21-day minimalism challenge

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Inspired by The Minimalists I decided to do a 21-day minimalism challenge when I moved house recently. The idea is to box up everything you own, unpack only what you use for 21 days and then discard or store the rest. It can be done any time, not just when you’re moving, but as it requires packing up everything you own, it seemed too much of a hassle for me until I had to do that anyway to move.

As a result I lived out of boxes for more than five weeks, taking out what I needed as I needed it, and finding a home for it in my new drawers and cupboards only after that. This included everything; clothes, cutlery, lotions, food, pots, cleaning products, gadgets. Everything.

My parents visited and my Dad couldn’t stand it. He had to move all of the boxes from the centre of the living room to under the windows, where they were much more difficult to get to when I needed a kitchen utensil or power charger in a hurry. But the room did look much tidier.

The Minimalists are Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who now live in Missoula, Montana, a place I knew well in my teens as I lived there for a year. Go Hellgate High!

Joshua and Ryan have a blog about living a more meaningful life with less stuff. They have more than four million followers, so the concept is resonating with a lot of people.

I heard them on the radio last November when they were in Australia as part of their world tour. One thing that stood out to me was them talking about the five most important things in life; health, relationships, passion, growth and contribution. They feel they have more time to dedicate to these things now they’ve stopped their materialistic ways and have become happier as a result.

So how did I go with my 21-day challenge?

Great! Until it came time to decide what to do with the left over stuff, hence the five weeks rather than three.

My drawers were tidy and I could find things, even in the bottom kitchen drawer (you know the one). My wardrobe was organised, as was my linen closet, and I could see everything in my bathroom cupboard. I had four empty cupboards in the living room under the TV.

Then it came time to decide what to do with the stuff in the boxes, and I had trouble throwing much of it away. I did send four boxes and two garbage bags to the op shop and I did half fill the landfill wheelie bin. But the rest ended up in the cupboards and drawers and wardrobe and garage and my home doesn’t look quite so minimal any more.

But it was a good exercise. Rather than unpacking everything immediately, I found out what items I genuinely need and use. After the chore of packing boxes for the move and moving in, leaving them unpacked for a while allowed me to get on with the other things in my life I’d been neglecting without guilt about the boxes lying around. And it cemented the anti-consumerism mindset that had already been brewing in me. We buy so much stuff we don’t really need, like all those kitchen gadgets that only do one thing.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but only when you’re moving house unless you’re really committed to the idea.

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