Sustainable and Attainable Decluttering
One of the most sustainable things you can do is appreciate what you have and stop welcoming material objects into your life that don't serve a purpose.
For a few years now, I've been striving for less: less stuff, more free space.
This winter, I moved, and there's nothing like moving that will show you how much stuff you have.
I had items from when I was a kid, then middle school, high school, and onto college and after. Some of these items were sentimental, and I wanted to keep them, but others would go back into a box.
LESS IS NOW
Then came the Minimalists: Less is Now documentary, which was the inspiration I needed to make some more changes in my decluttering journey.
In the Minimalists documentary, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus talk about how easy it is to acquire stuff and how so many people continuously keep things that serve their life no purpose. They gave real-life examples from childhood into adulthood of how their minimalist journey developed.
At the end of the film, the guys proposed the #lessisnowchallenge, which is a way to continue to clear out your home of things in a fun way. It goes like this:
Every day you have to pick items that account for what day it is in your challenge journey.
So for day 1, you only get rid of one thing.
Day 2 = 2 things
Day 3 = 3 things
You keep doing this until, by the end of the 30 days of the challenge, you've gotten rid of 464 things.
The documentary gave refreshing and inspiring tips for decluttering. But, as I tried the challenge, it became difficult to pick an item every day. So, I would do big hauls of stuff in one day instead of every day of the week.
For example, on Saturdays, I tend to have more free time, so instead of every day of the week, I took a few hours from the day to go through my closet, kitchen stuff, and the bathroom. I ended up pulling out a few bags of clothes and boxes of stuff that I hadn't used for years.
THE BROWN BAG PROCESS
As I would go through these spaces, I developed a system for sorting what I get rid of. All I needed was six brown grocery bags and a marker.
Each bag was labeled with a different topic which reflected how I would get rid of the item. Here is a list of the bags:
I kept the bags in a visible location in my home as a reminder and continued adding items throughout the week.
For donating, I researched local thrift shops and donation centers to find out what they would take. Donation centers do not accept everything you give them, so it's good to find this out before dropping off your items. For objects they were not accepting, I looked into other donation centers or researched how to re-purpose them.
The trash and recycle items were surprisingly hard to part with. I wanted to re-purpose or find a new life for things, but it was tough to do this with items like old birthday or holiday cards, magazines, broken items (without a fix), or random tchotchke's that no one wants and I could not find how to get rid of.
My favorite labels were fixing, repurposing, and selling. Fixing included clothes that needed mending or mugs and plates that needed to be super-glued.
Repurposing included vases, jars, and mugs that turned into candles. Other items I repurposed were beads from jewelry I no longer used or liked. I could re-purpose these pieces for creating new necklaces or earrings.
The items I had the most of and knew I could sell, were clothes. For these, I used Poshmark. Other similar sites are Mercari and Depop. For household items, I used OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace.
Throughout the process, I was shocked and still am at how much stuff I acquired. Every year prior, I've done some sort of sweep to donate or gift items I no longer used, but this year I went deeper.
The mix of moving, trying the #lessisnow challenge, and a cultural shift towards minimalism, has positively impacted my life.
I find I have more space throughout my home, and it feels good! No longer are the days of random storage boxes in the garage, or closets that I don't open, or drawers filled with clutter.
HOW THINGS ARE GOING NOW
It's been a few months now since I've done this challenge, and I am continuing to part with things. I find myself even more conscious of what I bring into my home and purchase.
At certain points, it was hard to know where to start to declutter or part with items that have sentimental value. But this process can encourage you to keep a tidy home, love the things you do have, and really consider if you need anything else.
The world is already full of so many things, and as people continuously donate or re-sell items, I find myself leaning more towards these ways of shopping.
Minimalism and ideas like these have encouraged people to clear out their spaces and re-consider if what they have in their home is benefitting their life. But just as important, is consciously discarding these items.
Donate or gift what you can. It is heartbreaking to consider how many people do these minimalist challenges, and then the items they've decluttered, end up in landfills. If the items you are releasing are in good condition, there are places, or there might be someone looking for something just like that!
It's important for our mind and our planet that we re-consider what value we put on material objects and that when we get rid of something, we do it consciously.
The next step is keeping a close eye on what we allow in our home and making sure that every item we bring back continues to align with these values.
Best of luck on this voyage!