It has been just over a month since I wrote my 30-day challenge post on minimalism. If you missed it, check it out here.
The 30-day challenge I issued was to get rid of one item from your house (apartment, or where ever you live) every day for thirty days. I spearheaded the challenge and told you I would report back what I learned from the process.
So, here are the top five things I learned during this difficult 30-day challenge. (I like my stuff).
1. It is easier to stop stuff from coming in than to get rid of stuff that is already here.
I find it far easier to say “no” to new stuff and opportunities. In my head, I can rationalize not buying new stuff because I need to be saving for the future – house down payment, car payments, etc. It is much easier to keep that in mind and say “no” to buying a new gadget or toy I would love to have. But, when it comes to getting rid of old stuff, I have the hardest time. What if I need to use that first generation iPod touch at some point in the next few months? What if cassette tapes make a comeback?
I am serious. Those are my thoughts. It is physically harder for me to throw away or donate old stuff that has some history than it is for me to say “yes” to brand new stuff.
2. You can’t be afraid to let go.
I love sentimental items as much as the next guy, but in all honesty who wants to see my paintings and drawings from first grade? Do they serve any purpose beyond emotional value? You will most likely never be able to sell your old scribbles, and yet so many of us hold on to them anyway. We look at them once every five years when we clean out the attic and then put them right back.
My parents have a ton of my old stuff like that in their house and I have told them to get rid of it, but they won’t do it because it has high sentimental value to them. To me it just feels like clutter. And let’s be honest, I was never meant to be an artist.
3. Do NOT de-clutter stuff that isn’t yours.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I found some stuff that I thought was just old junk sitting in a drawer and started making a pile to get rid of it all. Little did I know that all of that stuff belonged to my wife and she was not about to part ways with it. None of it looked important. Old trinkets and gadgets that looked like junk we didn’t need and I could free up some precious drawer space by getting rid of it.
But that stuff wasn’t mine and I do not get to make that call. I can throw away just about anything that is mine, but I should never cross the boundary to get rid of stuff that belongs to my wife or friends and family unless I ask for their permission beforehand.
4. Do not let donation piles and garbage piles sit around.
It is too easy to doubt yourself when you go through a process like this. If you create a pile to take to Goodwill and do not take it immediately, you will find yourself going back through the items and deciding you should keep some of the stuff instead of letting it go. If you went far enough to put it in the pile in the first place, that is a sure sign that it belongs there. Do not second guess your decisions.
5. Do not let clutter run your life.
I have always been afraid of throwing stuff away. This 30-day challenge was excruciating for me. There is always a small voice in the back of my head saying, “Don’t do it! As soon as you throw it away you will need it!” The same voice threw a fit everyday for the last 30 days as item after item fell out of my life. But, everyday the voice seemed to get quieter and quieter, protesting less and less.
I felt myself taking control as the process continued.
This process was difficult. I would love to say I will continue to keep it up, but as rewarding as it was the whole thing was mentally draining for me. Some of you probably had a much different experience with your 30-day challenge and I would love to hear about it in the comments. I can tell you that this was absolutely a positive experience for me from start to finish. It was difficult, but rewarding. It pushed me well out of my comfort zone and I feel like some weight has been lifted off my personal life. My apartment feels cleaner and more open and it is much more pleasant to come home and not see clutter in the closets and boxes on the floors. I love it. Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but it was a great experience and I recommend at least trying it out! Minimizing your clutter might be just the prescription you need!
If you participated in this 30-day challenge or have ever done something similar, I would love to hear what you learned by getting rid of stuff you don’t need or how it made you feel! Just leave a comment to get the conversation going!