Going minimal: How I decluttered my belongings

When I moved in with my boyfriend to a new flat in Berlin, we were stuck with way too much stuff. We have just made a road trip with my friend’s van to Slovenia and Austria, where we picked up everything we own and also had some accumulated things from the previous flat share we were renting in Berlin.

For our new empty apartment, we only needed to buy a couple of pieces of thrift furniture that was missing while selling what we did not use has become almost a part-time job. In a couple of months, I made around 1000€ selling the things that were left on E-bay. Most of the stuff was actually donated or sold for 5-10€, so it really was an awful lot of work. I learned you can sell just about anything on a rainy Sunday.

Decluttering has become a fun activity on the edge of obsession. I guess that happens to anyone that has read Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up (I do get why some people hate it, but it was one of the funniest books I read this year). What was first just an attempt to get rid of some extra furniture, turned into an overhaul of everything I found in our flat, our basement, my childhood home’s basement and my parents’ place. I developed a new attitude towards stuff. Do I need this? Do I have something similar? How long will it last and will I be able to sell it at some point or properly recycle? I also wasn’t aware of the size of the second-hand market nor of the handful of up-cycling nonprofits out there.

There was some stuff I could not sell or donate, that I had to find a way to recycle, and one of my favorite moments of my decluttering phase was when I went to the recycling center. I was the enthusiastic girl on her bike with a pink bell on it, which came to recycle a couple of cables, standing in a line between huge trucks of junk. All the guys working there were laughing at me.

Everyone should declutter in order to:

  • Understand what you already own, because it is always more than you think.
  • Evaluate what you actually need and want to have and make more space and time for that.
  • Buy less, because you are aware that you might have something similar or that you have bought something similar in the past that you have not used.
  • Own less,  use all you have and take care of it better.
  • Make things you do not need available to the second-hand market (as things get destroyed just by standing around too).
  • Make money.
  • Have a tidy apartment without cleaning and moving things around all the time.
  • Be able to live in a smaller place and save costs.
  • Be able to rent your flat, because you are less attached to your stuff.
  • Have a smaller wardrobe, understand what you like to wear and have outfits to go to.
  • Make a transition to zero-waste easier, as the reduction of your needs really is essential for it.
  • Deal with the emotional luggage of certain items and get the feeling of a fresh start.

What to watch out, though:

  • How to get rid of things properly! Do not just throw things away. What you cannot sell or donate online could be done offline too. For example, I left books at a student cafe at the university. I gave an old laptop and some other appliances to a nonprofit who fixes them and donates them on. I took my old clothes to a swap shop and up-cycled old t-shirts into napkins and cloth bags.
  • Don’t just create an incentive to buy more stuff. If that happens, you are doing it wrong. Figure out what it is that you love. Getting rid of everything else will give you the feeling that you finally have enough.
  • Don’t get all crazy thinking it is horrible to own stuff because is not what this is about.

You can try a 21-day Journey into Minimalism following the Minimalists.

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