The Joy of Less

September 6, 2016


A couple of months ago I had my two bedroom condo painted. To do so, I had to pack up a large part of it and find somewhere to store it. Since most of my closets were stuffed and even my storage room downstairs had barely enough room to step into it, this proved to be a challenge. I even considered using something like this Cheap Storage Sydney facility to keep all my furniture and possessions safe. Leading up to the painting, I had envisioned employing Marie Kondo’s techniques from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Somehow that didn’t happen. Instead I was left to pack, stuff and cram my things into any nook and cranny I could find. Wondering all the while how one person could have so much stuff and in the same moment justifying the clutter with thoughts like I’m an interior decorator and stylist and need all this stuff for my craft and I just know I’ll fit into these clothes one day. (Read: Trouble)


The painting has been completed for some time now. And a funny thing has happened – I haven’t wanted to bring the ‘stuff’ back out!

Never under estimate the power of a coat of paint. Transformational. Especially when going from a muddy taupe to bright, fresh white. I choose to sell a lot of my furniture post new paint as it just didn’t work anymore. I currently have one end table and a chair in my living/dinning space. And truth be told, I love it. Although I do miss having people over, I love all the SPACE. With the physical openness has come more energy, creativity and freedom. Gabby Bernstein says the desire to have less stuff, is a sign of enlightenment and while I would never dare call myself enlightened, I have recognized the power in the detachment.

Inspired by this lightness and energy, I decided to finally tackle all the stuff I had packed up. To be clear, I really think you have to ready to take on a major de-clutter, you have to be able to detach and leave the emotions aside. Five car fulls of garbage, recycling and donating later, I can say I was so ready to purge. To be honest, I might have been better off hiring a skip. A friend of mine from the UK told me that I actually inspired her to have a clear out too and that within a matter of hours she had been frantically researching ‘skip hire manchester‘ so that she could get a skip delivered outside of her home. It is amazing how much waste we all seem to hold on to. Had anyone been watching me during my de-cluttering mission, I probably would have looked slightly crazy – laughing to myself, joyously hauling things I’ve held onto for years away, giddy at the thought of the space I was creating for all things I actually want to come into my life – LOVE, ABUNDANCE, JOY. Like seriously, I’ve been saying for what feels like forever, that I’m ready for the love of my life, my life partner to walk into my life, but where the heck was he going to fit into it – there was no space. The Danielle LaPorte quote below sums it up perfectly.

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I didn’t follow an exact process per se, I used Kondo’s process of holding (or in my case looking at) an item and determining if it brought me joy or not. If not I released it, if so I found a place for it. I also really enjoyed Fracine Jay’s book, The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify. And siting on mostly the other side (I still my jewelry and pantry to tackle) I can say wholeheartedly that having less is truly joyous and empowering. Rather than being blindly lead by societal pressures (keeping up with Jones), the media, etc., choosing from a place of clarity, that comes from de-cluttering is incredibly powerful. Not wanting to be over-loaded and bogged down by stuff, I intend to be very intentional about what comes into my space.

Jay, who is referred to as Miss Minimalist, a label I would rejected a few months ago, perhaps a sign of my more enlightened self 😉 teaches the STREAMLINE method:

Start Over

Staring over is about getting back to the feeling of freedom. Like when you first moved into a new place and nothing had been unpacked. A blank canvas. To create that, Jay recommends emptying out the designated area to be purged – if that’s a drawer, empty out it’s contents; if that’s a closest, take everything out. I had a bit of a head start since everything had to be moved out in order to be painted – it was powerful to see all the space and then be very intentional about what I wanted to bring back in, which is far more empowering than thinking of it in terms of what I wanted to toss out.

Trash, Treasure or Transfer

Now that you have everything out in the open, decide what needs to tossed, treasured, or transferred. Jay encourages you to think about it in terms of generosity, what has been sitting unused in your space for months or years, could bring joy to someone else. She also suggests a ‘Temporarily Undecided’ box, for things you’re not sure of. Box them up and leave them for up to six months, if at that time you haven’t needed or wanted anything in the box, it’s time to toss, recycle or transfer it. Many of us struggle to get rid of things we don’t use despite them having no use to us. Looking into hiring a dumpster, like the services offered at Brockton, MA dumpster rental will help force you into analyzing what you really need.

