I wasn’t always a minimalist. I used to be a sentimentalist– the girl who treasured everything she’d ever laid a finger on since childhood. The closet of my girlhood was crammed with boxes marked “keepsakes,” clothing I’d never fit into again, purses, hats and costumes quietly collecting mothballs, cassette tapes I’d meant to burn onto CDs, sacks of disposable cameras yet to be developed, carefully packaged dried roses from every dance recital, drumsticks- though I’d never learned to play the drums… you get the idea. I didn’t even know I had a problem. My room was immaculate and organized like only a teenager with OCD and a lot of time on her hands could finagle. I hadn’t been alive long enough to accumulate mountains upon mountains of junk that might come alive in the night and swallow me while I slept. I hadn’t taken over the garage or the attic space in my parents’ home- just the basement. Pack-rat, me?
I’m one of the lucky ones. I kicked a bad habit before it consumed my life. Now I’m here to help.
I discovered just how heavy it all was when I became a gypsy. All I wanted to do with my life, my whole life, was travel. I wanted to live on the road, drifting about like a discarded plastic grocery sack that took to the breeze. When it came time to pack my old life into boxes, I simply couldn’t make it all fit.
Now, I understand that not everyone dreams of the unsettled life. More people dream of big, beautiful homes with white picket fences and plenty of storage space. Regardless of your chosen lifestyle, the number of cars your garage can support, the square footage in your unfinished basement, the three Tuft Sheds in your backyard- take it from me: storage space runs out. Everyone can benefit from lightening the load.
Still don’t believe you have a problem? Let me explain. Clutter is damaging to a person’s chi. Don’t believe me? Try this nifty experiment: Find the most cluttered surface in your home- most likely a desk or coffee table. Now, with one swift motion, use your arm to shove everything off the desk or coffee table and onto the floor. Do you feel liberated? Like your spirit has just been cleansed by a warm summer rain? Told ya.
Cluttered house = cluttered mind. You know that renewed and tingly sensation you experience every time you drop a truckload of useless junk off at your local Goodwill? It’s that time again.
This won’t hurt a bit, I promise. Unless you’re the kind of person who feels a sense of abandonment every time the garbage man visits your curb. If you are, this may take awhile. But once you get going, you’ll see it’s not so tragic. Meditate on this mantra: Possessions own you, not the other way around.
You’re on your way to a clean and empty home! You may notice some happy side-effects come with the minimalist lifestyle: You save money and time. Money on stuff you need but can’t find… time searching for stuff you need but can’t find. You’ll stop going to the grocery store and buying more of what you’ve already got in your pantry but just didn’t see behind all the boxes and canned goods that expired 4 years ago. Your refrigerator will have shelf space again. Your closet won’t look like the 70’s threw up in there. It won’t take you an entire day to dust. Friends and family members won’t be afraid to visit with small children in tow. It’s a beautiful, simple, cost-efficient, life.
Start with your bedroom, it’s easiest. For every single item in your bedroom, you need to ask yourself these three questions: Have I used this item anytime within the last year? Does this item serve a purpose that may come in handy? Does this item hold any sentimental value?
Be practical. Sentimental value is a memory that tugs at your heartstrings and brings tears to your eyes, not some old shop-class candy dish you just keep around because it never occurred to you to get rid of it. You’ll want to hang on to all the tools in your work shed, in case something unexpected needs repaired… but do you really need eleven toilet plungers in a house with two bathrooms? Be honest and don’t second-guess yourself. If the item in question doesn’t belong in any of the three categories, chuck it in the Goodwill pile and never look back.
Repeat Step 1 for every room in your house, working your way out to the garage and the Tuft Sheds. Word to the wise: Talk to family members before you throw away all their stuff. Believe me, you don’t want to open that can of worms…
Make the delivery to Goodwill. If it takes more than one trip, you’re doing it right!
DON’T hang on to all your unwanted furniture, dishes, used clothing, used books, etc. with the intention of selling it on Craigslist. You’ll find yourself tripping over the same useless junk 6 years from now.
DON’T pull things out of the trashcan after you’ve already thrown them away. Your first instinct is the right one. Go with your gut.
DON’T dwell on things you’ve already donated to Goodwill. Yes, it’s possible you’ll come up with some random use for that random something you donated last year. Just let it go and move on with your life. Take a deep breath, picture the item in your head, watch it grow wings and fly away.
DON’T forget to reward yourself when this is all over with. Now you’ve got space for NEW useless junk!
Congratulations, kid, I think you’re going to be a-okay.