“Materialism is the only form of distraction from true bliss.” – Douglas Horton
Are you ready to embrace minimalism? There’s no better time seeing as how we’re all being cooped up indoors amidst this fear of the Corona Virus. Minimalism has enormous benefits, and for me, the primary goal is to live the greenest life possible. So what is minimalism? It is the belief that you can live with only the possessions you need, without excess. The concept of minimalism is not new, however. Depression-era Americans knew how to live within their means and make the most use of all their belongings. Broken possessions were repaired because the luxury of buying new ones didn’t exist. Everything was used and then reused. All items served a purpose. There was no room for extravagance. And nothing was wasted. I want to embrace the same values my grandparents had by buying less, and saving more.
It was in 2015 when I first embraced the concept of minimalism. I accepted a job abroad and decided to rid myself of almost all of my worldly possessions. I can’t explain the exhilaration that comes from parting with all the junk and embracing a simpler life. Some people think in order to be a minimalist, you must live an extreme lifestyle with less than 100 items and stop using toilet paper. This is, of course, on the far spectrum of minimalism and may not suit everyone. You don’t have to get rid of everything you own, but the less you have, the less you have to maintain. It doesn’t just cost time and money to purchase an item. You have to continue to take care of that item. The task of parting with items to sell, trash, or give away can be daunting, but with a proper plan, it’s quite doable.
“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.” —Richard Holloway
So where to start? There are multiple methods for minimalism including a favorite, the KonMari method: as described by Marie Kondo. For me, I like to follow a simple 3-step plan: prepare, clean, and organize.
Step 1: Preparation
First, you’ll need to get prepared. Do you have proper cleaning supplies and plenty of boxes? You’ll need them for the sorting and organizing process. Try not to do everything at once or you could get overwhelmed. To get prepared make sure you’ve set aside enough time to work, choose one room to start with, gather some cleaning supplies, get several large cardboard boxes or storage bins, and crank up your favorite music.
Step 2: Clean
Next, you’ll want to clean your work space. I do this mostly for peace of mind. I start by setting aside all items either on shelves or in a designated corner of the room. Next I thoroughly clean the room by wiping down surfaces and moving all clutter to one area. Since you’ll probably be sitting on the floor for part of the process, I recommend vacuuming and ridding the room of dust and debris. This will make the process more pleasant. Setting aside all the clutter will also make the task seem less daunting.
Step 3: Organize
After you have sorted a tidy work space, set up your boxes and start placing items to get rid of according to the following categories:
- Items to sell
- Items to donate
- Items to repair
- Items to recycle
- Items to discard
Sell – If your aim is green living, the goal is to throw away as little as possible. If you can make money on something like gently used clothing, old appliances, or other knick-knacks, try selling them. Have a yard sale or get on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and post some ads. You probably won’t become rich off a yard sale, but there’s no harm in trying.
Donate – If it’s not worth selling, but it’s in good condition, consider donating it. Most items can be donated, but refrain from dumping useless junk on charitable organizations. Get in touch with your local Goodwill or similar stores and see what items they’d be willing to take off your hands. You’re lightening your load while doing a good service for the community.
Repair – Set up a designated box for items that can be neither sold nor donated, including ripped/stained clothing, broken appliances, and other items in need of repair. Before you toss something in the dumpster ask yourself if it can be fixed. There are many items you can repair yourself, but some things require a professional. I like to use ifixit as a guide for repairing items.
Recycle – If it can’t be sold, donated, or repaired, it must be discarded. But before you fill up the dumpster, make sure you’ve separated anything that can be recycled. Some items can be recycled curbside including paper items, cardboard, rigid plastics, and metal containers made of steel, tin, and aluminum. Other items such as old appliances and electronics can be taken to a specific center. When in doubt, consult your local recycling center.
Discard – Finally, some items don’t meet any of the criteria above. These are the ones to discard. I have on occasion put useless junk in the front yard with a free sign and posted an ad on Craigslist. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Remember, just because it’s broken or useless or not recyclable doesn’t mean someone might not want it.
If you want more information on de-cluttering and minimalism, check out some of these resources: