Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Things I learned on my 30-Day Minimalism Challenge...


As I spent some time in November purposefully going through storage areas with a mind for getting rid of stuff, getting lighter...  I've learned some things.  Some things may be just about me and some things I think may be truisms that anyone can benefit from hearing again (I say again because I'm not the first to say them, and I won't be the last).  

Please know that when I use the pronoun "you" I'm including myself.  If the "you" statements sound judgy or bossy, just reject that thought.  While I may think they're probably, generally, universally true, I don't know who you are, the life you're living, the root of what guides you.  I'm not thinking of any of you in what I write.  I only include you (whoever you are) as likely recognizing some of the things below as general, universal truisms.

So... with all that said, here  are some of the things I learned (or  relearned) last month:

1.  Storing stuff begins the process of collecting stuff if one isn't careful.  Now, curated collections can be cool - if you're into that sort of thing, but you all know that's not what I'm getting ready to talk about here.

I don't tend to think of myself as a collector, per se, but it is undeniable that I have squirreled away far more things than I knew I had, and much that I didn't even want when I took an honest look at it.  In time, this "squirreling away" results in collections of things that can be really hard to get rid of.  I suspect because collections have a way of seeming more valuable than the individual parts.  

This "collecting" can happen in any category, and in any room or space that stuff inhabits.  It's easy to not see all the stuff - or when one does actually see a thing that's not being used, it's almost instinctive to think that that thing will be useful some day.  Afterall, why did I keep it in the first place, if I didn't think it might be useful or have a purpose? 

And it is at this point where some variation of a scarcity mindset can take hold - you may say to yourself...  I'd better not get rid of this because when I want it, I might not be able to get it.  Or I know as soon as I get rid of it, I'm going to discover I need or want it.  You maybe even pause for a minute or so flip-flopping between finding a safe place to put it so you'll be able to find it when you need it, or making a conscious decision to leave it out in the open so you don't lose it.  Or am I the only one who does this?  😏

Somehow, in this emotional juggling, I forget that if I truly do realize later that I need it or want it, I can most likely replace it very easily.  Overcoming the different variants of a scarcity mindset was the first (and is probably a continual) hurdle for me in the letting go of stuff.  Even stuff I don't particularly like. 




2.  Fortunately, getting rid of begets more getting rid of.   As the process of getting rid of stuff continues, one begins to see one's stuff through a different lens.  Over the course of the last 30 days I found myself actually curbing my desire to get rid of stuff just for the sake of getting rid of it.  The experience of clearing space and letting stuff go was not just a little bit euphoric.  And frankly... that worried me some, so I told myself to be measured about it.   But I found it interesting that releasing things was so freeing I just wanted to get more free.  While we all know collecting things can become addictive.  I was thrilled to find out that experiencing freedom by releasing stuff is pretty addictive, too.  


3.  Getting rid of something isn't giving up on it, or me, or the idea that I might pursue it in the future.  It just doesn't!  Believing that was a challenge - until I let go some things I'd been holding onto for this very reason.  


4.  If you can't bring yourself to believe #3, be gentle with yourself.  Believing is seeing, in this case; but it's okay if you're not ready to believe.  Try believing in something small to start.  Big changes can start small.   And if you have to remind yourself of #3 as you go through different areas, well... I suspect that's probably normal.

5.  Organizing isn't the solution to too much stuff.  No matter how organized hoarded stuff is, it's still a hoard of stuff. Using stuff or getting rid of it is the solution.  If storage helps one use what one has, then great.  But if organizing just makes all the stuff look better, the underlying problem of having too much stuff doesn't resolve.  In fact, if one isn't mindful and purposeful about all of this, storage and organization will likely just enable the collecting of more stuff.  And round and round we go...

6.  Find different and responsible ways to get rid of excess stuff.  Donating and selling your unwanted items will likely make you feel better about all that you've spent money on that you're now recognizing you don't even want anymore.  Of course, recycling or throwing away what isn't going to bless someone else is certainly an option, but inasmuch as it is in your power to do so, try to not let your "getting rid of" become someone else's burden.




