Keep nothing in your house that is neither needed nor beautiful.
-Vivec, Elder Scrolls Online
Downsizing your possessions can feel like a daunting task. I know. I’ve been there. My parents moved from a studio to a one-bedroom apartment when I was born, and then to a three-bed after that. Yet somehow there was never enough room for all the junk they hoarded over the years.
Right now, if you have a poke around the place, you’ll find…
…a spare bathroom full of car parts (I’m willing to bet money that most of them are for cars they traded long ago)
…four closets full of clothes no-one wears anymore
…two shelf racks that haven’t been touched for as long as my parents have lived there
…and the list goes on.
This isn’t a dig at my parents, who grew up under communism and felt the full brunt of Ceaușescu’s brutal crackdown on things like, y’know, feeding the people and keeping them warm*. My parents hoard things because that’s what they learned to do – and that’s what they passed on to me.
I’ve moved home 13 times in the last 10 years, so I couldn’t have lugged all my possessions with me even if I wanted to. Minimalism has been a life- and money-saver, so I’m happy to spread the joy.
If you’re like me, here are five quick and easy ways to get you started on your journey to minimalism.
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1. Use what you have.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
You’re out on a supply run and you spot something you use often. Maybe it’s soap, or toilet tissue, or a pack of Q-tips. You know you’ve got plenty of whatever-it-is at home, but one more (or a dozen) couldn’t hurt, riiight?
…And this, folks, is how you end up with overflowing cupboards. Sure, you might get around to using everything eventually, but why not go through what you already have before buying more? Unless we’re talking about something extremely rare, like – oh, I don’t know, unicorn tears or something – the store will still have it when you need to buy more.
2. Beware the coupon trap.
Let’s go back to the shopping scenario for a sec. You spot something you use frequently – let’s call it an X (replace with an item of choice) – and there’s a 2-for-1 sale going on. Before know it, you’ve bought a cartful of X. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself… until you realize that there’s not enough room in your kitchen / pantry / cupboard to store all of it. Or it’ll go bad before you can conceivable eat (or use) all of it.
3. Find your sweet spot.
When it comes to the items you use and keep regularly, decide on a “sweet spot” and aim to never have more than that amount for that particular item. You might want to stockpile on toiletries, but go light on things like socks or cutlery.
Whatever it is, make sure you never go above the number you’ve set for it. Ideally, you want to make sure you’ll be able to use all you have before it goes bad or inedible. Food for thought, right?
4. Keep it where you can see it.
The first time I started decluttering, I had a “to decide later” box. It didn’t take long before it started overflowing, so I moved the stuff to a bigger box, then to a canvas bag. TDL stuff ended up filling the whole bottom half of my closet. Which kinda defeated the whole purpose.
If “out of sight, out of mind” is timeless wisdom, the opposite is also true. It’s easy to chuck something in a drawer (or a box) and forget about it, so make sure you keep the stuff you tend to hoard in places where you’ll see it regularly. Also, don’t forget to pay attention. Has stuff started falling out of your closet when you open the door? If so, it might be time for a pruning.
5. Use the ‘one in, one out’ rule.
This one’s easy: for every new item you buy, give or throw something away. It doesn’t have to be the same kind of item (of course, you can do that, too) so long as your total number of possessions stays the same.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try the one-in-two-out (or many out) rule instead.
BONUS: Start a discard challenge.
Throwing away one thing every day will quickly add up to a clutter-free life. I’ve already done a 64-day discard challenge, and it’s been loads of fun. If you’re looking to turn discarding into a habit, there’s no better way.
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* If you’re a history buff and/or curious to see why communism doesn’t work in practice, you can always read more about Ceaușescu’s disastruous reign in Romania.
Photo source: Amy Shamblen