My name is Madeleine, and I failed the minimalism challenge.
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who call themselves The Minimalists, designed the minimalism challenge as a fun game to help people declutter their houses.
The rules are simple, but the maths adds up quickly over the month-long endeavour. On day one, you get rid of one thing, day two, two things, and so on and so forth until you get rid of 30 things on day 30. In total, if you complete the challenge, you’ll have gotten rid of 465 things.
I was drawn to the challenge because I’m moving soon and wanted to downsize. I’d watched their documentary where they talk about how minimalism made them happy, and thought they made excellent points about how consumerism isn’t making Americans happy.
Consuming isn’t bad; we all need a new coat or new pants sometimes. But the consumerism that drives people to continuously shop is dangerous, the two argue in their documentary.
So, I got rid of 338 things, before hitting a wall.
Here’s the emotional roller coaster I embarked on attempting the minimalist challenge.
Joshua and Ryan don't have very strict rules, so I had to make up some of my own. I decided if something could be used again, or had great sentimental value, it counted.
So, a candy wrapper didn't count. But a card given to me by a close friend did count. They were both getting tossed out, but one took effort to part with, while the other didn't.
And so the challenge begins. I hoped my bedroom would look fresh and minimalist like this afterwords.
The challenge is meant to be done daily, but I work odd hours that get me home around 10 p.m. Rather than throw things out late at night, I lumped them into weeks.
Week one was easy. Anyone can probably find 28 things to get rid of without much effort. My haul was primarily clothes.
I only wanted to keep clothes if I felt amazing in them. If I didn't, what was the point of having them? Studies show that when you feel more confident in your clothes, you perform better at work, and you're perceived better by your colleagues, too.
I donated everything to charity (except for cards or old school records that were recycled). I chose St. Vincent de Paul, because their store was down the street and appeared to have virtually no restrictions on what I could drop off.
The challenge after week one felt like a diet. A thing-diet. I was shedding all this 'weight,' but worrying about 'gaining it back' after the challenge. Would I binge-buy stuff once it ended?
I'm a huge bookworm, but I really didn't need all the books I had. I got rid of any books I didn't think I'd revisit (since I've read almost all of them). I also donated well-known books that I could easily get from the library.
At this point I was getting obsessed with the end game. I worried that the only way I could meet that magic number of 465 would be to get rid of things I wanted to keep. I had to remind myself numerous times that no one was forcing my hand. I could stop anytime.
Week three was the biggest haul: over 130 things. I went through my childhood boxes, and went from five boxes of possessions to two.
Some things like this ukulele case were easy to get rid of. I have a much nicer and stronger case for my ukulele -- why was I hanging on to this?
Other things were harder. This necklace is beautiful, but I have literally not worn it since high school. Someone else can give it much more love than I have.
Week four was where I finally had to cave. To successfully finish the challenge, I needed to donate 212 items. I got rid of 85, leaving me 127 items short.
If I had done this challenge a year ago I think I would have succeeded. I regularly toss things out every couple of months in big chunks (excuses). I'd definitely tossed out 127 things within the last year. Alas, I just didn't have enough this time around.
The challenge was still helpful though. I can comfortably close my wardrobe and dresser drawers now and can fit my childhood belongings in two small boxes.
The challenge taught me to focus on quality over quantity, and what I ended up keeping made me consider what I actually value.
I would recommend the minimalist challenge to people, but I'd caution them not to obsess over it like I did. Get rid of what you want, and if you don't finish the challenge, no sweat! It's still an eye-opening experience to get rid of what you don't need.
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