Fantasy-Self items I had to Declutter to get Freedom
I am DONE living for a Fantasy-Self
As we’re decluttering, we run into all kinds of things, we come across things from our past selves. Like “this is the Rachel in high school, and this is what she was interested in, and the things that she collected and the clothes that she wore.”
And we run into our future selves “like this is who I’m going to be when I retire, and these are the items that I’m going to use because I will have so much free time.”
But today I want to talk to you about the fantasy self. The person that you never were in the past, and you will never actually be in the future, even though you have this fantasy of “this is the type of person I will be.”
So many categories fit into this.
On this journey to minimalism, I had to come face-to-face with this fantasy self, who she was, and determine which one is the fantasy Rachel, and which one is the real-life Rachel, because, in all honesty, all of the fantasy Rachels were getting in the way of me truly living and being present with my family.
So here is a list of some of the things that I had to think through:
I still love cookbooks. I really enjoy sitting down and thumbing through and getting ideas. The make-a-head cookbooks, freezer meals, crockpot meals, grill cookbooks, marinades, baking, cake decorating ideas, cookies, Cajun food, and ethnic foods. Oh I had so many!
But the truth is if I wanted a recipe, I’d go to Pinterest because, well, I wanted to see reviews.
I wanted to see what people thought. I’d search Allrecipes.com for something, and I’d be able to see everything that everybody said about the recipe and I wanted to know, is this truly a five-star chocolate chip cookie? Or is this just a three-star chocolate chip cookie?
My fantasy self that “used” the cookbooks was someone who would pull out the cookbooks every week, lay them on the table and go through each one, create a menu plan, write out a shopping list, and have beautiful meals every day of the week.
But the real-life Rachel is subscribed to e-meals.com and also has the rotating favorites of the family-like tacos and spaghetti.
I was able to let go of all of those cookbooks and free up tons of space in my kitchen.
Now, I have one cookbook, it’s a three-ring binder type, and this is where I’ve collected recipes and I’ve saved my own.
I had so much fabric. When I was in my early twenties I did a lot of quilting. Then as I got older, I wanted to get into repurposing. I loved the idea of sewing my children’s clothes from old things.
I would go to garage sales. I would pick up fabrics and I made a few things. I made my daughter a dress. I made my boys some clothes, but honestly, the collecting was more fun than the actual doing the work.
Eventually, it got to the point where I had a massive collection of fabrics and I never wanted to sew.
The fantasy self sews all my children’s clothes, but the real-life me… I have raised six kids and I don’t want to spend all my time sewing clothes, (especially when I can go to the thrift store and pick up jeans that the boys are going to rip holes in) no need for them to have a matching suit with a bow tie because that’s not how we live our life. I have rough and tumble boys. The vision I had of how I would have them dress in all these clothes that I made them, there’s no way it would line up with the reality of what we really live with.
These days if I do decide to sew something, I can go to the store, and I can buy the fabric for that project. I can do that project, toss the scraps, and then I can put all the tools away again. I don’t have to manage all the stuff.
It was is the same with yarn.
I had this vision of myself sitting on the couch and crocheting things all winter long, but the truth is, I don’t want to do it. When I sit down on the couch to watch a movie, I don’t want to crochet.
And after so many winters went by where I did not pull the crocheting out of the basement, I had to come to terms that this was a fantasy.
I’m not going to be that person that sits and crochets. And it’s okay.
Old quilt tops
I also had old quilt tops that I’d collected. I appreciate the work that someone put in. And I couldn’t believe that someone was getting rid of these hand-sewn quilt tops at a garage sale.
But do you know what? I had my own quilted tops in my basement that I hadn’t finished. So adopting other people’s projects was definitely the fantasy self!
I love notebooks. Journal, bullet journal, a blank notebook, a sketchbook, I love them all.
But when you have 20 notebooks just sitting on the shelf and they’ve been sitting there for the last 10 years and you haven’t used them. In fact, you probably even added to the collection, but you don’t actually journal. Then maybe that’s something that you like the idea of, but don’t actually want to do.
Since I got rid of all of my notebooks, I have actually started journaling. It shifted from being that idea of “oh, I should collect these because one day I’m going to,” to actually deciding I need to be intentional about this so I’m going to buy one notebook and I’m going to use it for this specific purpose.
I now use one notebook for my prayer journal and only allow myself to purchase a new one when I have 10-15 pages left.
I had a collection of beautiful stationery. I grew up before the internet, which is why it started.
But I never even used stationery back then when I was a teenager. I would write letters to my friends and I would use a piece of notebook paper.
That special stationery I was saving it for that special reason, but there never was something special enough to justify using the stationary so I had a huge collection of beautiful stationery.
And then by the time I was 19, everybody was using email and there was no reason to send snail mail.
I had had visions of myself as a gentile lady with my flowy dress and my sun hat writing a letter to my beloved as I sit in a field of wildflowers beside a babbling little mountain brook.
But that’s not my reality.
I am NEVER going to put on a sundress and a hat and go sit out in a meadow to write a letter.
I love to bake. So this was a hard one because I actually do bake cakes. I bake pies, yeast bread, sourdough, scones, choux – I bake all kinds of things, and I really enjoy it. But I had so many tools that the tools themselves got in the way. They made it so that it was more work to get out all the supplies needed to bake something, that I rarely did any baking.
I was able to sort through and pick out just the ones that I actually use. I do use the nine-inch cake pans. I do use a couple of pie pans, (not 10). All the specialty items I was able to let go of because the real-life me doesn’t make many desserts and definitely not three-tiered cakes.
I love the idea of dressing like a professional, but the truth is, I don’t like to iron and I’m not going to take things to the dry cleaners.
I detested doing laundry for years. So through this process, I’ve had to make laundry easy on myself, which means no specialty items.
