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Photograph: Courtesy of Andy Parsons

How to declutter your life and learn the joy of having less

Rose Johnstone
Written by
Rose Johnstone

If there’s one thing that’s not great about liberating yourself from all possessions, it’s that anyone you bring home suspects you’re a psychopath. It’s unsettling to enter a bedroom devoid of decorative items. I get it. But for a month, that was my life: just me, two suitcases’ worth of clothes and a duvet I hadn’t found a cover for yet.

Don’t feel bad for me, though – I’d chosen it. Two years ago, I moved to London from Melbourne. As the big departure approached, my fears grew. Would my parents agree to safeguard the Ancient Egypt books I hoarded as a pre-teen? Could I ship that midcentury armchair? I gazed at my monstera deliciosa and googled ‘bringing plants on planes’. That was until I decided to let it all go. I was upending my life anyway, so why not go the full Marie Kondo?

The great purge began with a garage sale. Watching other twenty-somethings rummaging through my tat (three CDs by The Killers, really?) was painful. But soon it felt thrilling. The more I expunged, the lighter I felt. I kept going until my stuff fitted into two suitcases, which I lugged on to the Piccadilly line from Heathrow to my prison cell of a room in Hackney.

And so I learned the big spring-cleaning myth: that you’ll miss your stuff. You won’t. I promise you. You’ll hardly ever think about it again. You’ll take joy from finding new homes for it, in charity shops or with friends. And when you buy more stuff, you’ll do it more mindfully. You’ll choose things that speak to who you are now, not who you were. And you’ll get to discover new corners of your city while doing it. I got up early to find houseplants at Columbia Road. I foraged for new clothes in Brick Lane’s markets. I found a fun print for my wall at Of Cabbages & Kings in Stoke Newington. And I treated myself to some super-soft John Lewis towels.

These days, I’d describe my bedroom as less serial killer, more artfully uncluttered... but hey, better eerily tidy than a bloody mess. 

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