What I learned from 40 days without stuff

Consumed is one of those rinse-and-repeat staples of trashy reality telly.
If you’ve never indulged, it goes like this: 

A family overwhelmed by clutter packs a small suitcase each, with all their other possessions put into storage for a month.

Not having TV/internet forces the family to talk and play together, bringing them closer.

At the end of the month they go to a warehouse where they downsize their possessions until they fit inside a yellow outline on the floor.

A couple of months later there’s a quick ‘where are they now?’ review. 99% of the time the family hasn’t escaped their clutter-buying and hoarding habits, and are on their way to re-purchasing as much as they got rid of in the show.

Consumed: A family is faced with their possessions after 30 days without them

You can watch any episode and the format is identical. I love it.

Little did Liam and I realise that we were putting ourselves through a real-life version of the reality show. On 29th August we packed up our possessions and put everything into storage except for two suitcases each: one to take on holiday to Japan (tourism in 35°C) and one to live with in New Zealand spring (work and leisure, from 10 to 20°C).

Until 12th October, when we moved into our new flat, we lived out of a suitcase.

Here’s what I learned.

  1. No, I don’t need that many pairs of shoes or that many clothes, but I do get joy from having them all to choose from.
  2. However big or small my wardrobe, I end up wearing the same 20% for 80% of the time.
  3. I missed useful things most of all. An iron, a hairdryer, salt and pepper.
  4. I got a huge amount of pleasure from being reunited with things – even if I hadn’t actively missed them. This reminds me why pulling out a seasonal capsule wardrobe (and hiding everything else) is so good. It’s like getting a whole new wardrobe for free every few months!
  5. If in doubt, throw it out. If you don’t know what a cable is for, get rid of it. It saves you living with a box of useless wires, and paying for moving and storage.

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris, Textile Designer

We thought we’d done a good job of de-cluttering our lives before we put everything into storage back in August. But after living without most of our possessions for 40 days, we’ve got rid of even more since being reunited with them.

It remains to be seen whether we will have re-accumulated all that stuff by the time it comes to moving house next time. But my 365 day ‘no new clothes challenge’ should definitely help.

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