There is nothing more satisyfying for me – in terms of cleaning and organisation – than a good before and after shot. That “wow” factor of seeing how far something has come and the utter shock of trying to comprehend how the ‘before’ state was ever considered practical, or even livable, in some cases. And really, with this new journey I’m on, because it’s so radical and because it will span such a length of time, more than ever it would have been nice to be able to do those before and after pics, but here’s the thing…
When I started this journey, I didn’t know I was starting it. As I mentioned in this post, I started my journey to minimalism through the Marie Kondo book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and I started it at a time when I had pretty much hit rock bottom with my job, my mental health, my diet – you name it, it was in a bad way, anything I felt I could do – I went through the process only thinking as far as the item I had in my hand. If you’d told me on day one what this would all turn in to, I can honestly say I would have broken down in tears and just ceased everything, immediately – the idea of making any kind of life change, even one for the better, would have been beyond my ability at that point; at least to carry it out consciously.
basically. I didn’t begin to declutter and become conscious of my possesions with the thought that this was somehow going to change my life, I was in such a bad way I was just literally trying to do
The upside of this is that it was a very organic and mindful process for me, I felt so absorbed in what I was doing that I forgot about all the other shit for the first time in a long time, the downside, of course, is that I don’t have any photos of my closet or piles of items heading to the charity store – and while, yes, in retrospect it would be nice to have those commemirative shots, I am glad I went through the initial stages the way I did – it was what was right for me. I can, however, talk a little about my overall habits and attitude in the past, as well as show a small before and after example too.
I was always “messy”, even as a child. I’ve given a lot of thought over the years as to why it might be, and for a long time, I just took it to be a character flaw – I mean, everyone has them right? Living away from home now, as an adult, I think I have a little more insight into it all, and I’ve come to realise that rather than messiness be the issue, it was more of a symptom of an issue. Now, I don’t think that I was so much a lazy person, or uncaring or dirty – I think I just had too much stuff. I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with shopping – for a number of reasons I’m sure I’ll discuss at some point – but the long and the short of it really, is that I’ve always shopped for emotional reasons. Something good happened? I deserve a reward! Something bad happen? I deserve a ‘cheer up’ treat! This combined with my anxiety which made me be really nervy and clingy with my possessions meant that a lot was coming in and almost nothing went out.
I don’t have really a lot of photos of how things were at the flat – other than this shot of my closet, a couple of months after we moved in in late 2014, but I can assure you, if anything it only got fuller (and it definitely got messier) prior to the cleanout started.
As you can see, there were clothes everywhere – and what you can’t see is the set of drawers out of shot on both the bottom left and right corners – and every drawer was stuffed. Totally. Full. Looking back it is hard to make sense of it; how could I have looked at that and thought it was okay? How could I have enjoyed that? How freaking long did it take me to get dressed??!? I think, in large part, I was struggling with my identity at this point – I was a grown-up now, I guess, but what kind of grown up? I was holding onto my little punk, skater-kid teenage vibe and at the same time grasping at ‘sophisticated’ adult styles. And until I made a decision about what my style was? I was keeping all the styles.
Like I said, I’ve always been messy. Not just had a lot of things, but just always been the girl who has a chocolate bar wrapper in every pocket, and a packet of mints has burst open in my handag. There was always that one drawer with half eaten crisps in it, and old pens and eveything from everywhere was just spilling out and taking over the floor. From the photo I’m about to post, it might look like I was a horrible young person who just didn’t look after my things – this is an older photo from when I was 22ish and still living at home, my poor mother – but I think the reality is that I just had more things than I could ever possibly maintained or controlled or tidied. I did battle with the clothing; folding everything again and again, I stacked the books, I shoved the drawers shut… and 3 days later it looked like this again:
Yup. I know. Looking at this now I honestly can feel my anxiety building – how could I possibly have lived like this all those years? No wonder I always felt so overwhelmed, so suffocated, so anxious! It’s just, I mean, what is there to say? It’s fairly obvious, even from this one photo, and I think even as a reader who’se never seen the room, that all those objects couldn’t possibly fit away into those storage objects – despite my obvious attempts to add in as many drawers and shelves as humanly possible.
Now, I have to add that when I moved out my flat, other than my closet and the floor by my bed, never got to this point of messiness, I mean it got bad, but not this bad. I think though, this photo still sums up my start point, because while there may have been slightly less mess on the floor of my flat, this is still what the inside of my mind looked like. My ideas of identity and the relationships I had with objects were still in chaos and I still truly believed that more was more when it came to posessions. I was still this person, completely, I was just fighting it harder (so as not to be disowned by my other half…) and becoming increasingly exhausted by it.
And now, to finish, I have one little before and after scenario to show you. I have to point out that while the ‘before’ does show the category – nail varnish – at its worst, the ‘after’ represents how things are now, and I know I still have a lot more of a journey to go, however I want to try and use up what remains and allow my collection to downsize over time, then replacing those that need replaced with cruelty free alternatives. So here we are – my nail varnish collection in its heyday:
And how it looks today:
As I said, I’m not where I want to be, but I do believe discarding items can only take me so far on this journey, and with my nail varnish I feel I’ve reached that point. Now it’s a case of using up and savouring the remaining items, while really learning about what I like to wear etc. so that I can make better, more conscious decisions going forward.
I wish I had huge before and after pictures of the whole flat – but there’s not much I can do about it now, other than to make a point of documenting things as much as possible going forward. I have posts planned about my wardrobe and things like that, so I’ll be sharing an updated photo of that soon enough – I’m just currently holding off because we’re currently still using a couple of shelves in there to hold Christmas gifts and excess soda!