It’s been six years since we started our very first post on this site, the day we started on our very first 30-Day Minimalism Game. Looking over our old posts, I am reminded of the excitement that came from slowly letting go of item after item until we had purged 1,128 items in just 30-days. Admittedly, days 1-9 were a breeze but when we started getting into double digits, the ‘challenge’ truly did become challenging. In the end, our house felt lighter and we quickly became accustomed to owning less.
Like many on the minimalism path, I dove deep into all the books, blogs and podcasts I could get my hands on to set up a safety net for backsliding. I joined all of the Facebook groups I could find, from ‘Minimalist Mom’ to ‘Minimalism Matters’, eating up all of the posts and photos. Just being part of these communities felt meaningful, like I was part of a secret society of seekers, looking to get back to basics. It was inspiring to see people posting before and after photos and dreaming about what my life would look like when I reached the end of this minimalism journey.
Purging items from my house was about more than just the items I gave away. It wasn’t even really about the items themselves. If the mere act of purging items was enough, I wouldn’t have filled my home up again with more second hand finds, discounted items and gifted treasures. No, the real challenge was looking inward and asking different questions. I started asking ‘why’ instead of ‘how’ and slowly things started to shift.
My vice: second hand stores. I love a good deal and I love too that feeling of exhilaration that comes from finding something for a fraction of the price I would normally pay. I would drive from one store to the next, spending hours walking the aisles and purchasing items that I thought would save me. Save me time, money and energy in some unforeseen future occasion. That birthday party I might have, that friend who may want that scarf, that pair of shoes I might wear to the party I might be invited to. I was ready! I honestly, believed I was spending my time, money and energy wisely. I was wrong.
I purged countless shoes I never wore, to parties I was never invited. I spent money on things I never ended up using, selling or gifting. I spent hours of my life driving by myself, or walking through the stores when I could have doing so many other, more connecting activities. I spent money to ‘save money’ when I should have spent less and truly saved more. I was searching for something and it wasn’t to be found in a store bought item.
I was lonely. I used retail therapy to try and feel less so. It didn’t work.
I bought items to try and fill some void within myself. That feeling of happiness that came from finding an item was short lived and could never be a replacement for joy. Sure, it felt awesome buying a new piece of clothing but it was fleeting and only masked how I was feeling about myself. I would keep myself busy, to I’d never slow down and never be left alone with my thoughts, and it worked, until it didn’t anymore. Until, I decided to be honest with myself, to ask the ‘why.’
For me, minimalism isn’t about the items. Minimalism is just a tool that has helped me find myself. The hardest work isn’t the act of purging things. It’s figuring out who you are without them. I am not free of feeling loneliness or sadness. I still struggle with life’s challenges. The difference now though is that I can acknowledge and hold space for myself as it comes. If I’m lonely, I text a friend, meditate, or journal about it. If I’m feeling sad, I sit and reflect on that sadness instead of trying to fill the discomfort with things that don’t add value to my life.
Sure, minimalism has created space on the shelf, but more importantly, it has created a space for me to breath and to better understand myself.
The big bin of CD’s saved us. It was probably one of the clutterbusting pains most try to avoid. CD’s with all kinds of videos, music, pictures, and movies. We saved everything to CD. We spent an entire evening painstakingly going through each CD. Yay or nay. Transferring the contents of each to our hard drive. Once we were done we had more than we needed to finish the challenge. It’s truly amazing how all those CD’s now reside on an external hard drive the size of my wallet.
The challenge isn’t over yet. There are 31 days in January so Saturday is our last day!
Day 27 – 29
The first couple of weeks of this challenge was all about the basement. The third week was the garage. Now we are emptying out those ‘everything drawers.’ We have been letting go every day it’s altered our own concept of what is necessary to keep. We almost quit on day 24. Ophelia looked at me and said with some finality “that’s all I got. I think i’m done.” But then we opened the bathroom cabinets. She went into her preschool craft drawers. There was still more. We want to finish the challenge, but we feel spread a little thin. Yet each day we find just enough. We are so close, but the sheer amount of items we will need this week makes the march to the finish line a little daunting. 6 more days!
