The Joy of Empty

Photo by Katja Rooke on Unsplash

When you declutter and see open space for the first time, you feel inspired. It’s not looked like that for years! Now you have space for more books and that beautiful basket you had your eye on. But wait! Just because you can fill the space doesn’t mean you should.

I used to look at open spaces with glee when I realised I could get a bigger shelving unit for my books and figurines, or an additional cabinet to organise my collections. The more cupboards and drawers a unit had, the better. 

What I didn’t realise at the time was the amount of time I spent cleaning these pieces of furniture, removing all my things from the shelves and wiping them down, then dusting the objects themselves. Then came the task of putting it all back only for the dust to reappear a week later. I would wear myself out cleaning at weekends, and I was always organising and rearranging my stuff to try to make my life easier. 

It never did.

Despite this exhaustion, I was always dreaming of having a bigger place so I had more space to enjoy my life, to have the things I wanted, and to host friends and family. One day, maybe I’d get that big lottery win and my storage problems would be solved. 

If only I knew that my dream home was already there, hidden under all my stuff. All I needed was less. 

I didn’t need a bigger home (which would have taken even more cleaning and maintaining), I just needed to get rid of some things. 

One day, I’d had enough and felt like something needed to change. I’d just been forced to declutter a tonne of childhood stuff from my parents’ attic, and had momentarily been introduced to the feeling of lightness after discarding most of it. It was also the first time I questioned why I’d kept and accumulated it in the first place. I started reading books about decluttering, and that’s when I discovered the book which kickstarted my minimalist journey; ‘The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. 

As I got rid of more and more stuff, my journey became more challenging. Getting rid of so much stuff also meant accepting my ego and the need to show off my collections that I never used, played, or read. Most of what I had was there to convey a message to everyone around me. “I am well-read and enjoy all these books, I’m not dumb!”. “Look at my impressive games collection! I’m fun to know and have enough to make a YouTube channel”. 

There were also things I kept hidden away to remind myself that despite being heavily bullied when I was at school, I wasn’t any of the things I had been called. That I did have friends and was, in fact, likable. The challenge was letting go of the crutches and believing those things without the objects. 

Other things were relics from my childhood that I simply hadn’t been able to let go of, like old soft toys, keyrings, cyber pets, phones, a Dear Diary, and other prominent pieces that held a lot of memories. 

I even kept things that were gifts or memorabilia from past relationships. They reminded me I’d been loved but was also embarrassing evidence that part of me hadn’t let go. This meant there were parts of me that weren’t living in the present and giving my all to my current life. These injured parts of the self were stuck in the past, still trying to confirm their self worth. 

It took me a couple of years to get to the point where I considered myself minimalist, and now 6 years later, I consider myself a dedicated minimalist committed to owning less and living a meaningful life. 

That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes and never fall prey to impulse purchases. Of course I do. Like many people, when I’m low or tired I’m definitely susceptible to shopping therapy; cruising the Pokemon Centre online, looking for more colouring supplies on Amazon, or browsing for more videogames to add to my backlog. 

Thankfully, years of being minimalist has taught me that I can feel the shame, let the mistakes go and try again. The money has already gone, but the lesson has been learned. 

In the end minimalism is more than just decluttering your stuff, it’s discovering who you are and continuously learning how to live a better, simpler life. It’s accepting where you are now but gaining the muscles to act. 

So the next time you’re having a clean around, I urge you; look around and think hard about that shelf of books and tchoktes. Feel yourself in an emptier, simpler space and see it as gained time and energy. What can empty space do for your life? 

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