It’s no secret that my life is a whirlwind, a masse of wheeling colour and noise, errands, tasks, meetings, duties, to do lists, all underlined by the creative pulse of new ideas begging to be put into action. And so amongst the noise and haste, I harbour a fantasy of simplicity and what it might mean to live more slowly and mindfully, with more presence.
I accept that this time of my life, this period of busy, is what Brooke Mcalary calls “tilting” when we knowingly and intentionally lean in to a period of busy-ness knowing that a) it’s a project or phase of our life that’s important to us and b) it won’t last forever. When I heard of this concept of tilting, it suddenly made my life seem much more manageable, and more importantly, forgivable, for not being a bliss bubble of work/life balance and having all the balls in the air that we’re supposedly meant to strive for.
I think the key for me in these times is to streamline all the tasks that float around the edge of my life. The food I eat, the state of my house, the depth and breadth of my social life, the speed at which I reply to messages and emails, the maintenance of my garden, the cleanliness of my car, and the clothes I wear, reduced down to a state of “operational”. I then tilt away from #selfcaresundays and #domesticgoddess and into a period of intense flow, where I am producing or managing vast volumes of work. That’s where I am now, with a brand new studio and a husband who works away, I’m running one location, building a new location, migrating a software system, and raising a 4 year old… it’s enough to drive anyone batty.
One of the concepts I’ve been exploring is decluttering, and I find that a period of decluttering is like clearing space in the hard drive of my mind. I can’t exactly explain why decluttering affects me in this way, but when I step into my cluttered house one of two things happen.
1. I refuse to spend time there, eating breakfast at a café instead, or working from the studio instead of the house so I can pretend that volumes of laundry and papers and dishes and shelves of dust don’t exist. or
2. I analyse the clutter for its sense of worth. Does it have value or sentimentality, does it have a use? Can I sell that? Should I throw that away? Will I ever use that yoghurt maker?
The great problem I've found with decluttering though, is that my anxious and perfectionist mind refuses to declutter unless I can allocate the time and space to do the WHOLE lot. Whether that’s my WHOLE pantry, or my WHOLE bookshelf and filing system, or my WHOLE hard drive or the WHOLE shed, my mind refuses to agree that even a small declutter is a small amount of space to gain on my mental hard drive, more than I had before!
I began to unlearn this process when I tipped my handbag out onto the dining room table one morning in a desperate attempt to find my phone. It was in there, by the way, but my frantic fumbling couldn’t navigate the mint packets, receipts, kids toys, bank cards, business & loyalty cards, makeup, pens, bottle lids, and whatever other assortment of CRAP it contained (including mandarin peel). And so I decluttered my handbag to the absolute essentials, and I noticed immediately that the bag was at least 70% lighter. How much unnecessary stuff did I haul over my shoulder every day, swinging and banging into my hip? The answer; a lot.
Then I discovered Courtney Carver and her Project 333; to wear only 33 items for 3 months. Otherwise known as a Capsule Wardrobe. The timing was perfect, we were coming into Winter, my wardrobe was overflowing with shoes and garments I wouldn’t wear for the next 4-5 months anyway, and I needed to gain control of my clutter and dispel some of that ol’ “I have nothing to wear!” vibe by reducing my wardrobe to only the most intentional (and loved) items.
You can read all the guidelines / rules for Courtney’s challenge here.
Naturally, I changed things to suit me, I wasn’t all in for being rigid – I needed to feel like this was flexible enough to maintain. So in the end, after about 5 hours wardrobe digging and sorting (and about 3 glasses of kombucha & a face mask) I ended up with 37 items. This blew out on account of a few more earrings due to me having a very short hairstyle, and an extra coat. Now, full disclosure; Courtney Carver says workout gear isn’t included in Project 333 and I took that idea and ran with it! As someone who owns yoga studios and teaches 7 days a week, active wear is my uniform (one that gets sweated in) so I kept most of my workout gear, culling only about 4 or 5 pairs of pants and a few crops but still leaving me with about 10 pairs of each.
The same went for everything else on the “excluded” list, socks hosiery and underwear were safe but still culled to the stuff I actually wore, and anything I found uncomfortable or which looked on its last legs, also made an exit. I had a disgusting amount of cheap jewellery that I culled, and waaaay too many pairs of bikinis in styles I didn’t like anymore. I had bridesmaid dresses, and butt-flashing hot pants I’d never wear again, and even a pair of jeans that I'd ordered online in the wrong size THREE YEARS AGO and still had the tags – I’d just always intended on selling them.
The Spring & Summer clothes that I thought I might wear again when the season changed, went into a storage bag, but it was a shockingly small amount… not more than 20 items plus some sandals. I literally had so much unnecessary clothing items that all-in-all, I was able to clear well over 150 garments from my cupboards! Lordy! In terms of garbage bags, this was 1 bag to donate, 1 bag to throw away, 2 bags to sell at an upcoming garage sale, and 1 bag for my next 3 month period (Spring). I also made a self-vow, that whatever wouldn’t sell at our garage sale, would be donated…. It wasn’t going to find its way back into my cupboards this time!