Declutter Your Fantasy Self

Happy to visit castles, rather than live in one!

Once upon a time (a long time ago), I had a fantasy self. She was an aficionado of antique chandeliers, vintage beaded dresses, fine china, and silver tea sets; I think she fancied one day she would marry a prince and live out her days in a British castle or manor house.

Charming as she was, after dragging her stuff thousands of miles in a cross-country move, I had to kick her out. And it’s a good thing I did—because even though I eventually married a prince (metaphorically) and moved to England (literally), my 400-square-foot flat would have never accommodated her lavish accoutrements.

Ironically enough, decluttering my fantasy self gave me the freedom and resources to turn my dreams into reality.

Do you have a fantasy self? And if so, how much of your clutter belongs to it?

All too often, we hold on to stuff because it represents who we think we should be, rather than who we are. Sometimes our fantasy selves are meant to impress others; sometimes they’re relics of our past; sometimes they’re fantasies about our future.

Whatever the case, it’s important to remember: acquiring stuff for your fantasy self doesn’t make it a reality. Most of the time, it only leads to a lot of “nice” clutter you never actually use.

Is your fantasy self…

* A culinary diva who has the pots, pans, gadgets, and gizmos to whip up any dish or confection under the sun…
when your real self would rather order takeout?

* A socialite with a closet full of cocktail dresses, with shoes and bags to match…
when the social event of your week is going to the coffee shop?

* A fitness guru with a treadmill, yoga mat, Pilates equipment, and a wardrobe of exercise clothes…
when the most rigorous workout you’ve had lately is taking the stairs?

* An all-star athlete with a garage full of sports gear…
when you’re more likely to catch a game on TV?

* A knitter/sewer/scrapbooker/woodworker extraordinaire with enough supplies to fill a craft store…
when you rarely ever complete a project?

* A DIYer with a workbench stocked with equipment and tools…
when you usually call a handyman if something breaks?

* A globetrotter with premium luggage and travel gear…
when you’d rather curl up on the couch and watch a Rick Steve’s DVD?

* A bigwig executive with expensive suits, silk ties, and luxury watches…
when you wear khakis and a polo shirt to work?

* A cello virtuoso with a library of sheet music…
when you haven’t picked up the instrument since high school?

* The trusted keeper of your family’s history and heirlooms…
when you’d prefer to shove those dusty boxes of junk in the attic?

Storing our fantasy selves’ stuff isn’t fair to our real selves—not only does it make us feel like failures, it takes away the space and time we could devote to uncovering our true passions and potential.

So as you’re decluttering, give the boot to your fantasy self and all its accessories—it’s not giving up on your dreams, it’s making way for real ones!

Are you dealing with your fantasy self’s clutter? Tell us about it in the Comments.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

206 comments to Declutter Your Fantasy Self

  • Lolly

    Wow. The concept of a “fantasy self” makes so much sense. My fantasy self is a bohemian artist, crochet, sewing and knitting pro. In reality I am a poet and a collector of too much sentimental and vintage crap. And like Marjorie’s post above, I have too many books.

  • Kitty

    I am soooo glad I read this post! It truly hit home for me. I have been gradually decluttering our home (at least, my stuff-hubby isn’t totally onboard yet) the last 3 or 4 years. Most of it went to the local thrift shop but last year we sold a ton of stuff in the town-wide yard sale. I have accumulated another ton of stuff for this years yard sale, too. The things I inherited from my mother have been the hardest to part with, even when I didn’t particularly like them. Regarding a few of those items, I just have to wait until I’m ready to sell them. Otherwise, I’ve decided that I am not my mothers’ stuff-keeper any more. The best part of this post was putting a name to my “fantasy” self. That’s exactly what I was doing when I was buying all kinds of craft patterns and kits on eBay a few years back. I was fantasizing about being a crafter extraordinaire and turning out all kinds of beautiful handmade things to decorate our home. I’ve been crafting since I was a little kid, but my speed of completion has dwindled considerably over the years (I’m now 55). The main criteria I used for decluttering my collection of cross-stitch, crochet, quilt, needlework and knitting patterns and kits (not to mention scrapbooking paper, fabric, yarn and fiber for handspinning) was whether or not I thought it was something I would actually make in the years that are left in my life. I cut my collection by at least half; I’m sure I can cut it by half again the next time I go through everything. I quit collecting cookbooks and my Pfaltzgraff dishes several years ago. I’ve quit bringing home glassware that I never use from yard sales and auctions. I’ve stopped buying gadgets for the kitchen. Most of the time, DH and I exchange gifts only at Christmas. The urge to collect, obviously fueled by my fantasies of being the perfect little homemaker in every aspect, is still something I have to nip in the bud at times, but there is definitely LESS coming into our home. When I walk into the rooms in our home now, I don’t feel nearly as overwhelmed, even though I notice things that we could probably get rid of. We still have a long way to go but I’m actually enjoying the personal growth associated with the trip. The insight I gained from identifying my “fantasy” self was mind-blowing. Thank you so much!

