June 2015: “National Decluttering Month”

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted on the Monthly Experiments Project. I’ll write an update post (or ten) about the cool experiments I’ve been doing in that time (Neurofeedback, giving up alcohol, giving up sugar, starting a new business, and taking on a new fitness experiment) which I’m excited to tell you about a little later.

But today I want to introduce a brand new experiment that I’m starting this month, and you’re invited to join me.

I’m calling it the Decluttering Experiment.

The inspiration for this experiment came to me when I was traveling, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years.

I’m a very light traveler. No checked baggage. I usually only bring a small backpack, whether it’s for a weekend road trip or I’m traveling internationally for a few weeks.

There’s a feeling I get when I travel. A kind of lightness. The feeling that I can go anywhere and don’t need anything other than what I can carry. I feel that same thing when I go backpacking or climbing, too.

It feels like freedom.

The freedom to explore and move around quickly from one city or country to the next. To see and learn and experience new things. I’ve come to realize that part of what I love so much about travel is also related to that lightness and simplicity.

The less you have, the more free you are.

My motivation for doing this experiment comes down to chasing that feeling. The freedom of being fast and light and free.

So, this month I’m going to get rid of some of the things that are weighing me down. I’m talking about physical possessions, but also projects, obligations and responsibilities.

Honestly, I haven’t actually figured out the best way to do this, so I’ll be exploring as I go and reporting back here and on the Monthly Experiments Facebook page.

This isn’t a “minimalism” experiment, and I will try to avoid the stereotypical “how I live with just 47 things” blog post. Truthfully, I’m not a minimalist at all. I have a house, car and more pairs of shoes than makes any kind of sense. Even my dog probably has more toys than I had growing up.

I’m not interested in living like a monk. I’m not interested in counting my things. I’m just interested in living more intentionally, with more focus, more freedom, and less stuff weighing me down.

Experiment Rules

I like to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to experimental design, so I’m going to make a simple rule for myself (feel free to do this experiment whatever way works best for you.)

  1. Every day, spend some time going through a physical space in your home or office or car. Go through the objects in that space and decide whether to keep them based on the criteria that works for you.
  2. Keep a little journal or some notes about how it feels to get rid of those things.

That’s it. Two simple rules. Do that every day for a month, and your life will feel different.

Oh, and when it comes to the criteria about what to keep and what to get rid of, I’ll share more on that in the coming days.

What I’ve Done So Far

June 1st — I went through my closet and pulled out all my clothes. I used to wear suits, or slacks and collared shirts to work, and I had about 10 pairs of pants and 30 shirts that I haven’t worn in years. I invited my Dad over for lunch and let him take his pick of anything he wanted. He took about 20 nice dress shirts. I kept just a couple of dress shirts and suits that I had custom made. Everything else is going to be donated. It felt really awesome to clear so much space, and I’m super proud of my dad for losing a bunch of weight over the last few years and getting into good enough shape to wear my clothes!

(That’s an example of what you might write in your journal entry for the day. The formula of “what I did” + “how it felt” is a pretty solid formula when it comes to journaling about making changes.)

Some Good Resources

I’ve started off this experiment by reading a really amazing book called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” I’m not finished with this book yet, but I already love it so much that I thought about calling this the Essentialism Experiment. It’s about embracing a philosophy of living with and doing what is essential, without distraction or clutter… to move more lightly and forcefully through the world. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in years. More on that later.

I also plan on reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” later in the month. It comes highly recommended by a friend. One of my favorite concepts from this book is a little game where you pretend that your possessions have souls, and you have to look at, say, a pair of shoes you haven’t worn in 3 years, and ask yourself whether their soul (whoa, barely avoided a terrible sole pun there!) is happy, or if they would be happier if you gave them to someone who would actually use them and wear them. It’s a silly game, but I definitely played it yesterday when I was cleaning out my closet, and I had some pretty upset clothes that are now being donated to someone who will appreciate them more than me.

Anyway, that’s the 1000 word mark, which is probably a good place to end a post about Decluttering.

I hope you decide to join me in this challenge, to surround yourself with things that serve you and help you reach your goals, instead of distracting you or weighing you down.

I’ll leave you with a little thought experiment. You can answer in the comments if you want…

What would you bring with you if you had to run away? If you went and packed the car right now, what would you take? For me (other than pets and people) it’s probably just some clothes, a Vitamix, some workout equipment, a couple of laptops and some kitchen stuff.

Stay tuned.