How to Simplify Life: The First Step into Minimalism
I discovered I have too much “stuff”. I discovered I’m not living the way someone “should” to be happy.
I place these items in “” as these vary from person to person. There are no set rules on how someone should behave, should live, and what items can be considered stuff. For me, an item not in use or bringing value to my life is “stuff”. It’s stuff I don’t need, stuff I can get rid of, and stuff cluttering my life. It’s the items I stumbled upon during cleaning and debate on if it’s actually mine, or when the last time I actually used it (or held it for that matter).
I decided it was time to make a change, take a stand, “de-clutter” my home and life so I can focus on the thing that truly matter (see my Add Value vs Expensive list here).
The trickier question of all to be asked. How am I going to do this? How will I know what is OK to toss? How can I part from items that hold sentimental value, or memories? These are the hardest questions I’m going to ask myself, and I know the items that bring me to this point will be the ones that I will have to tear from my hands to part ways with.
For every item that brings me to a crossroad, I will be asking myself the following questions:
- When is the last time I honestly used this item?
- If I have not used the item recently, have I missed having it in my life?
- Does this item fulfill a need or bring me happiness?
- Is this item taking away from my end goal?
If the item has not been used recently, has not been missed, is not contributing anything, and is deterring me from my end goal, I should remove the item by selling, trashing, or donating it.
Bit by bit I’ll make my way through my home. I will tackle it one closet or cabinet at a time. I’ve broken my home into stages and will make my way through each area in phases. I’ll break down these phases below.
And Finally… The When:
Now. There is no more procrastinating on this process. If I want to bring value to my life, I need to start now. And here’s how I plan on doing so.
Stages and Phases:
For each person this will vary, but for me I’ve decided to tackle my journey in stages and then further broken down into phases. This may seem technical, but I know if I’m going to do this right and have it stick I can’t just dive in and expect it to go smoothly. Rather, for me, knowing my end goal and the process I plan to take to get there helps to make the situation more realistic in my mind, and less of a shock.
Stage 1: Realization.
The first stage is always the hardest, right? In every recovery program there’s always that first stage of realizing you have a problem/issue and acknowledging it needs to be solved. For me, this is no different. I realized I had a problem: my home is cluttered and so is my life.
Phase 1 of Stage 1: Realize where the issue starts.
This seems like a “duh!” moment. My stuff, that’s where the issue sits, right? Wrong. I am the issue. The way I think about material goods is the issue. I need to step back and take inventory of what I truly and honestly need to be happy, and material possessions is not it.
Phase 2 of Stage 1: Realize things need to change.
Now I need to realize and acknowledge things need to change or I will continue on in the same cycle. Once this has happened, I can move onto Stage 2.
Stage 2: Change.
We’ve determined things need to change if we want things to improve, right? So what better way to work towards improving then to break into our next stage, changing.
Phase 1 of Stage 2: Change how you think about material possessions.
Before you even begin to work on changing your home, you need to work on changing the way you think about material possessions. First, happiness cannot be found in that 40 inch flat screen television any more than it can be found in the money you spent to buy it. Material items cannot bring you lasting happiness. Consider this: In 20 years are you more likely to remember the flat screen television you once owned, or are you more likely to remember the time you spent with loved ones? Second, material possessions are replaceable. For items you feel are irreplaceable due to some sentimental value, the truth is that item is not what holds those memories. You hold the memories; the item is just a temporary placeholder, a crutch. You do not need to hold onto the crutch to recall the memory. The memory is there, so now it’s time to reevaluate whether that item is truly bringing value to your life.
Phase 2 of Stage 2: Change your health.
You’ve heard it time and time again, so I do not feel it necessary to give you another lesson here. The fact is, before you can change anywhere else and expect your life to be one full of joy, meaning, and happiness, you must change your health. I know I have not been the kindest of people to my body, which is sad since it’s been nothing but supportive of me. It’s time to treat our bodies with kindness, and love. Put only good items in (good food, good air, etc). Take the time to properly nourish and care for our bodies. Treat ourselves to a day at the gym, enjoy a long massage, replenish our bodies with vitamins and minerals needed to survive, and love ourselves first and foremost. No one else will be able to love you the way you love yourself – isn’t it time you treated yourself properly?
Phase 3 of Stage 2: Change one day at a time.
No one said that you needed to rush in and change everything in one day. We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves by uprooting everything in one fluid motion and expecting ourselves to adapt immediately. For some, that may work, but not for everyone.
I am taking my new progression into a better lifestyle one day at a time, and for me that also means taking my Change Stage one room at a time. I have marked each room as part of this stage, and have decided to tackle one section of a room a day. For example, my kitchen has been broken down into 3 sections: The cabinets, the drawers, and miscellaneous/décor. Day one (today) I tackled the cabinets. I removed all the items, sorted through what I realistically needed (and for those items I debated on, I asked myself the questions from “The How” above), and then determined what was to be sold, donated, or thrown away. At the end of day one I had tackled 14 cabinets and condensed all my items to 2 cabinets. The remaining cabinets are now empty, and the goal is to leave them as so. Day two (tomorrow) I will tackle the 8 drawers in my kitchen and handle them in the same fashion.
Stage 3: Live.
There are no phases for stage three. Once you have completed your transformation, it’s time to maintain you progress, reach your goals, and live. My ultimate goal is to live and be happy, what’s yours?
For tips on how to begin your decluttering journey, you can Start Here, or snag a copy of the 30 Day Challenge (our Minimalism and Decluttering eBook).