When I read about a minimalist challenge put on by The Minimalists (Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus), I knew this was for me.
I didn’t do it because my house was overflowing with stuff. I’m a minimalist, so my house has never been simpler and cleaner. But there’s always room for improvement … right? Becoming a minimalist is one thing, but maintaining it is more than half the battle.
While I’ve been a full-throttle minimalist for a few years, no one knew about it until a year ago. That’s when I began blogging a little bit about it. I was tired of not talking about how much good was coming from this lifestyle. After researching minimalism and seeing how many folks love this life like I do, I was flabbergasted. I had no idea there was such a huge community of like-minded people who also wanted and loved living in a minimalist way.
At its heart, minimalism promotes peace. It simplifies every category of our lives, and for me, blogging about it was therapeutic. Also, how could I not share this with everyone I knew? Everyone needed in on this not-so-secret secret way of living stress-free.
In November, when I decided to do the challenge, I mentally went through all of my closets and cupboards before starting. Sure, there may be some things I’d forgotten to go through, but 496 items? Was this even feasible? Was I already defeated before the game began?
Not in the least and yes, it was very feasible.
So maybe you’re asking “What is the 30-day Minimalism Game?” Here’s how you do it. On day one, get rid of one thing. By the end of the day it needs to be out of the house. Day two, get rid of two things. Day three, get rid of three things, and keep going all the way to day 31, which is 31 things. Totaled? That’s 496 items gone from the house.
Now, three things here. First, I didn’t take the items out of my house physically every day. Instead, I’d haul the bags or boxes of stuff to the trunk of my car and put it there until I could take it to the donation center. (A few things I had to throw away.) So technically it was out of my house, but it was in my garage. Second, November only has 30 days. I decided to do 31 days. I wanted to purge as much excess as I could, and doing it for 31 days seemed right. Third, I did this fun game alone. The Minimalists recommend partnering up with a friend or family member to keep you on track (and add in some friendly competition). I did this challenge alone, was still able to stay motivated, and finished strong.
Here are five things I learned while playing this eye-opening game.
We can always get rid of more. Starting with day one, I began room by room. Drawers I’d gone through a year ago needed a second round of “going through.” Some of my closets even had shelves I had previously ignored. (What?) These were shelves I thought I had sorted through but hadn’t. Cupboards within cabinets (think china hutch) were a gold mine of things I hadn’t used in years. Paring down once is great, but running through it again made me rethink things I had kept the first time around. And I didn’t need it the second time around either. Closets shouldn’t hold the clothes we don’t wear. Shoe racks shouldn’t display the shoes we don’t wear. Sometimes, minimizing takes months (or years) to do. But we can always get rid of more.
There are cupboards we all forget about. As I just previously mentioned, there are areas in our home we forget about cleaning out. I had forgotten about a few shelves in a closet under the stairs (aptly named the Potter Closet); shelves I could’ve sworn I’d gone through. Even though I purged so many rooms and so many things over the last couple of years, I had overlooked some shelves and cupboards. It may be because my brain didn’t want to make any more decisions. Maybe I’d maxed it out at the time. Regardless, I can’t tell you how shocked I was to find areas I hadn’t gone through.
Life Happens. Midway through the month, the items I found to give away began to slow. I was on day 19 and the day before I had set aside 18 items to donate. I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the following week when I had to find 24, 25, and 26 items and so forth. How was this going to work? Well, life happens. My beautiful dog, Sierra, a goldendoodle who was almost 14 years old, passed away. I’m still raw with emotion over it. I miss her terribly; she was my best buddy. But can I just point out the amount of paraphernalia, toys, and treats dog owners have? It’s astounding. I counted 25 balls in her toy bin. While I was able to donate all of these precious things to my sister who has a dog (this was a relief and a small highlight of her passing—to bless someone else with her stuff) it was over 100 items of leashes, collars, toys, and rawhide bones that were crammed into a shelf for a decade. Life happened and I gave away things I didn’t need.
We really can live with less.As I went through my house’s drawers and spaces, I found things I had saved a couple of years ago thinking “I do need to save this for such and such a reason.” Over and over again, I would find these items, recall “needing” to save them, and see a year later that I hadn’t needed them after all. We can live with far less than we think. Things I saved while paring down last year were things I _still _didn’t need. As Maya Angelou famously said, “We need much less than we think we need.” I can verify this. It’s 100% true.
I don’t miss any of it. The bonus of putting my donatable items into the back of my car and letting it sit for a day or two was the option to have a particular item back “just in case I needed it.” Okay, that never happened. I even had a pile of stuff in the trunk for five days … I still didn’t need it. Once it’s gone, once it’s out of my sight, I find something else that will do in its place. I need fewer options and the ones I’ve chosen to keep are the ones I will use. It’s very simple. I don’t miss anything I gave away the entire month of November.
I made it to day 30 and then added an extra day (to make it a full 31 days). I had over 496 items. Was it easy? Yes and no. Sometimes, it felt like a lot of decisions, decisions I didn’t want to make. Other times, it felt like the easiest thing in the world. I found a shelf of mugs that I didn’t use (I have favorite mugs … I think we all do. And those are the ones I drink from, not the other 15 that never see the light of day) and got rid of them. Things like that. Those were the easy days.
If you decide to do this challenge, there will be hard and easy days. Hang in there and look at what you aren’t using. Minimize your surroundings to the things you love, things you use, and things that bring value to your life. As a minimalist who’d thought she’d had everything pared down in her house perfectly, I was wrong. I found over 500 items to purge. And these items can be anything from old files to plastic bins.
Give the 30-Day Minimalism Game a try. You’ve got nothing to lose but stuff you don’t need weighing you down.