Minimalism has been on my mind for some time now, but only recently have I taken any action to get there. Unlike some that come into this practice full-throttle, I’ve done it by dipping one toe at a time. Packing up all my belongings and sending them off to Goodwill seems too jarring to me, not to mention how much work it would be.
I started by taking on the structure of the minimalist challenge, adding one incremental item to my purge pile each day. But by mid-week somewhere in week 3, I started to feel pressured by the growing numbers, so I just aimed to concentrate on specific areas of my home, one at a time and worked from there.
So if like me, you’d rather not turn your whole life upside down all at once, here are a few ideas to get you started down the path toward a minimal lifestyle. I suggest taking a week to tackle each area. Also, remember that getting rid of the unnecessary stuff already in your life is only half the battle. The other side is saying no to the constant barrage of things that you continue to accumulate, from junk mail to half-used bottles of BBQ sauce. Everything collects and builds so naturally that you have to stay conscious about it.
Start With Your Closet
- Donate or sell your formal wear that you never wear. To stay current with fashion, use Rent The Runway when you need something fancy.
- You don’t need 8 pairs of athletic shoes, do you? They look pretty, but perhaps it’s time to cull the heard and there’s lots of great places to donate them.
- Undergarments that have lost their shape, have holes or just worn out – ditch these.
- Got office wear that you never wear? Dress for Success is a great organization that helps women get dressed… for success.
- Clothes you love but never wear – if you can’t find an opportunity to wear them, then at least profit from them! List your stuff on Poshmark or eBay. If you’re super lazy, just put them all in a pre-paid bag and ship them off to Thredup. They will pay you for what they can sell and donate the rest.
The end goal with your closet should be to have a small collection of clothes that you love and that you wear often. It makes getting dressed so much easier, and trust me, once you’re out of high school, no one notices how often you wear stuff. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I wore yesterday, so you can be sure I didn’t notice what anyone else wore.
I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t keep, but I will say that I took my most important docs and copied them to Evernote. In some cases, I still have the originals (for tax reasons) but most of this stuff I ditched. I also started storing things like pet perscriptions, vet instructions, receipts for home and car repairs and other important info that I might need to reference somewhere down the line. Evernote is an amazing platform for creating, storing, sorting and generally keeping yourself from becoming a hot mess. I highly recommend it.
Memories are in your heart, not on Kodak paper. It may seem criminal to get rid of family photos, especially of people who are no longer with you, but how useful are those photos being stored in a container or old dusty album? Scan your pictures and share them with your family by creating a private family group on Facebook or Flickr. Keep a backup on a hard drive to be safe. Bottom line, photos are more shareable when they’re digital.
This is an area where I realized I was collecting so much stuff I never used. Four sets of measuring cups, 72 forks and a juicer that was used once. So sad. I sold the juicer and ditched the gadgets. My kitchen feels more spacious and peaceful now and it’s a pleasure to cook in. Do I ever miss those gadgets I bought? Never. I can’t even recall what half of them were for.
Our garage is a breeding ground for half-used paint cans and lawn tools (note: we don’t have a lawn). I had a hard time letting go of things we might need in our “next house”, but given that we just moved here last year, I had to get over my future-hoarding tenancies and just admit that I don’t need lawn tools anymore.
Credit Cards, Bank/Investment Accounts & Subscriptions (this is what I’m currently working on)
Every week the NYTimes comes to our house, and every week it goes into the recycling bin, unread. I have Dropbox, Apple storage and Evernote (all paid services), 6 credit cards (some were store cards I never shopped at), 8 investment and bank accounts (in two different countries) and a bunch of other accounts for things I never used. This consolidation took the longest amount of time and I still have to fly back to Canada to consolidate my retirement accounts in person, but it’s worth it. Dealing with banks and credit card companies is a pain. The fewer I have to engage with or find tax info for, the better.
You’re thinking this sounds like a lot of work, right? It is.
If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it because you’ve been fine ignoring all this crap for this long, then think again. I have found that the “stuff” in our lives that is left ignored or not dealt with tends to accumulate as low-grade stress. Got an anxiety problem? This could be part of the problem.
Think about it – we’re always reminding ourselves to cancel that thing or call that guy to fix something, but we keep forgetting, can’t find the right number or just couldn’t be bothered. So little things left unaddressed, sit as a reminder in the back of your mind that you still don’t have your shit together.
Once you deal with all this stuff, you start feeling more “together”. Like your ducks are all lined up and you know the name, balance and expiry date on each of those little critters. It’s about controlling that which you can control in life by reducing complexity and streaming processes. It works in business and it works in life.
Bonus: Not only does getting all this stuff taken care of feel good, the process becomes a very rude awakening to how much you spend on useless stuff you don’t need. It will have an immediate impact on your spending as it has on mine. I’m pretty sure Amazon.com is going to be reaching out to see if their most active customer (me) is still alive.