December’s Minimalist Challenge
December is usually a month about consumption, but this year, I propose a different, minimalist approach. Inspired by my student Melanie, my partner Craig and I recently did a ‘Minimalist Challenge, whereby everyday starting on the first of the month, we gave away, tossed or recycled items cumulatively: Day one, we got rid of one thing; day two, two things; day three, three things; day four, four things; and so on. Amazingly, by the end of the month, we purged nearly 400 items from our apartment! Oh, the freedom of space and clarity of organization!
Turns out, Melanie, who also took on the challenge, got the idea for this from The Minimalists, two guys who write, tour and speak about living more simply. They were the ones who first suggested this ‘Minimalist Game’.
It’s pretty simple and a great excuse to clean out closets and reorganize your home (and life). Plus, it greatly improves the feng shui in the home. Of course, it is simple at first, but as the month progresses it gets more challenging. Here are some tips we found helpful:
1- Anything can go and must go before the stroke of midnight each day – clothes, shoes, furniture, decorations, sports equipment, tech stuff, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, dvds, cds (transfer music to a hard drive), files, bags, containers, toys, art, books, linen, memorabilia, dishes, cutlery (how many cups do we really need?), hair elastics, markers, pens, magazines, etc.
2- I found it particularly satisfying to go one room and closet at a time. I created piles and lists of items I intended to purge. I also recommend thinking ahead and planning out items for the next day or days ahead.
3- Make sure items are discarded in a thoughtful way: donate, regift, sell, recycle and only when absolutely necessary, toss. You can get creative with this. Craig and I donated a bike to a North-South program that sends bikes to Haiti, books to the Livre Service book exchange bins and jackets to the Lolë Yellow Label program that cleans and resells coats collecting money for local food banks. Also, for paints, batteries, computer parts, cell phones and other toxic waste, use designated eco-centres in your community.
4- If you buy something new, get rid of something old. This means if on say day 10, you buy a new broom or whatever, then get rid of 11 things to make space for the new item. This will dissuade you from buying unnecessary things and helps you save money!
5- Holiday season is here. Tell your family about your Minimalist Challenge and kindly ask them to consider gifting you in a different way: a bottle of wine to enjoy with friends, a donation to a non-profit in your name, experiences (spa certificate, tickets to a play or concert) and/or their presence for a home cooked meal, tea for two or an offer to help you install a new computer program on your computer or hang photos in your home. When doing your own holiday gift giving, do the same. Beautiful items in good condition from your home can also be nice gifts – jewelry, frames with new pictures, teapot with nice tea, etc.
Happy Holidays, Have fun and let me know how your challenge goes! Post before and after photos on my facebook page!
PS Don’t be surprised if uncovering forgotten items stir your emotions, letting go of emotional baggage is also part of this process.