Happy 2021! I always love the transition of the New Year, it's full of hope, excitement, and clarity. At the end of December, I created a post all about setting Achievable Goals to help create resolutions that you can stick to. Now that it's January, I love to start decluttering and preparing my surroundings for a successful year! A few years ago, I started a minimalism challenge that changed my life. It began with something called Project 333, which then led to me creating my own 30-Day Minimalism Challenge.
How I Got Started
I remember the first time I completed the minimalism challenge, someone asked me if I was positive I wanted to get rid of all that. The answer was a quick and simple yes, and I have never looked back! Living a minimal life takes consistent practice, but it gets easier the longer you do it.
Becoming a minimalist was not an overnight decision. I started the process slowly around 2016, although subconsciously I started a long time before then. I went on a Modern Home tour in San Diego and after leaving one of the houses I felt so zen and at peace. I attributed it to the minimalist style, lack of clutter, and open space. I decided that was the type of lifestyle I wanted to live. To have a home that instantly reduced stressed just based on design. I may not have a multi-million dollar home (yet), but I knew I could still design my environment to reflect the same principles.
So, I started researching and becoming immersed in all things minimal. This is when I found the documentary Minimalism, Project 333, and began to implement the practices into my life. I started with my closet and got rid of about 2/3 of my wardrobe. The beauty of this was realizing that I already was a pretty minimalist dresser. I wore the same handful of clothes even though my closet was packed. There were multiple items I would pass by every day that hadn't be worn in over a year or more. So, I removed the clutter. Now, when I want an item I don't have to search through anything I know I'm not going to wear in search of what I want. The simplicity and lack of clutter make getting dressed so much more enjoyable. I knew I wanted to continue this practice throughout the rest of my life.
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
William Morris, The Beauty of Life, 1880
In 2018, I developed the 30-Day Challenge and this year have finally designed it into a full 40+ page PDF.
In the challenge, we go through your closet, bathroom, kitchen, office, and even your mindset. Some days are more challenging than others, but each time you do the challenge it becomes easier. I try to do the challenge two times a year, usually at the beginning of the year and once in the summer. It helps to refresh the minimalist concepts and works like a spring cleaning. Since I do it so often, some of the challenge days don't pertain to our house anymore because we keep it minimal (for example candles, which will make more sense once you read the guide). I made the challenge 30 days so you can choose to start at the beginning of a month or just start whenever works for you.
Find what you want when you want it
Fewer choices mean simplicity
What to ask yourself as your minimizing
What is essential?
What makes you happy?
Do I have a similar item that serves the same purpose?*
*One day I went to one of those MLM cooking parties at a friend’s house where they were selling kitchen gadgets. I was shocked at how single-purpose so many of the items were. For example, one item that was just used for cutting chicken (they were glorified kitchen scissors) or a grapefruit segmenter (you mean a knife??). Try not to get sucked into these single-use items, they end up taking up space, and usually, you can’t even find it when you happen to need it. Instead keep on hand one item that serves multiple purposes, like kitchen scissors which not only open things but can be used for shredding chicken, cutting food, snipping herbs, etc. Get creative using one tool in multiple ways.
“There is clarity in simplicity”
Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic
It's no secret, we tend to have emotional attachments to possessions, even items like clothing. So, starting this process can sometimes be difficult. I have found that once possessions are gone, your mind has space to be creative, calm, and happy. It’s not about depriving yourself of items, but appreciating what you have and having quality items rather than quantity.
When working with sentimental items, take an inventory of how many sentimental items you are holding onto, what emotions these items evoke, and why you are keeping them. Some items may be priceless, like a family heirloom, while others may be from an ex. These are two very different types of sentimental items and should be handled differently. My rule of thumb is if the item brings up any ounce of negativity it is time to get rid of it. If it is a paper item, like kids' artwork or old school work, I recommend scanning and then tossing the original.
Now, consolidate all sentimental items into a SINGLE box. If this is extremely hard, consolidate the most important items into one box, then make a separate box that is placed in storage. In 3 months revisit the backup box and go through it again. I do this trick for clothes too that I'm not positive I want to get rid of. I put it out of sight and then if after 3 months I haven't had a need or haven't thought about the item, it's time to donate. I have more tips and tricks like this in the PDF.
Living Minimally with a Family
Living a minimalist life can be especially challenging with kids, however not impossible. I started the minimalist life when my daughter was born because I didn't want toys and clutter to overwhelm our home. It takes extra practice, but getting the whole family on board is the key to success. Soon I will be creating an entire minimalist challenge specifically for families with kids. In the meantime, the 30-Day Challenge still works for families.
1 in 1 out rule - when a toy or possession comes into the house, choose something that is no longer played with to be donated.
Go through toys/items regularly and donate often
Get the family involved - even the kids!
Getting the whole family involved was hard at first. It’s easier to go through my daughter's toys and minimize when she’s not home, but I would get her involved from a very early age. I’d ask her questions like this, “Do you still play with this? Do you want to donate it to another kid so we can make room for all the toys you play with?”. Most of the time she’d say she didn't want to get rid of it, but as we’ve practiced this I’ll find her just saying, “Hey mom, I don’t play with this anymore, we can donate it to someone else”. I was taken by surprise the first time she said this and knew the consistency was paying off! So remember, even if it feels like it’s a dead-end to involve kids when minimizing, they’re catching on. Don’t force it, don’t make it traumatic, just start slow. When she would say no I would say, “Are you sure? OK, we can keep it a little longer to see if it’s played with and if not we can give it to another kid.” Then I would go through her toys when she’s not around and minimize. Sometimes I will make a bag to donate and leave it out of sight for a week or two to see if anything is asked for. If not, it gets donated.
Getting kids involved in the process of decluttering and organizing helps teach them valuable skills. Now that my daughter is almost 4, she is much better at minimizing and even great at folding and hanging her clothes (more about folding techniques in the PDF). Of course, there are still clothes on the floor that I have to remind her to put away, she’s a kid after all, but she finds joy in folding her items properly. She’ll say, “Hey mom, look at this!” and is proud of her accomplishments.
To be fully transparent, I was NOT always this way. Living a minimal life doesn't always come naturally, but that doesn't mean it's not in the cards for you. Even someone who likes to stuff everything in the closet instead of clean can become a minimalist with practice. So, download the PDF to start the 30-Day Minimalism Challenge today and kick start 2021 with a fresh slate!