Not quite one year ago, I got rid of 80% of my belongings.
Sounds a little crazy, right? So, you want to hear something even crazier?
To this day, I still do occasional purges and get rid of more stuff.
Now, you're probably wondering what in the world is left after you get rid of 80% of your stuff?? Well, you're left with the 20% of stuff that you actually use and/or need.
When I downsized and de-cluttered in late 2014/early 2015, I was getting ready to move into a 160 square foot tiny house on wheels. So obviously, my process was a little more "extreme" than some others.
I got rid of all of my furniture except for my mattress, a full length mirror and a sewing machine table that was my mother's (that later got stolen :(), because everything was built in my tiny house - the couch, the dining table (a.k.a. the kitchen counter), the dresser (a.k.a. the under-stairs storage) and the nightstand (a.k.a. the floor).
But in addition to those big things, I got rid of tons of books, movies, CD's, DVD's, office supplies, sports equipment, craft stuff, clothes, shoes and well... junk.
See exhibit A:
In fact, when all was said and done, this was all that was left:
Again, crazy right? But it was SO freeing! Because I was able to keep only the things that I really love, need and use on a regular basis.
So, now that I have been out of my tiny house for almost a year (if you don't know that story, you can read about it here) and have been living in a "regular" size house with other non-minimalists, it has been more challenging to stick to my de-cluttered ideals.
For one, I have more space. Yes, I am still in a small guest bedroom with a small closet, BUT there's still more room to put stuff. But also, it's easy to get sucked back in to the so-called "normalcy" of consumption.
For instance, where as I had ONE tote bag when I was in my tiny house. I now miraculously have FOUR just a year later. Now, one was a gift and one is actually a laptop bag, while the other two are tote bags. But still, it is amazing how fast stuff can "multiply" when you're not paying attention.
So, how do I continue to downsize even now?
1. Purge it NOW. Not later.
When I do bring something new home, something old has to go. That's the rule. One in, one out. It's how you keep clutter from building back up again once you've purged it from your life. It also keeps you in check about bringing home new purchases.
Do you really need/want that new pair of shoes? No? Great, keep on moving. But if yes, then you go home and get rid of a pair of shoes that you're not wearing anymore. That way, you have the same number at the end of the day.
BUT the most important part of this process is to make sure you do it right away. Don't bring something home, put it away and think "oh, I'll purge something in exchange later." And don't pick out an item to purge in exchange and then set it aside for later.
Get rid of it right then.
Sure, if it's midnight, you can wait til the morning to drop it off at Goodwill (or wherever you prefer). But the point is, the next time you leave the house, take it with you and get rid of it.
I've done this several times this year. I'm already not a huge shopper, but when I have picked up something new to wear to a conference or someone has given me a book as a gift, I immediately go pick out an item in exchange and take it straight to the consignment shop, used bookstore, etc.
I just sold another $20 worth of books to a store this past weekend! I read them, I enjoyed them and now it's their time to move on for someone else to enjoy.
2. Keep an eye on things.
No matter how incredibly honest and objective you are during your big purge, you will probably still keep a few things that could've gone. It's only natural.
Even though I was pretty ruthless when it came to my clothes and shoes, I still have a few things in my closet that I don't really wear. (It's actually a really sad testament to how MUCH I had before... and I wasn't even what you'd consider to be a "bad case" when it comes to clothes!) But, since some time has passed and I've been able to keep an eye on my closet as I go about my day-to-day life, I can see which things are moving and which are not.
Yes, I may have intended to wear that blouse or thought I really was going to wear that dress again, but if I haven't yet, then I'm not going to. Which means those items can get pulled out and purged immediately too (see #1).
It's not depriving myself of anything... it's getting rid of the excess that I obviously don't really care much about anyway!
3. Give to others.
Even when I did my "big purge," I tried to get rid of things in other ways besides just dropping them off at Goodwill. I liked giving my things to others that I knew would enjoy them and actually get use out of them. So this is still a favorite way for me to "keep up" with belongings too.
For example, while at a writers' conference recently, I received a tote bag as part of my welcome packet. It was quite adorable actually - a little black bag with one of my favorite Bible verses on it in white script - but if I kept this bag once I got home, it would then bring the aforementioned tote bag count up to five. And that's just ridiculous.
So, as fate would have it, one of my close friends from the conference happened to lose her tote bag during the first day's events. Without hesitation, I quickly handed her mine and told her to keep it. Although she tried to refuse at first, I told her, "I'm a minimalist, I don't need another one!" Because the one I had brought with me was just fine.
(Side note: Just because someone gives you something or you win something, does not mean you have to keep it!)
The good thing (one of them!) about going through a downsizing and de-cluttering process, is that it will change your perspective on "stuff." If you do any type of substantial purging, you're going to be at least a little more hesitant (if not down right opposed) to replace it with more "junk" in the future. Not only because you worked so hard to get rid of it, but also because once you realize how freeing and exciting it can be to live with less stuff, you might just become a little bit addicted!
Besides, is it just me or does there always seem to be "just one more thing..."
Til next time, keep your dreams BIG and your worries tiny!
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