This post is inspired by a recent house move. It applies to all houses, Victorian or otherwise. Last year we moved house. It was the first time in ten years and in that time we had amassed an enormous amount of surplus junk. So, we came to the decision that before we left our old house, we were going to have the mother of all clear outs. Get ruthless with our stuff! We didn’t want to take boxes full of things we really didn’t want or need to our new house. It would also make moving that much easier with less things to physically move.
It was a huge success. We got rid of almost everything! Anything we didn’t use anymore was either sold or recycled. It was great. Our house never looked better when we had finished. Which was a shame in a way! We didn’t get to enjoy it in all of its glory. There is something so satisfying about getting rid of old stuff. Especially when you know that it won’t be coming with you to your new home. It felt like a clean slate. I can’t recommend it enough.
Now I know that there will be lots of people who are incredibly well organised. They will clear out their unwanted stuff all of the time and will only keep exactly what they need. Or there may be people reading this who just aren’t very big consumers. They buy very little. I actually identify as one of these people. I buy almost nothing for myself and yet my home was bulging with stuff. How did that happen?! I live with people who do, that is what happened!
Anyway if you are on top of your household possessions then this post is not for your eyes! Lots of us just aren’t that organised or disciplined. I wasn’t. It all started with childbirth. Having children is my excuse. When you have children things can get very different. You always end up keeping things well past their sell by date. Just in case. This is inevitable. The last thing you ever want to do it clear out an old toy to realise that your child has not quite finished with it. Or worse, isn’t ready to give it up just yet!
This means that very quickly your house turns into a toy junk yard. Not a good situation. Great for people with huge homes and separate play rooms. Not good for everyone else. It is time consuming and stressful trying to organise all of these things. Luckily moving house means new bedrooms and new places to keep toys. You might have more storage in your new house. You could have less. What you don’t want to do is take items out of storage from your old house and then put them straight into cupboards of your new house, not to be seen for anther 10 years!
Even if you don’t have children, the importance of decluttering is huge. Having a child was the catalyst for us to start hoarding junk and not just kids stuff. This “just in case” mentality spread to our own possessions. You may have another reason. Whatever that reason is organising or better still decluttering is one of the best things you can do. Learning to live with less means you appreciate the fewer things you do have so much more. These benefits are very well known. Decluttering has been linked to happiness and maintaining good mental health.
My suggestion is to do what we did. Start slowly and get rid of everything thing you haven’t used for a year. Either sell it and buy something you do need, take it to a charity shop or recycle. Then start to look at your other possessions. We had been in our house for ten years. Our son was a year old when we moved in and yet hardly any of his toys had ever been removed! Ten years of toys! As well as all of the children’s toys, we also had ten years of our stuff. Three lots of every kitchen utensil. Dozens of none matching glasses, plates, bowls, etc… Kitchen cupboards full of storage containers.These were full of slightly smaller storage containers. No matching lids of course! Mountains of clothes, spare Christmas trees, DVD’s and CD’s. You get the idea!
Fortunately, there are a few different ways to tackle this kind of thing. There are lots of people better qualified to help you than me. There are a number of books and experts out there to help you. The most popular of them is Marie Kondo. She has had a number of television programs and whilst fairly extreme in some ways, she is very effective. She has certainly helped lots of people to achieve their goals. If you are ready to give up your unwanted goods, then the video below is a really good example of what can be done in a very short space of time using her methods.
Now I appreciate that there are people who will struggle with this kind of thing. Some people find it really difficult to part with anything. If this is you then, you probably need a bit of help. In the film fight club, the main character says “the things you own can end up owning you!”
This is very true of some of my possessions. For example, I have a guitar I hardly ever play. I’ve tried to like it but I just don’t. I don’t like the way it plays or sounds. It was a present for my 18 birthday and was my first serious instrument. It’s worth quite a lot of money. I could replace it with another guitar. A really good one. A guitar that I would actually play. Yet I don’t. I Imagine selling it and being filled with regret. It makes me a bit anxious just thinking about it!
