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Five Lessons from the Minimalism Game

I read that the average American household has 300,000 items. That’s when I decided to take on the thirty day game challenge Minimalism game In September, I was more than ready to declutter my house because of the excessive amount of stuff I was holding on to. The challenge required me to get rid of 465 things in a month which I’m happy to announce!

In July our downstairs toilet overflowed and damaged the hardwood floors. This forced us to move all of our downstairs furniture out and into the garage for the month of August while the floor was repaired. I realized that we are saving a lot of things that we are not using. I was ready to take on the challenge for thirty days in September.

I took pictures every day of everything I removed from my house to document the game and shared many of them on Instagram. I challenged myself by limiting myself to one category each day instead of collecting random things. A few takeaways I experienced while taking on this challenge, below are my top five lessons!

Daily allowance from purging and decluttering

Lesson 1: Challenge > Desire

Being challenged is more motivating than a simple desire to disengage. Having deadlines and making commitments to yourself puts extra pressure on you to show up every day for a month-long assignment like this. Every day I wake up I have to make it a part of my daily routine to get rid of what we don’t use or need. Announcing that I was doing the challenge on social media and posting about it every day kept me on target because I never gave myself reason or permission to give up.

Lesson 2: Separation helps

Spending time away from your stuff will make you realize that you can get by without most of it. This is true for anyone who goes on a long vacation and comes back to realize that they have lived much less. This happened when my daughter went away to college and came back and announced that she was not interested in keeping most of the things she had collected in her room from the previous year. This happens to anyone who rents a storage unit, eventually you question why you’re paying to store things you don’t want or need. It happens when you move and you put all your things in boxes and then open them months later wondering why you didn’t donate those things a long time ago.

One of the benefits of moving all of our stuff out and into the garage in August was that it all unfolded and it became clear that we really had a lot of stuff that we no longer needed. Moving everything out made me question whether I wanted to put it back in and made it easy to put a lot of it in the donation pile.

Lesson 3: Declare Purpose

We learned from Marie Kondo that we should ask the question, “Does it bring joy?” Time to decide whether to get rid of something, but may reflect that pleasure is not the only value. Anything beautiful or with sentiment attached to it can “spark joy”, and I can see the value of keeping certain things that have sweet memories for sentimental reasons.

But when deciding to sell or donate a good question might be “Does this item serve a purpose?” One thing I learned after a month of ruthless decluttering is this Absence I kept a lot of things (that had no purpose) and the empty space I created more joy than the presence of those things in my house. I looked at each item and questioned its value before selling or donating. If an object doesn’t really serve a significant purpose, it’s gone.

Lesson 4: Weekly assessments work best

It was a tough mental exercise reminding myself every day I had to get rid of a certain amount of stuff. I found myself reluctant to continue towards the end of the month as the days passed and the number of items I was challenged to get rid of increased. It forced me to think and get creative, resorting to cleaning out closets and drawers, getting rid of paint samples and old DVDs just to keep up with the numbers.

On reflection I believe that the decluttering process is easier as a lifestyle choice if you challenge yourself weekly instead of daily. I deep clean my house on Thursday and light clean on Sunday evening. I’ve found that it’s easier to focus on isolating and getting rid of unnecessary things during a cleaning practice instead of thinking about the day-to-day. So I decided for the future to keep my house clean and clutter free, think about cleaning things once a week instead of once a day or once a month.

Lesson 5: Less stuff = more peace

Looking back at all the photos I’ve moved makes me breathe a sigh of relief that these things are no longer in my drawers, closets, or spaces. They are being used elsewhere, by others who buy larger items and grant benefits that are being offered to other people. They are getting a second life elsewhere and that makes me feel pretty good. Also my house just feels calm and light. The less stuff I have to organize or store gives me more time to focus on the things that matter to me: family, friends, exercise, creativity and maintaining a work/life balance.

Honestly, I think I could do it all over again to get rid of 465 items if I didn’t limit myself to specific categories and get rid of items big and small instead of just belonging to a certain group. Less stuff gives me greater peace and more freedom to do what I want with my time instead of worrying about things that don’t matter.


Finally I’ll leave you with this very funny bit of Jerry Seinfeld talking about Americans and all their stuff. 🙂


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