The Journey Through My Things is a story of life-changing lessons from eight years of decluttering.

It’s a journey that can help inspire and empower you to declutter your own life.

As you go through your journey, you can deal with your emotions, feel freer from the weight of your past and less stuck by the things you’ve held on to. You can then balance your past, present and future to best support your life.

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What will you learn
from this book?

Life-changing lessons from eight years of decluttering
  • 1
    Decluttering Support

    Ideas for practical and emotional support to declutter your life.

  • 2
    Personal Development

    How you can use decluttering to help your personal development.

  • 3

    How you can use the things you own to ask bigger questions about yourself and your life.

  • 4
    Future Focus

    Balancing your past, present and future self through the things you own.

Hi, I'm Jillian Shields, or you
may know me as 'Jil Shi'.

Welcome to The Journey Through My Things.

I want to help as many people as I can to declutter their lives and experience the freedom beyond their things.

I’ve recently published The Journey Through My Things, which tells the story of what I learned from my emotional eight-year decluttering journey and how it feels to experience life on the other side of clutter.

Based on my experiences, and combining this with my work as a coach and mentor, I’m creating some content and resources to help you on your own minimalist journey.

Jillian Shields

What's in the book

Chapter 1. All My Stuff

I sat among the pile of boxes. The footsteps faded down the stairs and, a few moments later, the cars drove away. I sat alone on a chair in my living room. Amidst 30 years’ worth of my stuff. I cried between wanting to throw it all out and wanting to scoop it all up.


I sat most of all with my shame. This was all stuff that I owned. No-one else. Just me. The flat was perfect. It was on the top floor, had high tenement ceilings, was well-lit and the front rooms had an amazing view of the hills. The sellers had even ‘picked’ me, saying, “We think you’re the right person to buy the flat”. I’d mentally positioned my desk and Christmas tree. It felt right.


My dream was always to have two bedrooms: a bedroom and a home office/study I could use for work but which could also be my creative space.


The transition from one bedroom in my parents’ house to a two-bedroom flat seemed like it would be straightforward. I’d bought some furniture: a bed, sofa bed and some kitchen equipment. I ordered a washing machine and arranged broadband. I had my project plans, checklists and colour-coding systems for each room.


I picked up the keys just before lunchtime and took my first drive as a homeowner from the estate agency.


I skipped up the steps and two things happened. As I held the keys to the lock, I heard loud shrieks from children in the flat opposite and then I opened the door to a completely different flat. Empty and unclean.


Inside, I slid down against the wall and burst into tears with immediate buyer’s remorse.


With the arrival of my parents, I eventually rallied and spent 11 hours cleaning the kitchen and made five trips to the dump to empty the attic of old tins of paint, terracotta pots and bits of wood. Bizarrely, I found an old garden gate in the attic. That stayed, as somehow the attic hatch had been constructed around it and it couldn’t be removed.


I filled a cardboard box with bits and pieces the previous owners had left behind: ice-cube trays, socks, a mug or two – disturbingly, a pair of red silky boxer shorts…


By moving day, I’d made peace with the emptiness. It was clean. I’d slept the last night in my old room.


I had a van and a team of helpers. I wasn’t expecting it to take too long, maybe one to two journeys. We planned a nice lunch and I prepared for a leisurely day. Much of the job would be the three flights of stairs up to the top floor.


And then the stuff started to come in…


The bed and larger furniture were first and some of the smaller items came in cars. The first journey, then the second. And there was still a lot of stuff to move.


Back in my old room, we started to realise that this was going to take significantly longer than we first thought. Like anything that’s been in place for a long time, things had become comfortable. Boxes kept coming out from the cupboards. Books – once unpacked from the shelves – took over half the room by themselves. Ring binders full of paperwork emerged from under the desk, and there were rails and rails of clothes.


I’m not sure if I was more horrified by the amount of stuff, or the fact that I’d managed to somehow live with all of this in one room.


I’m highly organised, clean and tidy, but as it all unravelled in front of me, that didn’t matter.


I felt I was a borderline hoarder. I could start to see looks of horror cross the faces of my helpers. “How much more is there?” someone called up the stairs. I’d go up and down, passing them on the stairs, realising the van was full yet again and we were still only halfway through. We enlisted a couple of extra cars for support, putting clothes on the back seat.


Clothes I hoped would fit in the wardrobe started to need a second wardrobe. Boxes found their way to being stacked in open corners.


Everyone was nice, but that was worse. The horror was unspoken, silent but unmistakeable. Their perceptions of me had changed. My perceptions of myself had changed.


I’d often help other people with their clutter, feeling slightly smug that I wasn’t like that. And now I was facing the fact that clutter had become an acceptable part of my life. I hadn’t even known it.


I’d designated the living room as the ‘drop zone’ for everything and planned to sort it from there. I watched with increasing horror as it filled up with bags, boxes, stuff.


My parents reassured me that the flat would look better once everything was in its place. I nodded but didn’t believe them. Deep within, I was facing a truly horrible scenario. This was all mine. I owned all of this.


The move took almost the full day, about five van trips plus car journeys. We returned the rental van with five minutes to spare. My parents built my bed, and my helpers started to put the desk and bookshelves in place.


I made everyone dinner, and then, as it approached early evening, I slowly realised I was going to be left here, alone, with all of my stuff.


One by one, everyone hugged me and left.


I sat down in the chair, choked by boxes and my own tears

Part 1. The First Layer

Realising there’s too much stuff, finding the minimalism and simplicity movements.

Part 2. Going Deeper

Delving deeper into things and asking questions about what they mean.

Part 3: Stepping Back

Discovering the power and perspective of time away.

Part 4: Learning from My Things

Learning what lessons the things in our lives can teach us

Part 5. Space

Discovering the person under the clutter.

Part 6: Life Beyond My Things

Experiencing what happens after decluttering.

Download a free Journey exercise
called The Suitcase of Life.

You can also sign up to my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I publish new content.


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