[Note: Today is the last day that my Infographic Academy course will be $27. I’m bumping it up to $47 at midnight.] The price increase has happened, but it’s still a great deal. Check it out!

As of a couple days ago, I’ve joined the ranks of those super hip “extreme minimalists” that have less than 100 possessions (sort of… more on that later). To be honest, it took me by surprise. It’s not at all something I was aiming for or planning on. It just kind of… happened.

I started decluttering on December 22, 2010. I made an announcement on the blog here that because I had so much stuff, my New Year’s resolution would be to get rid of one thing every day for 2011 document it all on a blog. The goal was to get to the point where I could fit everything into my car.

This is my car, a 1996 Plymouth Breeze:

The Breeze.

The Breeze.

Now, when I say I had a lot of stuff, I mean a lot of stuff. I’m single and share a furnished house with my buddies, so it’s not that I had a lot of furniture or kitchen appliances or anything like that. Most of my stuff fell into two categories: books and outdoors equipment.

I have limited space in my house, so most of my stuff was in storage. Here are some photos of the storage unit before I started purging:

Books and boxes

Books and boxes

More stuff

More stuff. Not everything in the back was mine, but most of the stuff in this photo was mine.

All told, my stuff in storage filled 18 file boxes, 5 really big plastic bins, and 4 smaller-but-still-about-twice-the-size-of-a-file-box plastic bins. Plus there was a lot of stuff that was too big to fit into any container. And all of that is in addition to everything I had at home.

The decluttering process

First I went through in one fell swoop and threw away as much as I could. This included old school papers and memorabilia/keepsake stuff. The school papers were easy to trash (good riddance), and the “keepsakes” were really just old letters and travel brochures from when I was a teenager. I didn’t care about any of that stuff anymore so that wasn’t difficult to throw away, either.

Then I went though and rounded up everything that was still good but that I just didn’t want any longer (clothes, books, etc.). I donated it all to the local thrift store.

This left me with stuff that I still had an attachment to or that was too valuable to just give away. My books were particularly hard to part with. I love reading, and I loved keeping the books I’d read as trophies of my conquests. But once I’d sold some (on Amazon) and donated others, it got easier and easier. I’m guessing I parted with nearly a thousand books.

It got easier and easier to get rid of everything, not just the books. The more I “practiced,” the easier it got. Eventually it became almost like a game. I wanted to see how few things I could get. I wasn’t counting or anything; I was just constantly looking around me and asking what else I could part with. Stuff that a couple weeks earlier I wanted to hang on to I’d look at and instantly decide to part with.

Anyway, to make a long story short, over several months I downsized my library (I now have only 4 books), my wardrobe (15 shirts instead of 30, 5 ties instead of 20, 5 pairs of socks instead of 20, and so on), my electronics (got rid of a camera, a netbook, a couple mircrophones, lots of cords and accessories, etc.), and just about every other aspect of my life. I got rid of domain names I wasn’t using and deleted old and unnecessary files and emails. I sold a lot of stuff and made a few thousand dollars in the process. I then spent part of that money on upgrading the things that I DID keep. I just bought a new laptop, for example, to replace my 4-year-old fossilized Sony.

Now remember when I said earlier that I *sort of* have less than 100 possessions (I’m at about 92)? There needs to be a giant asterisk after that statement. I have 100 “normal” possessions (clothing, personal items, furniture items, electronics, etc.)… PLUS all of my outdoor equipment. Hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and camping are all pretty gear intensive, and these are all things I love doing. So I’ve pared all of that stuff down to 2 big bins and one suitcase that fit under my bed:

All the outdoorsy-type stuff under my bed.

All the outdoorsy-type stuff under my bed.

So I’m not as “extreme” or “mobile” as those minimalists that can fit everything into a carry-on bag. But I have cooler hobbies that I need stuff for :) Props to those minimalists whose favorite hobby is running in those hideous finger toe shoe things, but that’s just not me.

Some minimalists who count their stuff count their books or clothes as one item. I count my outdoorsy stuff.

And that’s really the great thing about all of this. It’s not about how many things you own. Nobody cares how many things you have; I couldn’t care less whether you own 50 things or 5,000 things. It’s all about YOU and how it makes YOU feel. If you just can’t bring yourself to get rid of your books or your beer stein collection or your grandfather’s World War II uniform, you don’t need to. Nobody’s making you. But start getting rid of the stuff you CAN part with, and you’ll be amazed at where that takes you.

The aftermath

And bam. Just like that, I woke up one morning and realized that I wasn’t surrounded by stuff. And believe me, it was a fantastic feeling. This whole minimalism thing might be kind of a cliché part of lifestyle design (which itself is becoming a heavily clichéd), but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be life-changing.

Since becoming a minimalist, I’ve found that I have more time, I’m more productive, I value more the things that I do have, I don’t feel bad about spending some money on nice things that I enjoy more and that will last, and I can breathe more freely in general.

Am I done getting rid of stuff? Well, one of my favorites quotes is, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

And I’m definitely not perfect.

  • Do YOU have too much stuff?
  • If so, what are you going to do about it? If not, how have you managed that?
  • Do you have any desire to be a minimalist? If so, what’s holding you back?