This post is not for those of you who are prepared to rid yourself of all your worldly possessions and hop a plane to Belize. It’s not even for those of you with the fortitude to have a packing party…and actually commit to getting rid of your excess stuff when the party’s over. This post is for those of you who are intrigued by the idea of minimalist living, but have no earthly idea where to begin.
If that’s you, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you want the benefits of a simpler life, but get stressed out just by thinking about the amount of time/energy it will take to de-clutter your closet – never mind your whole life?
Does the thought of parting with your precious treasures give you heart palpitations?
Do you feel that you somehow ‘owe it’ to your past self to hang on to all the crap you bought with oh-so much of your hard-earned money?
Here’s how I got over it.
1. Don’t actually get rid of anything – digitize it!
I started by scanning, then promptly shredding all of my paper files. (I only saved hard copies of my most recent tax returns [which I probably don’t need] and originals of birth/death certificates.) Then I moved on to CDs. I skipped DVDs because a) I don’t have that many DVDs and b) I also don’t have a DVD burner, but they (along with old photographs) are next on my list.
Then I scoured my shelves for books that I still liked and might want to read again, but could easily/inexpensively be acquired via digital download. This is obviously not a tactic to use on your signed, hardbound first editions, but it works great for those dog-eared, coffee-stained paperbacks you picked up at the airport. (I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy nerd, so I did this mostly with my paperback copies of epic fantasy series. Digitizing the Game of Thrones series alone cleared almost an entire shelf on my bookcase.)
Digitizing is a great place to start because you don’t have to feel like you’re losing anything. You’re simply enjoying it in a different form. Like ice to water or water to steam, it’s the same stuff, it’s just takes up less space in your garage.
Don’t forget to donate when you’re done!
Bonus: No more paper cuts from thumbing through a towering stack of old tax returns whilst preparing for your next IRS audit!
2. Tackle your most un-sentimental items first.
If, like me, there’s a soft, sentimental soul buried beneath your hard, candy-coated exterior (does anyone else suddenly have a craving for M&Ms?), then parting with sentimental items can be especially difficult.
That’s why minimalist noobs shouldn’t even attempt it. You heard me. Back away from your grandmother’s porcelain doll collection, Noobsicle! Move on to something more manageable. You can always go back once you’ve built up some momentum and you’ve experienced the glorious joy and freedom that comes from letting go.
After my paper purge, I moved on to the Tupperware cabinet in my kitchen. With stacks of ill-assorted plastic containers and mismatched lids, half-melted from one too many nukes in the microwave (which I know you’re not supposed to do because it [like everything else] causes cancer, but what can I say? sometimes laziness wins), my plastic storage container cabinet was a source of daily consternation.
I culled that cabinet mercilessly! And you can too. Take no prisoners! Feel the wonderful, heady sensation of taking revenge on the evil gnomes that live under your sink and creep into your cabinets at night to steal all your lids. Those little fuckers won’t know what to do with themselves when there are only a handful of containers left, with lids snapped on so tightly that their tiny little gnomish fingers will be incapable of thwarting your newly organized, mad minimizing skillz.
Bonus: Seriously? Thwarting evil gnomes isn’t bonus enough for you? Weirdo.
3. Take advantage of opportunities when they arise.
Got a friend moving across state lines? I consider that the perfect opportunity to offload all that incriminating evidence you’ve been hiding from the police.
Oh! You’re moving? To Montana? That’s great! Of course I’ll help with the move. No, it’s no trouble at at all. Really, it’s my pleasure. What, this? It’s just a box of old junk I found in your basement. No… I don’t know what you’re talking about. Well, they don’t look like shell casings to me. I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ll just pop that right into the truck for you…
But seriously. If your church or PTA or whatever is having a rummage sale, winter coat drive, or similar, seize the opportunity to get rid of some stuff and help out a good cause at the same time. Two birds. One stone. Everyone wins. (Except for the metaphorical birds you just killed, you heartless bastard.)
Bonus: I don’t know about you, but for me, avoiding criminal charges AND getting rid of an entire box of stuff is always a win.*
4. Finding creative ways to get rid of your stuff can be fun!
For instance, you could ‘accidentally’ drop all twelve of those life-sized cat figurines from your great aunt Mildred out a third story window. Bonus points for ‘accidentally’ hitting that one neighbor who seems to derive perverse enjoyment from blasting banjo music at five o’clock in the morning. Every morning.*
Or, if assault with a deadly, cat-sized weapon isn’t your thing, you could get creative with this fun holiday activity:
Take all the expired prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet, mix them up and dump a handful of pills into all of the old gift bags you’ve got lying around the house. I call them Mystery Meds Grab Bags! Then head down to your local warehouse district and start passing them out to all the teenage ravers. Make it more fun by wearing a Santa hat! Or elf shoes! (Which you’ll later donate, obviously, because you’re totes a minimalist now.)*
Bonus: Then you can sit back and bask in the warm holiday glow (or vacant drug-induced haze) that comes from helping others. Because isn’t helping others what this time of year is all about?**
[*Seriously though, attempting any of these things will get you arrested. Don’t do it.]
[**I started writing this post in December. It’s March now. Don’t judge.]
4a. Finding creative ways to get rid of your stuff can be fun! Part 2
I just realized that I forgot to include any real tips in the last section. Sometimes my imagination runs away with me. Here are some things you can do to de-clutter that probably won’t involve law enforcement:
– Clean out your closet (check out Project 333 over at Be More with Less for some great tips on how to do it) and invite all your friends over to paw through your unwanted clothes, shoes and accessories. That way, if you change your mind about this whole minimalism thing, you can steal your stuff back with relative ease.
– I also consign a lot of my old clothes. The best part about this is that I usually forget that I ever owned the items to begin with, never mind the fact that I took the time to consign them, so more often than not, I wind up with surprise consignment money in the mail! And really, isn’t surprise money the best kind of money?
– If you have any old, obsolete electronics that are too broken for repair and not old enough to be vintage, why not do like the guys in Office Space and bring them out to the middle of a field and hit them with a baseball bat? Benefits include: stress-relief, exercise, enjoying the great outdoors, and bonding with friends for some good old-fashioned wholesome fun!
I’m beginning to notice that even my ‘real’ tips are kind of ridiculous. But that’s not the point. The point is, getting rid of stuff feels amazing and everyone should be doing much more of it.
Seriously, not to brag, but I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff that I’ve actually been able to sell several pieces of large furniture. My room has a weird echo now. At first it was a little unsettling and my room felt kind of empty, but I’m starting to love it. And you will too.
So get on it! Start that spring cleaning early! Purge all that unnecessary crap from your life! It’ll feel amazing, I promise. In fact, my new motto was going to be: purge early and purge often, but it felt a little bulimic so I scrapped it. Besides, I’m a minimalist now, I don’t need some stupid motto weighing me down. Fuck that.
Happy purging y’all!