By Brad Beckstrom
My wife Kelly and I just wrapped up our 30th day of the Minimalist Game. The Minimalist game basically requires that you get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second day, two things, three items on the third and so on. If you have two people playing the game, by the end of it you will of given away 992 things. We called it a 30 day giving challenge as we were trying to focus on giving away items that could be used again like toys, clothing, electronics, kitchen stuff, and dreaded decorations category.
We also thought it would be fun to document the challenge, so I set up a table next to the moving boxes we were filling up and photographed each item before it was either given away, recycled, or trashed. I thought it would be cool to have a record of all the stuff we got rid of. It’s almost like some sort of sociological study of all the junk people keep in drawers. I liked how some of the photos came out, but it got a little trickier as more and more items were given away on day 25, 26, 27 etc.
Photos were also helpful for some of the sentimental items we were both holding onto. When I was much younger, my grandmother bought me a beautiful toy car in Dublin. I was excited and surprised. When she gave it to me, she said” this is something to remember me by when I’m gone” so I had hung onto it for over 40 years. The problem is when we store stuff away in a box we just forget about it and it’s not doing anyone any good. The trick is separating the memory, which I definitely want to keep, from the physical item, the toy. By photographing it and writing about it, I’ve remembered her. It was time to send this toy on its way so some collector or child can enjoy it.
A few other things we learned:
We had a lot more stuff stored in boxes and drawers than we realized. A few years ago, I learned that the average American household has 300,000 things. Even if you’re counting every pencil and pen and spoon, that’s a lot of stuff. I was so fascinated by this number I bought the book Life at Home in the 21st Century that contains details of the study and a lot of really interesting photographs.
There’s some enjoyment in laughing about old stuff you hung onto, then lightening the load by giving it away. So, we’ll probably do this again sometime. Even though we might not be playing, the game will continue, keeping a box so also we can give year-round. We schedule regular pickups with Green Drop and Purple Heart.
Don’t fret too much over the quality of what you’re giving away, even some of the items that can’t be used are recycled and help create jobs at places like Goodwill and other charities. There’s a lot of things that don’t need to end up in a landfill.
We also found a lot of things for pets that they don’t use. Pets don’t need a lot, just some shelter, a good meal, and lots of attention from their owners. As far as toys go. a ball usually does the trick.
There’s a lot of duplication. Did we really need a special spatula for pies or 12 different kinds of chef knives? Would 1 or 2 types of all purpose cleaners do the trick instead of 15 or 20 half empty products in the kitchen and garage? Speaking of soap, how about all the different individual containers of crap we keep in showers and bathrooms? We have a good amount of work to do in this area. So, whenever you want to run out and refill that fancy granite countertop cleaner or shampoo infused with green tea, just ask yourself if there’s something else lying around the house that could do the job. Learn more about the Minimalist Game.
Check out all the stuff we gave away.
The Minimalist Game.
My wife and I are playing the minimalist 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. Read more see links.