Like millions of other people, my lazy Netflix binge-watching sessions during the Christmas of 2016 were disrupted by a documentary.
It was called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, and in it, two guys called Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus explained how the concepts and ideas of minimalism had transformed their lives for the better, and how it had changed the lives of all kinds of people from all different walks of life.
I won’t lie and pretend that Minimalism inspired me to immediately throw out all of my possessions the very next day and commit to living a simple life with just a chair and a box of clothes in an empty room – but it did make me start seriously thinking about the stuff I own, my living space, and the way I consume, collect, and hoard everything from digital files to dish rags.
I did more research, watched more videos, read more articles and listened to more podcasts. All the while, I thought more and more about my ‘stuff,’ and, more importantly, about my relationship with that stuff.
The more I did all of that, the more I realised something:
I owned a lot of crap
And I don’t mean ‘crap’ as in stuff, I mean crap as in poor quality, meaningless, useless…crap.
It’s funny, because I’d always prided myself on never being truly motivated by materialism. I didn’t care about your designer brands or expensive gadgets – I cared about things like music, creativity, knowledge, about making sure I’d done Socrates proud and examining life as best I could.
That’s a good way to be, right?
Sure, in some respects, but when it came to ‘stuff,’ it meant that I owned probably just as much -if not more- than some materially-minded folks that I know, but that I’d never really spent a lot of money on any of it, meaning almost everything I owned was…well..crap.
Eventually, I started to make changes.
Bit by bit, slowly but surely, I started to get rid of it.
Not just the crap, the tat, and the useless, but the stuff that no longer served me and made me feel bad whenever I looked at it -like photos from the day I married a beautiful girl who I’ve since divorced.
I was getting really into this too, not just getting rid of the crap, but being a lot more mindful about the stuff I brought into my home. No longer would I buy lots of crap, but a few good quality items, and then only when they were truly beautiful or absolutely useful.
Then reality struck.
Loved ones passed away, my business suffered a few financial setbacks, my on-going battle with depression rendered me sofa-bound for a while.
Throughout all of that, minimalism was the last thing on my mind.
Before I knew it, I found myself stuck, in the busy-ness of day-to-day life, still surrounded by clutter, by crap, by things I’d promised myself months ago I’d get rid of.
The longer this went on, the more I started to feel claustrophobic in my own home, as if all the remaining crap were blocking me in, piling on top of me, preventing me from truly being free.
I had to get back to getting rid, but I didn’t know where to start?
You know when you walk into a messy room and just figuring out what the first thing to clear away should be proves to be a challenge all of its own?
That’s what it was like trying to figure out how to get rid of the rest of my crap.
So I decided to turn it into a game that I’m going to call the 30 x 5 Minimalism Challenge.
The idea is this:
Every day for the next thirty days, I get rid of five things.
These can be literally anything, from furniture and big, bulky stuff to random objects cluttering up drawers.
I start playing this game today, and my hope is that, by doing so every day for the next thirty days, the task of eliminating the rest of the ‘crap’ from my life will prove to be a lot easier.
After all, isn’t always the way that goals are best accomplished by breaking them down into smaller tasks?
Why share this challenge with you on my blog?
Partly because it will give me something to write about, partly because it will help me understand and straighten-out my own thoughts about the crap in my life, but mostly for the sake of good old fashioned accountability.
Without further ado then, here’s the five things I got rid of today:
I bought this for the sole purpose of wearing it for two seconds in the intro to a video I made about quitting smoking.
It’s been sat in a cupboard doing nothing ever since, and will likely sit there for at least another year if I don’t do something with it, so it goes in a bag and it will go to one of the local charity shops.
Empty bottle of aftershave
Seriously, who keeps empty bottles of aftershave lying around? I do, that’s who.
I can’t even explain my thought process on this one. It’s been here literally for months though, so it has to go. Into the recycle bin for this one.
A dying pen
I told you the five things could be small.
I have this bad habit of keeping things long after they’ve stopped being useful thinking that they’ll one day prove to be useful again.
With some things, I suppose that’s understandable, but with pens, it’s just dumb.
The worst part is that pens are absolutely the one thing I do this most often with. When a pen begins running out of ink to the point that it simply can’t be used anymore, I keep it anyway, as if one day it’s going to magically refill itself and come back to life.
I have to own up to the fact that not only will the pen never suddenly start working again, but that I won’t ever refill that cheap, throw-away biro with fresh ink, no matter how much I like the idea of recycling and reusing stuff.
The pen goes in the rubbish bin.
A pair of broken, old boots
The soles of this boots have torn so badly and both are so badly damaged that they’re completely unwearable.
Still, in another classic example of lying to myself that I’ll one day make good and fix them, I’ve kept them around. I have to face facts that I’ll never pay to take them to a cobbler, nor will I have a go at repairing them myself.
Again, the idea sounds nice, but I know myself too well to know that it ain’t gonna happen.
The boots are so damaged that I’m not even sure how, or where, to recycle them, so they go in the rubbish bin too.
Its to be able to borrow things in an emergency, but not so nice when you forget to take them back and they end up cluttering your home for weeks.
A good excuse to go for a walk and return the umbrella to its rightful owner.
A decent start then, here’s to Day 2.