All those books we held onto…


I came home yesterday afternoon to find the carpet on our landing stacked with books of all shapes and sizes, plus a range of other miscellaneous items.

All of this stuff had come from the little pine bookcase in our family study; it was clear that there was some purposeful and industrious activity going on in there!

With her dad’s help, our teenager had decided to reorganize the space, the idea being to improve her own personal organization (she is about to enter an intense phase of revision prior to her GCSE exams).

One bookcase, so many items

I have to admit that I was well aware of every single item on those shelves. I had previously done a little bit of delicate ‘pruning’, but was cautious about tackling this particular decluttering project.

My reluctance was mainly because of ‘The Declutter’s Rule: don’t minimize someone else’s stuff. As many of the items were shared or belonged to one of the other family members, I’d let sleeping books lie.

Now, there was a real reason to get one with it. And – when it came down to it – no-one was actually attached to any of this stuff at all.

The bookshelf list

You won’t be surprised when I tell you what miscellany lay before us.

There were: A-Z guides of Warwickshire, Birmingham and London; children’s bibles; language dictionaries; prayer books; poetry; kids’ story books (for all ages); tourist maps and guidebooks; seldom-used fitness publications and a couple of associated recipe books; two photo albums; my old Franklin Covey organiser (now used only as address book); a box of mobile phone-related electronic goods; my summer hat; two teddy bears; one small mug (a gift from long-ago Dutch houseguests); and some revision guides.

All of this fit onto one single bookcase, sitting neatly behind the door of the study, so (until now) it had been unobtrusive and therefore almost invisible. It had, in effect, been hiding in plain sight.

Guess what we really needed? Yep, just the revision guides (and I might use my hat when the sun decides to shine)!

Why did we keep these things for so long?

Books say so much about who we are (or tell a story about who we once were). They remind us of the people who gifted them to us or the period of time when we first read them. The maps and guidebooks take us back to much-loved places and the language dictionaries are symbolic reminders of trips of yesteryear.

What do our books say about us?

Having books around also says something about who we think we are (or who we’d like to be). A mix of fiction and non-fiction, they provide a glimpse into the aspects of life that appeal to us.

Books also add interest to a room, especially when you can display them by colour, type or shape.

As well as hanging onto them for aesthetic reasons, we also keep them in the hope that someone (one day) might read them again.

Maybe I was hanging onto the baby books ‘for the grandchildren’ (whose would-be mother is still at secondary school!!!). Surely, it’s better to release these lovely stories into the world, where they can be enjoyed by others who’ll really appreciate them now?

Keepsakes or clutter?

If I admit it, much of this stuff fell into the category of “keepsake” but it was disguised as something useful, educational or visually appealing.

What spurred me on was a throwaway but telling comment from our daughter: “I can’t work with all this clutter; I feel better without it.”

She needed the shelves for revision folders and guides, so our mini-museum of curiosities was now just getting in the way.

Home museum or library?

A study space in our home, no matter how large or small, can easily become something akin to a personal museum; a collection that provides a glimpse of who we have been, the places we have visited and the objects we accumulated over the years.

Unless we pursue an academic career when a carefully-curated collection of key works in a particular subject discipline might be useful, it seems to me that we can readily let go of these things without a backward glance. After all, any book we want to to read is readily available at our fingertips via digital download (either as a purchase or via the library).

Out they went

So, in just a few minutes, we placed all the books into carrier bags and carried them downstairs where we placed them in the garage, ready for despatch to our local second-hand bookshop.

The result? The room feels lighter, less cluttered and there’s more space for the study’s intended purpose: to study.

Have you ever been spurred on suddenly to declutter a space in your home? What did you do? What was the result? I’d love to know!

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The Tools and Techniques of Minimalism


In my last post, I talked about the what‘ of minimalism.

This time, I’m going to focus on the tools and techniques of minimalism. The ‘how’ of minimalism is important if you’re going to gain the full benefit of living an intentional life but with less stuff.

This post is long and contains lots of useful links that you may wish to refer to again. Join my community to get access to a free PDF containing a durable version of this post.

So, where to begin?

Outer work

My ‘Unclutter 2017‘ series of posts back in the New Year are a good place to start.

Throughout this series, we looked at various approaches, as set out below. The links will take you through to previous posts I’ve written on these tactics if you want to find out more:

These are all practical ideas and I’d encourage you to get stuck in, if you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of decluttering, which is a key tenet of minimalism.

Help! I feel overwhelmed by the idea of decluttering!

Start with your wardrobe

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If you feel totally overwhelmed and really don’t know where to start, I always say to start with your closet. Follow my 4-Step Wardrobe Edit process and you’ll immediately appreciate the benefits of an uncluttered space.

Ask for help

It may be that you really need some support, so don’t rule out the idea of enlisting someone to help or even employing a professional declutterer/organiser.

The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) is a useful place to start if you decide to enlist the help of a professional. Some professional organisers will even do the hard of work of taking unwanted items to the charity shop, thus saving you time and effort.

What about asking a friend to help?

This summer, my daughter and I are offering a decluttering service for friends, as part of her fundraising efforts towards her 2018 expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We enjoy working together and seeing the benefits of our labours and love helping others.

Get an accountability group or partner

Perhaps you need an accountability group or partner. Members of the Midlands Minimalist Community have access to my group in Better, an app developed as a way of harnessing Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework to create a better life.

Within Better, I’ve set up a Minimalism and Simple Living Group, as a way for us to interact, find mutual support, ask questions, get answers and (if we need it) get some accountability for our goals.

