Last year, our ever-inspired founder and leader Tara Button decided to cut the crap. Living for a year without extraneous items, this list was to be her own minimalist bible. I think it’s about time we discovered how she got on. Was it way too easy? Was it a little too tough? Can anything be too difficult for a female entrepreneur who’s disrupting an industry obsessed with excess?
Luckily, we’re all realists here. Each step that someone takes toward lowering their impact on the planet is one to be commended, even if all it involves is cutting a little spending here and there or taking a pile of unworn clothes to the local charity shop.
You lived with one and two other people at times last year. How hard has it been to drag the non-believers with you on your clutter-free quest?
Tara Button: It is always a compromise – it has to be. People are different, and there’s no point imposing your will on other people. For the most part I’ve been really lucky to be living with a natural minimalist – my fiancé really couldn’t really give a crap about actual stuff. He’s at home in the living room - living for stories, comedy and culture. If it was just up to me, maybe I’d have thrown out the widescreen TV… but then he might have thrown me out! The only slight struggle we still have is with his little sort of clutter – you know, like dead pens, stationery, other little nick-knacks.
I’m also aware that it can be more difficult to declutter when your household isn’t just a couple. It can be pretty tough just to work out whose stuff is whose, and I’m not keen on moving stuff around I don’t own. I’d never want to feel like I’m imposing something upon an unwilling participant. A great time to approach decluttering is actually when a housemate leaves or when you move house yourself. It’s a great opportunity to spend time thinking about what matters and what doesn’t.
How has running a business made it more difficult to keep your pledge?
TB: Well, the nature of the business means that, luckily, it’s constantly on my mind. I do find myself having less and less time and that can definitely lead to more impulse-driven shopping. I think it’s a lot like grocery shopping when you’re hungry – you go in for a tin of soup and come out with a Twix multi-pack and a great big bag of Doritos. When there is something that I think I do need to add into my life, for the business or at home, I really try and carve out some time to make a focused decision about it. Get it right now and I’m saving myself time further down the road.
So you’ve managed to avoid impulse shopping all year?
TB: [Looks to the ceiling, laughs furtively]. Well, the other day I did buy this kneeling chair. It basically shares the weight of sitting between my knees and bum. I was in pain; the chair in my writing room is crazy uncomfortable, and I was just thinking of my poor back. I might not have looked into it as much as I should have, but I wanted to make the pain go away. I mean, it’s arriving in a few days so I can update you, but usually I’d have put more time into it.
I think we can let you off. How about at Christmas – did you manage to avoid giving throwaway stuff?
TB: Hmm. Well, that’s a downside of running a business, writing a book and planning a wedding at the same time. My time is so squeezed that even with the best will in the world things do get left to the last minute. I have to really fight that. I now set up birthday alerts to make sure I have enough time to really think about what I want to give them. I would say I did well on the whole, but as it got closer to Christmas I was left with whatever delivered soonest, what shops were local. So maybe there were a couple of things that were sub-par.
You’ve also got to be wary of pushing your minimalist life on other people. When I was looking for a present for my little niece, I found something I knew she’d absolutely love. I know her really well and she’s always been obsessed with dressing her toy dolls, so when I found this sweet fashion designer set I had to get it. It was filled with fairly disposable little bits of plastic, most likely won’t be remembered in five years and definitely wouldn’t be classed as BuyMeOnce. But I was right to go for it – it turned out to be her favourite present. And no, I didn’t ask her myself! If she gets lots of joy and use out of it then it’s worth it.
That’s cute. How about the other way around – did you manage to prevent friends and family from piling on things you don’t need?
TB: Luckily, my family are quite aware of my opinions… now. I think it does give them a certain bit of stress – I’m definitely harder to buy for. Having said that, this year everyone did well – stuff off our site is a safe bet! In the future I might make a point of saying that I’d be super happy to be taken out for dinner, receiving experiences over objects. Actually, something I’m especially excited about is the gift from my parents. They’ve given me money to put towards building the perfect BuyMeOnce bike.
Has there been anything that you were ready to discard that’s managed to make its way back into your life?
TB: No, I don’t think so. Well, actually – there was a denim jacket that I bought… well, a long time ago. I stopped wearing it because I felt it was too casual; something about it didn’t feel like me any more. I just put it on one day a few months back – I was cold and it was close – and my fiancé really liked it. It was surprising, after creating my minimalist capsule, to see it in a new light. It’s perfect when it’s too warm to have a proper jacket and too cold for a tee. It took someone else’s opinion to make me realise that.
Is there an argument to just hold back a little when you’re doing a big Marie Kondo-style clear out?
TB: No – still be ruthless. I kept that jacket through a cull or two so there was always something in it. I got rid of over half of my clothing last year, and I don’t miss any of it. I don’t know if I can even picture those pieces any more.
Does it help to have someone on your side when you’re having that one big declutter?
TB: I made most of the decisions myself, but if I was in a quandary it was nice to have my fiancé to call on. The other way around – maybe I was more involved when we culled his wardrobe. He knew he wanted to cull but needed a little push. We decided he’d have five vetoes on clothes he really ought to be chucking but had an attachment to. He was happy with that and looks a lot better for it.
If we all weren’t being judged every day, I think we might all end up dressing in the same casual outfit all the time. When you love someone, you might have to accept that they come with a beaten-up Goonies t-shirt, over having room in your home. If I was giving advice on how to cull, I’d say bring someone over who’s supportive without being overbearing – you need to be in charge, but having someone emotionally comforting to have a break and a drink with.
Do you feel like it’s all paid off? Has your mind felt that bit clearer without so much stuff around?
TB: Definitely. It’s such a joy to open a drawer that has stayed decluttered. It saves you time and helps you to become organised. If you have 85 bits of Tupperware, matching the lids is nigh impossible. If it’s 5 then you stand a chance. Having space on the surfaces and finding a home for everything gives you more of a rhythm in your domestic life, and you’re stopped from going into a spiral of messiness.
Stuck for a gift idea for the minimalist in your life? Read our gifting guide or check out Tara’s line by line efforts to get rid of her clutter.