When I was a kid, my material possessions brought me a lot of comfort. In fact, the closer I kept them, the better.
So, everything special to me got to live in my bed. Or, it lived on the floor right next to my bed, where I could easily reach it.
And I know what you’re thinking: how did you sleep?
Well, I moved all the toys and books over to one side to provide just enough room for my body. And eventually, I learned not to wake up when poked with sharp bits of plastic.
I thought knowing everything was safe made me feel better. But in reality, I was learning to distract myself with a meaningless duty to ultimately meaningless objects.
Even when I moved on from keeping it all in my bed right next to me, things would spread across the floor or get stuffed into my tiny closet.
Back in those days, my mom wouldn’t let me keep my door open during the day because looking at my hoard stressed her out. Thinking back, I don’t blame her. The thought of it stresses me out now.
The (Sorta) Reformation
When I moved out on my own, I gave up the deep attachment to my worldly possessions. It wasn’t so much a spiritual awakening as it was out of necessity.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been squished into a dorm room with three other people, but it doesn’t exactly leave a ton of room to keep unnecessary, mildly sentimental crap.
It was the first time where everything I owned had a space of its own and it stayed there any time I wasn’t using it. Although, most of what I owned was still tucked away safe in various cupboards at my parents house.
Then, I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with a very messy roommate. Feeling out of control with her mess made me hyper focused on cleaning my own stuff. So I maintained a serial killer level of tidiness where I could… and bitched about my roommate to anyone who would listen.
Falling in Love…With Shopping
Throughout university I lived in different places, with different people, but always kept my own items streamline. I never bought anything unless I needed it, because I always believed I was one starbucks latte away from bankruptcy, despite having saved thousands of dollars for living expenses.
But things changed when I started dating my husband.
He convinced me it was ok to loosen the purse strings for things I really needed. I could afford it, and spending a little more now meant spending less on replacing poorly made junk down the line. Made sense.
But then I realized how good it felt to have something new and absolutely beautiful. And I became hooked.
It was slow at first. I would just buy things that I genuinely needed to replace. But as I got more comfortable with swiping my cards, I started buying things just for the temporary joy I got from getting something new.
The more depressed and anxious I got over the years, the easier it became to justify the little bump in mood I got from buying.
And two things made it even easier:
1. Amazon Prime made it so I didn’t have to leave my house.
2. Second hand shopping made everything feel like a deal.
I started spending hundreds of dollars on things I didn’t really need. Pretty soon I had a full closet, a full clothing rack, and a full dresser of clothing that I only wore maybe 15% of.
My dumbest impulse purchase to date is this tiny floral Coach bag:
It’s beautiful…and goes with absolutely nothing I own! It also fits like a stick of gum and two tic-tacs. UGH!
After roughly a year of trying to fill every void with stuff, I felt like I was being swallowed whole by my possessions.
I couldn’t even focus on work. All I could think of was the piles of stuff in the corners of my vision with nowhere to go.
My kitchen cupboards were overflowing, my giant bookshelf was stuffed, and I didn’t even know what was in my packed dresser anymore…I just grabbed whatever was on top and never looked in my closet.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
One morning I decided to get rid of one or two things in my kitchen I knew we never used. But once those couple things were out of the way, a wave of rage and energy washed over me. I knew it was time to go big.
I took everything out of the cupboards and made a few piles: stuff I knew I wouldn’t use, stuff I used everyday, and stuff that seemed to matter to my husband.
A few things were automatic toss items. If it was chipped, it was gone. If we had more than two of them (except dishes), the worst ones were gone. If it was part of a gag gift, it was SO gone.
When I finally got through it all, the donation pile took up a quarter of my living room. Being a great wife, I let my husband give the pile a once over before bagging it all up and dragging it down to the donation bin my apartment complex conveniently keeps in the parking lot.
It felt amazing!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a before pic, but here’s what it looks like now:
From there, I started binging minimalism videos on YouTube and going through every other part of my house. My closet, my drawers, my bookshelf, everything was ripped apart.
My husband and I ended up donating 8 large trash bags worth of stuff from our two bedroom apartment and creating systems for every room that are beautifully organized.
Although, because we are fallible humans, there are a couple key places that could already use a tune-up.
My Shameful Secret
These days, I try not to buy anything that isn’t on my shopping list for at least a week. I boycotted Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, except for a few pair of pants that I desperately needed.
My thunder thighs tend to burst through the seams pretty quickly…but that’s another story. One you’re probably familiar with.
Anyway, all that sentimental and rainy day stuff I kept at my parents’ house when I moved out at 18? It’s all still sitting there, untouched.
I probably have more there than I currently have in my apartment, and it’s making my parents feel swallowed whole by my possessions. I feel terrible.
So, that will be the next task when I’m home over Christmas break. And I’m planning to make a video diary of the cleanup process!
If you want to see the next step in my de-hoarding journey, let me know in the comments. If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear that too.