We knew it would come down to this. The book collection has been cleaved to the essentials. The basement looks like it was the day we moved in. Desperate measures have pushed us into the garage. Hordes of climbing slings of questionable strength. Pitons and hooks for aid climbing. More stuff we thought we would use but never did. There’s nothing really here that we feel all that strongly about. The victory is in getting into the garage and doing it. We plan to demolish the garage eventually and put up a building in it’s place, so clearing it brings that reality more into focus. With 24 items to give away on Saturday and 25 items on Sunday it’s going to be a busy weekend. Happy Friday!
I think we’ve reached the threshold. You know that point where you realize almost all the items you are giving away are just awesome items. Every book is meaningful. Even this cool picture of Seattle from 1900. It was taken from Denny Hill, which doesn’t exist anymore. Back when the city had some forested areas. Ophelia is giving away some of her oldest witchcraft books and having panic attacks. Yes, this has gotten real like an episode of Cops. Running down the street with no shirt kind of real.
There were some real sacrifices made here. We really like these books but having the Kindle as an option has made parting with some of our favorites manageable. We discovered a goldmine in the electronics drawer! For years we’ve avoided rifling through all these cords and plugs. Trying to figure out if we even have the devices these plug into. However, this challenge has made organizing it an exciting prospect.
Back in the day we planned to record our own podcast. We bought all the equipment, but never used it. So that dream will die for the sake of space. Ophelia bravely gave away her Holly Hobby ceramics. To get us over the hump we gave away such value items as a pot top and a green towel! Our hearts bleed.
In terms of items given away we are not even halfway there. 231 items given away. 265 items yet to give and only 10 DAYS IN WHICH TO DO IT!
We are inspired by the emptiness of the basement. To find more items we have delved into boxes and bins which we have avoided for years. There is so much we have kept because we thought we would need or use. Even items which we earmarked way back when to give to someone and we just forgot. This is why each day’s items must be separated, boxed up, and given away that evening. At the least we put it in the car. Our symbolic gesture that this stuff is no longer of our house and can only go one direction. Away.
Even the Hemingway novels are gone. That climbing guide of Thailand? Gone. Rather than hold onto something for when we may need it, we are understanding that when the time comes we will bring the items into our life. Otherwise this stuff is just filling our space.
We had an exciting late night in the emergency room, so this minimalist family took the day off yesterday. Making up for two days, what you see below is our purge. Amazingly, we still have piles to take from. The time it takes to decide what to keep and what to hold on to is now pretty quick. Things that are at the bottom of the pile that haven’t been seen for 2 years, really have no place in our house. Our new timeline for usage is 6 months. If we’ve not used it in 6 months, we can do without it. One idea that really works for this challenge is making sure that items from the day leave the house by midnight. When they do, it gives no time to change your mind and for us, it works well.
All items donated to Value Village.
Today was a busy day, but we were able to gather our 16 items. Nothing really exciting made it to the pile, but we managed to purge more things. It’s amazing how many things you can find with a challenge like this. Our book shelves are down to favorites now, so we’re having to look in stored boxes & closets to see what we can let go of. It’s nice to see some space on the shelves. I mentioned to Chris that I’d like to paint the floor downstairs, now that I can actually see it.
Chris’ items: Clothing, books, yet another keyboard & mouse, magazines & a tool box.
Ophelia’s items: clothing, pillows, 2 Moroccan lamps, a ‘fancy’ purse for date nights.
All items donated to Value Village, where they now know us by name. 🙂
It really doesn’t matter that we are halfway through the month. We will be giving more in the next 5 days than the previous 15 combined. We are running out of easy give-aways. Yes we are giving away bathroom products. Old shoes and climbing pants. Ophelia bravely parted with her framed Charlotte’s Web cover (she loves that thing.) We are still digging out redundant and old electronic items. We probably have 5 keyboards, so one has to go.