1,881 items have been removed from my life!
It can be a challenge to actually stop the purging and share the count. The next milestone always feels so close! 2k for example. I’m so close to 2k! However, I’m long overdue from commenting upon 1,500 so here I am.
Today is April 28, 2016. I began my minimizing project 1.5 years ago (October 2014).
I’ve tracked (almost) everything I’ve purged. Why?
The short version
- Awareness—Which is paramount to habit breaking. Awareness for what I had, why I acquired it, why I got rid of it. What types of things do I tend to accumulate and why?
- Taxes/Donated Goods—Not a good enough reason. Won’t be doing this again. Filling out the forms added a ton of work to the inherent joy of donating. In my case, the monetary gain did not offset the effort (most stuff I let go of was only worth 50cents-$2 at best…that included brand new beautiful clothes that were in great shape, but too far off trend for the local consignment shop to want them).
- Sense of accomplishment—I’ve been minimizing since October 2014. After a while I started to lose sight on my progress. Was it so bad before? Have I really changed much? As soon as I access my database of the 1,800+ and growing tally of purged items, I start to remember again. It’s pretty exciting! Recently I modified it so I can start tracking purchases too.
The long story
Do you avoid your basement because it’s too full of junk? Do you wonder why you never just own up to the mess and clean it? Have years gone by living this way? Do you make frequent (and justifiable) purchases from Amazon? Do you shove all the empty boxes into your garage, (instead of diligently break them down to recycle)? When your house gets messy, do you intend to make cleaning a priority, but instead you go shopping for organizational or cleaning supplies (supplies you don’t really need)? Do you buy new clothes every time you have a special appointment, or maybe just because you feel blue?
I did. I did all these things. For years. I spent way too much money on stuff. I wanted to stop. I didn’t know how. I knew I had to stop, save my money, and to get rid of things that I didn’t love. However, I was apprehensive because I’d gotten rid of things before, only to acquire them again. It usually only takes me four to five years before I’m back in the mess I vowed to tackle.
This time I knew I needed to bring in a new technique that would get deeper into my psyche. I decided to track everything I donated or discarded. I reflected on two important dimensions; Why did I acquire this thing, and why am I letting it go? Doing these two things really allowed me to connect with what was going on inside of me, so I could examine my life and my behavior from a more meaningful perspective.
What else did I track?
Basically, anything that seems to help keep me motivated. Here’s a few of the key areas:
I gave every item a status: Every thing I get rid of is flagged as a Goodbye or as Store/Decide Later. Anything that I acquire (a purchase or a gift I keep) is a Hello.
- Goodbye — Applies to things that I donate or throw away.
- Store (decide Later) — Applies to things that I want out of my living space, but am not ready to make a permanent decision on where it goes.
- Hello — Any thing I bring into my life. I’ve made so much purging progress, that I fear sliding backwards (I’ve done it before). So now I’m tracking my purchases. I don’t track food or consumables like soap or paper towels. I just track the things that could easily become clutter in a year or more.
I categorized all the items: A way of thinking about the types of things I tend to accumulate.
- Office Supply (paper clips, stapler, pens)
- Papers/Files (anything paper-clutter related, junk mail, stationery)
- Clothing (shoes, shirts, jackets)
- Decor (picture frames, wall art, candles)
- Furniture (chairs, shelves, side tables)
- Trinket/Small item (knick-knack, fridge magnet, party favor)
- Kitchen Item (spatula, timer, plates)
- Pantry/Food (stale crackers, expired canned goods, empty tea boxes)
- Toy (lone Barbie roller skate, doll missing an arm, deck of cards)
- Holiday/Special Occassion (ornaments, party hats, paper table cloth)
- Hardware/Tools (packs of screws that come with everything, and I never use)
- Electronic (clock radio, document scanner, printer)
- Organizing (jars, baskets, file box)
- Linens (bedding, towels, dishrags)
- Craft/Art Supply (buttons, glue, glitter, paint)
- Books/Media (Books, Manuals, CDs, DVDs)
I documented the reasons the item was acquired: Helps with “facing the music” and being honest with how the clutter is getting created. (Numbers 8 & 9 stole the show)
- Freebie/Swag (anything that comes home with you because it was free).
- Needed saving (anything that inspired you, but needed work to be useful)
- Imagined different priorities (I had all kinds of handbag-buckles, handles, snaps and straps because I thought I was going to be a purse maker. That was years ago! I loved it for a month. I no longer have that dream).
- Deal/on sale (anything you buy because it made you say “only $5!!!”). You could even add another category related to this—Couponing. If you have a stock pile of stuff you don’t need because you had a coupon for it, acknowledge that.
- Determined to buy something (when you can’t leave the store because you came for something, and your brain keeps telling you that this means you need to leave with something)
- Gift (a thoughtful person gave you something)
- Gift requested (acknowledges that registries don’t always mean you get what you need)
- Emotional/Impulse (if you feel an impulse to buy something, it’s often coming from some place of emotion)
- Emotional/Sentimental (anything you brought home because it sparked warm memories of your Nana, and for no other reason other than that)
- Don’t know (when you don’t know where that thing came from)
- Spouse (things that came with anyone you merge homes with). Note: This is used only if that person decided to get rid of something. No getting rid of other people’s things! That’s a rule.
- Needed at the time (exhausted and purchase a neck pillow at the airport…this could also go in the next category, it’s all how you think about things, and how you felt in the moment that thing came into your life).
- Emotional/Justification (just about anything I ever picked out for the cat, and didn’t plan on)
- Came with something else (an extra button or set of extra screws with DIY furniture)
- Felt obligated (charity events with auctions or raffles)
- Something I created (art that was fun to make, but awful to look at)
- Inventory awareness issue (we tend to buy crackers, without checking the pantry first, then they get stale)
- Attempt to solve a problem (for me it’s usually hair products with promises of volume)
- Wanted to try (eye pillow, fancy lotions)
- Wardrobe refresh (when you hate your wardrobe, and you attempt to spruce it up without sticking to the plan)
- Loved (anything you buy because you can’t bear to put it down!)
And finally, I track the reason I’ve purged an item. This helps me bring my thoughts full circle.
If I acquired something because I loved it, and I purged something because I no longer liked it…what was going on here? It’s helpful to evaluate my thoughts around stuff so I don’t keep repeating the same disruptive patterns.
This post was originally created Oct 2015… above is updated.