  • Tina

    I saw a home shopping channel run a special on card- making supplies. I’d never use that many cards in 20 years. Some people are stocking up on that stuff. I am so glad I cut way back on hobby supplies when I did. I did make one scrapbook and one altered book. I also made a few necklaces. I try a hobby and then lose interest. So glad I don’t stock up.

  • Tina

    A woman I volunteer with was worried she would run out of papers to use for crafting. Since I have given away 75 0/0 of my papers and still have plenty left, I reassured her. I also gave away most of my quilting supplies and all my quilting patterns. I think I still have enough drawing materials for 4 schools if they have a drive this year. I still make the occasional bracelet or necklace, and gave away a box of heavy jewelry I never wore.

  • Cassie

    Over the last few months, I have been reassessing all my belongings. Like many of you, I was just tired of having “stuff” and have been paring down ever since. My fantasy self is an expert knitter/crocheter who can whip up items over the course of a couple of days. Aside from a small project, it usually takes much longer than that. Every time I saw a new pattern I loved, I would get the book, the yarn and often a set of needles to make it with. I did a big purge several months ago, but I knew I had much more to go. Just last weekend, I finally finished consolidating and paring it all down. I only kept the books that I truly use (1/4 of what I had). I only kept the yarn needed for those projects that I can complete…really complete…in 1-2 years (probably 1/100 of what I originally had). And, I pared down my needles/hooks to 1 of each with very few exceptions. All the extra books, yarn and needles have been donated to charity. Instead of a whole room dedicated to this craft, I have a 4×4 bookcase. I can’t tell you how liberating it is. With my new found freedom, I even found a few moments to finish up a project that I found along the way.

  • What a beautifully articulated and very inspiring post. I’ve just recently sorted through most of my crafting stuff and git rid of hoards of it! I love the quote Tomorrow is Now!and used it as inspiration for a post, however your’s has helped me to extend where this kind of questioning could get me :-) Thank you so much

  • […] Jay over at Miss Minimalist and I have loved every post I’ve read thus far. Her post, Declutter your fantasy self, chimed so clearly with my post a few weeks ago about tomorrow is now that I had to share it. Her […]

  • Tina

    I was at a thrift shop with my husband and they were filling 2 huge racks with expensive collector dolls. Someone died and no family member wanted any of the very expensive portrait dolls. We each bought one book, donated another big bag of various things we no longer need and left. I have more to donate and more to sell.

  • Tina

    I do not cook. I hate cooking and have for years. I like to buy food and color coordinate and throw big parties. I threw a big party and it was great. I bought a lot of food and everybody laughed and had a good time. It was such a good party I am throwing another one in a few months. I like to clean and shop and color coordinate. I am not afraid of throwing parties any more. Years ago I tried to throw a party where I would have to cook and I had to be in the hospital for 3 weeks with a nervous breakdown. So now, my fantasy self can be a reality as long as I don’t have to dress up.

  • […] teilweise richtig teure Anschaffungen, die man anschließend verrotten lässt, auch einredet. Dieser Blogartikel auf Englisch erklärt das schon ganz gut. Vielleicht ist unser gemeinsames “Fantasie-Ich” ja eine […]

  • Christina

    My fantasy self is a hippy who lives in a large house full of crap, beads, flowery pillows, candles, incense sticks and a bucket-load of scarves. My real self is a minimalist who can’t throw out useless things fast enough, lives is a small white apartment, has no beads, just one pillow to sleep on and only three candles. Who knows, maybe one day if I have the space, I will put together a room for my fantasy self and see how she feels in it. I doubt she’ll like it, though! :)

  • […] Miss Minimalist Francine Jay is a delightful writer. The link above goes to one of my favorite pieces on decluttering your fantasy self, but there are again days of reading here. […]

  • Tina

    I liked Christina’s post. I gave a box of candles to my daughter. I had bought them years ago and never used them. A tiny bottle of shampoo lasts about a month and a tiny tube of toothpaste lasts a week so I am using up all the bottles of shampoo and shower gel my daughter has given me over the years. I can’t remember the last time I bought toothpaste. I keep my hair short and never polish my nails so that eliminates a lot of maintenance items. I saw soap on special so I bought some for my son because we didn’t need any. He lets me use his car while he’s at work so if I find something I think he can use I pick it up for him.

