One of the first things aspiring minimalists do is de-clutter. Of course, de-cluttering stuff is not the only thing that involves living a minimalist lifestyle. But, it's a great start for most folks. However, one thing that stumps most people is the grand old question of, "where do I begin???" This, unfortunately, leaves most people overwhelmed and their progress comes to a screeching halt. How can you avoid the pitfalls of procrastination due to "not knowing where to begin" syndrome? Well. It's all about baby steps. One step at a time. One room at a time. You could, of course, just do a "packing party" like Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists. You can read more about that here. But, most people aren't willing to do something so "drastic." Let me tell you about how I've managed to do it over the past 10 years. 10 years ago I had a lot of stuff. A lot. I once dated a guy who, when he first walked into my townhouse, said... "Wow. You have a lot of stuff." Yep. He said that. That was the first time I actually looked at my house in a different way... under a different light. My perception suddenly shifted. I thought... "hmmm.... is he right? Let me see..." I began to question everything I owned and realized that I just had a bunch of meaningless, worthless, stuff that I never used! Knick knacks, hand me downs, clothes I never wore or that didn't fit, shoes I never wore, purses I hated and electronics that were just taking up room. Aside from that, I had so much furniture for just ME. I mean... at the time I lived alone with my then two dogs and cat. Why in the world did I have TWO living rooms and 3 bathrooms??? Why? My life suddenly made no sense. So, what did I begin to do and continue to do to this day...
I threw stuff out. Nope. Not necessarily in the trash (although a lot of things did go in the trash), but OUT of my life. I became a equal opportunity throw away-er and detached emotionally from nearly everything I owned. Craigslist became my best friend. So, what steps did I take:
1. I picked a room. I suggest starting with the smallest room in your house (typically the restroom).
2. I went through every single item in that room.
3. I created three piles (boxes) titled : "Donation," "Sell," and "Trash."
4. I asked the question... "Have I used this in the past year?"
5. If the answer was "no," as it usually was, I chose a pile for it.
6. At the end of the day I drove to Goodwill or Salvation Army with my donation pile and gave it all away. I also went to the dumpster and threw out the trash pile. I then proceeded to take pictures of the "sell" items and posted them on Craigslist.
7. I did this for every single room in my house. One day, one week, one month at a time.
8. I got rid of A LOT of stuff... but not everything. I still had a lot more work to do.
I realized that getting rid of the stuff wasn't enough. Especially when I began accumulating all over again. Years later, I had a bunch of stuff, yet again. It then hit me that my problem was internal, not external. The external clutter was merely a symptom of my loneliness and void. Once I realized and recognized that... things changed. In 2011 I began a whole new minimalism journey. I worked on myself. I began to nurture my soul with things and activities that made me happy. I feel happy when I'm contributing of myself. So, I joined volunteer organizations, church groups and went back to teaching in 2010 after a 2 year hiatus. I "found" myself. Suddenly, the clutter slowed down. Today, I'm happy to report that I very discriminately allow things into our home. I always ask... "is it necessary?" and "why?"
However, the "de-cluttering," actually never does stop. Especially when you have a child. So, these days, I still focus on one room at a time. I follow the steps above and I focus on one room per month. Some months, there's nothing to de-clutter. Others, there is. But, the most important thing is that I have now found my balance. It took years for me to get here. But, it need not take you that long. Everyone is on their own unique journey. Follow the steps above if you'd like. Tweak them. Add to them. Subtract. Whatever suits you. But, start now. Don't wait.
The moment you free yourself from the weight of your "stuff," you will feel lighter. Try it. It really is life changing. You may not be able to get rid of all your possessions today, but you can start to live intentionally this very moment. Be mindful. Be intentional about everything you do and everything you acquire. Do not allow stuff to own you and your peace. Break away from it.