Small hinges swing big doors

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This is a follow up post to my article on minimalism.

My boyfriend Aaron and I live in a very small apartment. Which is fine (I don’t mind small spaces), except that Aaron has a lot of stuff. In particular, he has a lot of shoes. His shoe collection could rival that of Imelda Marcos.

There are shoes in the bedroom.

Shoes in the hallway.

And shoes in the kitchen.

The only thing that bothered me about storing shoes in the kitchen was they took up valuable space — space that could accommodate a dining table. Aaron agreed we needed more space, and told me of his plans to build a giant shoe rack for the hallway to get the shoes out of the kitchen.

You know how some guys are super handy, love building things, and salivate when they go to the DIY section at the hardware store? Aaron’s not one of them.

But he is resourceful, and went to Bunnings to ask the staff if they could help him to cut pieces of timber and drill holes in them. However, he discovered that complimentary custom furniture construction was no longer a service they offered (apparently they used to do this, until they realised it wasn’t profitable. Go figure.)

His next plan was to ask a friend to build it for him, but like many of those DIY home projects, I had a feeling it would be a very long time before it would get done.

Then over the weekend, we visited the new home of one of my friends. He happened to have an Ikea display cabinet that (to me) was the perfect fit for Aaron’s shoes. I went on Gumtree, found the same unit for less than half the price, and we picked it up that night.

We got home and set it up, and Aaron was able to move about a dozen pairs of shoes out of the kitchen.

With the shoes gone, he then started clearing everything else out from the cluttered display unit.

There were books and piles of paperwork. There were trinkets, toys and board games. There was a whole bunch of North Melbourne footy club paraphernalia, including a stuffed kangaroo mascot, two jerseys and multiple deflated footballs. As we dug deeper, we discovered an unused wine rack, a set of golf clubs, dusty vintage Schweppes bottles and a half-inflated exercise ball.

We dragged it all out. I couldn’t believe how much stuff he’d been able to cram into such a small space.

We moved the empty storage unit into the lounge room and quarter-filled it with items we wanted to keep. Everything else went into a donation pile.

The next day, Aaron got rid of the donation items, reorganised the remaining storage space and cleaned the whole kitchen. I came home and it was like walking into Cloud Cuckoo Land. I could barely recognise the kitchen. It looked fucking unbelievable!

And all because of one measly shoe rack.

There’s a saying that goes: “small hinges swing big doors”.

You can take it to mean different things, but to me it suggests sometimes you need only a small trigger, or one small event, to kick off something much much bigger.

It’s incredible how a seemingly small thing like getting one shoe rack triggered an avalanche of decluttering momentum. All the stuff that had been sitting there for years was gone in a matter of hours. And what seemed like a huge, laborious task became easier, simply by getting started with one thing — the shoes.

So if you’re putting off something because it seems like an enormous, unsurmountable task — pick ONE thing to start with. And just start. That’s how you build the momentum to achieve extraordinary results.

Postscript: I couldn’t have been prouder of Aaron — after all, it’s not easy parting with your stuff. He took a big step; and he is proof that you CAN let go of your stuff