Our health is influenced by so much more than the food we eat and the exercise we do. As I wrote in this blog stress is one of the main causes of fatigue. For me, like many, the environment in which I live can be one of the biggest sources of stress.
For as long as I can remember I’ve liked living in a clean, tidy and organised space not just because it’s a nicer environment to be in but because it makes me feel calm and in control. If there’s a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, ‘important letters’ scattered around or if I can’t find the thing I’m looking for I can easily become anxious and feel overwhelmed. When I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I quickly learnt that this type of stress and anxiety had a negative effect on my wellbeing. I had to let go of my ideal of a clutter free, organised and clean home at all times, as I simply didn’t have the energy to achieve it. Now my health has improved I wanted to explore the effect our living environments can have on our health. And the more I read, the more I believe the environment/setting in which we live can influence our health as much as the food we put into our bodies.
Over the last year I’ve been doing research into organising a home and minimalist living. Much of what I have encountered has suggested that as Gretchen Rubin author of The Happiness Project puts it “outer order creates inner calm” and I know for me this is particularly true.
For years I thought the solution to improving a living environment would come from having more storage, better storage or more space to put stuff. I would buy what I thought were the ‘perfect storage solutions’ and spend hours ‘organising’ my stuff only for it to become chaotic again in a matter of days. But a few months ago I had a lightbulb moment, what if the problem wasn’t how I was organising my stuff but my stuff itself. Maybe I just needed to reduce the amount of stuff I owned to make it easier to organise and keep organised. As the great interiors master William Morris was quoted as saying:
After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and the blogs The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker I embarked on a decluttering exercise. I tackled by wardrobe and the kitchen and my partner and I took on our overstuffed bookcase taking bags and bags of stuff to the charity shop. Initially I found it exhilarating and liberating to rid myself of possessions which no longer served a valuable purpose in my life.
While it was difficult at times to get rid of things we’d spent money on or which had been gifted to us, when we took the view that these items have served their purpose in your life it became easier to let go.
We’ve also tried to minimize the items coming into our home, always asking ourselves if we need or love this item enough to bring it into our home. For Christmas we’ve asked family to not buy us items but instead to buy us experiences. It doesn’t have to be an expensive experience, it could be a trip to the cinema or a meal out, but it’s something we’ll remember and cherish more than another pair of socks or another item we appreciate but don’t really need.
However, after an initially impressive start with our clear out exercise we’ve ground to a halt. Mostly because we’re got rid of the easy items. So when I saw a the the 30-day minimalist game I decided I was going to take part – and they say it’s more fun with other people so I’m inviting you to join me too in this my first ever monthly challenge!
The idea is that on the first day of the month you get rid of one item, on the second day two, and so on until the thirtieth day when you remove 30 items from your home. By the end of the month your home and your life should be lighter to the total of 465 items!
You can remove anything: clothes, books, shoes, toys, furniture, food items (although eating them doesn’t count – sorry!), paperwork, electrical equipment, whetever you no longer need or love.
In the Minimalist’ version you have to remove that item from your home on that day. However, for me that’s not realistic as I can’t take 1, 2, 3 items to the charity shop/friends I think might want it every day. So I’ve slightly altered the rules to suit me and you can of course tailor this challenge to suit you. For example, you may not be able to declutter every day and may prefer to do your quota for the week all in one day – although I wouldn’t advise trying to do all 465 items in one day!
For me I’m going to aim to do the designated number of items each day but rather than removing them from the house every day I will do that once a week. I’ve set up 4 boxes in the shed where I will take the items each day (so I suppose technically I will have removed them from my home!) then at the end of the week I’ll remove them to their final resting place.
I have 4 boxes:
The first two are self-explanatory, the third is for items which belong to someone else and need to be returned, and the fourth is quite specific to us. We have a number of items around the house which are either broken or incomplete so we don’t use them. That doesn’t stop us loving the items but it does mean they are sitting as clutter in our lives rather than being useful or beautiful. For example, we have lots of pictures and prints we’ve collected but never framed, frames we’ve never put photos in, mirrors not hung on walls etc. Although I realise ‘fixing’ and therefore keeping these items is not truly decluttering and minimising our possessions for me it works as it transforms them from items I feel guilty and stress about as they’re not fulfilling their purpose to items I can enjoy every day.
So, starting tomorrow, that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next 30 days – fancy joining me? Whether you join in or not, if you want to see how I’m progressing with this challenge, you can follow me on Instagram @bethanyecox and I’ll post a weekly update on the blog too. If you want to share your decluttering efforts post a picture on Instagram using #novemberclutterchallenge so I can see what you’re up to!
Happy clutter clearing!