I was reading the other day that a classic time for decluttering is when a new baby comes along.  Firstly just to make space for all the stuff for the new arrival, clothes, toys, giraffe-shaped teethers etc… but it’s probably also a desperate attempt to gain some control.  The decluttering process gives parents some reassurance that they are not spiralling irretrievably into chaos.

Well, The Boy‘s arrival has prompted a large decluttering spree, and I’ve found it very liberating.  It all has to do with removing the stuff that doesn’t matter, to reveal the stuff that does.

As the brilliant Erin at Unclutterer, and the equally brilliant Leo at Zen Habits have revealed, the first thing to do is to decide what’s important.  You then work at reducing the amount of time you spend doing other stuff, to give you more time for this important stuff.

Decluttering can involve removing physical things you don’t need, commitments which take up too much time, even people who don’t add anything of value to your life (controversial.)  I’ve written about de-friending on Facebook before, well this is a step even further into the anti-social void.  De-friending in real life!

The point is, reduce the amount of time you spend doing pointless stuff, increase the amount of time you spend doing things which make you happy.  Gardening, playing with your kids, writing letters in green pen to the Daily Mail, whatever floats your boat.

I have found that decluttering can be felt, physically, as the burden of stuff floats away.  Prune your emails until only the things still to do are in your inbox, unsubscribe to all those stupid sales, spam and automatic emails you get, take a load of clothes you never wear to the charity shop.  The weight of things clamoring for attention is reduced, and the important things can be brought into focus.

In my flat, I’ve got rid of a raft of things I never used anyway.  It is amazing how much clutter can accumulate in a flat when you’ve lived in it for a few years.  Stuff I hardly even see, let alone use.  Well it’s all been mercilessly freecycled, recycled, or charity shopped.  I haven’t missed a stick of it.

Finally, I have done my best to curb my ludicrous obsession with signing up for things.  I used to be forever saying I would join in with this group, or that group, or help set up a thing for a thing, or write something for some newsletter, etc… etc… it just went on and on.  If I had any spare time, I’d look for ways to fill it!  Then I’d wonder why I never had any spare time.  This process of just remembering to say ‘no’ has probably been the most useful in terms of slowing down.

Leo at Zen Habits even suggests getting rid of all tasks and goals, and just floating about doing whatever you feel like doing at the time (when activities are not entirely dictated by the needs of The Boy).

Yesterday, I made an attempt to float.  Made some bread, put the finishing touches to the tiniest water butt in Europe, watered my lettuce seedlings.  It was a lovely day.  Obviously being on maternity leave helps a lot with this, not so easy to do when I get back to work, but we’ll see how we go.


Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, full time Mum, based in London, UK

One thought on “Decluttering”

  1. Ooh, this topic goes deep with me. You’ve never been to our house, R, but you’d undoubtedly want to declutter it. Hey, what a fab idea! I’ll take The Boy on a buggy marathon – the Great North London Pram – while you sort the house out. Though, of course, you’d need to UNDERSTAND our clutter in order to judge what to lob. Hm, not such a cheery prospect, is it? Come over and really get to know our junk.

    Re the de-friending in real life (I believe the trendy acronym is IRL), I am a) suddenly really worried – now I know how all those bits of junk feel, waiting to see if they’re loved enough to earn their keep! – and b) at a loss to understand how anyone could survive the process. I’m not trying to butter you up here, R, as a way of increasing my chances of making the cut – OK, yes I am – but you seem the sort of person everyone would want to friend in the first place and then never want to let go. I’m trying to picture someone going, “Oh well, she was only ever in my 3rd division really,” and I’m failing.

    Your habit of signing up to things, activities, that’s so opposite to me, the thought makes me squirm. I don’t THINK I’m appallingly antisocial, commitment-phobic maybe? You see, I imagine failure, I anticipate rejection or, worse, indifference. I think it’s called being a bit f*cked up. But maybe signing up for stuff is a way of making yourself do things? Is there a sense of pushing yourself over a barrier as you sign on the dotted line? Because the alternative is inactivity, or being peripheral?

    Oh dear, I’m therapizing again. Sorry. And, anyway, we’re out of time, ze session is over. But I could bang on forever about clutter. Did you ever watch Life Laundry with Dawna Walter? Daft name, and I totally expected to hate the programme, she had the requisite North American accent for spouting psychobabble to her ‘clients’, whose houses were amazingly, unfeasibly cluttered. So I came to scoff, but stayed to applaud how well she understood the true significance of domestic mess – and how kind she was to people as they realised what it all meant to them & tried to come to terms with it.

    Junk, says Dawna, represents intentions, deferred desires and dreams. Unwillingness to throw out old possessions can be a way of hanging on to an image of yourself you don’t want to abandon, to admit is unrealistic. And Lord, do babies provoke a lot of that. Both a load of old emotional baggage, i.e. pre-baby issues, then a load of new ones to do with how you see yourself as a parent.

    Then again, maybe this is just a feature of my own extraordinarily tangled psyche. Perhaps truly unfreaked, worked-out parents just DO what they really want with their kids, without either pusillanimity or procrastination. While the children of more tortured souls have to make do with occasional, unscheduled, exasperated, what-the-hell flights from doubt and indecision. Like, OK let’s just get a takeaway, feck the carbs and fat. Or book up Center Parcs. Or – I can hardly bring myself to say it… watch X-Factor. Oh Gawd, I am messing up my kids’ heads so bad.

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