If it’s going to get ruined because it goes through the washer and dryer, it’s not going to make it in our house.
Gardening supplies and homesteading
I love the idea of homesteading. I romanticize it in my mind. We could have chickens and grow our own food and have a cow with fresh milk. I could make cheese and canned fruits and vegetables. But the truth is, I do not want to get up every single day and go milk the cow, and I don’t want to clean out the chicken coop or have to break the ice out of the water in the winter.
The real me can handle a few garden beds. That’s what I can manage.
The fantasy me wants a five-acre homestead.
But it’s not even realistic that I would have the time and energy to manage a five-acre yard, let alone have a homestead.
“Because well, we should save this, this is good stuff. We should have a garage sale.” Right??
The truth is, I absolutely hate having garage sales. I hate setting it up. I hate advertising. There’s no part of the garage sale process that I take joy in. Completely detestable.
Knowing that, I can be honest with myself and know that if I want to declutter (remove things from my possession) and simplify my life, I need to get rid of these things in a way that causes the least amount of work for me. The path of least resistance.
If I save things for a garage sale, I dread the work, I feel bad about how “lazy” I am for not following through and all the stuff will simply sit in the garage wasting away.
Yes, I got rid of unfinished projects.
There were unfinished projects that had been sitting for at least 15 years that I “needed to do.” And every time I saw them I would be disappointed in myself. “Yep. I still need to do that” and I would “should” myself: “I should make time for that.”
There are people who don’t have the funds that would really appreciate getting those projects! Put it out on Facebook and offer it for free. Let those unfinished projects go and let the heavy burdens go with them.
When someone has high expectations of you, it’s a heavy burden.
Think about someone in high school or college saying “my parents expect me to be a doctor and I don’t want to be a doctor, but they know I’m capable of that and that’s what they envision for me.”
That’s a heavy burden.
We do this to ourselves, with all of this stuff around us, everything around us is reminding us of unmet expectations. Even if it’s something we expected of ourselves. That means that every time we look around the house, go in the garage or the spare room, we’re reminded that, yep, we’re always disappointing ourselves because we never live up to our own expectations.
But we can acknowledge that, let those items go, and get them out of our house. All the heaviness, all the weight, the emotional weight of those items leave as well.
If you would like to join me in decluttering, I send out weekly PDFs to my Clutter-Free Army. The PDFs include six 10-minute missions, an area to focus on, and questions to ask to help you work through each area and make the best decisions for you and your home. So you can move forward on your decluttering journey just 10 minutes at a time. Click here to learn more.
This is one of the best decluttering articles I’ve ever read. So apt and to the point. I have just gone through an 8-week process of cleaning and decluttering my house space with the help of a housekeeper. She is so much like me in so many ways – and she took much of my “craft crap” that I acknowledged I would never use, including items I had just bought. I realized again that I shouldn’t shop or change craft interests when I’m grieving. Great writing! Thank you.
That’s a very good point Peggy. When we’re grieving, or even just overwhelmed with situations, it’s easier to dive into a project than it is to allow ourselves to feel and walk through all the emotions. ❤️
Most helpful advice I’ve ever seen on decluttering. At 68 I have a lot of past me’s and still aspirational items for a much cooler future me.
I recently move and down sized from a huge farm house and farm to a small 2 bedroom with no attic, basement or garage. I got rid of hundreds of things but these are the ones that persist. You’ve given me the ability to see them for what they are and move on.
I feel like this was written to me. The fabric, the baking tools, all of it is the possibility of all the versions of me that could be, but they can’t coexist and I don’t have room for all of them! This has been really impactful thank you.
So true, I had never had a label for it, but as I approach 50, there are a lot of paths I can no longer choose, and hence a lot of “me” that won’t be. And that’s OK. A little sad, even a little painful, but the truth…and letting go of the Fantasy Me will leave more room for the Right Now Me, I’m sure.
Superb Article ! I felt I was reading what I had Witten.. since a few years ,I’ve been aware that I need to declutter as the house is bursting on its seams !! . But was living in fantasy world ,as your blog explains it , yes I’ve had really checks and realized things are not moving out as fast I would like them too ,I’ve been waiting for a fairytale magic Wand or a genie to help me .. ..facing exactly ,now the very same excuses you have gleaned.!
And just yesterday Ii sat for my yoga , allowed the words of my Guru teacher sink through me allowed each breath to offer completely myself and all of me , real and fantasized ,to the Divine ! And today this blog ihas been offered to me 🙏🙏🙏 Thank you so very much , Deep Gratitude for reinforcing mission !
This is the first time that I’ve accessed your Nourishing Minimalism post .. all the earlier ti mes I would scroll down with a justification, ‘ oh not for me , i been reading / collecting various posts on Minimalism with the fantasy of reading it when i have the time .. !! 🤩 Ha, ha!
Thank you for this timely appearance as I felt a calling to pause and allow myself to feel nourished 💖🙏🤗
Hmmm … I think your fantasy self list is almost identical to mine! I guess I have some decluttering to do.
Thanks for detailing this out, Rachel; clear examples and freeing to me.
This is the besst article I have ever read on decluttering.
Honestly I feel as though this is the most succinct summation of what so many of us deal with in our clutter. Fantasy selves regards baking, cooking, clothing, all of those notebooks and various funky items. I rarely even post on Insta so don’t even need the props to fake the fantasy self. You’ve given me renewed purpose to get these things out. thank you!
I have been decluttering for about 2 years and am now getting to the last couple of boxes…or so I thought. Then I read this article and realised why I still seemed to have too much stuff…my fantasy selves (past, present and future) have been hindering me. I have re-tackled my wardrobe successfully in the past week and I have my eye on the next re-decluttering project. Thank you.