I recently completed my 30 Day Minimalism Challenge. The challenge primarily followed the recommendations from Marie Kondo specifically highlighted in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but also took inspiration from some of the other leaders in the minimalism movement.
In particular, I recommend:
- Joshua Becker- Becoming Minimalist
- The Minimalists
- And Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things a film I found on Netflix that I rewatched several times over the month
After 30 Days I will confess that I have NOT become a ‘Minimalist.’ My house still is in varying states of clutter. I have not learned the art of packing all of my possessions into a single carry-on bag or taking beautiful Instagram photos of a single flower on an otherwise empty white counter. But, I have experienced a true change in how I view my possessions, and more importantly what and where I place value. I recommend this experience to anyone willing to go outside their comfort zone and truly examine their stuff.
Here are the 6 lessons I learned from my 30 days of going minimal:
- Don’t Fight the Process. I tend to approach a lot of ‘movements’ sarcastically and am inherently skeptical to practices that are deemed ‘life changing.’ In my first cursory scan of ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ it was easy to question the process and I rolled my eyes at the notion of holding each of my personal items and asking if they ‘spark joy’…BUT once I really committed to the process, my mindset changed. When I stopped fighting the process, it no longer felt cumbersome, and it actually became exciting to see how easy it was to shed the ‘stuff’.
- Focus on Now. As I combed through my closets, drawers, kitchen, office, bookshelf, and every knickknack in my house I found myself at times talking myself out of getting rid of certain items for various reasons. Sometimes these items were kept for sentimental reasons, but other times they were saved from the donation pile because they were things ‘I might use sometime in the future’. But when I did a mental inventory of some of the items in question, I realized that the bulky sweater that I haven’t worn once but have moved 6 times in the last 10 years because ‘I might need it when it is cold out’ or the salad Tupperware that spills whenever I put it in my lunch box didn’t have a future in my life. It is easy to hold on to things for future use, and sometimes there is a necessity to hold on to certain items. But by focusing on what fits now, your style now, what you need now it prioritizes what you have.
- Be Respectful to Other People’s Possessions. I set this rule for myself before I began my minimalism journey. Living with my boyfriend, means living with his stuff…And he has a lot of stuff. As I started creating piles of my stuff to get rid of, it became VERY tempting to just add some of his stuff to the ‘donate/throw away’ piles. But this was not his journey and I knew it wasn’t fair for me to take ownership of his stuff because of my new found motivation. Our compromise became an agreement that anything I found that I deemed ‘questionable’ or ‘undesirable’ would get placed in a pile on the kitchen table. He was encouraged to sift through the pile and reclaim anything he was not ready to get rid of. This felt like a comfortable arrangement for us. It let me declutter without throwing him into stress. Not everyone is going to be on a minimalism journey. Not everyone wants to get rid of their stuff.
- Save the Memories, Not the Stuff. I am a pack rat, holding on to mementos, trinkets, knickknacks, photos. One of the things I was most nervous about going through the sentimental stuff I have kept over the years. How do you get rid of the blurry photos from your junior high field trip or your old college notebooks with illegible scribbles or training manuals from old jobs? Well, it turns out it is pretty easy. Memories aren’t intrinsically tied to these items.
- Make it Personal. On the other hand, (and for the same reason I did not make decisions about my boyfriend’s stuff) only you can know whether something truly holds a value to you. Sometimes this isn’t based on logic but love. Sometimes you hold onto things because they just are an intangible part of you. There are some things I will never give away. They have no monetary value but I love them… my torn and faded ‘Second City Improv’ shirt from Chicago… my old sketchbooks... my t-shirt quilt.
- Love People, Use Stuff… Because the other way around doesn’t work. This is a simple lesson that sometimes we just need to remember. Stuff shouldn’t trump people.
Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 10/10! This really was a life changing experience. It was enjoyable and eye opening.
Success in Completing Challenge: A-, I may not be a ‘Minimalist’ but I fully embrace the practice minimalists follow.
Likelihood of Continuing Challenge (beyond 30 days): EXTREMELY! It’s calming to go through my house and declutter. Like Lin Manuel-Miranda says a la Hamilton “this is not a moment, it’s a movement’.