365 Objects by Misha Herwin

The year in 365 objects

January 2018: Oppressed by bulging wardrobes, drawers that refused to shut and surfaces on which piles of papers teetered precariously, I resolved that I would begin a life laundry− a clear out of all superfluous objects. 

I had watched the programmes where chronic hoarders were helped to rid themselves of their stuff by professional de-clutterers; I’d read the articles that told you that unless an object filled you with delight then it had no place in your life. Neither, apparently, did garments that had not been worn for over a year. All these things should be moved on, rehomed to clear your house and so give you space that would work on both a physical and psychological level.

On one level, all this resonated with me. I knew I had too much stuff. The trouble was I did not have the mental, or emotional energy for the sort of clear out recommended by the professionals. Faced by the prospect of all my clothes being laid out for me to decide which were to be kept, which recycled and which binned was too much to contemplate. The very idea of taking them all out of the cupboard drained me of energy and enthusiasm for the project.

The only way for me, was to start small. Very small. So I decided that every day for a whole year I would get rid of, throw away, recycle or rehome one thing. It could be as big as a pair of shoes I had never worn, or as tiny as a pencil sharpner, but each day something would go and to make sure I kept to my resolution (and that what had been relegated to the throwing out pile could not sneak its way back) I would note down what I was decluttering in my diary. 

A year on and my dairy is full of headings such as, white bowl, old notebook, grey socks, china frog.
My experiment had been successful. The house was minus 365 unwanted, unused, un-loved or superfluous objects.

The frightening thing is that in spite of having shifted so much, there is no visible sign that anything has been removed, which shows how much of what I owned was neither necessary, nor life-enhancing. Most of it, I held on to simply because it was there. Among the last objects of 2018 were six soup bowls that had not been used in over twenty years. 

Now that these are gone, there is more room in the cupboard, but only marginally. There is still more crockery than I will ever need and no good reason for keeping it, except for a residual fear that one day it might come in handy.

This is the classic hoarder’s reasoning and totally spurious. It won’t ever be needed and if on the million to one chance it is, you can always buy or borrow another one.

I thought when I started this, that I would find it difficult and there were times when it was hard to decide what must go, but in general I found the whole experience liberating. Alghough as I said before, the house doesn’t look any different, it feels it. There is something very constraining about too much stuff. It presses down and hems you in; a cluttered workspace makes it more difficult to make decisions, let along wastes time that has to be spent in searching for that piece of official paper, which should have been filed, but which you didn’t get round to doing and is now buried deep in the in-box basket.

For some people not filing a document immediately is anathema, for others discarding one is impossible. I fit somewhere between those two extremes, but I now know that when everything is where it should be, I feel better, lighter, more relaxed. 

A year on, I crave more of that feeling of liberation. I have learned that very few things are irreplaceable and that the fewer things you have the easier life becomes.  No more staring blankly at six pairs of trousers deciding which one you will wear today, or scrabbling through the scarf drawer to find the one you thought you remembered from five years ago which would go perfectly with that particular outfit. 

Another thing I discovered was that while some things have so much emotional baggage attached to them, by taking a picture and filing that away, it is possible to move those on too. 

All in all 2018 was a de-cluttering success. So much so that I’m repeating the exercise in 2019.


Umberto Tosi said…
A capital idea, well carried out and journaled! I'm inspired. Also, intrigued by your vignette, perhaps intentionally, being a promising seed for a Dostoyevsky-like short story. Happy de-cluttering and new year!
Ann Turnbull said…
I've been trying to de-clutter for a year or more now. I'd love to get back to that moment 29 years ago when we moved into this big, empty house with its high ceilings, and I said, "We need some stuff!"
julia jones said…
I have discovered a friend who is equipping her own centre in Malawi. She wants EVERYTHING as the people she knows have NOTHING This is the most helpful encouragement I have every had determining me to declutter. My target is a car load a week. She is filling a shipping container

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