Cutting down on clutter with the Outbox Method

We are only human, descendants of Homo Habilis the tool user, and we get emotionally attached to our tools and memorabilia, loath to discard anything that has use or value or recalls memories.  In time this causes clutter as we acquire more durable goods than we donate, recycle or discard.  When I chose to move from Cape Town to Ireland, I also desired to strip away clutter and start afresh with only things I would actually use, plus a few sentimental or beautiful items.  In the process, I've refined a trivially simple but effective method to cut down clutter and prevent accumulation sometimes called the Outbox Method.

Letting go
The insight I (and many others) had is that it is stressful to let go of a many of your belongings at at once, or to let go of a belonging quickly. So, the trick is to let go gradually, both in number of items and taking time over it. To this end I placed a box by the front door, and every now and then I would look through my clothes and belongings and put the least-wanted items in the box, no matter if they were perfectly functional or could fetch money on Gumtree.  It didn't feel like I was throwing them away, more like I was segregating the things I wanted the least, and I could always pick it out of the box if I needed it or changed my mind - and sometimes I did.  After some time, the box gets full, and this is when I would make a trip to the local charity shop and donate the whole lot.

Over the 4 months preceding the move, I made a trip to the charity shop roughly every two or three weeks, both hands holding bags of clothes and goods.  In the end, I brought 29kg on the plane, 106kg in airfreight (of which 22kg were books), and left 65kg of filing in a cupboard at my parents' home.  Since arriving in Ireland, I have donated yet another bag of clothes and three bags of goods - the latter bulked up with a lot of hangers I have no closet space for.

One in, one out
The outbox has worked great for a mission to cut down clutter, but how does one prevent it accumulating with every trip to the mall?  For the last year or so I've been applying a "one-in, one-out" principle, that if I buy something new, I should put some equivalent amount of items in the outbox, preferably a similar item.  Unless I am desperately short of t-shirts, for every new t-shirt I buy an old shirt goes in the outbox.

Dress better without buying anything
An aside on wardrobes: they tend to be tiered, with house clothes, casual clothes, work clothes, clothes for going out, and formal clothes.  I've found that if you donate your house clothes, you don't suddenly find yourself with nothing to wear - rather your oldest casual clothes become your house clothes, and some evening-out clothes become casual clothes.  In other words, you can improve your wardrobe not just by buying new items, but by donating old ones.

Right now I have very little clutter, everything fits in the cupboards, and I intend to keep it that way.  Yes, that is my living room.

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