Incurably Curious

How To Throw Away All Your Crap & Feel Brilliant About It

Minimalism2Every time I visit my parents, I have a massive row with my mother about the hoard of Disney videos gathering dust in my old room. She keeps them in the unshakeable belief that they “might be worth something one day”, and it drives me absolutely mental. 

So every time I come back home I bitch to my housemates about my mother’s infuriating inability to throw anything out, even when it’s blatantly obvious to anyone that a shitty VHS of The Rescuers Down Under is never going to be worth anything. Unfortunately, as my housemates are swift to point out, I am in no position to judge. For I, too, am a bit a hoarder.

I love stuff. I love buying things. I only don’t like shopping in actual shops because I am a borderline sociopath and might kill someone one day for walking too slowly, but I have, as friends and flatmates unanimously agree, too much stuff. (Online shopping is my problem, especially ASOS. They do next day delivery. And who doesn’t love getting a package in the post? Even if you know exactly what’s in it and you’ve paid for it yourself, swapping your autograph for a big brown box of instant gratification is one of life’s greatest pleasures.)
“Why do you have so many shoes? You haven’t worn some of them in years,” someone once asked.
“Yes, but some of them aren’t for wearing,”
“What are they for then?”
“They’re Art,” I said sulkily. “You wouldn’t understand.”

There are few things I dislike more than girls who bang on about their shoes like they represent a significant part of their personality (“teehee, I’m a real-life Carrie Bradshaw!” Fuck off.) Unfortunately, though, I have inadvertently become one. I have forty pairs, a quarter of which are completely unsuitable for, well, anything.

And it doesn’t stop there. I have so many clothes I can go up to a month without doing laundry. Every surface in my room is covered in crap.. Nobody has seen my floor in weeks.

My long-suffering housemates. James and James, have to bear the brunt of my terrible condition. At the beginning of January they suggested we play the Minimalist Game, a joyless exercise in the great and boring art of Throwing Things Away made up by the two blokes behind The Minimalists blog. All we had to do was throw away, donate or sell an item. Just one on the first day, but then two on the second. And three on the third. And so on. The person to stay in the game the longest would win.

If we all made it to the end of the month, we would have each removed 496 unnecessary things from our lives.

Well, that clearly wasn’t going to happen, I thought. I knew I had a bit of decluttering to do, but there was no way I had nearly five hundred possessions to toss. I agreed to it anyway, and so the great purge commenced.

At first it was fun. You throw away only a smattering of items in the first few days, most of which you’ve probably been meaning to get rid of anyway. Jettisoning items already earmarked for Oxfam brings on a pleasing feeling of (undeserved) satisfaction, the kind you get when you cross something really easy off your To Do list, like ‘take a shower’ or ‘have dinner’.

Around day seven it began to get more difficult. I’d already binned my manky slippers and saggy-gusseted bikini bottoms. Gone too were all the fossilised bottles of nail polish and half-full tubes of tinted moisturiser I’ll never use because they give me hives. With both Jameses still going strong, though, I knew it was nearly time to tackle my wardrobe.

Throwing away clothes is always an emotional experience. No matter how old or too small, binning old threads is hard. The best thing to do is set parameters that force your hand when emotions inevitably cloud your better judgement. Initially, anything that I hadn’t worn in two years was chucked, and even then every elimination brought on feelings of grief and guilt. Most of all, I feared regretting my decision. Sort of like wardrobe FOMO, I guess.

MinimalismItems2 on Make A Gif

But after it was done, I felt great. I started to gain momentum. I found my fancy dress box and binned everything, even the most excellent purple wig I wore to be Buzz Lightyear at the work Christmas party. I tossed anything made of that sweaty polyester. And anything more than one size too small. Then anything I hadn’t worn in eighteen months. I plateaued on day fourteen, then realised I had a whole cache of untapped crap in my knicker drawer. Out went the sad orphaned knickers and magnificently uncomfortable Elle MacPherson bra I secretly hated but kept because it was expensive. Then I tried on everything that made me feel fat and got rid of that. Then anything I hadn’t worn in a year. I was on a roll! Unstoppable! A minimalist in the making!

I came third. Which is a pretty poor show, considering there are only three of us and I definitely have the most stuff. But I still lasted until day eighteen, way longer than we thought. In total I got rid of 161 items, made some cash on eBay, and gave a shitload to charity. Twenty pairs of shoes bit the dust. The Jameses, who both threw in the towel on day twenty, binned 385 more items.

