Everyone seems to be Marie-Kondoing right now, so much so that thrift stores are actually having a huge influx of items that they can't deal with. Marie Kondo has been around for a while but recently got more popular in the U.S. with her Netflix series. I've been following the "minimalism" movement on The Minimalists blog for a few years, and mainly started reading about it before I moved to Europe for business school.
At that time, I got rid of nearly everything that I owned. I stored some sentimental things (photo albums, diplomas) at my parents house in Florida and then sold my largest and most important possession at the time - my trusty little Honda Civic Hybrid. My car was harder to let go of than I thought, it had been my first and only car (and one of the first hybrids on the market) and had moved me all over the country on many adventures. Before I even knew about the sparking joy concept and thanking your items (Marie Kondo method), I thanked my car for all the places that it had taken me and cried as it left for a new owner.
While I lived in France and Austria, I kept to my 2 suitcases and when I bought something new, I had to get rid of another thing to make room for it. Even settling down in an apartment in Vienna, Austria, I didn't accumulate many things because I didn't have a car to go outside the city to shop at malls/Ikea, and the stores in the city were almost always closed when I was off work (everything closes on Sundays in many parts of Europe). In addition, I had to be home to accept any packages from Amazon, otherwise they wouldn't deliver them.
Upon moving back to the U.S., I've seemed to accumulate a lot more things than I meant to. American consumerism is so engrained in society that even though I prefer minimalism, I still find myself buying things that I don't need without even realizing it. Shops are plentiful and open at all hours, advertisements promising happiness are everywhere, and you can buy anything you could ever want online and get it delivered within 2 days.
A few months ago, I realized that I had way too many unnecessary things and my space felt cluttered, so I decided to play the 30-Day Minimalism Game. I have been following The Minimalists for a while, they also have a documentary on Netflix, but I had never played their game. The basic rules are that you get rid of 1 thing the first day, 2 things the second day, 3 things the third day, and so on until 30 things on the last day. That's 465 items total! It seems like a lot but doing it gradually over 30 days doesn't seem so extreme.
It actually took me over three months to complete the game because of my travel schedule, I wasn't home 30 days consecutively. Speaking of travel, I actually love living out of a suitcase because I have so few things I feel "light" and I don't have to make too many decisions about what to wear. I like the concept of being able to pack up and move on, it makes me feel free and unburdened. This confirms for me that I prefer to be a minimalist.
The game is also fun to do with a partner and send pictures to each other of what your getting rid of. So what counts? I got in an argument with my partner because I was getting rid of nails (the type you hammer into walls, not fingernails) and counting them individually, there were over 50! He said it should only count as one item, so I settled on counting it as 10 items. Anyway, you make your own rules for counting.
I also altered the game slightly. Normally, you can sell, donate, or trash your items. I also decided to add a category of fixing things to incentivize myself to fix things instead of get rid of them and buy new ones. You should also practice a shopping ban during this time. I'll be writing a separate post on that...
At first I thought that I wouldn't have 465 items to get rid of, do I event own that many things? It was definitely easy at first and then I hit a slump around day 23, at which point I had to go through all of my spaces again to really think about the items I owned. In switching out my winter for summer clothes and doing some spring cleaning this weekend, I finally reached day 30!
How to decide what to get rid of? This is where watching the Marie Kondo series is helpful. My own guidelines are to get rid of things that I haven't used in a year or keep around "just in case." For example, I turn the hangers in my closet inside out every season. Once I wear something, the item goes back on it's hanger the right way in. All of the items still hanging on inside out hangers at the end of the season get donated (or sold if they're in good condition). I also think to myself, would I pack this item in my two suitcases to move to Europe? If not, I probably don't need it.
What did I get rid of? So many things I don't event remember. I fixed 4 things, including a watch, parts on my bike, and sewing some pants (instead of buying new ones). I posted 47 items to sell on eBay and Poshmark. I ended up selling 27 of them, making a total of $158.26. I donated the items that didn't sell and donated an additional 141 items. It can be hard to donate things without a car, but there are Planet Aid bins around cities and H&M takes used clothes for recycling. You can also schedule a home pick up for donations with organizations like GreenDrop. Finally, I trashed 273 things. So that's 59% trashed, 30% donated, 10% posted to sell, and 1% fixed.
My space feels much better now, it's never cluttered and every item has a dedicated place and purpose. I think I could get rid of more things and really streamline, but my focus now will be to not accumulate more things. It is not sustainable to be buying this many things and then trashing or even donating them. The goal is not have this much stuff in the first place. So I'm experimenting with a few things like mindful shopping and buying used items, I'll be writing more on that later!
Ecomodernist and nuclear engineer inspired by nature.