It’s fairly easy for me to write this today, as the sun is shining, my bed is made and my dogs are both quiet and clean. It’s made for a good start. This shift in my attitude has also allowed me to look at my usual thought patterns from an outsider’s perspective and evaluate.
There are days when I convince myself that someone else’s faults or actions have ruined my trajectory. It becomes easy to blame another person for my mood – usually a family member or a colleague. Worse, I often view the ‘suffering’ I experience as some sort of martyrdom, allowing me to occupy the moral high ground in any situation.
Part of this is because I have always been terrible at communicating my needs. There have been times when my husband has made decisions he believes to be in our best interests, only for me to explode months later over how he wronged me. This is not healthy for either of us.
Therefore, I’m taking the opportunity to release attitudes as well as items. Though I grew up in an environment where I was encouraged to be silent, I no longer live that way. I am married to a kind man who wants to progress our life together, and I expect he wouldn’t mind if I asked for what I need. Also, it’s time to take responsibility for the way I feel day to day. If there is something I don’t like, I need to fix it rather than let it fester.
In the long weekend, the Laird Hamilton and I went through the attic, disposing of or donating two carloads of stuff that we didn’t need. Some huge progress was made on Friday and Saturday, and I’m feeling no regrets. I felt a little sadness knowing that some things hadn’t worked out – my entire pinup wardrobe no longer feels right on me, for instance. Otherwise, everything was good, and I love all the space on my rails.
However, on Monday, I noticed that I felt less inclined to continue my journey. This was baffling, as I’d eliminated an entire bookcase and got down to six pairs of shoes. Why wouldn’t I want to continue?
It might have been a shock to the system. My first thought upon seeing that empty wall where a vintage bookcase once stood was, ‘It looks like no one lives here.’ Obviously, that isn’t the case. We still have plenty of furniture and general stuff to ensure that the place looks inhabited. But maybe it’s time to move away from the discard mode for a while and focus on maintaining the house in its current state. I don’t want to find that, like a pendulum, my sense of self swings back towards the comfort of stuff to compensate.
This thought pattern caused me to remember the different techniques for having a clearout. Marie Kondo recommends doing the whole house at once in a quick-fire roundup and discharge. I did this for my wardrobe once and found it rather intense. Conversely, FlyLady suggests that you can devote 15 minutes of time to a space, then come back to it the next day. It might not be enough time to see progress on the first day, but gradually working at something can prevent overwhelm. Then again, if the clutter itself is overwhelming, you might not have the luxury of time before you experience panic.
Part of the minimising journey is whittling everything down to see your own core. I’m learning lots about myself, and I’m getting comfortable with the fact that periods of progress must be balanced with periods of rest.
This post contains pieces of advice for myself which I may or may not continue to take. I find that I give myself very good advice, but very seldom follow it. My personal style was once characterised by stilettos and waspie waistlines as I tried to emulate the pinup style I love looking at on others. I admire those who can keep up that appearance, with the Dita Von Teese bras and perpetually cold limbs. These days, however, it’s just not for me.
It wasn’t until I discovered minimalism that I started admitting a lack of physical comfort to myself. This might sound weird, but I was quick to deny my body’s quirks, believing them to be too odd to acknowledge. Uncomfortable shoes are easy to admit to, as they cause blisters and bleeding. But clothing was different, its effects more subtle.
First went the side-zip dresses. They are often the most beautifully detailed and thus favoured when shopping. However, the top of the zip usually manages to hit on a shingles scar under my armpit. It isn’t visible, but at the end of the day, I can’t wait to take those dresses off. Out they went.
Thanks to VV, tight jeans and most of my tights have gone the way of the dinosaurs. This has affected the way I dress as well, and many of the items that accompanied them were suddenly made redundant.
Tight tops also left Hamilton Hall – the light ones in particular. I stopped wearing a bra years ago thanks to this study and have never looked back. The flip side of this is that my tops need to be carefully layered or loose, lest I receive unwanted comments on a cold day. (‘Machine gun nipples?’ Surely you can do better than that, Youth.)
Now, the challenge is to continue to feel sexy even without the usual accoutrements. My face is still the same, as is my hair. But still, a certain something seems to be missing. Too much comfort and I feel as if I’m pulling a sickie and lounging at my computer whether I’m working or not. A bit of restriction somehow feels more professional. Going forward, though, I’ll be trying to elevate my outfits from ‘this doesn’t hurt me’ to ‘I feel great in this.’ If something’s more attractive than someone comfortable in her own skin, I have yet to find it. I just need to learn how to achieve that.
I’ve spent ages thinning out my wardrobe, donating handbags and selling my shoes. Even my books saw a decrease in their number in the last week. And yet, one place has remained untouched. The Stash.
I am a knitter as well as a hobbyist dressmaker, resulting in a huge potential for crafty hoarding. Also, when shopping, I felt as if buying fabric and yarn was money better spent than buying clothes. I’m not sure why this is, considering they were supplies to make clothes. The mind works in mysterious ways.
Anyway. As I went through my items yet again, I realised how little I wear the pieces I’ve made for myself. A few see regular wear, but most are rarely taken out of the divan where all my tops are stored. I have no answers for why this is. All are blocked to my measurements and none has obvious flaws – or even flaws that I’ve noticed. So why do I prefer to curl up in my husband’s cashmere rather than my own homespun?
