It is finished.

A month ago, I started a minimalism game with my oldest friend. On day 1, we each had to rid ourselves of 1 piece of clutter. Day 2 was 2 items. And so on, for 30 days. Jenny is a scientist and I am… me, so we tracked this extensively in a Google spreadsheet. We had a couple of house rules — sorting through mail/other papers did not count. Neither did throwing out anything that we would normally throw out in the course of our days. After a questionable instance, we decided that a pair of shoes counted as one item, not two. We couldn’t count extra items from previous days toward our daily item count, but we could make up for missed past days. (After one busy week, I found myself eliminating 173 items in a single day.)

This is what ~50 items that I don’t need look like.

In the past 30 days, 543 items have left my home and my life.

I have learned a lot about myself and my relationship to stuff over that time. The challenge was both easier and harder than I expected it to be. Because we had a spreadsheet, we made notes about the items we were getting rid of, and left comments on one another’s items. It was fun to harass each other, and comforting to see that I wasn’t the only one with random crap with no emotional significance that I had been moving around since middle school. Those items were still challenging, though. I really started to wonder what made me allow that junk (and it was unquestionably junk) to take up space in my life for so long. I believe it had to do with a combination of a scarcity mindset and laziness, with a very hefty dash of Catholic guilt. The wonderful thing about this was that the guilt left with the item I felt guilty about. That random ornament from a family member that I’ve never pulled out over the holidays, but felt bad about every time I saw it? Gone. And the self-flagellation gone with it.

I expected those kinds of emotional pulls, although they showed up where I didn’t expect them. But still, I thought this was going to be even harder because I’ve had a few rounds of “getting rid of stuff” over the past 18 months. Part of this was due to closing a home-based business. Part of this was gearing up for a very busy season in my life. Part of this was for its own sake. I am not a minimalist, but I had been down this road before, and I had already gotten rid of most of my crap.

Here’s the part that really blows my mind.

I have gotten rid of 543 items, and I am not even close to done.


And it is frustrating in many different ways. For one, having so many things that I can just get rid of 543 of them is some kind of perverse privilege. This launches into a million questions. Why do I have these things? Where did they come from? Why would I waste my resources on something as dumb as an entire set of window blind cleaning tools, like I was ever going to clean my blinds slat-by-slat? Then the guilt kicks in, and the overwhelm at the mess I’ve created, and some self-righteousness about our consumer society, and it’s all over some $3 piece of plastic. And I’ve been saving these $3 pieces of plastic all these years! I’ve been storing this emotional turmoil in my home! And there’s still more of it!

So, at day 30, I think we’re going to keep the challenge going for a while. Keep getting rid of the junk until we’re only left with the things that aren’t burdens. It will suck. And then it will be better.

If you’re interested in starting a similarly crazy but liberating journey, you should check out The Minimalists. They’re pretty great. Or, if you want to read about other things I’ve learned (few of which have to do with minimalism), you can do that on my website. I post a new thing almost every day.

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