Minimalism

Our flat is now a little bit emptier and we spent the eBay money on steak. So, you know, worth it.

Would you ever try the Minimalist Game? How long do you think you could last?

An edited version of this piece originally appeared on The Debrief.

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34 comments on “How To Throw Away All Your Crap & Feel Brilliant About It

  1. girlseule
    March 11, 2014

    I’m heading overseas and I don’t really have anywhere to store my stuff, well, no where I can store it without paying anyway. I am going to have to get rid of most of it. Part of me is like, “woo hoo, fresh start” but then I look at some things and think, “Oh god, how can I say good-bye!”

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Ooh! It must be sort of nice in a way having a situation like that when you really have no choice. Let me know how it goes!

  2. frugoal
    March 11, 2014

    This is a great post! Really great inspiration for me to minimize me life!

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Thank you! Let me know how long you can go for. ;)

  3. I raised my hand as soon as I started reading this. I have a giant box of Disney VHS flicks in my basement because my mother bought them for my girls when they were little. She was so proud of buying them, she feels like they are Oscars. I can’t sneak them out because she lives with us!

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Yeah, there is something about Disney VHS tapes, isn’t there? I think it’s because they were quite expensive to buy. My mother informs me that she spent a lot of money on them and isn’t going to stand by and then potential millions go to waste.

      When my father was in his twenties, my grandmother threw away a lot of matchbox cars which nowadays would be worth a few thousand. This story has haunted my mother and now she lives in permanent fear of accidentally throwing away future collectibles.

      This is the woman who kept hold of my father’s purple crusty toenail though (full story: http://incurablycurious.com/2013/10/30/my-mother-is-a-witch/), so it’s definitely in the blood too.

      • You are totally right. Those Disney VHS tapes were all “specially released” and a total fortune (which I was also reminded of) so I keep them in the obligatory box. And those Matchbox cars! Now toenails, let me get a beer and I’ll come back and read that one.

      • CuriousEmily
        March 16, 2014

        She compares them to vinyl, which is just hilarious. Have you watched a VHS recently? The quality is shite, whereas vinyl still has a special quality. ¬_¬ She won’t listen though.

        Disney made a killing with those tapes though, and now they’re re-releasing them as Blu-Rays which are about £20 a pop. O.o

  4. gabrieleneumann
    March 11, 2014

    I have SO many dresses that I don’t have enough room in my closet anymore. Every week, I pick one out to sell on eBay. Less stuff AND I make money!

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      That’s a great idea! Get rid of one item of clothing a week…there’s always something that can go.

  5. Caroline
    March 11, 2014

    I’m a great believer in a good declutter. Well done. It’s not easy if you aren’t naturally inclined.

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      I agree, but I think it gets easier once you get going. :)

  6. Anastasia
    March 11, 2014

    YES! I’ve been decluttering lately and it feels amazing. This post has inspired me to finish the job :)

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Best of luck! The Minimalist Challenge is really good at eking out all those inbetweener items that are especially difficult to discard.

  7. carlajuniper
    March 11, 2014

    Love the gif! Great idea :)

  8. carlajuniper
    March 11, 2014

    I can’t help but notice though, it looks as though you purged all your sensible shoes and kept the mental ones!

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      The sensible ones are the ones that went in the bin, not the charity shop. ;) I kept a few mental pairs. I’m wearing some today!

  9. Jenni
    March 11, 2014

    My ex-husband used to call me the ‘discarder’ due to the fact that I hate clutter and if it didn’t get used it went to charity or the dump. Of course he was the ‘destroyer’ due to his natural talent to simply walk past something and have it break. It does seem to be a great idea however and something that I could use on my my husband and our housemate who tend to hang on to things that make absolutely no sense at all.

    I mean Jason (housemate) keeps the boxes of things he bought 10 years ago in case he ever wants to sell it – and we’re talking tech that is just one step up from a tin can with string as a speaking device. There are so many computer cables, printer connections and the lady knows what else from the the flight sim that it is a little bit like living in a computer repair shop at times which is of course like living in hell for the discarder in me.

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      What a cracking nickname! It sounds like you need to go through Jason’s shit while he’s out – for his own good! And think of all the space he’ll be saving.

