I’ve Been Getting Rid of an Object Every Day for 835 Days: My Journey into Minimalism
You’ve read it right. For 835 consecutive days I’ve been getting rid of an object I possessed. Actually, when I decided to start this, I had already gotten rid of about 300 items, as I wrote on my blog post After a Year of Throwing Away Stuff, I’m Going Minimalist.
This is similar to what I did with one workout a day for four years.
Why I’m doing this kind of challenges is easy to explain: I have never been a constant person, but in order to run your own business you’ve got to become constant. You don’t want to miss important deadlines, skip a followup which would’ve gotten you a new contract or worse. Day in, day out, you’ve got to be constant. I needed this to run MarsBased properly.
How did I force myself into being a constant person, then? By identifying one of my strengths: I have an iron will. When I am determined to do something, I do whatever it takes to achieve it because I don’t want to admit failure to myself.
Therefore, I decided to engage with these self-imposed challenges to motivate me, and they have worked well. I regard myself as a very constant person, now.
I resolved that I wanted to do 365 consecutive days of getting rid of any object I owned. That could mean throwing it to the garbage, giving it to someone or selling it.
The rules are simple and clear:
- One object every day.
- You decide whether a bunch of items is one item or separate (example: postcards, business cards, pile of papers, box full of toys, etc.). S’alright.
- Try your best not to replace what you’re throwing away (unless really indispensable).
Turns out, I went way over the goal, and decided to stretch it for as far as I wanted. I decided to stop it now to focus on other things after 835 consecutive days. That speaks at length about how many objects I (we) own in general.
After having thrown over a thousand items, I estimate I still own another thousand.
To give a bit of perspective, at the time of this writing, I’m 31 and have been living on my own for about 10 years.
There are three reasons why I engaged in this crazy self-motivational project: a philosophical one, a personal one and a purely pragmatical reason.
Let’s start with the pragmatical: In the last twelve years, I’ve moved homes six times, the last two being a full-house move, not just from room to room. Now, I’m planning to buy a house, and I simply do not want to move things that I only see when I pack for my next home.
The philosophical is also easy to explain. Over the course of the last years, I’d been reading a lot about minimalism and had always considered the idea of going full nomad. As my company MarsBased is 100% remote, I could work from anywhere. But first, I’d need to get rid of pretty much all of my stuff.
The personal reason requires a bit of opening up. My dad was diagnosed with Diogenes Syndrome circa two years ago, which means that he accumulates too much stuff at home (he lives alone) at the expense of his own confort and the salubrity of his own home. It’s been two difficult years in the family, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to detect this on time to treat it accordingly.
Not that I feared having it myself, but I had always had a tendency of clinging to certain objects because of a strong emotional connection. For instance, certain toys, which would remind me of my childhood, or my Magic: The Gathering cards, which earned me my first bucks back in the day.
Also, by having a challenge like this, I could share this with my dad and talk him into doing the same, thus helping him to overcome his disorder. However, and much to my dismay, this hasn’t helped him at all.
Back to the challenge, this is how I accomplished (and completely went beyond) my goal.
First of all, I tracked it on an Google Sheets file which you can all see. This file was also bookmarked on my bookmarks bar of Chrome so I would see it every day, as I spend most of my day in front of the computer.
Every row contains a date, name of the object, what action did I do (thrown, sold, digitised, given to a friend, given to an NGO) and if it had been sold, its price.
A bit of description of each:
- Thrown: Self-explanatory. Straight to the garbage.
- Sold: I used Wallapop for this and managed to make an incredible 78 euros. I am very bad at this, I admit, and could’ve easily made more, but I can’t be arsed to discuss price, and coordinating a meeting to sell an item for 2–5 bucks each time.
- Digitised: I took a picture of it and threw it away, so it’s a Thrown, but I keep a digital copy of it. More on this process afterwards.
- Given to a friend: There’s always someone who needs that bottle of wine more than you. Or you’ve got this book that you really like and want to recommend to a friend… what a better way than giving it to her?
- Given to NGO: Lots of people out there need your clothes more than you, or even your childhood toys.
Obviously, there are days that you’re not home and can’t do it, but there are other days where you will throw 20–30 objects at once, because you’re cleaning your wardrobe or that drawer in the kitchen containing all those things you inherited from previous flatmates which you’ve never really used.
Also, when travelling (I travel a lot), I used to take certain objects I wanted to get rid of so I wouldn’t return home with them: old socks or shoes, personal hygiene items, presents for friends, etc. This way, I could get back home with half my luggage empty, perfect to travel lighter or to have some space to buy someone a nice liquor bottle, for instance.
My rules, this time, have been the following:
- If I haven’t used it for six months and don’t plan to use it in the next six (think of winter jackets), away with it.
- If I’m just keeping it for its emotional value, take a picture of it and throw it.
- If someone else can profit more from it than me, it goes.
- If you can actually sell something, sell it for a low price to ensure it goes fast.
I’ve got to say, that all of them have worked fantastically.
Special mention for digitising stuff. Some of the things I owned, such as memories from all my previous travels, have been digitised. I took pictures like this one, so I could have in one glimpse remember everything without having to look for the box, and deploy all its contents somewhere:
This way, if I want to remember anything from this trip, I’ll take a look at the picture, and see the restaurants I went to, or what means of transport I used, or even if I had to pay any fines 😅
However, be cautious, as this might lead to Digital Diogenes Syndrome, which I will cover in a separate article in the coming days.
Of an initial goal of 365 days in a row, I managed to do 835 days, more than the double.
Some remarkable times have been when I got rid of furniture, half of my wardrobe or even of my car — one of the first items to go. Not only did I end up saving about a thousand euros per year having no car, but I feel freer now. I don’t have to care about it getting stolen, or remember where I parked it.
I too stored some items because there was something to be done with them (photos to be digitised, things to be put on sale on the internet, old CDs that contained memories, etc.). A nice side effect of challenge, is that I ended up doing what needed to be done, while some other overdue tasks had no sense at all after so many years.
By committing to one object a day, clearing out my backlog seemed doable, as opposed to previously having an enormous mountain of to-dos.
On a personal level, I feel much better now. Although, I feel like I could do better — as I still have got too much stuff (I could probably do 300 more items, easily) — , I’m happy to know I can do it again if I need it.
Also, as I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I do think I have become a constant person.
I know my next move will be much lighter, as I will probably be able to detach myself from certain items I would’ve kept if I hadn’t done this challenge.
If you feel like trying but have doubts, let me know in the comments section. I’ll be happy to counsel and give advice to anyone soliciting it!