Last week, I went through the clear-out to end all clear-outs: my old room in my parents’ house.
And despite all the advice on minimalism I’ve been peddling on this site for nearly a year, I found it REALLY hard.
The room is by no means a shrine to my childhood self, it’s now a fully functioning guest bedroom. But lurking under the bed and in a few boxes at the side of the room were artefacts of a previous existence, one of Take That scrapbooks, silly teenage fanzines and tap dance exam badges.
I went in with a solid game-plan. I had four big boxes of stuff, a few bags and some other items to sort out, because my parents wanted my stuff gone (and why the hell shouldn’t they?? I am 33).
So, I planned three piles: bin/recycle, donate, keep. I blog about this, I thought. This will be a piece of piss.
I started strong: all my university work, bar a few key bits of paper, went straight in the recycle pile. My mum said it was a shame after all that work, but I hadn’t looked at it for over 10 years so I knew I didn’t need it.
Next was a pile of CDs. This was easy, straight in the donate box. My dad came in and started flicking through the stack looking for CDs to pilfer.
“Don’t bother, Dad,” I told him. “They’re all bloody Robbie Williams.”
“Ah,” he said, backing off. “A lovely chap.”
There were a good few items where taking a photo meant I could let go for good. A beer bottle that served as a prop for my high-school musical, photographed and gone. A clock I made in school during a design class, photographed and gone. Three Beano and Dandy comics I had kept in the misguided off-chance they would be worth something one day, photographed and gone. A lighter from the sweaty rock club I used to go to with friends before I was legally old enough to go out drinking, photographed and gone.
But then I hit the skids.
Photographing my old art projects and binning them was a real struggle, but I made myself do it.
Things were starting to get harder. It was almost like I had a reserve of willpower for throwing away sentimental goods, and I was running out of it fast.
I stumbled across a box of mix-tapes lovingly made by friends when I was a teenager. Photographing those was hardly going to work, was it? I shut the lid and shoved it to one side.
My mum came up to my room half-way through the day to see how I was getting on, and she suggested getting rid of a cuddly horse that came with an accompanying story on cassette.
I clutched it and pulled a comedy sad-face.
“Not Bobbin,” I said.
Bobbin went in the end, but I was losing my grip on what was worth keeping.
I discovered a heap of magazine articles about my favourite bands as a teenager, and instead of throwing them away I wanted to read them all, then keep them so I could do the same in another twenty years’ time. I found autograph collections, letters from friends and photographs. This task suddenly felt incredibly daunting.
I decided to put the most heart-wrenching items in a box and leave them for another day. I talked my parents into accepting this, and hid the box back under the bed. I also brought home a few treasured items I know I’ll want to keep.
Now, if I force myself to look on the bright side, then first off, I did get rid of A LOT of stuff last weekend. More than three-quarters of it was discarded.
Secondly, if it hadn’t been for this minimalism kick I’ve been on in recent years, I honestly think I would have kept far more if it and found this all the harder.
But this was my most difficult de-clutter so far, and I’m not sure I passed the test at all.