I shot up from bed this morning at 5am. I thought I was going to throw up, so I ran to my bathroom and hovered over my toilet, hangover style. Don’t worry. I didn’t throw up. And if I had, I probably wouldn’t go into too much detail here. I sat on my bathroom floor, bewildered and slowly coming down from a huge rush of adrenaline, surprised and grateful that I didn’t purge in the middle of the night. But I was suddenly overcome with the desire to purge something else—all of the extra stuff I was surrounded by.
I have always wanted to live minimally. I just happen to also have a huge problem with collecting things. In other words, hoarding. In other words, crazy. The amount of (useless and worthless) stuff I have in my apartment is a very poor reflection of my values and it crowds my life in a way that actively stresses me out.
I know exactly why I had this urgent need to reduce. Before I went to bed last night, I watched TINY: A Story About Small Living. First of all, great documentary. I loved “meeting” people who express their values of minimalism through tiny houses with no extra stuff. It is the complete opposite lifestyle from what I feel like I’m living in my large, one-bedroom, 600 square-foot apartment.
So, without any hesitation, I began sorting through all my possessions. I have had “clean out closet” written on my to-do list for about two years, so this was a long time coming. I set a goal for the day: find 100 items in my apartment that I could easily live without. Within an hour, I had 65 items in a basket and all of them were ready to be sold, donated, or thrown away. In the next hour of sorting, I had another 50 items. I surpassed my 100 item goal and I wanted to keep going all day. So, I did.
In my frantic, middle-of-the-night attempt to minimize my possessions, I came up with some handy rules to go by for items that I’m on the fence about. I wrote the rules on my mirror in the room I am using to sort all clothes and other belongings. Constantly seeing these words helped me answer the questions “will I ever wear this again?” and “does this add any value to my life?”
At times, it felt like I was throwing away money. But 90% of the items I was tossing were hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, or purchased too long ago to remember. After about four minutes of feeling guilty about the economic loss from getting rid of a bunch of my possessions, I moved on to feeling awesome. I felt awesome about all the space I was creating. I felt awesome about all the donations I had for my favorite thrift store. I felt awesome when I was able to text my friends and tell them to come shopping in my living room. So much awesome.
Enjoy some photographic evidence of the awesome, ladies and gents.
I’m not about reducing my possessions to fit in one suitcase, or even five for that matter. I’m not strong enough for that yet. And you can see that I still kept a good bit of my possessions. I’m just at a point where the clutter and extra stuff is too much for me. I need clean spaces; less stuff to keep track of; more room for activities.
I’m not an expert, but after 12 straight hours of clearing out some clutter, I have some experience to share.
Here are my recommendations for best practices in what I like to call Minimum Minimalism:
- Read other blogs. I couldn’t go back to sleep after I finished the first hour of purging. I was Googling things like “minimalist blog” and “minimalism first steps.” I found some amazing blogs that inspired me to keep up the good work. I read post after post of great ideas. Here are some of my favorites so far:
- Start small. I am not one to rush into anything, so getting rid of 100 items seemed manageable to me. If you have a family, maybe it is getting rid of 50 items per person. If you are ambitious, maybe it’s 100 of each type of possession (household items, clothing, books, etc.). Whatever you define as a small impact on your large task, start there.
- Use logic, not emotions. If I kept every article of clothing or trinket that has a memory associated with it, I would never get rid of anything. The scarf from my ex-boyfriend. The shoes I wore on all my trips to Israel. The Christmas sweater that I got more compliments on than any fancy dress I’ve worn. I will always have the memories, so keeping the item is redundant and unnecessary.
- Set realistic goals. My original goal for the day was extremely realistic. I could have gotten rid of 100 items of clothing alone (if I include socks and tshirts). I was still proud when I surpassed my goal and kept clearing out items that don’t add any value to my life.
- Keep the clothes you wear. My system is going to be front of the closet/back of the closet. I will start with all my clothes at the back of my closet. When I wear something, I will put it back in the front of the closet to indicate that it’s an article of clothing that I actually wear. After three months, I will get rid of anything I didn’t wear. It might be difficult to part with some of the things I think I’ll wear sometime in the ambiguous future, but if I don’t wear something in three months I probably never will.
- Don’t keep multiples. I had three Christmas sweaters, four cookie sheets, three brown skinny belts, a million white tube socks. I can only wear one pair of socks at a time. And I can only bake two batches of cookies at a time. So, why do I need more than one or two of each item?
- Make a list of the spaces that seem cluttered. For me, it was nearly every spot of my apartment: the living room closet, the bedroom closet, the bathroom, my kitchen cabinets, my dining room storage space, the corner of my dining room that became another storage area. So I made a list and started working through my apartment, one cluttered area at a time.
- Take a deep breath and keep going. The deep breath might be during a 20 minute break from purging or during a 20 day break. However long it takes you to get ready for another round of purging, just remember to keep going. It would have all been for nothing if you do one big clear-out and then begin to clutter your life up again.
Share your stories of de-cluttering and minimizing in the comments section below!