by Eve Vitale
The way I cruise minimalist blogs is a joke in my house. My husband will often ask, “You minimalizing again?” The joke isn’t that my lifestyle doesn’t reflect minimalism; it is instead the vehemence with which I attack the common “literature” online. More on the origins of my minimalist tendencies later. For now the story is about the challenge I wielded a few days before Thanksgiving.
I had been cruising my minimalist blogs and ran across a post by Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home entitled “2012 in 2012 – January.” In mid-January, Brooke challenged her followers to purge 2012 items in 2012. I had seen the post before, but it hadn’t caught my attention the way it did this time. To everything a season, I suppose. As I excitedly relayed my own challenge to shed 2014 things in 2014, my husband responded with a resounding: “No way. We could never do it. We’ve already gotten rid of so much this year.” And it was true.
I had been on a pretty robust minimalism path for about 15 months. My pared down books fit nicely here now:
I first called it relative minimalism as I didn’t want to scare those closest to me with visions of bare cupboards and bare feet in Michigan’s cold winters with tonsured heads bowed reverently toward empty walls. My path morphed into a non-threatening minimalist “tendency” as more and more things were removed from our home. I wrapped the need to purge in financial terms. We weren’t using the stuff, and I could convert it to cash through Amazon, Craigslist, or eBay. All of the children could relate. Money is often king for young adults, and since I was paying for cellphone coverage and car insurance, I didn’t get much push back.
The house seemed bare in spots, yet the 2014 in 2014 call to action of my own making seemed totally achievable. “We have the barn,” I countered to my husband’s incredulous questioning. “I can clean out my closet. Again.” It’s the boon of abundance, or a curse. Depends on how you look at it.
He laughed at me, not with me.
So I upped the ante. “How ‘bout 2013 items in 2013?” It was November 25, mind you. That left exactly 37 days to peel back another layer. I declared my commitment and began. To make it work I’d need to shed 54.4 things per day. I revved up a spreadsheet to keep track. Soon I had my husband rummaging through his shop. By day three we had already relinquished 517 things and were 26% of the way to our goal.
We spend more time at work than at home and we were shedding things from our physical surroundings to simplify our lives, so work items count. I was fortunate enough to be moving my office on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This gave me the opportunity to purge many unimportant office doodads and obsolete files.
My husband looked around and went to work on procrastinated cabinets and shelves. He had already dumped more than 47,000 pounds from his lab earlier in the year, but bits and screws and vintage parts still lurked in corners and drawers.
The goal kept us focused. Items that had been passed over in moments of indecision in months past fell to the goal. 54.4 items per day became our mantra. We were winning. After eleven days on the 2013 in 2013 kick, we had sold, tossed, recycled or given away 1,307 items and were 65% of our way to the goal.
Will it continue to be this easy? We’ll find out and keep you posted. Until next week, consider your own mini purge. How does five items a day for five days sound? Let us know if you’re up to the challenge.