How spending time in an (almost) empty house showed me just how calm life can be

By Karen Quaintmere

Before I moved house, I had sorted and sifted, sold and donated, and generally reduced my possessions.

I thought I was living with very little. That I had ‘minimized’ to a point that felt comfortable for me.

Having sold my home, I packed up my remaining furniture and pictures, clothes, and kitchen belongings, and shed stuff, and books and so on to put them into storage. There was a gap between the sale of my home and moving to the new house. My stuff filled just over two storage containers. That was a bit of a wake-up call. Did I really have that much? After all my efforts to reduce what I own!

I moved into my brand new home without my things in order to sort out carpets and flooring and to allow time to get some changes in the house completed before my containers arrived.

I moved in with just what I could cram into my fairly modest car. An airbed, pillow, blankets, a towel, a bag of clothes, a few kitchen things, a hand-held Dyson, my laptop, a couple of books, and a few art materials. Oh, and a few house plants and a string of lights. And my cat—my treasured companion. It was a bit like indoor camping. And I loved it.

Watching the light moving across the almost empty open-plan living space. No curtains obscuring the light or the view of trees through the windows. Watching it get light and later the darkness draw in. The reflections in the floor tiles. 

I felt so calm.

There were some things I definitely missed. A real bed. My sofa, and being able to sit at a table. Wardrobes—being able to put things away out of sight. A bread knife. A colander. Mugs to be able to offer guests a hot drink. My shredder—I ended up with so much unwanted paper around without it!

I bought a few things I’d intended to replace in any event. I bought a few plants for the garden because I love to plant (I’m not so minimal in the garden).

All in all I managed very well with very few things. Amazingly well. Working with what I had, meant that I had to simplify everything. Preparing food became simpler, and clearing away and cleaning became much easier.

Choosing what to wear hardly took any time at all and yet I never felt like I didn’t have something appropriate to put on. And yet, I was living out of one bag.

It’s not just that there was physically less stuff in the space, but visually there was less clutter.

I got to thinking about why I had all that other stuff stored away and what I would do when it arrived. I started to view the arrival of my stored ‘stuff’ with trepidation.

And then yesterday it arrived. OVERWHELM!

I wanted to ask the removal guys to take it back.

So, now begins again the process of sifting and sorting and editing, until it feels right. Until there’s nothing more that I want to remove at this point in my life. I’m learning that this is an iterative process. That I have to allow it to take the time it needs to take. To honour this journey.

The difference for me now is that I have had a real experience of minimalism and that will motivate me to continue this process. It was like my version of the 30-day minimalism game.

Moving into space for a time helped me to see just how little I actually need. And, how having less means so much more. More light. More space. More breathing room. More calm.

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