Decluttering is freedom

A month before departing, I sold the first item I had put on sale. I always had the belief that I was terrible at sales and no one would ever buy anything from me, so the sensation was doubly rewarding, and reassuring: one, that I could make it, and two, that I was organizing my life!

I can’t stress enough how decluttering feels great. It allows liberating yourself from old, stuck energy, not only giving space to the new to enter and circulate, but also making your life much simpler. It had been an intense week of clearing stuff that was not only in my room, but all over the flat in Greenwich.

Ever had the overwhelming sensation among too much stuff, clothes or stationary you haven’t used for ages, paperwork that “you will sort through one day”, etc., that life could be much simpler? That you would be much happier with half of that stuff? Have you ever spent 15 minutes only blank-staring at some miscellaneous sundries and not knowing where to start, or where to store them? I have.

I used to keep 3 sets of single bed linen even if I’d had a double bed for years, “in case one day I need it”.  A complete set of recordable DVDs, plastic slips, labels, envelopes, thick textured A4 paper, etc., that an actor only 5 years ago needed to have to contact agents and producers with their showreel, headshot and CV, before the industry fully embraced the wonders of sending links to hi-res videos.  Several other burnt DVDs that I had NO IDEA of what was in. Several paper documents that were completely outdated and irrelevant, or that could perfectly be digitalized. This was actually easier to sort that who knows what other hoardings I had in front of me from the “misc” shelf / box / drawer.

One of my main goals in preparation for these travels was to simplify my life from all unnecessary belongings (or just plain trash), selling or donating things that would be either much more expensive to store than to buy again, or things that may not make sense anymore in any new location (or were already uselessly cluttering the room “in case I need it in the next house”). A Swedish good friend of mine once told me: “you need to learn to travel light”. Truth be said, he probably had only one spare t-shirt and one single sock (at least it’s what came out of his laundry load every time, while we were flatmates). But there is a great lesson here. If in a year (a whole cycle of 4 seasons) you haven’t worn a piece of clothing once, chances are it doesn’t make sense in your life anymore. And you also probably have some pieces that are weekly in your wash line, that you truly use, so optimization and simplification are key.

Selling was pretty straightforward. I used mostly Facebook, Gumtree and eBay. I wanted to sell some books on Amazon, but apparently you need to enroll as a business and pay an upfront fee, so I found it too much of a fuss.

It did have its ups and downs.

The downs were basically the items I could not sell, and the Chinese guy who “bought” my office chair on eBay and gave me a long, infuriating, ongoing headache. That is why I recommend the other 2 methods: Gumtree is great for selling things, and like Facebook, it allows you to meet the person and make the sale face-to-face. They see the item, give you the cash, and both parts happily walk away to carry on wit their lives.

On Facebook, I looked for locals groups, like “East London Houses and Accommodation” (and oddly enough, one of the replies were from a woman who lived in East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Of course I didn’t close the sale, but my post served to make her realize this was a group for people seeking houses in the East side of London, England), and I also asked in communities where people are experienced in selling their stuff and going travelling, like the Travelettes Facebook group, and got great tips and ideas from the girls.

And there were also local shops near my house that would buy books, DVDs and other item (one of the shops is called “The Junk Shop”, and bought and sold odd and bizarre old stuff).

Everything else went to charity. About charity shops, I did do an extensive research, because I was afraid some of the stuff would simply be chucked in the bin. Most charity shops in the UK only take unwanted newish, fashionable items, mostly clothes and accessories, to sell to other middle class people and generate cash. In Brazil, for instance, there is a centre called “Cruz Verde” (Green Cross), which takes EVERYTHING, even only, ragged underwear, and transforms into something usable to the people in need (in case of the underwear, they recycle the fabric). It’s a very sad waste that usable items such as notebooks after the used pages were teared, older t-shirts, rugged thermos water dispensers, etc. have to go to landfills because they don’t “fit the profile” of charity shops. So I was finally told that The Prince’s Trust near Liverpool Street was collecting items to send to refugees. Job done!

Getting rid of your unwanted items doesn’t need to happen only just before a great milestone such as traveling long term. It’s great at any point in life. I remember an American girl who went to RADA with me asking herself why again had she spent money for one year of storage room rent, on stuff that she could totally live without for a whole year, and realized she already never needed to begin with, from the point she dispatched them to storage. And I was also marveled by the wise words of Marie Kondo in her brilliant little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

How much unnecessary bulk do you have hoarded, cluttering your space and your life, and standing in your way to freedom and happiness?

 

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  1. […] The 15th of February was my last day at work. It was a bleak, dull day, like any other. The office was almost empty: some people on holidays, some people abroad on recruiting fairs, some people out all day for meetings, my new boss ill at home. My closest colleagues messaged me asking if there wasn’t going to be any farewell lunch (they actually had organized a lovely extra-official surprise lunch and given me a card a couple of days before), and as everyone was minding their business and eating sandwiches in front of the computer, they just helped me carry some suitcases to the charity The Prince’s Trust, a 3 min walk, to donate my last belongings before departing. […]

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