Minimalist May with Becker, Fields & Nicodemus

Books, movies, podcasts, online communities, oh my! So many ways to get motivated by (and learn about) others and their experiences with minimalism.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker just released. It got me taking the bus again (so I can read on my way to work… funny how certain changes can improve seemingly unrelated habits). If you’re not familiar with Becker, here’s his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He has a deeply relatable way of processing the world, getting in touch with your values, and creating a life that fills your values (and it all starts at home).

On a recent Smart and Simple Matters podcast, Becker described his focus on creating a community. He gave examples of why it is so beneficial to tap into the support of others when making a change. I never really thought about that before. But, ever since, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Combine this suggestion with some Deepak Chopra meditation and a saying on my teabag “let things come to you”, and before you know it I’m approaching people and chatting them up about their lives, daily habits and what matters most.

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Millburn (left), Nicodemus (right), introducing their film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. May 3 at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA

My focus on minimizing began in October 2014. It’s now May 2016 and for the first time I’m tapping into community.

May 3 Somerville, MA — Showing of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things followed by a live podcast by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus). The show had been sold out. 800+ seats! I couldn’t believe it.  That many minimalist enthusiasts around me? I had no idea because I wasn’t tapped in. Thankfully I had the chance to hear about some other minimalists goals and stories while waiting in line, and even about the local meetup group.

Now I’m part of two minimalist Facebook groups. I’ve seen the movie and I’m reading a book. And Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered Course starts today. It’s spring cleaning season!

 

 

Progress to Date — 1,881 items purged.

 

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.

  1. Goodbye — Applies to things that I donate or throw away.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. Office Supply (paper clips, stapler, pens)
  2. Papers/Files (anything paper-clutter related, junk mail, stationery)
  3. Clothing (shoes, shirts, jackets)
  4. Decor (picture frames, wall art, candles)
  5. Furniture (chairs, shelves, side tables)
  6. Trinket/Small item (knick-knack, fridge magnet, party favor)
  7. Kitchen Item (spatula, timer, plates)
  8. Pantry/Food (stale crackers, expired canned goods, empty tea boxes)
  9. Toy (lone Barbie roller skate, doll missing an arm, deck of cards)
  10. Holiday/Special Occassion (ornaments, party hats, paper table cloth)
  11. Hardware/Tools (packs of screws that come with everything, and I never use)
  12. Electronic (clock radio, document scanner, printer)
  13. Organizing (jars, baskets, file box)
  14. Linens (bedding, towels, dishrags)
  15. Craft/Art Supply (buttons, glue, glitter, paint)
  16. 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)

  1. Freebie/Swag (anything that comes home with you because it was free).
  2. Needed saving (anything that inspired you, but needed work to be useful)
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
  6. Gift (a thoughtful person gave you something)
  7. Gift requested (acknowledges that registries don’t always mean you get what you need)
  8. Emotional/Impulse (if you feel an impulse to buy something, it’s often coming from some place of emotion)
  9. Emotional/Sentimental (anything you brought home because it sparked warm memories of your Nana, and for no other reason other than that)
  10. Don’t know (when you don’t know where that thing came from)
  11. 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.
  12. 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).
  13. Emotional/Justification (just about anything I ever picked out for the cat, and didn’t plan on)
  14. Came with something else (an extra button or set of extra screws with DIY furniture)
  15. Felt obligated (charity events with auctions or raffles)
  16. Something I created (art that was fun to make, but awful to look at)
  17. Inventory awareness issue (we tend to buy crackers, without checking the pantry first, then they get stale)
  18. Attempt to solve a problem (for me it’s usually hair products with promises of volume)
  19. Wanted to try (eye pillow, fancy lotions)
  20. Wardrobe refresh (when you hate your wardrobe, and you attempt to spruce it up without sticking to the plan)
  21. 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.

 

Can you get rid of 1 thing?

That’s what I kept asking myself in the beginning (after I acknowledged my problem, but before I started addressing it). That’s what started all this.

So, maybe you feel weighed down by too many things too. Maybe you’ve read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, and feel that a six-month process (no matter how amazing the benefit) just seems too overwhelming.

You can start simply.