There’s more than the removal of practical clutter, however. There’s also ‘inner work’ to do.

Inner work


Embracing a simpler, more meaningful way of life means not only an initial purge of stuff, but also a change of mindset.

This may seem like another hill to climb, but if you’ve already had a taste of the benefits, you may feel ready for some habit changing work!

Staying uncluttered

Courtney Carver’s post But I Love Shopping epitomizes the kind of psychological struggle we go through when throwing off old habits. There’s little point in purging a high proportion of the items you own if you’re only going to re-fill the space within a matter of weeks or months.

Remember your ‘why’

Remind yourself of why you’re interested in minimalism and simple living in the first place. It might be that you’re committed to paying down your debt to get your finances in shape. Perhaps you just want to spend less time clearing up and more time having fun?

Living an intentional life requires a good understanding of oneself. For example, if you know that you spend more money on weekends, plan your time so that you’re not placed in a situation where this can happen.

Don’t be afraid to quit

I heard a quote from Oprah Winfrey recently. She said, “There comes a time in your life when you’re no longer where you’re meant to be.” I found this quite powerful.

Sometimes, saying no or intentionally moving on can reap benefits. I wrote about that here.

Where you are will mean different things to different people, but I do believe that it’s OK to change, to quit, to relinquish that which is no longer serving you. It can be hard to move on because that can mean saying goodbye or ‘au revoir’ to people you care about. But sometimes you have to do it.

Know that your life is the sum total of what you focus on

In her book, Rapt, Winifred Gallagher says, “…. the difference between ‘passing the time’ and ‘time well spent’ depends on making smart decisions about what to attend to in matters large and small.

Courtney Carver echoes this: “Usually time is not the problem, it’s priority.”

Consider these alternative realities

If you are prioritising shopping trips over a countryside walk, both your wallet and your Vitamin D levels will be depleted.

If you are continually moving piles of stuff from one place to the next, your life becomes one of clutter management. Get on top of it once and for all and you create space to do other things; things you’ll enjoy.

If you’re on your digital device 24/7, you’re with other people, but you’re not present.

See what I mean?

An intentional approach to life

Minimalism (in whatever form you choose) is a deliberate and intentional approach. The result creates a sense of lightness and freedom. What we do with that freedom is up to us.

That’s rather exciting, don’t you think?

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P.S. Let me know if you’ve found this useful and if you’ve tried any of the tools and techniques at home by replying here. Or email me via, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)

The love that flourishes when you let go of stuff


There’s bound to be something among the things you own that you really love. Some people love shoes (and are famous for it); others love clothes or have a signature scent that they truly adore (and which others associate them with). The list goes on.

“Love begins in a moment, grows over time and lasts for eternity”

I love rings. I always have. I own my paternal grandmother’s wedding ring that she first wore on her wedding day in October 1932. Having had it cut off because of dupuytren’s contracture, she kept this simple band of gold then had my birthstone set into it for my 18th birthday. It has little monetary value, but I enjoy wearing something today that my grandmother wore decades ago.

Can you be a minimalist and still love stuff?

Everyone’s definition of a minimalist lifestyle differs. My minuscule keepsakes take up no room but I value owning a bit of family history (and I wear my rings frequently). I suppose that’s the point: if the stuff you keep adds value to your life, then enjoy it. Use it. Wear it and let it bring you joy.

You may fill your home with stuff but it won’t fill your heart

We all know that the acquisitive pursuit of stuff can lead to anxiety, debt and emptiness. You may fill your home with stuff but it won’t fill your heart. On the contrary, clutter can be detrimental to wellbeing. That’s why decluttering is such a powerful tool.

Furthermore, the kind of love that flourishes when you let go of stuff is truly remarkable. It changes lives.

With This Ring

Bearing in mind my love of rings, I find Ali Eastburn’s story remarkable. Eastburn attended a women’s retreat when she found herself asking what might happen if she sold her stuff to help others. She then had the most daring and radical thought of all:

“I bet if I sold my wedding ring I could feed an entire village in Africa.”

Well, she did sell that ring and went on to found her charity, With This Ring. Eastburn’s own ring funded the drilling of a well in Africa, but the charity has since grown to change the lives of so many people through acts of generosity and love. Eastburn’s donation didn’t just change the lives of other people; it changed her own, as she was finally able to end what she called ‘an insatiable love of stuff.’

The Hope Effect

Joshua Becker is best known for his writing as the founder of Becoming Minimalist. However, the charity he founded is likely to have a more profound legacy. The Hope Effect seeks to implement family-based solutions for orphan care around the world. With a ‘two-parent’ style home, the charity’s mission is to transform the lives of children who would otherwise experience institutional care. How much hope and love abounds when ‘stuff’ is no longer the focal point of people’s lives!

The experientialist approach

Using your precious time and resources in the pursuit of activities or experiences (as opposed to things) will ultimately provide far greater reward than the short-lived rush of pleasure experienced when buying something new. Even better, enjoying activities with others helps build social bonds, which are a very important ingredient to wellbeing and happiness.

The month of love

Whilst February may be the ‘month of love’, June is traditionally the most popular month for weddings. A quick search on the web explains that, since the goddess Juno was the protector of women in all aspects of life (particular in matters of matrimony and childbearing), a wedding in Juno’s month was considered most auspicious.

This summer, my husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage. We had so little when we started out so, inevitably, embarked upon the pursuit of ‘more and better’. Only now do I truly understand that love can flourish even more when you let go of the things in your life that no longer add value.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll take a closer look at that little pot of rings I keep at home. Letting go of them would no doubt generate more love than wearing them on my finger ever could.

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