I’ve lived in Bristol for 8 years. In this time I’ve moved from BS1 to BS7, then BS2 to BS3 to BS6, back to BS3 and finally to BS4. I’ve lived in my fair share of houseshares, basement flats, and terraced houses. Throughout my rental history in this city I’ve carted box after box from one house to another, moving twice in one year in 2014 (never again!). But the real change came when we moved into our latest abode – a converted coach house with just 420 square feet of liveable space.
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and watching a lot of videos lately about minimalism and small space living, most typically about American individuals who have decided to downsize. But what makes me laugh the most is the fact that they are calling their 680sq. ft. of space a ‘tiny apartment’, which got me thinking – is my current living situation really that out of the ordinary?
I asked some folks on Twitter whether or not they would like to see some posts on my experiences of small space living, and the answer was a resounding yes. So, here we are. For this first post I thought I’d give you a bit of a potted history about my experiences with moving, my current obsession with throwing as much of my stuff away as possible, and my previous life as a prospective hoarder.
As a veeeery brief overview of my relationship with stuff, I have always clung on to things for dear life. Clothes, books, toys, DVDs, vintage cameras, cinema tickets, bus tickets, leaflets, school work, uni essays – it all got stuffed into any and every available nook and cranny in my Bristol houses, and moved house with me every single bloody time. A combination of sentimentality and guilt prevented me from giving up most of this stuff, until I absolutely had to. The catalyst for my change of heart was reading KonMari’s ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, and I began ‘discarding’ sometime in late 2015.
But the problem with this method at the time was that we were still living in a home with plenty of available space. I was getting rid of things and finding “JOY” in my space being less cluttered, but I was still clinging on to stuff because I had the available room to store it. That is, until circumstance brought us to our current house – a converted coach house with an open plan downstairs (literally just one room to cook, eat and watch telly in), and a tiny bathroom and two box rooms upstairs.
What I loved about our little house when we went to see it wasn’t just that it was h*ckin ADORABLE, but more importantly – it presented me with a challenge. I simply would not fit into this house if I took everything with me.
I’m not going to lie – the process of moving was absolute hell. I started off SO WELL, taking Ikea bag after Ikea bag to the charity shop, but buoyed by my progress I began to get complacent, and underestimated how much stuff I had squirelled away in cupboards and drawers in our house of the last two years. In the end I had to chuck everything into a Big Yellow unit and move it back bit by bit, a process which took roughly 6 months. Let me tell you, there is nothing more depressing than pissing away money on a metal box filled with your crap which you are too lazy to sort out.
Over one year on in our little house and I am still getting rid of clutter, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and it’s so nice to have a bit of breathing room. I finally feel like our house is getting to where we want it to be, rather than an expensive box in which we store all our stuff.
My ‘minimising’ journey is very much still a work in progress, but here are a few bits which have helped me over the last year or two:
Keep throwing away. Then throw away some more.
You will always underestimate how much you actually own. The best exercise in the beginning was to pile everything in one place (for example, clothes) for sorting – it shocks your brain into realising how much you’ve accumulated and you’ll be much more ruthless in your decision-making. Have a couple of passes at your keep pile too; there will always be unused items that worm their way back into your drawers.
If you’re a sentimental old sod like myself, you might find it easier to take pictures of your stuff before you commit it to the bin. I found it so difficult in the beginning to let go of things (to the point of multiple panic attacks every time I cleared out the cupboards) and found the best way to ease myself into it was to take a quick snap on my phone so at least the memory wasn’t lost forever.
No guilt allowed!
This has been a long process for me, but in this journey there is absolutely no guilt allowed. No guilt from other people, no guilt from yourself, no guilt at discarding an item because it ‘might come in useful’ or ‘might be valuable one day’. If you’re not using it now, then it has absolutely no value in your life, and you can throw it away without feeling remorseful about it.
It’s probably not that valuable, hun.
This was a big tripping point in the beginning for me. I had a lot of bits and bobs which I assumed would make the same amount back that I had purchased them for, but the truth is that 99 times out of 100, it just doesn’t. Unless you’re in the habit of collecting [insert item which has increased exponentially in value here] then that handbag is probably going to go for £8 on eBay. The charity shop could use that money better. (Quick little story time – I accidentally gave away two pairs of Black Milk leggings to the charity shop which I’d been meaning to put on eBay. I was devastated until I realised that I’d probably only get a tenner for them anyway, then I imagined some cool old lady strutting around in galaxy leggings and it made me happy. So there ya go.)
I’ve pinched this from those chaps The Minimalists, because I think it’s a pretty good rule of thumb to adopt. It may sound wasteful and frivolous initially, but even they admit that they have only had to use this rule a handful of times in the last 5 or so years. If you’re clinging on to things because they might come in useful, remember this – if you can replace it for less than £20 quid, in less than 20 minutes, then feel free to let it go. A good example of this is camping gear – we donated our tent at End of the Road because it was cheap enough to replace for next year, and in the meantime it would go to a good cause.
Let’s have a discussion about this! I am over on Twitter – @lilydoughball.