Many of us forget how much stuff we have lying around, countless drawers, boxes and storage bins, full of unused things. Three years ago I declared war on stuff. I pictured myself and my family living a simpler, leaner lifestyle. We’ve been at it ever since, filling up a large box of stuff nearly every month, then like clockwork scheduling a pick-up with Purple Heart. I keep one large box in the basement and another upstairs so there is never an excuse not to give something away. You might be thinking, a large box every month for three years, he must’ve been some sort of hoarder. Sadly no, most people who know me would tell you I’m organized. I guess I’d become pretty good at organizing all the stuff that a family of four accumulates living in the same house for 18 years. I was spending time researching, buying, organizing, cleaning, repairing, storing, and disposing of stuff. It was straight up batshit crazy.
Enter The Minimalists
We’ve made progress controlling our spending on stuff, but sometimes I feel like we’re running in place. Stuff in, Stuff out. This spring it’s time to jump start this process. To do this, I went back to the source, the Minimalists. I met Joshua and Ryan 3 years ago in Fargo, ND. They gave an inspired talk about Minimalism that’s now become a movement and a movie coming out this spring. The most popular essay on their blog is the 30 Day Minimalism Game.
Here’s how it works.
Find a friend or family member. Someone who’s willing to get rid of some of their excess stuff. This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day.
It’s an easy game at first. However, it starts getting challenging by week two, when you’re both jettisoning more than a dozen items each day. Whoever can keep it going the longest wins. You both win if you can make it all month. Bonus points if you play with more than two people.
via the minimalists
To play the game, it’s best to have someone to compete with or against. You can do this with friends, roommates, even online. SuperK and I are playing as a team with the reward being a steamed crab dinner out. We both have to meet the goal to win. If you do the math, you’ll see that together we’ll be giving away 992 things by the end of the contest. This should get interesting, as it did for this Canadian couple.
I created a list in Evernote focusing on one room at a time. My strategy is to stay one day ahead of the game, that way if I hit a wall later I can catch up. I hope to trash as little as possible and focus on things that can be given away. Do you have an ugly Hawaiian shirt with a giant coffee stain on it, don’t feel bad about including it in the Goodwill box. Unusable, damaged, or severely ugly clothing gets recycled into rag stock, so everything gets used. Of course, I plan on photographing the stuff we’re giving away and posting it somewhere.
I’ve attempted similar challenges in the past. Based on my experience, about halfway through this thing you’ll need some motivation to push through day 15 and keep going. Once you choose to start getting rid of stuff you’ll see that lightening the load helps you begin to focus on experiences over stuff.
Here are some ideas to keep you going.
- George Carlin’s classic rant about stuff. A hilarious take on our crazy race to accumulate.
- Mo Stuff = Mo Problems. The financial implications of buying, storing, caring for, and disposing of, stuff.
- How to live lean by wearing stuff out.
- Once you’ve decided to simplify your life, here’s how to keep going.
- Some deep thoughts as to why the middle class is vanishing. Hint: it’s because of stuff.
- How to separate happiness from owning stuff.
You don’t need to become a minimalist to enjoy the benefits of living lean. In fact, minimalism can mean many things to different people. As for myself I’m just content to be headed in that direction.
Check out our daily progress.