7.  Making your excess stuff someone else's burden can take many forms.   For example: 
  • Expecting adult children to appreciate and want what you don't want to store anymore.  
  • Not knowing what is recyclable in your area and disposing of it incorrectly.
  • Defaulting to tossing things into the trash just because it's easier than making a phone call or driving across town to donate it, or quicker than checking out a few websites to see if there's someone out there who can make use of what you can't use, or don't want to use anymore. I'm not judging you.  I'm speaking to me here.  I'm just guessing someone(s) else could benefit from it.
  • That said, sometimes we really do need to keep moving and may find ourselves tossing something that could otherwise be useful to someone else.  At this point though, I suggest having an honest moment with oneself.  I benefit from acknowledging whatever the reason is that causes me to throw the thing away.  Did I buy thoughtlessly?  Did I use it properly?  Did it become ruined because I stored it improperly?  And most profoundly...  did this (often cheap) thing I'm throwing away come at the expense of another, like... the possibly underpaid (or worse) worker who made it?  the farmer who planted it, then prayed for rain?  the laborer who did the backbreaking work of picking it?  The possibilities of the questions we might ask ourselves are going to come from the various knowledge and consciences each of us has.  I'm sure you can come up with similar questions that are meaningful to you.
  • While I strongly encourage applying oneself to thoughtful questions like those above, don't let these thoughts so paralyze you with guilt over things/situations that are past that you do nothing to change the future.  Rather, acknowledge what's possibly true and let that truth inform future acquisitions and how to treat those acquisitions.  Always move forward.  Just move forward better.  Move forward with more thoughtfulness.

8. Stop buying or acquiring stuff just because you can.  Or just because it's on sale.  Or just because!!!  Become more intentional in what you bring into your home.


9. Keep receipts - for however long the fine print on your receipt says you have to return items.  And don't hesitate to return things if you have buyer's remorse or find you don't need the item(s) you purchased.   If you've lost your receipt, many stores will give you the the most recent lowest price on an item if they still have it in stock.  Returning merchandise isn't a great long-term solution to buying too much stuff.  But recognizing that unused items can be returned, and returning them will help create the mindset that you don't have to be a storage facility for everything that catches your eye.  




10. You  don't have to always have a surplus of everything you're going to need and use.  That doesn't mean it's not a good idea to have an extra package (even a big package) of toilet paper tucked away, or the next tube of toothpaste you're going to need in a drawer at the ready.  Or any number of other consumables that get regularly used.  But be careful that you don't find yourself being a stockist of the numerous sundry items that you may use someday.   

11. Which brings me to this point.   I don't know if this is a universal truism, or if it's simply true for some, but I have come to recognize that the more stuff I have, the less productive I am.  Energy (mental and physical) is drawn upon to keep track of and deal with my stuff rather than being freed to be creative, loving, caring, taking care of myself, giving to help meet the needs of others, etc...

12.  Doing this exercise for an audience really helped me.  It wasn't an accountability thing so much as I knew the challenge of posting a daily picture and writing a little something would serve to motivate me. And the encouragement I received was really helpful.  It helped it feel like a game.  I wanted to think of fun ways to present my "junk".  I don't think I want to subject blog visitors to month-long minimalism challenges very often, but finding a way to share the continuing decluttering adventure might help me in the future.  We'll see...

13.  Look for and watch, listen, or read about others' experiences in minimizing.   Avoid (for a time, anyway) books, videos, even people who are a wealth of ideas for finding creative ways to use stuff.  Or organizing stuff.  These resources are terrific when the time is right.  But if you're wanting to get serious about not having so much stuff, get insight from those who've truly embraced the idea of minimalism.  They've got some very good things to say.





