My year of minimalism


1 June 2017

I watched Minimalism on Netflix on Christmas Eve 2016 in a room with piles of presents under the Christmas tree.

When the movie finished, I stuffed the children’s sacks with more presents.

The irony was not lost.

I remember my partner and I talked about the movie with our families a lot on Christmas Day and vowed to put our version of minimalism into action.

I recall my hoarder side of the family sitting there, eyes glazed over, probably thinking “oh yeah let’s see about that”.

I have a mother who trawls hard waste collections and a brother who has a room in his house full of empty cardboard boxes from everything he’s consumed over the past 10 years.

What for? They will be handy when he moves house I guess, which his family doesn’t intend to do for at least 20 years.


Dipping our toes in minimalism, my partner and I spent the next month de-cluttering cupboard by cupboard, room by room.

We gave, donated and threw away hundreds of items.

We really did ‘get rid of’ any children’s toys left on the floor at the end of the day.

We vowed not to buy anything we didn’t need and if we did buy anything it had to be the best quality we could afford.

I kept a list to keep track of what I bought (don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with it).

On Instagram I posted about my intention to be more minimalist in the year ahead and received a huge response from others also on the minimalism bandwagon.

One friend recommended James Wallman’s book Stuffocation in which he advocates a life of experientialism, over a life of stuff.

He links rampant consumerism to declining wellbeing, believing we are stuffing our lives with so much stuff it is making us sick.

Wallman talks about flashover – the moment when so much heat has built up in a confined space that everything in it spontaneously combusts – which to me sums-up how out-of-control consumerism has become.

Thirty years ago, flashover tended to happen around 28 minutes after a fire started allowing firefighters 28 minutes to get anyone out or try to control the fire and stop flashover from occurring.

Now because of the increased amount of stuff in our homes and the flammable materials it’s made of, flashover occurs at three to four minutes, “from spark to murderous explosion” Wallman says.

Nothing too extreme

While I didn’t inherit the hoarder gene, it’s been a slow process to create that ‘de-cluttered’ feel in our home.

I spend a hell of a lot less time putting toys away than I used to because the kids know if it’s lying around we will get rid of it.

Anything they no longer use or have grown out of is long gone.

I’m frankly sick of my clothes but at least I can see them and I know every single piece fits and looks okay.

I’ve never enjoyed shopping and I certainly don’t now, I’m also in the habit of questioning my intention before I buy things.

Last weekend I raced through IKEA visualising the scene from Minimalism where Joshua Fields Millburn reads a passage about completely decking out his apartment with ‘stuff’ from the Swedish mega-store following a break up.

As his voice rang in my ears “what else DO I need?”, I actually stuck to my shopping list. Yes, even in the Market Hall.

Being more minimalist:

  • Start off small, one box, then one cupboard, then one room at a time.
  • You don’t have to go to extremes. I’m certainly not advocating living with 55 possessions and neither does Wallman. We’re not monks after all and IKEA does great kids storage!
  • Monochrome your wardrobe. Everything will mix and match making it seem like you have a wider variety at your fingertips.
  • Keep a list of the stuff you do buy to keep on track.
  • If you really love it and it brings you immense joy, buy it. If not, remember whatever purchasing high you feel will be short lived.
  • Be clear on why. Is consuming making you miserable, effecting your finances or does it concern you from a sustainability perspective? Whatever your reasons check in with them regularly to stay on track.
  • Buy experiences, not stuff.


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