Another new year, another month playing The Minimalists 30-Day Minimalism Game (#minsgame). Once again, we successfully rid ourselves and our home of 496 items. Every year the challenge gets simultaneously harder, and also easier. It’s an interesting mix because on one hand, we have less excess in our home to round up. But on the other hand, we get better at letting things go, and become more practical when it comes to what we need and will use. For example, despite having taken several passes over the years at minimizing my jewelry, I got rid of over 75 more pieces this challenge. Every year I learn something new. Here are three more things winning #minsgame taught me.
1. Just because something isn’t hurting, doesn’t mean it’s helping.
“It isn’t hurting anyone,” is a terrible argument for keeping crap you don’t need. Sure, some extra stuff in a drawer here or a cabinet there may not be hurting anything. Maybe you don’t need the space and it all seems under control. But although it may not be hurting, is it helping? This became my motto this past #minsgame, especially when Mike asked if playing again was even necessary. Nothing we got rid of was hurting us, but none of it was helping us, either. In fact, after creating even more space, I’d say we helped ourselves.
2. I can part with sentimental items.
I only collect two things: decorative pumpkins and Christmas ornaments. The ornaments in particular have a great deal of sentimental attachment tied to them. Almost all of them have the name of the giver on the back along with the year they gave it. If purchased, I know where and under what circumstances. Each one tells a story. I have one from my mother for every Christmas since I was born, including my “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament from 1982, as well as one from Mike for every year we’ve been together, not to mention countless other sentimental ornaments from friends, ex-boyfriends, places we’ve visited, and family members.
But as I decorated the tree this past December, selecting my favorite ornaments, it became clear we have enough for three full-size Christmas trees. I knew then that when we took down the tree I would undertake the arduous task of unwrapping and sorting every single ornament into yes, no and maybe piles.
The idea of not having a “complete set” of ornaments from Mike or my mom always seemed horrible. But I realized that was the only reason I kept some of them. Some were shabby and some I plain just didn’t like. Was having a complete set really necessary? Would breaking up the set mean something?
I held up an ornament of two glass angel carolers with “gold” halos. “See this?” I asked Mike.
“I hate this ornament. Do you know who gave it to me?”
“It was you!” I said with a laugh at the absurdity of my feeling obligated to keep something the giver didn’t even recall giving. “Every time I look at it it reminds me how clearly you forgot to get me an ornament so must have gone to CVS or something at the zero hour and this was all that was left. That’s the only explanation for why you would get me this ornament.”
Mike laughed, confirming my theory.
“I’m getting rid of it.”
Once I had the maybe pile I called Mike in to double check them. There wasn’t one he felt we should keep, even some from the first Christmas we were married when it seems everyone we knew gave us a similar ornament. Not surprisingly, tossing those ornaments has had no impact on the validity of our marriage.
In the end, we got rid of 53 ornaments, freeing up a lot of space. I’m excited to know that every ornament I reach for next year is one I want on my tree.
3. We can and should be vigilant about what we keep in our homes.
Every January we play #minsgame in addition to one or two good purges throughout the year. There is ALWAYS something to get rid of. Things get shabby over time. Some things also lose their significance over time and lose their hold on us, which is why an annual reevaluation is so helpful.
Take for example the coffee table we got rid of on January 1. It was the table I grew up with. I rescued it from my mother’s curb last year, horrified and angry that she’d dispose of it so unceremoniously. I cried. For real tears. So I took it home where it sat unceremoniously in my basement. After a few months I realized how silly it was to keep since we had no use for it and we let it go. The wonderful memories of that table (of which there are MANY) will live in my heart.
Much like weight, “stuff” creeps up on you when you’re not paying attention. That’s how I found myself this past January with a two foot pile of magazines waiting to be read. If it weren’t for my looking for things to win the challenge, they would have sat unread and been buried by two more feet of magazines. Things pile up! Papers, decorations, clothes, clutter, CRAP. So we need to be vigilant… about clearing clutter when it’s manageable and straightening up regularly. That is the only way to end the vicious cycle of cleaning out and cleaning up. Life is too short to spend entire weekends cleaning out closets and spare rooms.
Minimalism isn’t new to us. It’s become our way of life over the years and we have learned a lot. We’re still learning. But it’s easier now. Cleaning up takes us hardly any time at all. Eventually, playing #minsgame won’t be necessary, nor will the annual purges. But that’s because we’re vigilant about maintaining this lifestyle and expanding on it.
Is minimalism still new to you? I suggest you read my 8 Healthy Habits for Living A Minimalist Lifestyle.