There are no easy conclusions. Maybe I place less value on the things that I make or maybe I just like my jumpers to hang a bit loose. But then why do I keep making things if I don’t use the end results? Learning new skills is always a positive thing, and when I look through pattern books the knitwear is always so appealing. Yet, what’s the point if I don’t wear anything? Why do I spend my time this way?
At the risk of having some sort of existential crisis, I feel it’s time for me to limit the Stash, including a few works in progress that have overstayed their welcome. It’s hard to do this, partly because in doing so, I’ll be giving up on all those potential projects. Still, I feel that it’s time to unburden myself and see how it goes.
I know I should have done it a long time ago, but everything was so pretty. Never mind that I only used a handful of items on the regular. Like everything else, it would seem. And, too, like everything else, the plainest, smoothest items are the ones I use the most. The frilly lace and cumbersome kimonos were always too impractical for actual use. Even my ‘sexy’ pieces are the ones that work well under clothing.
That’s right – I finally went through my lingerie. Throughout my 20s, lingerie has been a way of expressing a femininity that I felt deprived of in my youth. I found things I liked and stocked up, even if I continually wore the same slip around the house with a cardigan thrown over the top. Also, I’m a bit of a fibre snob and so everything is silk or cashmere. The polyblends were the first to go.
It baffled me, looking at all of the pieces of lingerie that I never wore. It was all high quality, all of a good fabric. Why were they so neglected?
Enter multiple items fulfilling the same function.
I bought so many things that did the same job. I thought that I was investing in myself, treating my body to fabrics it would like. This was true to some extent, but there was just too much for it to get close to all of them. I found an item that I liked and replicated its purchase with something similar, knowing that it had gone well the first time. There weren’t any duplicates in the strictest sense, but there were duplicates of function: too many knickers that could only go under dresses, too many slips that were just too long to sit tidily under a skirt.
Also, rather embarrassingly, there were old knix. Like, seriously old. Anything that reminds me of awkward college-era sex needed to go.
The collection was pared down earlier today, whittling the numbers down to the most loveable and useful. This doesn’t mean that I enjoy the sensuality of lingerie any less, but it does mean that I’ll be using a higher percentage of my items.
After all the decluttering I’ve done, it’s a wonder I still have things left to sell or donate…and yet, I keep finding things I haven’t touched. Sometimes, they’re things I’ve considered untouchable: things I’ve had for years, commemorative things, supplies for hobbies I don’t enjoy anymore. Looking at all this stuff has gotten me a bit stressed out, and I’ve felt immense overwhelm over the past week.
Almost all of my shoes are on the floor of my office, waiting to be sold on eBay. A wheelie bin liner of clothes was donated over the weekend, and I’ve found a buyer for my record collection. Progress is definitely being made at several points around the house. The Laird Hamilton and I are even going to go through the attic space this coming weekend – because nothing says Bank Holiday like a clear out.
Still, there are lots of things that I don’t even like to look at. Clutter these days gives me a sinking feeling, and I find myself avoiding an entire room rather than dealing with it.
Part of the problem is admitting to myself that my needs and priorities have changed. Whereas I once considered myself to be an accomplished seamstress, making all my own evening gowns, I now know that I don’t need to keep making new dresses when I already have enough. As I don’t make things for anyone else, it seems unnecessary to keep up the stash. Worse, I’ve noticed that my own creations rarely stand the test of time. I often sew items in bright colours and patterns, as those are the fabrics I’ve been drawn to. And yet, that isn’t the aesthetic I go for in my daily life.
Though I haven’t gotten the gumption to discard all of the patterns and fabric (or even all of the remnants), I’m hoping that the next week will bring about a break in this wall. If I can find a good home for the sewing stash, I’ll be very pleased with myself.
As I minimise my items (and declutter…and declutter again) I’m realising that the trick isn’t to have the fewest number of things. It’s to have the correct amount of the best items. ‘Best’ a few months ago would have meant the most fashionable, but now it means the most useful. Things are changing around here.
And so I bought my first pair of barefoot shoes, hoping that they would replace several of my ballet flats that rub the wrong way. The website where I bought them encourages a slow introduction, weaning off of heeled shoes gradually so that feet can rebuild their strength. I’ll still be taking my dogs for a walk in my wellies for the time being, but all of my extra-curricular walks have been in the barefoot shoes.
The first day, I had some discomfort in my right ankle. Afterwards, I went to our stairs and stretched it out in the way I used to when I ran, and it felt better. The next day, I experienced the same again. I started to pay attention to my feet as I walked, trying to learn where I was going wrong. Maybe I’d spent so much time learning how to walk in stilettos that I forgot how to walk naturally.
All this obsessing over walking styles brought me back to a memory. When I was in primary school, we had a couple of teachers who would examine the way we walked and call us out if they thought we were doing it wrong. But since then, I’ve never seen a child walk ‘incorrectly.’ It’s made me think that all of the time we were being coached and moulded into walking (or running) a certain way, we were probably doing it wrong. Or rather, in opposition to nature. This sort of conformist walk might leave us with sore joints, even if it does give us some private school swagger. And so, in an undramatic way, I’m learning to walk again.