shop and poor them, would have to make space for it in the garage.

For longer than a decade I’ve collected fabulous things from these kind of places – never junk in my eyes, but usually something unique, unusual and always one off. I’ve never been attracted to designer handbags or glitzy high heels but I do find it hard to walk away from anything circa 1950s, 60s, 70s or 80s.

But recently I decided to clear the clutter. No more 70s platforms I can’t walk in, no more 60s playsuits I can’t wear out.

 So I listened to friends tell me about Kondo’s book and the line where she tells you to ask yourself if an item ‘sparks joy’. This sounded great in theory but realised there was a flaw.

What if everything you own brings you joy? What if you love every bit of clutter you’ve collected? That’s the problem with people like me – all their stuff brings them joy!

So I’ve tweaked Kondo’s rule of ‘sparking joy’ to make it more effective for me:

My new rule: ‘Does it bring me joy AND is it useful?’. 

I’ve finally decided I no longer want to hold on to so much stuff unless it’s useful.  For example, there’s no point keeping a beautiful pair of vintage Ralph Lauren silk trousers (which bring me a lot of joy) if they’re too long and I can’t wear them. If they fail the useful test, they have to go!

Having to tick both boxes definitely helps limit accumulation and aid elimination. With this rule in mind, recent edits and clear outs have been far more ruthless and extensive than they were a few years ago.

My recent recent house move involved several harsh culls across from kitchenware to coats. I slashed everything down and it felt really really good. I’m no longer cluttered and there’s plenty of space in my new flat BUT that’s not a reason to start collecting, buying and owning again. 

I guess that’s where the mindfulness comes in – it’s being aware and connected to what’s in our lives, physically and mentally, and assessing our relationship with it. 

>> My aim this year is to get to the point where I’m not just a non-hoarder but, in an ideal world, I’d like to get to the point where I only own what I use. I want to own a curated collection of things, not everything. I realise it might be a tall order but there’s no harm in trying.

There’s something cathartic about the notion of owning less. I’m looking forward to the feeling of lightness and simplicity. Of quality not quantity. I feel like this whole experiment (and I do see this as an experiment of sorts)  could be a form of psychological and emotional release too.

I appreciate this new attitude towards stuff jars with the super-charged commercial and highly materialistic world we live in but I’ve got to the point where I actually want to be free of it all.

If I could halve what I own in the next six months I’ll consider it a success. In the meantime, I’m operating on a one-in-one-out basis which is an achievable way of keeping on top of things, especially good if you’re not quite ready for a complete cull. Let’s see if I am!

Time for a clear out?

Every year, around December time, I think the same old things: I think about all the crap that I haven’t sorted out, all the the things I’ve failed to sell on eBay and the bag of ‘clothes-to-fix’ that I haven’t touched. Is anyone else the same?!

So what could be more apt than a round-up of things to do with your old stuff that doesn’t involve the dump, the nearest charity shop, or as some people like to do, chuck it in the bin – quelle horreur!

1. Dress for Success. Believe it or not, there are people who need your old suit that you wore once to an interview more than you, as well as those black bootleg trousers you can’t bear the sight of. They are women on low incomes who need presentable clothes for interviews and the Dress for Success charity (which started in New York and is now international) sorts this out. They take donations of clothing, handbags, shoes and accessories from individuals and retailers and help to dress women who are lined up for an interview. Next time you’re having a clear-out do consider them for any work-y type clothes – the offices are located near Angel/Islington in London as well as around the world. Check them out here http://dressforsuccess.org/whatwedo.aspx

2. Chic & Seek. Sometimes you have a really special item that you don’t have the heart to throw away – maybe a designer item you once bought on a whim or a pair of twinkly heels that just don’t fit properly – but let’s face it, you’re never going to wear them and they’re wasting space in your wardrobe. That’s where Chic & Seek come in! The lovely ladies there will buy your designer item from you and sell it on. Founder Tara says, ‘one lady’s loss is another’s gain’. If you live in London, they can even arrange pick-up. Plus, if you love shopping for high-end second hand, you’ll definitely want to take a look at what they have on offer for yourself – A LOT of high end bargains! http://www.chicandseek.com

3. Give to the homeless. Last year I found a shelter (The Passage, near Victoria Station in London) that would take a few old blankets and pillows I was chucking out. I believe the homeless charity St Mungo’s may take donations of bedding and warm clothes – something desperately in need at this time of year. So it’s definitely worth researching to find a local hostel or centre. There are also lots of smaller shelters that always need resources such as Shelter from the Storm. Another charity I found recently that takes donations is The Trussell Trust which distributes food donations to families in need.

4. Freecycle! Yes, freecycle really does work and it operates all over the world. It’s the best way of recycling without the hassle of postage because whoever wants your item has to come and pick it up for free. You just post the item online, people reply with their interest, you choose someone and they come and pick it up. No money exchanged no bother on your part. Easy peasy!! And the people taking the item off you are usually SO grateful. I gave away an old sofa a few months ago and the girls who took it were so happy they sent me a photo of the sofa in their lounge – was so funny! One of my fav ways to recycle! Check out your local freecycle here http://www.uk.freecycle.org/

would love to know what you do with old items – and happy giving!