When I left off on Minimalism Part 1, I had one week left until my move from Pittsburgh to Iowa City and my journey to become minimalist seemed to be sailing smoothly. Things did not go as swimmingly as I anticipated. They never do.
On my last day in my apartment I had 3 objectives:
- I needed to be fully out of my apartment so my sub-leaser could move in
- Everything I owned needed to be in my car
- I needed to be at the airport on time for a 5:30pm flight to Alaska (I was going on vacation, great timing right?)
This should have been easy, but I hadn’t yet minimized quite enough.
I spent hours getting rid of more stuff: one more bag of clothes for donation, one more box of books to sell, tons of unnecessary items to throw away, and tools to give to a friend. The time crunch made it stressful and I was running around like a crazy person.
I ended up driving to the airport one hour before my flight was to depart. Sweaty and rushing through security, the TSA employee felt it pertinent to randomly select me for a pat down.
When I told him I had a flight to catch, he omnisciently informed me that “next time sweaty corduroys aren’t the way to go.” It was summer in Pittsburgh, and the last time I checked East coast summers tend to be hot and humid, but I digress.
I made it on my flight, albeit barely.
Once seated on the aircraft I breathed deeply and smiled. I had accomplished my 3 goals and completed phase 1 of my journey to become a minimalist.
Behold all of my possessions fitting neatly into one little Mazda 3 hatchback:
What I Learned About Minimalism
- The rush of the final day taught me that this will be an ongoing journey to simplify my life. Even now that I’ve settled into a new home in Iowa, I am still getting rid of more books, movies, and clothes that don’t add value to my life.
- Getting dressed has become easier in the mornings. I have fewer items to choose from, reducing decision fatigue, and I like my clothes more. As you remove less favorable items from your wardrobe, the amount that you like the average item in your wardrobe goes up. It’s basic math, right?
- I used to hold on to stuff just because someone gave it to me, or because it had sentimental value. I learned to look at those items more critically; if they aren’t adding value to my life I can give them away to add value to someone else. My memories are about people, not stuff, and if I need to remember a memory associated with an item I can simply take a picture of the item before giving it away.
- I used to hold on to books and movies so I could show a friend someday or so I could re-read or re-watch it someday. Someday never happened. Don’t let someday trap you, and only keep what’s adding value to your life today.
- Without all this stuff I’ve found myself becoming more active. I hang out with friends more, exercise more, and work on my goals more. In the last 3 weeks I started biking and rock climbing.
My Inspiration for Going Minimalist
While this started with a practical need I had to get rid of stuff (I was moving), I became curious about minimalism and so naturally I Googled it. I loved the stories I read and I was especially intrigued by the hard core minimalists.
One of my inspirations came from Japan, where they take minimalism to another level. Minimalist Fumio Sasaki owns three shirts, four pairs of pants, and four pairs of socks. That’s pretty aggressive wardrobe reduction, and I like it.
He says “spending less time on cleaning or shopping means I have more time to spend with friends, go out, or travel on my days off. I have become a lot more active.”
Another source of inspiration for me was The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. In addition to their blog and books, they have a compelling Ted Talk on minimalism that you can check out right here.
Key Takeaways on Minimalism
- Memories are in us, not in “stuff”
- You can use photos of “stuff” to trigger the memories, no need to keep the material possessions. Back up the photos for safe keeping
- It’s all about adding value to your life, and shedding what doesn’t
- Ask yourself how you can improve your life with less
- Every item you own should add value and serves a purpose
How to Go Minimalist
As you think about minimalism, and implementing this to make positive change in your life, here is a framework you can use to become a minimalist in as little as one month.
- Identify all the categories where you can reduce stuff. For example, you might have clothes, books, movies, junk, and miscellaneous.
- Pick a category to focus on each week, and set daily or weekly goals. You could set it to get rid of 3 pieces of clothing every day, for example. By the end of the week you’ll have 15 pieces of clothes to donate.
- Goes as ambitious as you want with this, and alternate categories every week. Once you’ve made it through all the categories you chose, you’ll be well on your way to being minimalist.
- Continue this going forward, because minimalism is a journey, not a destination.
- Fill your new found time with things that add value to your life. And don’t buy any new possessions unless they add value to your life!
If you’re looking for some more aggressive approaches, there are some pretty cool minimalist challenges you can do to become minimalist in as little as 21 days.
- The 21 Day Challenge. Pack up everything you own into boxes, organizing items and labeling them well as you do it so you know where to find them. Then over the next 21 days, only unpack items as you need them. Once the 21 days are over, get rid of everything still in the boxes via either selling, donating, or trashing them.
- The 30 Day Challenge. Start by designating bins or spaces items to donate and items to sell. Trash can of course go in your trash can. On day 1 get rid of one item, putting it in the appropriate bin or space. On day 2 get rid of two items. One day 3 get rid of three items. Continue this trend for 30 days and you’ll be amazed how much you can reduce your stuff.
- Do like I did and set a goal to limit your stuff down to a certain defined size. This is very convenient if you’re moving and you want your stuff reduced to fit within a certain space. You can also set goals such as emptying your storage or clearing your basement, and continuing until you’ve sorted through all your possessions.
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Good luck on your journey going minimalist!