I’m very excited to have the very first guest post on Drop That Debt today. I started following Caitlin’s minimalism blog Born Again Minimalist very early on. I think I had one blog post created by the time I found hers. Her blog is wonderful and her minimalism inspires me to be more of a minimalist in my own life. Here’s how her journey to minimalism took place.
This post has been sponsored by Ryan Gosling. You’re welcome.
Becoming a minimalist was a watershed moment in my life. I went from holding onto everything “just in case” (including shoelaces, old birthday cards, and an apron from when I was a day care teacher’s aide) and being a collector (of Rubik’s cubes and books) to shedding half my belongings in one fell swoop. Last June, I signed my first lease “all by myself.” And then I charged myself with the task of going through all the boxes of stuff I had packed away in my mom’s basement for storage to determine what I needed for my own place. At first, I only removed a few books (how could I get rid of anything by Stephen King? Or my college texts?) and a couple small items. But a few days later, something in me snapped and I went mad-minimalist on all my stuff.
Wardrobe. I started with my clothes. The easiest thing for me was to set a goal number of items I wanted to keep. I chose 50, not including shoes, underwear/socks, or accessories. I sorted all my belongings into categories – tank tops, short-sleeved tops, tee shirts, long-sleeved tops, sweaters, dress pants, jeans, shorts, etc. I forced myself to be brutally, painfully honest about what I would honestly wear. I eliminated every long-sleeved blouse, all but three pairs of dress pants, several sweaters and tops, and a few items I had never even worn – still with the tags on. My mother was not pleased, but I knew that I would never wear the items I discarded, and I’m happy with a smaller (under 50-item) wardrobe now. You can read more about my wardrobe cuts on my blog.
Books. I’ve always been a big reader, so downsizing my library was tough for me. However, I received a Kindle as a Christmas gift before I decided to minimize, and I decided that I could keep a few books and read the rest on the Kindle. Once again, I set a goal — I cleared off a small two-shelf bookcase and decided I could only keep the books that fit on the shelf. I pulled all of my books from their storage boxes and piled them up, then went through them one at a time and decided if they could stay or not. Most of my textbooks didn’t make it, nor did the majority of my Stephen King collection (all of which I have on Kindle!). What I did keep was a variety of social-commentary type books from the dying throes of Borders liquidation sales, King’s Dark Tower series, and all seven Harry Potter books in hardback. Those are also on the Kindle but they’re special to me, so they got to stay. My plan for the books I kept is to read them and then pass them on to someone else who will enjoy them. And then I will get a library card.
Kitchen. Downsizing the kitchen was one of the harder projects, because I fancy myself a good cook and therefore I need a ton of cooking implements! Right? Wrong. I gave up on muffins and cakes, knowing that I don’t bake a lot anyway and I would rather just go to a bakery and get a cupcake if I want one. I got rid of items I hadn’t used in years, including a crystal cake plate, a rice cooker, and two of three pie plates. In a second purge of the kitchen after I moved into my new place, I discarded 42 more items I didn’t need.
Bathroom. A big contributor to the reduction of bathroom clutter was my simultaneous love affair with environmentalism as I was being born again as a minimalist. Learning about the harmful chemicals in soaps, shampoos, cleaning supplies, feminine hygiene products, deodorants, and basically every other item we use was a huge motivator for me to downsize the stuff in the bathroom. I now use baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair, I replaced disposable feminine items with reusable ones (TMI? Maybe, but it will save me thousands of dollars in my life to use reusable sanitary alternatives), and I brush my teeth with baking soda and a toothbrush made from recycled yogurt cups. I tossed all of my makeup, and I even recently de-cluttered my hairdryer and flatiron, which I hadn’t used in over six months. My hair and face are au naturale, reducing unnecessary clutter and spending on bath and beauty products.
I learned a lot about downsizing and minimizing my stuff, both in my initial purge and my second and third runs (I’m still not done, I doubt I ever will be!). It is easiest to de-clutter if you remove everything from its natural habitat. When you go through a closet full of clothes, everything is in its place and looks like it belongs. Take all articles of clothing out of the closet and dresser and sort them in another room, or on your bed. By removing the items from the context in which you usually see them, it is easier to break the mental ties to the items and be honest about which ones you could stand to discard.
Setting a limit helped me a lot. It’s like a budget for your stuff. If I only have the space for 50 items in the closet, I make better decisions about which ones to keep. I only kept the clothing, kitchen items, and books I really cared to keep, instead of keeping them all because I made the room for them and didn’t have a limit.
Let go of fantasy. Miss Minimalist
, my blogging and minimalist inspiration, speaks of one’s fantasy self. For instance, my fantasy self was apparently an avid baker with an extensive horror/thriller library. Those things don’t really speak to me as a person, and I realized through getting rid of things that I don’t need a cupcake pan to be happy (orto be a good cook).
It’s okay to borrow.
You don’t have to have everything you’ll ever need, ever, at your disposal right now. It’s perfectly acceptable to borrow an iron, or a baking dish, or a spoon, or anything – from a neighbor, friend, or relative. Just be sure to return the favor when they need something you can provide!
Minimalism isn’t about not having anything except what you need to survive. It’s about prioritizing the things that matter by getting rid of the things that don’t. For instance, I got rid of all my craft supplies except for painting, because painting is an important hobby of mine. I don’t need paint to live, but I enjoy it, so it deserves a place in my home. Prioritize what your life is about, and build your “stuff” around those priorities instead of around the increasingly-common priority of just getting more stuff than the next guy.