I don't remember exactly when it happened but one day a few months ago I had an overwhelming urge to throw everything out of my house. I started imagining myself looking into bathroom cupboards that were bare except for toilet rolls, shampoo and toothpaste. The kitchen pantry would house just the staples and there would be empty shelves in cupboards where clothes once sat. Like all of my great brainwaves, I decided it was best to hold off on this wonderful idea for a little longer to see if I felt the same way further down the track. And, on a practical level, a busy schedule meant I really didn't have time for the overhaul I was imagining.
In the meantime, I scoured the internet and started to read about The Minimalists who took absolutely everything from their cupboards and packed them into boxes where they stayed until their use was really necessary. In this case, only the essentials made it back to the cupboards and shelves, and the rest was taken away. Now, while I am in awe of this action and I can certainly understand its merit and the value in living as a minimalist, I had to think it through very carefully. I knew, as I read their blog that this was their experience, their story, but not necessarily mine. To be authentic I had to determine what would work best for me. And in reality, I knew as a sentimentalist I really couldn't be a total minimalist. However, after contemplation, I realised I was really desiring a simpler lifestyle and therefore, I wanted to commit to being a minimalist sentimentalist.
So, I started the de-clutter with a few ground rules:
1. I would de-clutter for a period of time each day. This would be whenever I felt inspired to do so.
2. I would not de-clutter all day as that would become incredibly tedious. Heart warming activities were vital.
3. If I felt I needed a day away from de-cluttering, that was ok too.
4. If any item was broken, damaged, too small, too big, unused or ugly it had to go.
I was keen to get started and made my bathroom the starting point. There was an overabundance of skin care; all products with claims to moisturise the driest of skins. None of these obviously worked, so it was relatively easy to throw them out. Hairbrushes that hurt the scalp and hair ties, no longer required, were also easy to ditch.
The next stop was also relatively simple; any clothes in my wardrobe that I hadn't worn had to go! Any that were too small (oops, more than I'd like to admit!) or just outdated had to go, no matter what price I had paid or where I had worn them. These would be put to good use by a charity. Shirts, jumpers, skirts, pants and shoes all made the big, green garbage bag.
There was, however, one wardrobe item that I struggled to part with. It was the jacket I wore when I went to the Philippines in 1981 as a Rotary Exchange Student. Just looking at the jacket with the Rotary emblem emblazoned on the front pocket brought back a flood of memories. There I was, all fresh faced, standing at Melbourne Airport 18 January, 1981, with family and friends waiting to board a flight to Manila and then on to Cebu. I was wearing the Rotary jacket with a matching skirt that Mum had made. I was nervous and excited, serious and emotional all at the same time. My life was about to change in ways I could never imagine. To say that my time in the Philippines was life changing is an understatement. I fell deeply in love with the country and its people. This was no quick fling. It's an ongoing life-long love affair. Only, there's no secrecy about this love affair. I'm happy to share all the details with one and all!
Of course, when I considered the jacket against the criteria, it had to go. Although it it is still in fine condition and it presents well it certainly does not fit me and therefore, hasn't been worn for over thirty years. However, contrary to the ground rules I'd set I reasoned that the jacket would have no significance for anybody else. Who would want it? And I justified keeping the jacket, complete with badges from students from other countries, as a meaningful keepsake. Perhaps, I needed to add a clause stating that meaningful keepsakes were an exception to the de-cluttering rules?
On the other hand, I have rarely taken the jacket from the wardrobe in all the years it has been hanging there. And, even if I could fit in to it I would have no place to wear it. I still remember 1981 quite clearly and I have extraordinary memories. I don't need a jacket to prompt me!
I stood examining the jacket and pondering. I sighed deeply, took the jacket from my bedroom, hung it up in the laundry, took several photos and then......just left it there. And there it remains, for now.
Does it stay or does it go?
What meaningful keepsakes have you surrendered and what have you kept?
And now the de-clutter moves to the kitchen. I'll let you know what happens to the jacket.