A Month of Minimalism

G K Chesterton quoteSo, there goes September. I was momentarily tempted to say “Where did the month go?” but then I remembered how many ways I put it to good use. I can’t complain.

In addition to all the crafting, upcycling and family stuff I blogged about, I took part in a month of minimalism, inspired by The Minimalists, two bloggers who write about living life with less stuff and more meaning. They challenged their readers to spend the month of September getting rid of “excess stuff” – one thing on the first, two things on the second, three things on the third, and so on. A simple, “I think I’ll try this. Who’s with me?” posted on my Facebook page resulted in 10 friends playing along with me, ultimately inspiring and educating me through all 30 days.

The way the game is played, we would each get rid of 465 things. 465! As soon as someone did that math and shared it, I was sure I’d be out by the end of week two. But within days, the “game” became less about the numbers and more about the learning. We shared the details of what we got rid of each day – which both inspired me to keep going and gave me ideas for what I could purge. Who knew I had 15 items in the my make-up bag that were broken, outdated or useless? (Apparently, I didn’t.) One day we joked about including “judgement” or “negativity” on our list of things to get rid of, as we all took turns chastising ourselves for some of the things we’d hoarded for much too long. Junk drawers, spice racks, unwieldy collections of items held onto “just in case” – we reviewed it all.

I loved that the group included women from almost every era of my life – friends from high school and college, former coworkers, current colleagues, friends of friends I’ve met through Facebook – but the way the conversation unfolded, you’d have thought we chatted online like this for years. This exercise was a wonderful reminder how important community can be. I know I would have petered out on this project long ago, if not for the accountability, the camaraderie, and the flat out joy of seeing others succeed in something I value so much.

I’m sure you’ve heard or read about the 21-day-rule (the notion that once you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit). I’m counting on my minimalist mindset carrying over into October and beyond, a dangerously gluttonous time of year. The practice of having to find large quantities (15, 20, 25) of things to get rid of pushed me to reassess everything in my home, more than once. I still find myself eyeballing things and asking myself “When is the last time I used that?” I developed a detachment that’s uplifting, knowing nothing – literally no thing – is so important that it can’t be questioned. That’s the priority level I want all things to have in my life. Nice, but optional. Helpful, but not essential. Valued, but not more than people or health or time – the parts of our lives that stuff can get in the way of.

I have no desire to spend any more time than I have to maintaining, organizing or caring for my things. Never again do I want to work to earn money so I can buy more things. Perhaps most important, I have no desire to argue, ever again, about anything because of its cost or how we will fit it into our family’s budget.

The secret to the minimalist lifestyle is that it really isn’t about having less. It’s about having more of what you want, but understanding there’s a finite amount of space, time, money, and life, so to acquire more of one thing means letting go of something else. When you put it that way, everyone is a minimalist in one way or another. The question is: what have you minimized in your life?