Sentiment, memory and the cull

My wardrobe is peppered with clothing that once belonged to my Auntie. Much of it was handed down throughout the years and some I pulled from her wardrobe when she passed away a few years ago. My Auntie wasn’t old – not old enough to leave us. She was very glamorous, always fully made up. When I was a child she always wore knee-high boots and kept her hair long, straight and dark – she was a rock star in my eyes. She gave me some amazing leather pants and high waisted Guess jeans when I was young, which I culled over a decade ago – a decision that makes my heart ache and my eyes well with tears today because I wasn’t to know that she wouldn’t be physically present in my adult life.

My Auntie fought a long battle against multiple myeloma. She remained strong and positive through rounds of chemo, only to have the cancer return again and again. She could have fallen apart when it took her trademark hair, only to return it silver and curly, but she didn’t, instead experimenting with wigs. She kept working until the end – you wouldn’t have known she was sick. But eventually she grew weary. My mother, sister and I visited her at the hospital to say goodbye. She smiled and was calm. She asked my mother to paint her toenails bright fuchsia, then let the cancer take her.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about culling and minimalism. I’ve been working on reducing the clutter in my house to make life easier when our second child is born in less than two months time, but when it comes to my wardrobe I’ve come to a standstill. A lot of the things that my Auntie gave me I’ll probably never wear – a tiny, leopard print, high-cut swimsuit for example – but I couldn’t possibly let it go. Whenever I come across a piece of clothing she gave to me, I lift it to my face, inhale the faint scent of the YSL Opium perfume she used to wear, and then return it to the wardrobe. Wardrobe clean out over, just like that.

I’ve been looking at minimalist blogs and websites trying to find out how to navigate sentimentality when clearing out clutter but what I’ve found is that there is no room for sentiment in the minimalist lifestyle. The minimalist says cull the clutter, keep the memories, but I have a problem with this notion. You see, memories fade. Sometimes we need a prompt to keep the memory alive, like a photo, a trinket, or a tiny leopard print swimsuit that smells of Opium perfume. So, while I’m happy to donate the tired looking jumper I got from Sportsgirl last year to St. Vinnies, I’ll be holding on to some of my ‘clutter’, because memories, unlike jumpers, can not be replaced.

The reluctant minimalist

With the birth of our newest family member less than ten short weeks away, I find myself exploring ways to de-clutter and organise my home and my life to reduce mess and stress when she arrives. I’m not really a messy person and I am usually quite organised, but I form emotional attachments to things and am reluctant to let them go incase the memory goes with them.

I’ve been reading a bit about minimalism, and while I’m far too sentimental about stuff to practise a minimalist lifestyle, there are elements of the theory that appeal to me. Advocates of minimalism argue that you can benefit from removing clutter, rather than just organising it and this is why:

If you keep clutter and just organise it, you need to re-organise it regularly, which is time consuming.

Reducing clutter frees up your time. Less cleaning, less rummaging, less daily decision making.

Reducing physical clutter reduces mental clutter and visual distraction.

Reducing clutter can save you money by lowering your cost of living. Less stuff is cheaper to organise, clean and store .

Less clutter means more space. Simple as that.

By applying some minimalist principles to my life and reducing clutter in my home I hope to make my daily life easier. I started the process when we moved house about a month ago by culling things that hadn’t been used for a while, or that had no place to live in our new home. I’m now making my way through the house, culling a few things here and there each week and dropping them in the local charity bins. Some things are easily culled like dvds but more sentimental realms like my wardrobe require a softly, softly approach so I only cull a couple of things at a time.

The bulk of the clutter in our home belongs to Little Chop. She has so many books and toys, which I clean up over and over again everyday. At 30 weeks pregnant, this has become a huge drain on my energy. Little Chop is 18 months old now and understands most of what I say, so I’ve started encouraging her to put her own toys away, but she makes much more mess than she cleans up at the moment so it’s a work in progress.

The whole project is a work in progress really, so I’ll let you know how it’s going as we get closer to D day.

Wish me luck!