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becoming a minimalist

Minimalism Project Update – One Month Later

I started my six-month Minimize-My -Life project four weeks ago and I’m three weeks ahead of schedule. By the end of last week I was supposed to have my closet finished but two weekends ago I got on a roll and finished my closet and two drawers in my dresser in one weekend. Don’t get too impressed just yet. The two drawers I did were my socks and underwear. I cleaned those drawers out last year during my Week Without TV so there wasn’t much to clean out or organize there.

North wall of my closet

North wall of my closet

I don’t think my closet has ever been as clean as it is right now. It feels so good to have one space in my house that is completely organized and clutter-free. When I find myself needing to clear my head, I often walk in there because I know the clean environment helps me to settle down and focus on what I need to do next.

East wall of my closet

East wall of my closet

You can see from the pictures of just a portion of my closet, I still have a lot of stuff. I didn’t get into this adventure to become a hard-core minimalist. I just wanted to get rid of things that didn’t add value to my life. I have a lot of things that have simply accumulated over the years that need to go. For the clothes that I’m keeping, I’m still using the flipped hanger method to determine what things I’m not wearing. My plan it to get rid of any hanger that holds a garment that hasn’t been worn by the end of the year.

Cleaning out my life has been a lot of fun for the most part. Whenever I find myself waffling on whether I should keep or get rid of an item, I think of what my friend Chad tells himself when he’s cleaning out his stuff: “Just let it go.” Sometimes it’s a little painful to add an item to the growing pile of stuff on the couch that will be given away, but by the next day, I have no problem with it.

I find myself jumping ahead in my clean out schedule. Sometimes I’ll be looking at a bookshelf and see something that I know I don’t use and I’ll snatch it off the shelf and add it to the pile of stuff for charity, even though I’m not scheduled to clean out that space for weeks.

Part of the pile that's going to charity

Part of the pile that’s going to charity

It’s even been easier to get rid of things I’ve been holding onto for sentimental reasons. I am keeping some things that only have a sentimental purpose, but I’m being much more selective than before. One of the best things I learned at the minimalism seminar at SXSW was that objects are not a substitute for memories. Getting rid of the thing does not make a person or an experience any less special.

One of the byproducts of cleaning out my life, is I have to get the stuff that I’m getting rid of out of the house. Right now there’s a growing pile of stuff on the couch in the den and the hall closet is equally full. My parents are visiting soon so I’ll have to get what’s leaving out of the house before they arrive. I’m curious to see how I feel once these things are out of my life officially and forever.

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Minimizing My Life

I mentioned earlier this year that I wanted to simplify my life and part of that plan was doing a major closet clean out of everything I don’t wear. I was recently inspired to put a lot more energy into and expand this project.

I attended an amazing session at South by Southwest (SXSW) called How Minimalism is Changing Entrepreneurship. This session had an amazing panel featured minimalists Joshua Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus, Courtney Carver, and Joshua Becker. They shared how being minimalists improved their professional and personal lives.  It helped them promote what they valued and remove things that detracted from that focus.

I know that I think more clearly and I feel more focused when my space is less cluttered. I get more work done in less time when I have fewer distractions. During the session, my head was buzzing with ideas and I was frantically writing notes on how I would put these ideas into action when I got home – like turning off my email and alerts on my phone when I’m working on other projects.

The bottles & travel mugs that were cluttering the cabinet.

The bottles & travel mugs that were cluttering the cabinet.

Incorporating minimalist ideas into your life takes self-discipline. While I was at SXSW I was thoughtful about which free shwag I picked up. One of those items was a Nalgene bottle. I wanted to get it to replace the plastic bottle I’d been using. When I got home and was looking for a place to put my new bottle, I realized I had a shelf filled with travel mugs and reusable water bottles that I’d gotten for free. I pulled them all down, put them in a bag, and put them in the closet with the rest of my items I’m donating to charity. I filled my new bottle with water and put it in the fridge to chill. (Yes, I’m using it.)

The thought of cleaning out my life has been so overwhelming that it’s prevented from cleaning things out in the past. During the minimalist session, I started breaking down areas of my home into manageable pieces. My plan is to tackle one section, drawer, or shelf every week. I wrote it all out and it will take me about six months to get through it all, and I’m ok with that.

Garments that have been removed from my closet since January 1st.

Garments that have been removed from my closet since January 1st.

My first project was to clean out my closet rod. I’m in the process of cleaning out my wardrobe by reversing each hanger until I wear the garment it’s holding. When I flipped my hangers, I removed 21 items from my closet because I knew those were items I probably wouldn’t wear again. I put them in the hall closet in case I was wrong. I went through everything that’s currently in my closet and tried on everything that I didn’t know for certain if it fit. I’ve lost 12 pounds since I started law school so some of my clothes were just too big. And there were some items that just didn’t fit my personality or my life anymore. I also found some garments that I thought were too big but actually still fit. I removed another 20 garments from my closet and put them in the hall closet.

I have no plans of becoming a complete minimalist who only owns 100 possessions or someone like Andrew Hyde who gave up everything except 15 things. I just want to get rid of things that serve no purpose in my life anymore. It might be hard to get rid of things that hold sentimental value, but it’s just stuff. Giving an item a new home doesn’t take away the memories it has for me and it’s not doing anyone any good if it just sits in a box.

I’ll keep you in the loop on my progress.

The Minimalism Project Update – One Month Later