It’s not that I meant to find minimalism, it just… sort of found me. And I definitely didn’t have some kind of transient moment of clarity, nor did I even have any idea what minimalism was, for that matter.
On the night of Christmas Eve, I was sitting at a random bar, in the middle of a busy shopping centre. I ordered an expresso martini, deliberately, to keep myself awake for a little while longer. Long enough at least, to wrap all the presents I had just bought for all my friends and family. Leaving things to the last minute has always been a trademark of my personality, but now it was becoming hilarious. I realised, as I sipped on my martini, that I had been forming such bad habits of disorganisation, that I was running my self ragged. My disheveled hair was probably the giveaway.
I was feeling a little overwhelmed and anxious. And not just because I was in a very busy shopping centre (it took me an hour to find my parked car). It was a long drive home on the freeway, and the feeling of dread seemed have followed me all the way home. I realised, as I looked up at the lights to our third story apartment, that deep down I didn’t really want to go home. And then I wondered… Was it really a home?
I thought about everything that was awaiting me in our apartment; emptying the dishwasher of dozens of unmatched Tupperware, having to search through my bombshell of a wardrobe for pyjamas (which I had given up on finding), decluttering my bed from teaching books, and crawling into bed… to do it all over again the next day.
The funny part was, our place was already fairly neat, especially surprising since I work full time at a private school, and my fiancé Pete also has a 9-5 job that is quite demanding. We seemed to find time to straighten up our little apartment from time to time. So what was the problem? Well… I could barely shut kitchen cupboards, nor fit anymore books into my bookshelf - and heaven help me when I opened my wardrobe. On the exterior, everything looked orderly, and tidy. Guests would even comment how lovely and neat our apartment was.
But… I felt like a fraud. On the inside, everything was a hot mess. Just like how I was feeling.
As I sat on my bed, rummaging through my bedside draw for my reading glasses, I finally found my answer (though sadly, not my glasses). It was staring at me straight in front of me, inside my messy draw.
It was all the crap we had accumulated (excuse my French). Though in actual fact, it wasn’t really ‘crap’ - everything we had was in perfect condition. But our clutter was out of control, and I felt out of control. And I knew at that moment, that we needed to make some major changes in our lives and in our sweet little apartment (or so it used to be, anyway).
I imagine for most ‘normal’ people (whatever that means), cleaning happens sometime during the week, or on a relaxed Sunday, while enjoying a cup of tea. Not for me. It was Christmas Eve, somewhere around 11pm at night, and I was hyped on just enough expresso martini to keep me cleaning like my life depended on it.
I didn’t know where exactly to start, or even what I was doing. I went straight to the first offender; our kitchen cupboards. I must have pulled out twenty tupperware containers, ten different pots and pans, and well… I’ll spare you the details. Suddenly (between a lot of swearing and more cups of coffee), I found myself sitting in the middle of my kitchen, with enough kitchenware to be shared between five families.
It didn’t end there though. I yanked open a kitchen drawer, there were dozens of wooden spoons, whisks, measuring cups. I opened another draw… there were 20 knives, 23 forks.. You get the idea. Unless we were going to host for a big fat Greek wedding in our little apartment, then it all had to go.
After a few hours, somewhere around 3am, I had finally finished decluttering the kitchen. It felt so good to let it all go - and, what felt like a huge burden off my shoulders. With what little energy I had left, I packed all of it into some of those large blue Ikea bags, and I left it at our front door to be donated in the morning. I sighed with relief.
Pete came out of the bedroom wearily and asked what I was doing so early on Christmas morning. I hadn’t even realised it was Christmas Day, and here I was, decluttering our little kitchen like a mad woman. I tried to explain as delicately as I could, without sounding as crazy as I probably looked.
Pete stared wide eyed.
I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy process for him (especially as most of the kitchen stuff were things he had accumulated over the years). I felt a pang of guilt. I hadn’t really ever told him how I felt about the clutter. And now, at 4am on Christmas Day, I had begun what would eventually become an incredible challenge and an emotional journey to living minimalistically…
* (Some phone snaps of the start of my journey in decluttering. All items in Ikea bags pictured below, were donated to the Salvation Army and Diabetes Australia)