Reason for each item

As you go through the items make sure everything in the treasure pile has a reason to be there: you use it often, it makes your life easier, you find it beautiful, it would be difficult to replace, it’s multi-functional, it saves you time, it’s a cherished part of your heritage or family. If you’re struggling with this process, Jay encourages asking a friend to help, sometime saying our reason out loud to someone else helps clarify and offer perspective.

Everything in its place

One of the most important minimalist principles is a place for everything and everything in it’s place. When determining a place for everything, consider where and how often you use it. I am a visual person. So if I can’t seem something it is out of mind, which can be dangerous when trying to live minimally. So for me, it was important to make sure everything was visible. No more stacks of clothes two deep, everything is front and center. As an interior decorator and stylist I do accumulate a lot of accessories, props, fabric samples, etc. Working through this process, I’ve transferred everything into clear storage bins and grouped similar things together, so I know exactly where things are and what I have. This alone will save me hours when putting spaces and looks together.

All surfaces clear

This one has always been a tough one for me. Jay challenges us to change the way we think of flat surfaces (counter-tops, table tops, desks, etc) instead of thinking of them as sticky (ie: drop something on it and it could be there for months), think of them as slippery – things are likely to slide off, so everything we place on our ‘slippery’ surface leaves with us when we leave the room. When I sold my dinning table, I was forced to put this practice into play, while I wouldn’t suggest selling all your large surfaces, moving them for a time to re-reinforce this habit may be helpful, especially if it’s as big a challenge as it was for me.


This step is a no brainier, but it’s amazing how out of sorts things can get when you’re not paying attention. Modules refers to grouping related items that perform a particular task (like knitting, baking, etc.) together. Start by consolidating, this will allow you to see if you have duplicates, once paired down with only the essentials, find a container (box, drawer, etc.) to store them in a place that makes sense. For example, if you always knit while watching TV, leave your knitting container in the TV room, near the sofa. This is so much easier to do when you don’t have as much stuff, so the key is to consolidate and then pair down as much as possible.


Setting limits is never fun. But if you really want to commit to conquering your clutter and living in a minimalist way, this is key. To be successful, limit items to one container – DVDs to one shelf, crafts to one box, etc. Once they start to overflow, that’s your sign to edit – trash, treasure, or transfer. I used this technique on my books. I love books. One day I hope to have a wall of bookshelves floor to ceiling, that’ll be my container for my books 😉 But until that day, I decided to limit myself to one bookshelf in my office. There were some books that I love, yet don’t reference often, so I choose to store them in my storage room, I limited myself to two bankers boxes, others that didn’t make the office or storage room cut, where donated or sold to a second hand book store.

If one comes in, one goes out

This is self explanatory, but challenging to put into practice. It’s tempting to think that it’s okay to accumulate a few things post purge – look at all the space we’ve created from our de-cluttering. But without putting this habit into place, we’ll be once again overrun with stuff in no time. Jay does allow for some reasonable concessions – if you have more blouses than trousers, feel free to remove a pair of trousers when a new blouse comes into the house. The same applies to unwanted junk and ornaments too. I’ve been looking at some companies that offer Hard rubbish removals since I’ve got a lot of junk that needs disposing of. Clothes are just an example but you should always be getting rid of old things you don’t use, especially if you’re buying something new.

Narrow down

While there is no magic number of items a house should contain in order to truly be minimal, Jay encourages you reduce your possessions to your personal optimum level. When picking something up, take a moment to honestly consider if you really need it, could purchasing it be feeding another need – boredom, anger, etc. When you discover you have multiples of something, pair them down. If you discover a box of unused items, consider tossing it all together rather than rifling though it, if you haven’t used it in the last 6 months, it’s unlikely you will in the next.

Everyday maintenance

Now the real work begins. Maintenance is often so much harder than the process of achieving. Anyone who has tried to loose weight and keep it off knows this well. But this is where you hone your practice, use the freedom you’ve created to empower your purchasing and exercise vigilance over comes into your space. Easy tips: cancel magazine subscriptions, bow out of gift exchanges, kindly tell friends not to bring hostess gifts to dinner parties, etc.

While this process can be daunting and oh so easy to avoid, I encourage you to give it a go – start small, start with the kitchen junk drawer, I promise the energy you get from clearing out unwanted and unneeded stuff will inspire you to keep going!

With love always,

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  • Alex Hope October 23, 2016 at 1:36 am

    Neelam, thank you for taking the time to share your valuable insights. It’s refreshing to see someone with so much passion for what they do! 🙂

    • Neelam October 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Wow. Thank you so much for your kind words Alex!


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