Dear Concerned Friends & Family,
I swear on my Kindle that I’m not crazy. Of course, after listing a couple of larger items on Facebook Marketplace, my recent MASSIVE online garage sale, the donation truck pickup at my house, plus sending (many) texts with pics of items asking “Does anyone want this?” to my family, it might have looked that way.
Total honesty here: I was 100% inspired by the documentary “Minimalism” (currently on Netflix), which tells the story of how two men, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, became minimalists, as well as many others in the film. And I watched it again the other night to make sure that I wasn’t actually crazy (I’m not) and that this was something that I truly wanted to do (it is).
I’ve also recently plowed through the books The More Of Less by Joshua Becker and Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver in the last week and am currently reading The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay. All of these books, plus the Minimalism film, have confirmed that I’m on the right track and have made the perfect decision for myself at this time in my life.
Also, I’ve learned that minimalism is totally unique to each person embracing minimalism. No two people have the same journey, the same wants or needs, or the same values. The old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could NOT be more true than in the case of minimalism. Or life in general, really.
And it’s not like I have a TON of stuff. I’m not a huge shopper (my biggest offense by far is books, and most of those are Kindle or Audible books), and I’m pretty sure the last thing I purchased was a mini-prep food processor about 3 months ago, and it was simply because I needed to replace the one I had due to years of use and ensuing wear & tear.
However, after 20+ years of being out on my own, and even after happily donating items every time I moved (and there’ve been a fair amount of moves over the years), I still had quite a bit that I didn’t need, hadn’t used in years, and, as the lovely Marie Kondo puts it, didn’t “spark joy.”
Now that’s not to say that every item I own has to spark joy, but the criteria I used was simple: is it useful to me, and/or does it spark joy? If it did neither (and sometimes things do both, like my beautiful and suuuuper handy KitchenAid stand mixer) then I sorted it into one of three piles: trash, donate, or sell.
But why, you’re surely asking, did I decide to start this minimalist journey at all? Minimalism has definitely become more trendy over the years, but if you know me then you know that I’m not generally one to follow trends. (I’m not a fan of being told what to do, or “the man” in general, so if someone tells me something’s a trend I’ll often head 180 degrees from that trend. For example, The Kardashians.)
I started my journey for a few reasons. One, as I mentioned, I’d accumulated a lot of extra stuff over the years. And no matter how much I got rid of before each move, some (okay, too many) items just traveled with me without a second thought. One VERY good example was my large collection of seasonal candles and candle accessories (plates, cute holders for the larger candles, etc.). They’ve always taken up a large portion of whatever closet I decided to store them in, and it was time to finally set a large majority of them free.
Other items that have moved every time I’ve moved included casserole dishes, baking supplies (unless they’re for baking cookies because I bake a mean cookie), random throw pillows and blankets, extra towels, way too many cookbooks, and my extensive/bordering on ridiculous DVD/blu-ray collection.
Next, I thought back to my most recent move. In January 2018 my dad and I moved alllllll of my things (it actually took two trips — I’d already taken a large load back the weekend before in my car) across the state of Missouri, a 6-hour drive. This move required a large U-Haul, my car, a team of movers moving up & down the three floors from my apartment to said U-Haul, many trips for me personally from the parking lot to my apartment, and a lot of caffeine.
Dad drove the U-Haul and I followed. I had SO. MUCH. STUFF. I’ve always wanted to travel, or even to simply have the ability to be super mobile (I’ve worked in remote jobs since 2010 and have had that flexibility, should I exercise it) and just travel from place to place and work from wherever I am, or even just have an easy move that doesn’t involve tons of trips and a giant U-Haul.
I’m pretty sure my DVD collection alone was upwards of 15-20 boxes to move. Each time. In my defense, however, I love movies and had been collecting DVDs since 1998 or so. Thanks to the advent of the digital streaming copy, I’ve moved a lot of my collection to digital over the years, although I still have quite a few physical, shelved movies remaining. But that’s a topic for another day.
I’ve vowed to make my next move a LOT easier on everyone. Less to move in the first place, and only a few pieces of furniture, things that I truly love and use.
Third, I’ve felt a ton of mental clutter lately, and I know it’s been due in part to having so much stuff in my home that needed to be dealt with. That ever present thought, wondering what I’ll do with everything the next time I move, where I’ll donate it, how long it will take to dispose of, what I should sell, etc.? It was TOO MUCH.
