The Minimalist Challenge

Instead of setting goals at the beginning of the year I decided to allocate a focus to each month. Knowing that a larger list of resolutions can be overwhelming I decided to spread them out and tackle one thing at a time. In January I focussed on better integrating healthy food habits and fitness into each day. There wasn’t a weight loss or calorie consumption goal, I simply wanted to build these particular habits at the start of the year. In February the focus was to ‘keep things simple’. We were out of town for half the month with friends visiting during a week we were home and I knew that saying yes to more things or adding more responsibility wouldn’t be helpful. 

Maybe it was because I wanted to clear out our space in the spring, or maybe it’s because it sounded cool, but I decided on a Minimalist March. After listening to a podcast with The Minimalists I was inspired to do the Minimalist Challenge. Simply put, the goal is to get rid of the number of items that reflects the day of the month.

For example:
March 1st = 1 item
March 2nd = 2 items

The ambitious part about choosing March was that there are 31 days, so instead of getting rid of the usual 465 items it would be nearly 500. In all honesty, I thought it was going to be a huge challenge to find that many items in my home. I would generally identify as a minimalist, and anyone who has spent time in our house would describe it as ‘minimal’’. I don’t like clutter, there is a lot of literal white space on the walls, and I make a point of getting rid of things we don’t need on a regular basis. Everytime we move I get rid of boxes of assorted items, I do regular clothing sales, bring kids clothes to consignment, donate often and pride myself on keeping things simple.

The first ten, even fifteen days were easy. For the most part I could walk into a room and spot things on shelves that we didn’t use, or if need be would open a few cupboards. There were some baby items, some partially used journals, magazines, bottles of expired formula, tea towels, and mugs. By day twelve I had moved into my own closet, finding clothes that no longer fit me after getting pregnant but that I’d been holding on to ‘just in case’. On Day 17 we hit the jackpot – our DVD and Blueray collection – which covered us for four days. Day 21 and 22 were compiled mostly of incomplete art projects. I think my mom was a little bit horrified that all of the paintings and sketches she had kept over the years were doomed to be recycled, but I took pictures of some and kept a handful that I was really proud of.

On Day 23 things started to get a little bit challenging and more eclectic: baby oil, lipstick, protein shakers, a macrame hanging, jewelry, and swimsuits. When I finally resorted to the crawl space underneath our main floor I was excited to come across a Lomography camera with a handful of separate pieces. On Day 27 I tackled our work closet where I found all kinds of bits and bobs, including a stack of discs we used to deliver our wedding films on.

Day 28 led me to our spare room closet which I had somehow forgotten and in it a box that had never been opened since we moved in two years prior. I’m too embarrassed to admit all of what was inside and some things were simply thrown out without being included in the total. Out of the belief that I had already minimized everything in my dresser, I decided to do a quick peruse on Day 29 and found so many things. You know those sports bra inserts? There were so many. Day 30 was a little bit daunting, I wasn’t sure where to look. I had my husband pull out a heavy box of sentimental items and was surprised to find enough certificates and keepsakes to make up 30 items. And thankfully on Day 31 I did a final scour of the kitchen and discovered a pile of non-alcoholic beer from my pregnant days, some more mugs, mason jars, linens and a delightful (maybe to someone) mid-century light fixture from before our renovations.

Over the course of the month I had been collecting all of the items together in our basement. The pile was larger than I thought it would be and while I felt humbled by the fact that somewhere in all of my self-proclaimed minimalism there were 496 items leaving our house, I was also proud of the heap. And so before sorting everything into piles, whether to donate, drop off for consignment, sell, compost, recycle, or throw out, I decided to take a good look at everything. It was shocking.

It took a whole afternoon to lay out all of the items and then sort them into categories. I had been sharing the journey on Instagram and several items had been claimed along the way. That being said there was still a significant pile of items to sell, a handful of things to return to friends, and some bags of donations that will have to wait in storage until we’re no longer social distancing. There was a large box of recycling, and a relatively small bag of actual garbage. I created an instagram account and held a small auction over the weekend with contactless pick-up available. The remaining items went on Facebook marketplace or Varagesale and when all was said and done the sales totalled just under $600.

Would I do this again? Absolutely. Will it be more challenging next time? Potentially. But during this first time around I didn’t even head out to the garage, shed, or do a thorough search in the crawl space. 

I really would encourage you to consider doing the Minimalist Challenge yourself. If you do, here is some advice:

  • Find yourself an accountability partner. When life is busy it’s easy to forget a day or two, and then stop doing the challenge altogether. In my case I shared the items on Instagram but you could just text a friend.
  • Don’t stress about the accuracy of how many items are included. Maybe a pack of ten unused envelope is one item, or maybe it’s ten. That is completely up to you!
  • Give yourself a deadline for getting rid of everything. I set a limit of 2 weeks. Obviously donations will be stored in one place until thrift stores reopen, but that is a circumstantial exception and I would have cleared them out if I could.

And if you don’t have anyone to keep you accountable, come find me on Instagram and I’ll happily help you along!

next one

S1 Episode 1 – Gathering and The Table