I'm not a minimalist, and likely never will be.  But boy, do I want to become freer from stuff than I am.  I'm pretty sure this is a life-long pursuit.   And while I don't have as much life ahead of me as I have behind me, it still seems like a worthy pursuit.  I'm finding in these senior years that I still care (maybe care more) about what my purpose in life is.  I want to "get it right" more than I ever have before.  I want to leave this earth with my loved ones full of good thoughts about me, not burdened down by how they're going to deal with my stuff.  

Lastly, but very importantly to me....  getting freer from stuff goes hand in hand with my faith and Biblical teachings that instruct me how I am to live.  It is consistent with thoughts I have about how I want to treat this earth and other people who inhabit it.  So much more to write about this, but I'll continue to try to live a life of owning less stuff before I opine too much.

Several people have either commented here, or mentioned to me privately that they've found this series of posts motivating.  I can't tell you how happy it makes me that my little effort at "getting rid of" has been that for anyone.  But it shouldn't really surprise me.  It was reading articles and watching videos of others that inspired me.  That's what we need to be for each other - inspiration and encouragement.  Thank you to everyone who was that for me over the 30 days of this little experiment.


Now, hopefully I can carry this minimalism challenge into this next month and the new year.  It will take a whole lot longer than 30 days to truly effect a real and lasting change in this area of my life.

If you're thinking about doing something like it, I can only encourage you to do so.  Give it a shot.  You've got nothing to lose.  Except stuff!












14 comments:

  1. I LOVE this post Becki! Reading this has done more to motivate me to get rid of 'stuff' than following along day by day through your challenge did. You have written some very wise words here and I know a lot of thought (and time!) went into it....thank you. #5 hit me the hardest because I'm an organizer and have, over the years, prided myself on the sheer amount of 'stuff' I could shoehorn into a small amount of space. I need to stop and realize that I don't NEED half of what I have stuffed into drawers that simply don't close properly. I'm motivated to delve right in and start getting rid of the excess but unfortunately there's a little thing called Christmas that's between me and my immediate desire.

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    1. Thank you, Mary Anne. I wrote it over several days as these points were occurring to me. #5 is striking me strongest right now, too, as I've recently done so much organizing, but not much making. Maybe I'm just tired from all the work we did in October & November. I'm sure the creative bug will bit soon, and when it does I feel like I'm ready for it.

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  2. This was so good Becki. I think you were spot on all points. 5 and 1/2 years ago I had quite a bit going on in my life and some huge changes: some by choice and some not. I had to help Mother clear out her house after my step dad passed. My goodness that was a task and a half. It really started me on that journey for my stuff not to be a burden. I then got healthy and couldn't wear anything in my closet. I realized the ugly truth that while working out of the home I had spent so so so much money on clothing. I never wanted to do that again. Anyway there is so much goodness in the post. I have been on a slow journey to declutter my home for my own sanity. So true about decluttering being good for your energy levels. I also loved #3. I had collected fabric as I thought I was going to sew so much when I retired. It became so stressful looking at it. I finally donated almost 2/3's of it. It was a great choice. I still have plenty to choose from to do that when I have time. I could go on and on. My favorite video on this has been this...https://youtu.be/3AhSNsBs2Y0 I'm thinking about this with all my sentimental stuff. Now, I am the queen of it all being organized:) But as you say it is still clutter. OK I will stop now.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this, Sandy. Your comments about becoming stressed looking at all your fabrics resonate with me. Years ago I donated a bunch of fabric to a quilt-making charity for precisely the same reason. When I read about Marie Kondo's magic, I didn't (and still don't) really understand items sparking joy. Things just don't tend to spark joy for me - and I'm actually very okay with that. But stress? or in my case, guilt? Over money spent, I suppose... I can get onboard with getting rid of stuff that sparks guilt or, I suppose... any number of other negative feelings. Going to go check out the video you shared!

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  3. I'm only up to point 5 at the moment, but oh my I resemble your comments. I'm going to come back to this post later when I have more time, but this is so far a great post!

