So, you’ve heard about this minimalism thing and you’re kind of diggin’ the concept. Of course, the whole idea of reducing the amount of clutter in our homes and simplifying our surroundings makes sense for a more calming being. That said, now we’re frozen in our tracks when faced with the catastrophic degree to which our possessions have come to own us. We’re talking about literally thousands of items accumulated over multiple lifetimes (assuming you live with a partner and/or kids). Sometimes, we don’t even know where to begin.
Maybe this will help:
- Stop accumulating crap. Carefully ponder each purpose. We’re looking for joy in our life – if it won’t add more, leave it in the store.
- Start eliminating crap we don’t need / use / get joy from. Start small or go big. It really doesn’t matter. One of Leo Babauta’s suggestions is to pick one room to make our “happy place” (my words, not his). This newly decluttered room / area will allow us an environment of peace and serenity. That is, unless you have children. Then, it’ll simply serve as a good start – children and peace are like oil and water.
- Realize that this is not a quick fix, but a lifestyle change. In order to keep hold of our newfound sanity, we have to be continuously mindful of our consumption habits and re-evaluate the usefulness of our items.
Where to start:
- Pantry, fridge, freezer
- Spices that exist for literally one recipe, freezer burnt meat, petrified brown sugar… Pitch them. It’s time.
- Don’t forget the exterior of the fridge badly wrapped in free magnetic advertisements, expired coupons, and our kid’s “art”. It is a refrigerator, not an in-home billboard. Enter important events into a digital planner like Google Calendar, scan the kiddy art to be stored digitally, and get rid of the four identical “Paul’s Plumbing” magnets. Paul’s rates are too high, anyways.
- The wardrobe
- If we haven’t worn it in the past six months (12 months, if seasonal), it’s likely we won’t in the next.
- “I’m saving it for when I lose weight.” Unless we’re pretty close to where we want to be, we need to get rid of it and reward ourselves with a couple of high quality items when we reach our goals.
- Social media
- Connections are great. Negative, whiny people we want to punch in the face every time they post something are a drain. “Unfriend” them. If we don’t want them to realize we have unfriended them (they may know by not seeing our posts on their “Newsfeed” anymore) we can simply “Unfollow” them.
- Book bag, messenger bag, purse, wallet, or pocketbook
- The coffee shop where we’d redeem that half full punch card closed three years ago. The receipt we are holding onto described, in detail, the 30 day return policy. It’s been six months. We don’t need to carry three credit cards on us always (see Step 1) . In fact, not having them at all is best, but that is another topic for another post.
A pack of gum, 5 pairs of wound dressing scissors, 3 notebooks, school papers, blood pressure monitor charger, 256 note cards, 11 highlighters, 13 mechanical pencils, 7 pens, 13 permanent markers, 2 re-loadable / folding razors (why?!), 3 pairs of ear buds, post-its, microbiology text book, $7.87 in coins for the vending machine, Everything That Remains by The Minimalists (of course), journal, wireless mouse, laptop, Ibuprofen and Aleve (for the back pain this bag is causing, obviously), deodorant, lotion, graphing calculator, statistics binder
Could reduce more, but my back says “Thank you!”
- Garage, basement or storage unit
- Remember: Keep it simple. Let’s tackle it one box at a time.
- Declutter one surface at a time. Don’t move onto another until that one is cleared of everything that doesn’t belong there (completely bare is best).
- The “junk drawer”
- If it is in the “junk drawer”, it is likely junk. Differentiate true junk from useful items. Put the junk where junk goes (in the trash) and the good stuff in appropriate homes, not a catch-all drawer.
- Unpaired items or those missing pieces
- Socks, gloves, board games missing pieces: it isn’t likely the mate(s) will make a triumphant return after weeks / months / years and the reunited items will live happily ever after. Besides, if that were to happen, we don’t need them clogging up our newly cleared space with a bunch of baby socks.
- Office space
- Didn’t you get the memo? A cluttered desk kills productivity. Scan important documents and send the physical copies on an eternal vacation to Shreddertown. Get rid of items you don’t use / need and neatly organize the rest out-of-sight. Clear the surface each time you are done working.
- Our schedules
- Yes, declutter our schedules. Leo Babauta suggests if we can’t say “Hell yes!” to an event / commitment, we need to say no. Remember, we’re getting rid of things that don’t give us joy to allow us to focus more on those things that do.
I spend an inordinate amount of my waking hours in this space. So, it’s especially important that it is conducive to a calming and productive state-of-mind.
- Other suggestions:
- Clean out your car
- Toss winter items that need replaced but we were saving to get through this season
- Inventory spring / summer items in preparation for warmer weather
- Search the medicine cabinet & properly dispose of expired / unneeded medications
- Donate CDs / DVDs / books (Who repeatedly reads the same book over and over?)
- Consolidate our smartphone / CPU / laptop apps and folders
- Get rid of anything broken and dispensable (toys, knick-knacks, etc.)
The important thing is not how we start or to what extent, but that we do start. Smaller tasks will provide more immediate success. Larger goals may lead to a greater sense of accomplishment. It’s all about what is more likely to motivate us, personally, and allow us to create momentum.
Now that we have some suggestions on how and where to start, it’s time to put the principles into practice. Let’s take it one item at a time. When we fill a box, immediately take it to the car or some other designated holding spot until we have time to donate it. We can do this!
Feeling froggy? If you’re the competitive type, check out The Minimalists’ “30 Day Minimalism Game”. Playing with your partner, or a friend, you each donate one item on the first day of the month, two items on the second day, three on the third, so on and so forth. By day thirty, you are each rummaging for 30 items. Whoever makes it the whole month wins. If you both do so, you’ll have said “good-bye” to 960 items in 30 days! An item can be anything from a mechanical pencil to a car and you can either donate, sell or trash the items.
It sounds pretty easy, but don’t get too cocky. My wife and I tried it and fizzled out within the second week, but came out of the gates a little strong by donating way more items each day than it called for. So, I think we are going to stick within the rules of the game and try again tomorrow. Perfect timing!
At this point, hopefully you have an idea of where you’ll start and how, along with some motivation. Which means I should probably give you some time to do that. So, what are you waiting for? GO! Oh, yea, and if you have other suggestions, comments, and/or are going to try the 30 Day Minimalism Game, drop a comment! I’d love to hear from you and help keep each other motivated and accountable.
Good luck and happy decluttering!