Cleaning House | Minimalist Challenge Musings

16 Mar
a few of the "things"

(yes, even the dogs participated in the minimalist challenge & got rid of some of their damaged toys)

The challenge…
Inspired by this post on one of my favorite blogs, I took the “minimalist challenge” after reading more about it and these cool guys, the Minimalists. The challenge, in short, instructs you get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three on the third, and so on. Donate, sell or toss–each material possession must be out of your house by midnight each day.

From February 1 through February 28, I got rid of precisely 406 “things” (quite positively even more, because in all honesty, once I started, I couldn’t stop). Oh and by “things”, I mean actual things, not 406 beads and spools of thread. I counted multiple items of the same kind as “1 thing”. I photo documented it on Instagram @katedwyer. Realistically, in the last 2 weeks of the challenge, I lagged behind a little bit (because it was hard to keep up during the week). I didn’t let it get the best of me and approached the weekends with a list of areas to tackle next.

Let me tell you, there is something profoundly therapeutic and about taking a moment, or precisely 406 of them, to pause, re-assess, categorize and move on.

The purge…
In just 28 days, I gave away bags of fabric and yarn to friends, mountains of art/craft supplies to a another friend who’s an art teacher, donated a ½ dozen bags of items to GoodWill, shredded 2 large shopping bags worth of old bills/financial documents, recycled 3 more bags of old documents and scraps of paper, sold $100 in out-of-print magazines & vintage craft items on eBay and another $100 in clothing & accessories to a 2nd hand clothing store in my neighborhood.

I sorted, purged, cleaned, and reorganized. But I didn’t just haphazardly sort & toss, I THOUGHT about it all as I went along.
Why did I buy that dress­ and wear it only once?
What made me buy 3 of those cute little change purses?
Why haven’t I worn this sweater yet?
Why did I buy that ______ (paper, yarn, fabric, etc.)?
Why am I waiting until I’m “smaller” to wear these jeans again when they aren’t even in style anymore?
Why did I get everything for that [insert crafty endeavor] project and never start or finish it?
Why am I stashing all of these little items away to give as gifts?
Am I hanging onto these rusty floral pins because they were part of  my mom’s craft stash?
And so on…

 Here’s what I learned…
I have a horrible weakness for textile/fiber supplies. I have even less control if we’re talking vintage items, y’all. I had more fabric, felt and yarn than I’d ever realistically use. Sure, I could hold onto them & knit sweaters for penguins but well, would I ever get around to that? Oh yeah, and I’d have to learn how to knit. 

I love a good bargain to a fault. It’s led me down a path of buying something I don’t love because it’s “so marked down” and a slippery slope of purchasing too many art/craft supplies that I won’t ever use. I do this less often now, but I also used to buy lots of these “amazing bargains” to stash away for future gift giving.

I am very sentimental. Material things are material things and unless it’s an heirloom item or something truly meaningful, I have to learn to let go. I shouldn’t buy something because it reminds me of my mom­–I have amazing memories instead.

 It’s okay…I’m an artist. Hoarding under the guise of resourcefulness, while a very common trait of most artists, is not worth the stress (financial, physical, spatial, etc.) it may cause in the long run.

I shouldn’t keep anything in my life that I don’t love. In my experience over the last month, I’m mostly referring to material things but there’s certainly a much bigger take-away here (the Minimalists talk about this very thing on their blog). Surround yourselves with only the things and people you love. Life is too short to be smothered, physically or emotionally, by anything or anyone you don’t adore.

Moving on…
In the last 2 weeks, I’ve continued to go through all of the little nooks and crannies of our apartment with a “minimalist eye”. If it’s not something I’d want to pack up & take with me tomorrow if we moved, I more often than not, get rid of it. It’s also made me be a smarter/leaner shopper. I’ve resisted clearance items and kept an unwavering focus on quality over quantity. I’d much rather one quality, well made, pair of shoes than 3 cheaper versions. 

So friends, there you have it. For 28 days, I recycled, tossed, sold, shredded, gifted and ended up more empowered to embrace change than when I started this journey on February 1. I realize this may sound a bit melodramatic, but all of that “stuff” had truly taken over little spaces in my life and frankly, it feels amazing to have a little extra breathing room.

 There’s plenty of time left in 2014 for you to take the “minimalist challenge” and I enthusiastically encourage you. Everyone has a basement, closet, corner, bookshelf, dresser, cabinet, shoebox, or drawer of stuff just begging for this challenge. Go YOU!

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7 Responses to “Cleaning House | Minimalist Challenge Musings”

  1. Auntie March 17, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Kate, how amazing and I am so proud of you. Not only for getting rid of stuff
    but taking on such a giant challenge and completing it and then some.

    • maker March 17, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      Thanks, Auntie!

  2. Lisa Horvitz March 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Kate – this is beautifully written and inspiring! I did something similar in January (with inspiration from apartmenttherapy.com) and then taught a workshop at work using the 5 “S” principles. I especially love how you’ve quantified and then actually learned something about yourself! That step is one that is so easy to skip. In fact… I have to add that in to my workshop for the next time. Maybe invite you as guest speaker! :)
    I got rid of tons of stuff but now can’t tell you what! And shredded a couple bags worth of paper. I have a couple before/after photos but not nearly enough…
    This will give me inspiration to get back to it!!! Thanks.

    • maker March 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

      Thanks, Lisa! Your workshop sounds cool (also…I love apartmenttherapy.com!). I love your idea of before and after pictures. I have a couple that highlight specific organizing projects (coming soon) but would be great to have ones that show the progress/results overall. Maybe next time… :)

  3. Living Not Wanting March 22, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    I can totally relate because I am a huge baker and creative type. My art area is shrinking but its still ridiculous! Its the one area I really really really need to delcutter in the house and the area I have been saving for last! The pit of well I am going to use that and I will finish that someday and that paper is so pretty and that yarn will make an amazing quilt someday. Good job! :)

    • maker March 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

      Thank you! The craft studio/office is definitely 1 of 2 areas I put off because it hurt my head to even think about digging into all of my “art stuff”. I feel so much better…and productive. Sounds like you’ve accomplished a lot, too! :)

      • Living Not Wanting March 24, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

        I had the opportunity today to pay-it-forward with a Liebster Award today to 11 of my favorite blogs. I had to pick you. I just found you and look forward to you already!

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