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    1. I know this is a long post, Liz. And to think I edited and edited to try to keep to the point - I can be such a rambler. That anyone has read any part of this pleases me to no end. Thank you for letting me know you were here. :)

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  4. I have read this twice now. Yesterday and today. I do agree with so much of this. I need to stop being sentimental about many things I have been holding onto. My family members do not want the "stuff" and it is just taking up space in my home and head. Come January I will be going back on the declutter warpath. Thank you for expressing many of the thought I have.

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    1. I don't tend to be overly sentimental about things for myself (though letters and photographs feel important to me to keep), but boy do I struggle with sentimentality when it comes to getting rid of my sons' stuff. Stuff they don't want. Stuff they left behind, and I've asked them several times if they're sure they don't want it (whatever it is). At one point, I saw what looked to me to be pain in the eyes of one son when I did that to him recently. That was the end of me not trusting them to know themselves enough to know they mean it when they say they don't want something from their past. And interestingly, I recently uncovered something from my past that was very painful to have the memories brought back up. Ugh. I knew in a heartbeat it needed to go. Both of those examples were tough lesson for me, but I think I've got it now. Stuff, in general, just isn't that important. And stuff that has pain attached to it is better never saved in the first place.

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  5. Living in a retirement area in the middle of nowhere makes it hard to get rid of things. Some of it I can't move to the garage for a sale. Living alone I don't want to do Craig's list and garage sales just don't do well anyway because we're all older and trying to get rid of things......BUT....I came across a wonderful solution to most of my 'stuff' that I want to get rid of. I discovered that the Salvation Army will come to your house and pick things up with their truck. This was such an exciting piece of news for me! I love the SA and have volunteered to be a 'bell ringer' with my children when they were younger. I'm not sure what the requirements are and if they will come to my town as I think we are 1 1/2 hours away but I am going to try! Just an FYI if you are in the same situation as me. Thank you, Becki for all your motivational posts about everything!

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    1. Thank you for sharing all of this Sam. I haven't looked into Salvation Army picking up items, but we get periodic calls from AMVETS - that they'll be in the area and want to know if we'd like them to pick anything up. Now, that's proactive! I understand that Goodwill will also pick up large items (and large amounts of smaller items). It makes complete sense for these kinds of places to offer a pick-up service. Most people don't have a vehicle large enough to hall furniture, per se. Or like you mention - many, rightly, don't feel safe having strangers come to their home to collect items being given away. Thank you again so much for mentioning all of this!

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  6. Great post - thanks for sharing your journey :). I can relate to 95% of this and have been working on de-cluttering for a few years now, pretty successfully. We hope to retire down south in a few years where no one has a basement haha. So I started with our basement and have whittled it down to 80% what we need/use. One thing I do is at the end of EACH season, if I haven't worn something . . . it goes to donation. No matter how pretty it is or how expensive it was . . . it has to go. Another thing I do is when I get out holiday decorations, if it doesn't go up this year, it goes immediately to donation. I got rid of a lot of decorations for holidays that I didn't really like, but was keeping them because someone gave them to me, etc. It is SO true that the minimizing IS addicting and I've gotten rid of things I wish I hadn't BUT in the end, I'm still alive, the world is still revolving so it's still not that big of a deal.

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    1. These are some really good suggestions, Lauren. They would take resolve and discipline, but as I discovered it is probably easier with each item that goes. I like your perspective in your last line. I think that's what I'm finally grasping... but still, it's a process - for me. :) Thank you for sharing!

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  7. Becki you did wonderfully and learned so much about yourself and about being a "collector"! "I know as soon as I get rid of it, I'm going to discover I need or want it." is something I've heard so often from Alex, he keeps everything. When we move in the spring, I'll be doing LOTS of purging on his behalf I think! In the end, it's just "stuff" - you can't take it with you so they say. I also feel very stressed when there is a lot of clutter!

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    1. Moving is a great motivator for getting rid of stuff. It's our desire to downsize to a one-story house one of these days/years. It's our goal to be ready to move when the time is right, so we're finally getting more serious about getting stuff outta here.

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