Here is one very simple way to begin decluttering your home

  1. Open up a shopping bag. Label the bag “Donations”.
  2. Keep it off to the side in a central area of your home (so that it’s not a chore to find).
  3. Every day put one thing in the bag that feels excessive in your life. Something that you just don’t care for or often gets in the way. Just one thing. Tip: a dried out pen in your junk drawer is an easy place to begin.
  4. Let the bag just sit there until it fills up.
  5. Drop the bag off at a thrift shop or church in need. Note: If you feel hesitation, second thoughts, or you’re just not sure you’re ready to let go, put the bag in the back of a closet or something. If a year goes by and you forget all about it. Get rid of it! You’ve already let go mentally, why not follow through physically?
  6. It’s that simple.
  7. Questions? Doubts? Let me know below.

 

That is the process I used which led to this…

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Additional Resources

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Purge your cleaning supplies!

I just rounded up a house’s worth of cleaning supplies. At least 35 different products here! Overwhelming. Is this volume normal? It’s nuts! I bet my grandma would’ve had just 3 products, (and a much cleaner house).

I discarded 1/3 of this mess, and you can too! Here’s how…

First, round up all your cleaning supplies. Scour your house for all items in this category (thank you Marie Kondo). I rounded up supplies from the bathroom, the laundry room and a hall closet.

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Next, group all your cleaning supplies by subcategory (gloves, sponges, soap, oven cleaner…etc). This is to help you better understand what you have. Now, you can make informed choices about what to let go of.

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Then, get some focus, pare down and purge! I used this cleaning mag to focus my needs (remember, minimizing is all about working to disassociate need from want). Don’t have a mag? You could search online for a good list of basics. You could also sit, and visualize your cleaning rituals then list out all the products you use.

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Lastly, put it all back. Be proud! Enjoy the thrill of being able to find things. Enjoy being able to grab (one handed) what you need. Enjoy having nothing topple over!

See, cleaning is really all about strategizing so you don’t have to actually clean or pick up so much.

Ta da! Everything I kept, put back. FullSizeRender (1)

I did end up buying some baskets. IMG_0235These fit the space well and I can slide them out easily. I also use binder clips and clothes pins to hang items, such as the rubber gloves.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if this helps you out. Post any comments/questions below.

 

Tossing Basement Junk (Legally)

Sometimes we let garbage live in our homes, because we don’t know what else to do with it.

IMG_9913Today our Department of Public Works hosted Oil and Latex Paint collection. This was hugely motivating! I discovered nine containers of old old paint. NINE! It was just hiding out in the basement. Luckily I’m somewhat organized, and although the basement is a bit of a disaster, like items have been grouped together (that’s a good starter tip).

This is the type of thing so many of us hang onto because we don’t know what to do with it.  If you have things like this, find your town website. Look up the DPW (Department of Public Works) or similar. Find days with special waste-removal events (toxic waste, computer monitors, recycling, large trash items). Mark the days on your calendar. Block off time at least 1 week before to ensure that you’re prioritizing any time required for pre-work. (This morning I almost missed my drop off window because I didn’t give myself a comfy-cushion of time). Follow through with whatever process is needed. You’ll learn a little bit more about the workings of your town, and you’ll get rid of junk!

Best of luck, everyone!

Lisa

1 Month of Daily Minimizing—The Results!

During the month of November 2014 I got rid of 662 items from my home. 411 donated, 244 trashed (they deserved it), 7 consigned. This does not include the 136 items I put in my basement for storage. I still have these, but now they’re out of my everyday space, and part of an ongoing what-do-I-actually-need experiment. I will revisit these items after the holiday season (February).

 

Here’s an image of what 30-days of minimizing looks looks like:

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For feel-good donations (things I gave to Somerville Homeless Coalition, to help set up apartments for families) the benefit was incomparable! All those donations made me feel great. I’d do it all over again.

For laundry, I got so rid of so much excess clothing and linens that I can easily get by only doing one load of laundry per week. Minimizing means I spend almost zero time sorting. I’ve also removed all the pile-up potential. Liberating!

For tax deductible donations I estimate $236 (Not bad considering almost nothing was of any real monetary value.

Update: For consigned items, $196.80.

What a wonderful month! It really did get easier. It also paved room for me to get creative with some Christmas decor. The last few days of the month were focused on junk mail and paper purging, so it seemed wonderfully appropriate that my creative outlet was all about paper! I’m working on a wall tree made entirely of scrap paper.

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Here’s a pic of my final drop off at Salvation Army this month! It’s always thrilling to see what is no longer in my living space.

And for the final daily purge of the month, I got rid of…

Five junk mailings & six Christmas ornaments

Thanks so much for reading!