If this feels like you but with almost all of your possessions then there is an excellent website I can recommend. It is a website about minimalism. They doesn’t suggest that you immediately throw everything away and become a monk but it does tackle the question of why we feel the need to buy everything in sight and fill are homes full of largely unused products. It has some excellent articles about how to let go of your things. Or just get started. It is also really well written and entertaining. Here is a useful link for people who want to get started. Targeting the easiest places first.
I hope this helps. Maybe once you’ve trimmed down your most unneeded current possessions, then you will want to go further. The site has lots of information and they even have a podcast. Just make sure you are mentally ready to let go. Otherwise you’ll just start stocking up those empty cupboards with new things you don’t really need. Moving house definitely helped us get ready. Maybe as an exercise you should imagine your dream Victorian home and then imagine all of your stuff piled up in the living room. Scary eh?! Maybe it really is time to sell my guitar!
So now you are ready to go, lets get started! One of the more gentle ways of getting started is to pick a cupboard and empty it. Sort the wheat from the chaff and set aside different groups of stuff. Choose another cupboard and start again. Keep going until you have enough for a trip to the charity shop and the local recycling centre. This works well if you haven’t got a huge amount to get rid of. Or if you are happy to make trips to the recycling centre a weekly job. This isn’t what we did. We were more than ready to part with of our things so we went with the extreme method.
We had so much to clear out that it would take a very long time to get rid of all of our junk in this way. It also seemed really daunting. We wanted a faster solution! The thought of making trip after trip to the recycling centre wasn’t particularly appealing. We wanted it out and gone quickly. With the amount of stuff we had this would take weeks. It wasn’t the sorting of our things we were frightened of as we knew most of it wasn’t needed. We were definitely ready to let go! It was the action of loading it into our car and then taking it to the recycling centre that we weren’t looking forward to. There always a big queue to get in and once in you need to make sure you put the right item in the right place. Otherwise you get told off!
We just wanted a faster solution. In England there are only really three options. If you’ve got lots of rubbish to dispose of, you can hire a skip, a builders bag, which is a large multi purpose heavy duty sack or you can hire a house clearance/waste removal specialist. With the first option, a skip will arrive at your house, sit on the driveway or street and you just throw all of your junk in it. Same with the builders bag. The other option is to clear and sort all of your junk into a big pile on your driveway and then have it taken away by a man in a van. All three options mean that you don’t have to stop sorting your junk to keep going to the recycling centre. The junk is taken away and then recycled for you.
We went for the skip. We thought this would be more convenient for us. With a man and van, they come and collect all of the stuff in one go and they are very good value. However, you do need to get all of your stuff ready for collection. This means putting all of your junk together in a big pile. Either in your house or outside. If we had a private driveway then this wouldn’t have been an issue. Or if we had an empty garage. We didn’t have either. What we really didn’t want was all of our junk sat outside our house for a couple of days for all of the neighbours to see. The builders bag just wouldn’t have been big enough. They were also very expensive for the amount of stuff you could fit in them.
So we hired a skip. One thing I will say is that they aren’t cheap! Over £200. Also make sure the company you hire from has a waste license and you know where the waste is being sorted. There are also a few different types. You can get standard open skips. Skips with lids and where we live, skips on trailers. We got a trailer skip. These are literally a big bin on wheels! Great for household stuff and they won’t damage your driveway. They do have weight restrictions. If you want to have a big clear out and also fancy shifting a couple of tonnes of soil, then these aren’t suitable. They can carry about a ton in weight. They also road legal. Standard skips and builders bags aren’t. You will need a permit from your local council if you can’t place it on your property.
So we picked a weekend and when the skip arrived we got busy! It really was fantastic. Within a few hours our house was so much better. By lunch time on the Sunday it was like a different place! Which ever way you choose to get rid of your things, I really can’t recommend a big clear out highly enough. It is so liberating. Do not move your junk to your new house. Have a fresh start. The whole experience had a profound effect on myself and I have been looking at minimalism more and more as a way of life. One thing is for sure, Victorian homes definitely do not need dressing up with hundreds of items to make them look better. They look amazing even when empty.
My next post will be about storage. If you have a big clear out, you’ll need less of it! See you next time.