Before I moved back to England, I owned a fairly large 4-bedroom house in Wales which I absolutely loved. It was just beautiful, the original part of the building was made with 2ft thick stone, cool in the Summer, warm in the Winter, it had a cosy log-burning stove and years had been spent renovating both the interior and exterior to a very high standard. I’d filled every room with stunning items, accessories and knick-knacks, including one-off pieces of restored antique and vintage furniture. Everyone that visited immediately commented on how gorgeous it all was. When I eventually decided to sell, it wasn’t on the market for long and sold for a record-breaking figure for the history of the street. I put this down to the huge efforts which had been made making it as beautiful as it was. The new owners had been spared many years of hard work doing it up. Trust me, never again in my life do I want the job of peeling off 4 layers of wallpaper in every single room, with the top one being a 1970’s waterproof wood-chip effect, only to be left with messy walls which had to be fully re-skimmed, resulting in plaster dust settling on every surface of the house… which seemed to last forever! But it was worth it, the outcome was a quick sale at an exceptionally good price.
Throughout my years of living there, I’d also worked full-time in a super busy HR office role that I walked to just down the road. I needed to work full-time hours to pay for the mortgage on the house, the renovation and the crazy amount of gorgeous stuff I’d filled it with. Without this job, I couldn’t have achieved all of this. This was my normality. Go to work all week. Earn money. Spend it all on the house and living expenses. That was life back then. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it at the time, I have the most beautiful memories of living there with my bff fur-girl, we loved the nearby beach and spent quality time together, I just wish we’d done a lot more of it back then.
Outside of work, I maxed my spare hours as much as I possibly could. I would get up at 5.30am without fail every work day to dedicatedly give my girl the exercise she needed in order to relax until I was home for my lunch break, I’d then do some morning stretching, blend out a plant-based shake for breakfast, wash and get ready for work. Evenings and weekends I would spend on the house and walking my girl.
For years I was living in plaster dust and unfinished rooms which were impossible to keep clean whilst doing messy building jobs in every area of the house… then there would be the stress of having visitors. Surely this should be a pleasant surprise? People popping over to say hi. Hmmmm. I personally found it really stressful as I was constantly embarrassed about the mess I was living in. I was always making excuses to meet people in other places, rather than my own. I know, I know…. they understood I was renovating and didn’t hold it against me. But in my mind, it was a nightmare.
So, after years of hard work and each room finally encompassing the dream look I’d imagined for it, you’d think all that stress would be over, right? Well…it wasn’t. I’d now filled every room with gorgeous items that still needed maintenance; vacuuming, dusting, polishing, washing, mopping, cleaning. I had so much stuff that now, rather than spending my spare time doing DIY, I was tidying and keeping up with all the general cleaning that comes with a very full 4-bedroom home. You can see from the photos that, although it looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye and seems fairly organised, it was very full… in every room. This post only shows one of the bedrooms, all the other 3 were just as full, along with the hallways, kitchen, study, every storage cupboard, loft area, even outside!
The house and ‘stuff’ took over my life. Infact, they became my life. I worked hard for this sole purpose. And my spare time was constantly doing chores to keep it all running and clean. And if I knew I had visitors on the way, then I definitely felt the obligation to get the vacuum out, every room too, because people always wanted a tour of the entire house to have a look at all the beautiful changes I’d made. I was supposed to be enjoying it, but I wasn’t. My most precious times weren’t inside the house, but outside, walking with my girl Christi, or running along the beach, getting wet feet in the sea and watching her splash around. But I kept living that life of stuff and the house for years.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even realise how much it had taken over and I didn’t purposely change my life to incorporate ease, it just happened. One random evening, I made the decision to sell up, leave my job and move back to England where I’d been born and raised and little did I know the huge impact this would have on my life. The house sale was fairly quick with the purchase coming from one of the first families to view the property. I was now met with the mammoth task of packing the massive amount of stuff that I’d acquired over the years. This is when I realised I owned way too much stuff. As I packed boxes, I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of things I had. I was taking things out of the loft and storage drawers from all over the house which I’d never used, even opened, or, believe it or not, could even remember buying! On top of this, I’d kept a shockingly large amount of stuff that was ‘sentimental’. It was pretty distressing.
With the help of my dad, I managed to get all my belongings moved back to his house. But when I say it took over his house, I really mean it. Little Wing was parked out the back and she didn’t get away with being loaded up either. I knew I had to start selling things as I wasn’t intending on purchasing another house any time soon and things couldn’t stay as they were, more for my dad’s sake than my own at the time. I also didn’t want to end up with things in rented storage, because I could see no end to how long they would be there, and this wouldn’t be cost effective. Deep down, I knew I had to start letting go of things I’d grown weirdly attached to, considering they were inanimate objects! I still didn’t realise at this point, the huge impact streamlining would have on my life.
It took me about a year and a half to clear myself of approximately 90% of my belongings, which may seem a long time, however, I owned a lot of stuff and I wasn’t willing to just throw it all away, that doesn’t fit in with my beliefs of recycling/upcycling and caring for the planet. So it’s been a process of selling and donating more and more things over time, whilst ensuring I don’t replace them with another unnecessary item. For me, it feels like a huge achievement letting go of things I’d conditioned myself to believe were so important; you know the ones, family heirlooms, presents we feel obliged to keep and display forever, or perhaps items you’ve kept since childhood. But it’s imperative to go through the process sensibly without rushing yourself because letting these items go isn’t just a physical process, but more so an emotional one, which is super important to achieve properly for your mind health. By doing this in your own time, you can mentally deal with the full reality of letting items go, that you once deemed important, in a way that isn’t going to scar you in the future, or leave you with regrets. I never thought I’d be able to let certain things go, I really thought I’d be carrying them round in boxes with me forever, but I’ve done it, dealt with it, and feel great about it now. I’ve cleared my cupboards, and my head at the same time.
The other 10% of belongings that I’ve kept are items I currently deem important enough to have in Little Wing, although that changes daily with me constantly re-evaluating the importance of every object that I keep. How I’ve been clearing myself of belongings is another whole post of its own, however, what I can say is… hang on… WOW! I have my life back!
I now spend so much more of my time doing things, mainly outdoors, that I enjoy. I have a small streamlined space to keep clean and very few items to worry about. Although I don’t intend on staying in my current position forever, I also have absolutely no intention of ever expanding my living space in any future home I choose to live in, it’s tiny all the way now. General chores are quick and easy, and I don’t mentally punish myself for not getting everything done that I’d hoped to (unrealistically) accomplish over the 2 spare days I had each weekend. Plus I don’t worry about the state of the place when friends & family come over, because there’s not a myriad of stuff everywhere and surfaces are easy to wipe down and keep clean.
My mind is relaxed and calm. I feel more capable. I no longer work to keep a large storage box running. The house and the things in it no longer have a hold on me. My perspective of what is important in life has dramatically changed, and due to this, I now feel absolutely no need whatsoever to own a home that’s oversized purely to use as storage for products I really don’t need in my life. I much prefer my freedom and value my time so much more. And if I want to move on, as I did previously, I can do this easily without the stress and dread of a huge uphaul. Living in a space that’s not overwhelming or too much to keep on top of gives me a real sense of calm and tranquility. I still get to cosy up in a beautiful tiny home and enjoy the humble happiness of reading a book, or chilling out on the couch watching a good film, but it also allows me so much more time to do other things, all sorts of things, that I love to do. That especially includes being outside in nature with my two beautiful fur girls, who deserve that time, love and attention, as do we all.
choose fresh air
Written by Jules
Photography by Jules ~ some of the old house before minimal living