Clearing the Shelves: A Bookworm Bids Goodbye

When I moved house for the first time back in February, I remember complaining about the laborious task of packing all my books.

“Why not just get rid of some?” asked a colleague. I was incredulous. Get…rid…of…books? Was that a thing people did? Surely not people who loved their books as much as I did. I was a proud collector and –

No. I was a hoarder. I still had books I read as a little girl. I had books I never finished, never started, never enjoyed. Yet I kept them. I kept them because I was a bookworm and surely that is what bookworms did. I enjoyed the tactile, sensory pleasure of books. I wanted more. I saw the glorious ‘shelfies’ on tumblr of beautifully arranged shelves packed with books. I wanted that. To be something akin to that. I was holding on to my books because I liked to talk about how many I had, as if it cemented my status as an avid reader. In hindsight, that seems a shallow motivation. A silly reason to cling to things I wasn’t going to use.

I think I read somewhere there is nothing sadder than an unread book. If I’m not going to read it, then the story is going to waste. I realised it was much better to donate or give away books that I wasn’t going to read or reread. I no longer found value in them, but someone else might. 

It was much easier than I thought. I thought I would be an emotional wreck, but I wasn’t. My eyes were dry and my mind was clear. The value isn’t in the paper and ink. Once I had enjoyed them, if I had no interest in reading them again, then it was only right to pass them along.

I still have them, in boxes ready to give away or donate. I set aside far more than I kept. What I kept were favourites that I have read over and over, reference books I like to flip through. A curated collection of beloved books. 

I then went out and got a library card. To keep myself from future hoarding, I’m going to buy on my kindle and borrow from the library. I might buy the occasional hardcopy of a book, but if I don’t love it, I’ll let it go.

Making My Minimalist Wardrobe

“When I shop, the world gets better, and the world is better, but then it’s not, and I need to do it again.”

Rebecca Bloomwood – Confessions of A Shopaholic

When I started this minimalist journey, my first stop was the wardrobe. And the drawers. And the other set of drawers. And the under-bed storage. And, to be completely honest, the floor. There were clothes everywhere. Things I hadn’t worn in years. Things I hadn’t worn at all. There were clothes that looked better on the hanger, deals that were too good to pass up and things that I was sure I was going to wear eventually. But eventually never came and they sat forlorn in my wardrobe while I wend out, swiped my card and got newer, trendier clothes that I definitely did not need. Then I would stare at my bank account balance and wonder why I was broke. Again.

It was a bad enough habit without taking my disease into account. Do you have any idea how much laundry I had to do? I still have nightmares about it *shudder*. I can’t do that much laundry. It wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t manageable, but it was certainly stressful. My fibromyalgia is in a pretty bad place right now and the other week I was attempting to do a load of laundry and took a tiny step sideways.

Boom.

Pain exploded in my hip and down my leg. It was all I could do not to scream. Needless to say the laundry fell by the wayside. I was bedridden for the rest of the day and lost the remainder of my Sunday. All because I had so much I had to do.

Enter minimalism.

Now, the primary reason for my interest in minimalism is the widespread reports of less stress. Stress is a huge trigger for fibro and so anything I can do to drastically reduce stress could reduce the severity of my symptoms and prevent flare ups. An added benefit is: less stuff, less cleaning. Cue the hallelujah chorus because I have less laundry! Cleaning is hard. And boring. And nobody wants to do it. But when overdoing it can leave me bedridden in excruciating pain? Extra awful.

Now, back to the clothes. Before The Purge I looked around and done my research on minimalist wardrobes. Between that and my own experience there are a few key takeaways I found:

 

1. Empty it ALL out on the bed

My bed looked like a plush mountain after I dragged everything out. It was insane and it really drove home how ridiculous my clothes habit was. It reaffirmed that I was making a sound decision. Plus the mess made sure that I stuck with the task until it was finished.

2. Donate, Decide, Dump

I set up three cardboard boxes (which quickly turned into five as they filled up) for clothes to donate (or sell if you have some good quality items and are looking for extra cash), clothes I was torn over and clothes that weren’t in good enough condition to donate and had to be thrown away. After I had gone through everything, I went through the Decide box/es and narrowed things down further. In the end, most of them ended up in the Donate boxes anyway.

2.Keep items that you love and regularly wear

There’s no point keeping that cardigan I bought a few months ago that makes me itch. Forget price tags (seriously, it saves some anguish) and forget sentimentality. If it isn’t comfortable, if it doesn’t make me feel good, I am not going to want to wear it. Who wears things that make them feel like crap? Nobody.

3. Pick a neutral colour scheme

I’m not saying wear black, black and more black (unless that’s your thing, then go for it! Ryan over at The Minimalists wears a black t-shirt and jeans and that is it). But a few neutral colours set a good base for your wardrobe. They can go with one another and, more importantly, they will go with the statement pieces (more on that in a second. My scheme is black, navy, grey, white and variations on tan (beige, blush etc. You get the idea). If everything is cohesive, it saves one from struggling to get ready in the morning. It also prevents this:

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Sorry Cher, but I do not have time for that. I have better things to do. Like sleep.

4. Have a few statement pieces

This is what keeps me from looking like I’ve stepped out of a sepia photograph. Bright clothes and accessories pair well with the muted tones and keep things interesting. Keep it minimal (har har) so that you keep it cohesive.

5. There is no ‘Number’

I gave myself no limit. I didn’t want rules that inhibited what I thought would be a really difficult process. As long as your wardrobe is deliberate and full of things that make you feel good that you’ll wear, then your purge is a success. In the end, I ended up with about 60 – 70 items including shoes and accessories. It all fits nicely and cleanly in one section of the wardrobe (my partner was pleasantly surprised). I have what I consider to be a good number, but I didn’t give myself a number.

 

Honestly, the whole thing was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I began talking to my clothes, as crazy as that sounds. I managed to decide on what I would and wouldn’t wear pretty quickly. Afterwards I did the same for shoes and accessories and then for my makeup. For someone who had hundreds of clothes, I had it all done in under two hours. Afterwards I felt great. I felt lighter. And I was excited for the next time I needed to get ready, because it was going to be a breeze.