  • […] moet ik het maar accepteren, dat mijn fantasy-self in deze jurkjes rondloopt, maar dat mijn echte ‘zelf’ toch meer lijkt op degene die ik […]

  • Marissa

    I don’t have much of a “fantasy self” these days, but there are remnants of it in my life. Like, for example, my half sister gave me an expensive black coat that I wanted to wear merely to impress the other side of my family this year. But seeing how the coat reaches my knees and I plan on wearing a long dress to my family’s Christmas party this year, I decided not to wear it this year. So now it will stay in my closet AGAIN until I have a chance to wear it somewhere, lol! But I’m thinking about getting rid of it if it doesn’t look good on me. I mean, why keep something if you’re not going to wear it, right? So there is my plan for that fantasy item. xD

    Also, I have a Pyrex bowl that I am keeping because I “might” use it someday, lol. I managed to part with the other three other bowls that were kept in the set and I kept the biggest one in the set because I was simply not using the whole set enough for it to be worth keeping it around. The biggest one I have is being kept because my excuse for it is that I might use it for watermelon slices during the summer or possibly keeping some type of dough in it, I guess. D: But until that day comes, it just sits in the cabnet. It’s a nice bowl with a lid that goes on it, so that is why I kept it. But if I don’t use it in the future soon enough, it may get the heave ho later on!

  • Ann Chandler

    Thanks for introducing me to all these wonderful soul-mates. I, too, have far too much stuff. As a frugal Yankee who grew up during the Great Depression, I hate to throw away “Perfectly good” things. It isn’t hard to get rid of old clothing, I find, but I am a collector of antique toys and dolls, and a crafts person. Some of these have considerable value but I have been unable to find buyers. I have plastic bins full of craft supplies I know some group would be able to use. Some of the things are new, others have been lightly used, like a couple of pencils in a set of colored pencils may have been sharpened once or twice. Some blocks of art paper have been partly used, but there are still many sheets of clean paper still left. Where do I donate it? It is difficult for me to sort, package and send stuff, but I live in a suburban area where there are colleges, senior centers, and children’s after school programs. Does it take days of telephoning all these places to find one willing to take this stuff? Do I need to go through it, package it, and label it all? At 84, this seems like a daunting task. If I live to be 300 years old, I will never use all the fabric and lace, bias tape, buttons, etc. I have accumulated. I need help! It sounds easy as I read through the above suggestions, but when I get down to the nitty-gritty it seems overwhelming. Any suggestions?

    • Jennifer

      Ann, the art and craft supplies will be most welcome at your local elementary school or daycare centre.

      At your age, I think it more than reasonable to ask them to help pack it up. I am sure when donating such treasures, they will be more than happy to!

  • […] read Miss Minimalist’s post on decluttering your fantasy self a long time ago but decided to apply her advice only […]

  • […] also: Declutter Your Fantasy Self by Miss Minimalist Letting Go of Sentimental Items by The […]

  • […] spoke in my last post about how reading this blog post helped me to free myself of stack loads of craft supplies whilst enabling me to keep hold of the […]

  • […] also: Declutter Your Fantasy Self | Miss Minimalist Letting Go of Sentimental Items | The […]

  • […] theme here with clothes and organization?  Well, here is another.  I love this post about decluttering your fantasy self.  Essentially, get rid of the things you think should define you in your home so that you can […]

  • […] theme here with clothes and organization?  Well, here is another.  I love this post about decluttering your fantasy self.  Essentially, get rid of the things you think should define you in your home so that you can […]

  • I do not collect craft supplies. I have patterns for various things I’d like to make. I have crochet hooks in various sizes, and a small box with mending supplies. This weekend I am giving a talk on frugal gardening. I am giving away some small plants I have and some seeds I was given. I also have packets of information to give away.

  • […] Declutter your fantasy self – Miss Minimalist […]

  • Tina

    I am giving a talk on succulents and dish gardens in a month. All the supplies except the soil and plants are from the thrift store. I have been helping a friend clean out her collection of craft supplies. She had huge bags of toilet paper rolls. I said she could always get more and just keep 50 instead of 300 and recycle them. Then there was all the paper. Boxes and boxes of paper. And cases of crayons and chalk. I have one shelf of instructions and 2 bins of supplies. I am so glad I don’t have a basement or a garage.

  • […] Fantasy Self: You probably have things that you are keeping around because one day you are going to be a total […]

  • Tina

    I have a need to make crafts. I wanted to make a gift extra beautiful. I used some cardboard, scrap paper, and old silk flowers instead of a bow. Luckily, I kept my little hot glue gun. I never buy gift wrap, ribbon, or fancy bows. I use found objects like string, buttons, packing paper, etc. I got a big roll of Chanukah paper years ago at Goodwill. I wrap maybe 1/3 of the gifts in it. The rest are in second hand tissue paper, old road maps, sales flyers, etc. Only children actually get a wrapped gift. Adults get cash or a charity donation.

  • […] theme here with clothes and organization?  Well, here is another.  I love this post about decluttering your fantasy self.  Essentially, get rid of the things you think should define you in your home so that you can […]

  • […] Declutter Your Fantasy Self | Miss Minimalist […]

  • […] used to be a big part of my fantasy self. My fantasy self had a large variety of jewelry pieces to go with every outfit and wore different […]

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