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New Project: Minimalism in 90 Days

I’m taking my minimalism project to the next level. When I moved to Phoenix ten years ago, I moved into my parents’ second home – lovely two bedroom, two bathroom, 1800 square foot, furnished place with a pool and a yard. It’s been a wonderful home but it’s time for Rosie and me to get our own place. I recently found a condo that I loved from the moment I saw it – 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 900 square foot place with a patio and a nook that will be my home office.

I’ve been systematically cleaning out my stuff for the last eighteen months but for this move, I’m stealing an idea from Ryan Nicodemus, one of The Minimalists. When he decided to become a minimalist, he and his fellow minimalist friend Joshua Fields Millburn had a “packing party” where they packed up all his stuff as if he was going to move. For the next twenty-one days, he only unpacked what he needed as he needed it. After the twenty-one days, he went through his boxes, pulled out a few extra items, and got rid of the rest. By packing up his stuff, it opened his eyes to how little he actually needs to be happy and comfortable.

I suspect my new place will look like this for a few weeks. Charted by Shelah from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I suspect my new place will look like this for a few weeks. Charted by Shelah from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

So here’s my plan for the move. I sold or gave away all my furniture before I left Oregon. (As a joke, I signed a lot of it – does anyone still have any of that stuff?) Once I take possession of my condo, I’m going buy a few staple furniture items that I know I’ll need – bed, couch, desk, and probably not much else. (Oh, and I promised Rosie a memory foam bed for her birthday.) I’m going to box up all my stuff – and probably use file size boxes so their easy to use and stack. Each box will be filled based on where the things were stored in the house and labeled so it will be easy to find stuff after I move. I’ll also go through my boxes of kitchen stuff and linens from my Oregon apartment and get rid of the stuff I know I won’t need in my new place.

After I move, everything will stay in the boxes. I’ll only unpack or buy things as I need them. I’ll probably do this for three months. By then, the weather will have changed from warm to cold so I should have all the seasonal items I’ll need unpacked. I’ll probably spend the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s going through the boxes one more time before giving away whatever I’m not using. If I get to the point where I know I’m not going to be going into the boxes anymore, I’ll call it early and do the final clean out then.

I’m curious to see how many boxes of stuff I actually own right now compared to what I actually use. There’s nothing like moving to motivate you to get rid of your stuff.


  1. Jeremy Scott says:

    I am both a minimalist and not at the same time. That said, this idea… its a little extreme to me. Here’s why:

    I have things that I won’t use for weeks or months, but do bring me incredible joy when I do. For instance my backpacking and camping gear that I collected over my youth as a scout. I was the kind of hiker that would log 100+ miles on a trip, so I have the lightest, strongest, and best equipment. I won’t use them in-between trips, but when I do, they bring me great joy. Another example is my N64 and games, which I pull out for staycations or when friends from my childhood come over and we reminisce in retro games from our childhood. It takes up a small box in our closet, but is so worth it. I don’t need it to be happy, but it brings me joy!

    Some things, bought and paid for, if you have space and you do use it, even occasionally, aren’t worth getting rid of just for the sake of being a minimalist.

    Minimalism to me is having no more than 20 outfits, instead of 50-75 like my boyfriend, but still keeping a pair of shorts and shirt for painting and house chores. Minimalism is avoiding stuff on your shelves that only are for looking at (and cleaning). Minimalism is admitting I don’t use the compact hair dryer anymore but keeping it for when I change my style again (an annual occurrence for me). But getting rid of everything you don’t use in 90 days is a little over the top for me.

    That said, good luck, and have fun!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks! Part of the process of going through the boxes after 90-ish days will be to save seasonal, occasional-use, and sentimental items. I think this will be an exercise that will show how much I really use in my day-to-day life vs what I own. I’m curious to see if this experiment will change the way I think about my possessions or owning things in general. I won’t get rid of stuff just to say I’m a minimalist. I’ll get rid of things that don’t add value to my life.

  2. Herbert RJ Tarkel says:

    Bin it all! Set yourself free! The Ruth is undeniable!

    1. Ruth Carter says:


  3. Ruth

    I love the idea and follow the minimalists. While extreme to me that ok Minimalism is only defined by us. For example Joshua said this would’ve been too hard for him to do but Ryan had to do it this way. Good luck.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks! I figured since my stuff is going into boxes anyway, this is the perfect opportunity to really pare down what I own to the things that truly add value to my life.