And now that pretty much everything in my home has been dealt with, I can happily say that that mental clutter I was feeling has greatly subsided. I can breathe again, and it’s awesome. I actually watched the donation truck drive away today without even a second thought, just a final thank you to everything that had served me well over the years.
Another reason I wanted to embark on this journey is because I haven’t felt like I’ve had the whitespace needed to do any sort of creative work, start a side business, write again, none of it. Since the initial, massive decluttering I’ve been able to write again and it’s been amazing.
(I’m even working on sketching out a course on how you yourself can start your own minimalist journey, should you be so inclined.) But if not, no biggie. It’s not for everyone and I’ll never guilt trip anyone into it, but if you’d like to learn more or for me to coach you, I’m here for you.
As I mentioned earlier, minimalism looks different for each person who’s on this journey. Some people decide to get rid of almost everything but a toothbrush and a couple changes of clothes and live off the land. Others downsize wayyyyy down and move into a tiny home (not gonna lie, they’re awfully cute). And others still, often empty nesters, will go from a 4000 square foot house to a home of 1200 square feet, downsizing significantly during the move.
What does it look like for me? So far it’s this: I’m evaluating every item I own and, as I laid out above, I ask if it’s useful to me and if it sparks joy. Items don’t have to meet both criteria, just one or the other. Because let’s be honest — my electric can opener doesn’t particularly spark joy but it IS extremely useful (I HATE handheld manual can openers — they bring me the total opposite of joy). So maybe it sparks joy solely because it’s NOT handheld?
Right now there are also some items that I’m keeping because I know they will be useful to me in the future, and they’d be too expensive to replace on a whim (following The Minimalists’ 20/20 Rule). One such item is my lovely OXO mandoline slicer. I haven’t been cooking a lot recently because I’ve been super focused on clearing out the excess stuff, but I fully plan to use it once I start cooking regularly again. (These days it’s LOTS of tuna salad on avocado, green smoothies, protein shakes, eggs and toast, maybe the occasional pizza delivery, etc.)
I’ve also taken extremely good care of my things over the years, and am confident knowing that whatever I donate or sell to someone will be in good enough condition to be appreciated and enjoyed, hopefully for years to come.
And holy cow, it’s so much easier to find things now! I gave my sister a tour of my house via FaceTime earlier this week and she was amazed at all of the space I’d freed up. I have a fair amount of kitchen cabinet space so now everything I need is front and center in my cabinets and drawers, and I can access it quickly (big bonus for this 5 foot tall girl who constantly needed a step stool before).
I’m not gonna lie — I love to cook and usually cook quite a bit (especially in the fall and winter), so I do have a fair amount of kitchen items that I’m keeping, especially compared to people who don’t love to cook like I do, but I’m only keeping them because I use each one fairly often.
How will minimalism look for me moving forward? I’ll write more about maintenance later on, but I can tell you now that I’m continuing to evaluate what I have, in case I missed an area or overlooked items, and if I don’t use it then I’ll put it in a donations box in my coat closet and empty that box regularly at my favorite local charity. For anything coming into my home I’m instituting a “one in, one out” rule. If I bring something in (other than groceries) then something has to be donated before that new item can be used.
And as for my birthday and Christmas (only a week apart), as always I’ll put something on a list if I truly want it. Otherwise, Amazon or Thrive Market gift cards are much appreciated. Amazon for Kindle and Audible books, Thrive Market for healthy food.
But the objective of minimalism (at least not for me and not for the many minimalists I’ve studied) isn’t to declutter. The objective is to get all of the unnecessary crap and clutter and junk out of the way so that you can focus on what’s truly important to you and move forward in life.
My objectives above and beyond decluttering were to reduce mental clutter and to free up creative whitespace to do work that I love and care about, and to help others, as well. I’ll continue to adjust these objectives and add new ones as I progress further down this path.
I’m truly excited about where this journey will take me, and I hope to bring you along for the ride, or at least keep you filled in on how it’s going for me.
Keep an eye out for posts on minimalism maintenance mode (yes, I’m a huge fan of alliteration — but who isn’t?), how I’m battling digital clutter, dealing with technology in general (I’m chock full of opinions there), and much more. And if you have any ideas for topics you’d like to learn more about or questions, please let me know! You can either comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.