      I think the rule is, if you mean to sell it and can’t be bothered within thirty days, you never will.

      • Jenni
        March 13, 2014

        Precisely – he hides things so we don’t throw them out, it’s like having a magpie around.

  10. Madeleine
    March 11, 2014

    I need to give this a go. It’s true when you say it can be emotional though. I have a skirt I haven’t worn in 3 of more years because it’s a size too small, but every time I look at it I just say to myself “I’ll lose weight”. It’s like it’s silently judging and resenting me.

  11. Leanne
    March 11, 2014

    I moved to London with only a fraction of stuff I own and yet I don’t miss anything that I’ve left behind! It’s crazy how much stuff we collect over time x

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Exactly! The fear is totally unfounded, as soon as something has been thrown away we forget it almost totally. We’re fickle like that. ;)

  12. Madeleine
    March 11, 2014

    I just remembered a Buddhist teaching that might help prevent the stuff building up again, which is every time you bring something new into your home, discard something else. This really helps you to think, “do I really need this?” when buying something, and you keep reevaluating your stuff.

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      This is a really good idea, especially if you divide it into defined categories…like ‘going out dresses’, ‘jeans’, ‘eyeliner’…I might give this a whirl as well as the throwing away one garment a week thing mentioned by another commenter.

  13. ZoeyDuncan
    March 11, 2014

    I live in a fairly small apartment complex but we have pretty decent uptake when it comes to dropping things off at the “back-door vortex”. I read your post while sitting next to the worst corner of my apartment (“worst” meaning most-cluttered with unused things and most-feared by guests). I think it’s time to feed the vortex.

    Congrats on your purge!

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Haha – ‘feed the vortex!’ Love it. I think everyone has those little areas where stuff floats around in limbo. You know the stuff, not quite shit enough just to toss out wholesale, but not not shit enough to have its own permanent place to live.

  14. worththedrive
    March 11, 2014

    I’ve room for two things in my wardrobe until I’m at breaking point (literally, two hangers left and I can’t physically fit any more on the rail). But if I throw out something I hardly wear I just *know* I’ll find a use for it at some point down the line…

    Regarding the ASOS excitement: I returned back to my flat yesterday after a week at my mum and dad’s house to find an ASOS package that had been squashed through my letterbox. I knew what was in it and I knew it was there waiting for me (thanks ASOS text alerts), but I still dropped everything I was carrying and tore it open, like a demonic child at Christmas.

    God bless consumerism!

    • CuriousEmily
      March 13, 2014

      Yes, this is the problem! I live in fear of regretting a throw-away, especially if it’s still ‘wearable’, i.e. not falling apart. “Sure, it’s unflattering and bobbly,” I’ll think to myself, “but sometimes it’s nice to have a shit sweater just to loaf around in!”

      It’s a disease. :(

      I’m a twat for ASOS too. I get parcels delivered to work and I have to go and try everything on in the toilets IMMEDIATELY.

  15. Pingback: Moving | I Am No Bird

  16. Leah
    March 23, 2014

    Great post, and I love the gif! I definitely have a ton of stuff, especially clothing and books, that don’t need to be in my possession anymore.

    Regarding the gif, does that mean you only got rid of everything on the last day?

    • CuriousEmily
      March 31, 2014

      As soon as I started the challenge I was like, I AM ABSOLUTELY DOING A GIF OF THIS. It was actually a real fucker to do, James 1 had a camera on a tripod with a remote and I had to keep laying shit out. ^_^

      We kept everything in the living room once it had been ‘thrown away’, then we discarded everything at once. Required some epic self-control not to fish things back out again!

  17. tattoogirl
    March 28, 2014

    I am a sociopathic, online shopping addicted, shoe and clothing hoarder too!! So glad I read this. I just started to declutter–but I started with my daughter’s clothing. I’m not yet ready to part with mine yet.

  18. Daniel W
    July 9, 2014

    My Mum was clearing out the loft and found a VHS of Jurassic Park. No kidding, she asked me if she should keep it in case of grandchildren. Which are at a minimum 9 months away (assuming an immediate accidental one-night-stand impregnation), not to mention the 12 more years to be old enough to watch Jurassic Park. By which time we’ll be on to supergoldplatinum-ray discs by then.

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