Start Your Minimalist Journey on the First Day of Spring

Spring is a time for new beginnings.

This spring consider turning over a new leaf by choosing to become a minimalist living happily with less stuff.

As spring approaches I realize that I do not need to declutter this year. Plus I may never need to declutter again. “Really, how so?” you ask. The short answer is that I am now reaping the benefits of deciding to become a minimalist in November 2016.

If you are interested, you can read about decluttering vs. minimizing and why you might want to become a minimalist in the posts Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing Your Stuff – Part 1 and Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing Your Stuff – Part 2.

During the first three years of my lifelong quest to live happily with fewer belongings, I divested myself of stuff I do not need, use, or want, changed my shopping and buying habits, and organized the stuff that I still own.

“Minimalism is about intentionality, not deprivation.”

Dejan Stojanović

You can choose to begin your minimalist journey this spring. If you do, next year you will have less to declutter and perhaps you can give up decluttering forever. More importantly, Mother Nature smiles every time you, me, or anyone else chooses to live more lightly on Earth with less stuff.

Photo credit – Dreamstime/Sashahaltam.

There is no one-size-fits-all or “right” approach to minimalism so go about it in a way that works for you. If you are looking for ideas to help you get started, continue reading this post.

Three Years of Minimalism

Initially, my spouse was not enthusiastic when I announced my intention to become a minimalist. I was probably too pushy in the beginning, however, eventually, my spouse decided to participate.

In the first two years, we focused on divesting ourselves of excess stuff including items that we owned individually and as a couple. Last year was more about reinforcing our new not shopping and not buying habits.

As you will see, that does not mean I did not buy anything.

Below are some of the challenges we faced during the first three years of our minimalist journey and how we addressed them.

Your Stuff vs. Our Stuff

If you live with at least one other person, your desire to minimize your possessions will likely affect the other person or persons sharing your home. A good way to begin the process is by talking with your spouse, partner, or family. Explain why you want to be a minimalist and ask them if they want to participate or not. Listen to them and respect their ideas and concerns.

Do not be deterred by a lack of support from others. You probably have plenty of stuff that belongs to only you so start with that. Your spouse or family may get on board at some point or maybe not.

Orange and Green Apple
Photo credit – iStock/Simone Capozzi.

I began by divesting myself of stuff that I owned. The first joint divestment project my spouse and I tackled together was the kitchen which is more my spouse’s domain than mine because my spouse is the family chef. I recounted this experience in Minimalism for Couples – Getting Rid of Stuff.

Depending on how much stuff you have amassed, who else is involved, and how much time you are willing to devote to the process, the divestment phase could last a couple of months, several years, or indefinitely.

One benefit of owning less stuff is that space opens up in your home allowing you to organize your things so that they are easy to find and access. Your spouse or other family members may notice this and be encouraged to join the effort.

To Buy or Not to Buy

While you are divesting yourself of stuff, you will also need to figure out how to plug the acquisition pipeline or you will end up back where you started.

When I decided to become a minimalist, I did not magically morph into a different person and you probably will not either. Consumerism is heavily ingrained in our society. Removing yourself from its gravitational force may prove to be more difficult than you anticipate but once you do it you will be free.

Early on, I realized that being a careful and mindful shopper was not enough. I would need to radically change my shopping and buying habits. But before I could do that I needed to understand what they were.

Photo credit – iStock/cybrain.

I decided to track what I bought for myself and my family and why I bought it for a year using a simple spreadsheet as my journal.

In the post entitled, Living Happily with Less Stuff – To Buy or Not to Buy, I shared what I learned during my yearlong assessment and provided some ideas to help spreadsheet averse readers evaluate their habits. Minimalism for Couples – Buying Less Stuff and Minimalism – Living More Lightly on the Planet cover repairing things and deciding when to buy or not buy new items.

I know I said I was not going to tell you what you should do but I do want to mention one thing. If you find yourself justifying buying new things by getting rid of older things, you may be keeping the number of your possessions in check but do not kid yourself that you are living more lightly on the planet.

Letting Go of Gifts

Initially, I felt guilty and stressed out about divesting myself of things that people had given me as gifts.

For me, learning to live happily with the less stuff means divesting myself of things that I do not need, want, or use regardless of whether I bought the item myself, someone gave it to me, or I inherited it.

I got over the guilt and wrote about it in Minimalism – Letting Go of Gifts.

My philosophy is that a gift is something freely given with no strings attached. The receiver may choose to keep it or not. It is their choice. I have shared my feelings about exchanging gifts with my family and friends. Occasionally I give gifts and sometimes I receive them. When someone gives me a gift, I thank them and then decide if the gift fits in my life or not. If it does not, I donate it or give it away.

Is this talk about letting go of gifts making you feel anxious? If so, take a breath. You are the guide of your minimalist journey so if you do not want to deal with gifts or inherited items, then don’t.

Annual Assessment

Each year, I do a review of the previous year determining what went well and deciding if I want and/or need to do anything differently going forward.

This year I am sharing my evaluation with you to demonstrate that minimalism (at least for me) is not a game and does not require specific or perfect behavior. I am doing the best that I can to live happily and more lightly on Earth with less stuff and you can, too.

Earth Shaped like a Heart - Original
Photo credit – iStock/pearleye.

Back in 2017, I wrote Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing – Clothes and Shoes describing the agonizing and cathartic process of minimizing your wardrobe. In that post, I admitted that as an inspiration to lose weight I was keeping two pairs of jeans that did not fit my heavier post-breast cancer body. Last year, I decided to donate the jeans so someone else can enjoy wearing them while I attempt to return to my more slender self.

We have not sorted through our eight boxes of photos residing in the master bedroom closet or the several plastic tubs filled with our kid’s artwork and toys that are stored in the garage. There does not seem to be a compelling reason to tackle this stuff so it may be a while before we get to it.

The only item I regret buying last year is a pair of dress shoes that I do not currently need. I bought them for insurance when the only store in our area that carried shoes for my narrow feet was holding a going-out-of-business sale.

Christmas 2019 came and went without me buying any new decorations. I am proud of this accomplishment because I used to be a decoration churner meaning I would give away decorations to justify buying new ones.

Two big-ticket items joined my belongings last year. A mini iPad and an electric bicycle. I could write several paragraphs defending these items but I won’t. Let’s just leave it at I believe these things enhance my life.

I feel satisfied with what my spouse and I have accomplished during the first three years of our minimalist journey. And the cool thing is that I have zero decluttering to do this spring.

Minimalist Spring Challenge

Now that you have had a chance to read part of my story, are you considering starting a minimalist journey yourself?

Coffee Cup, Pen, Piece of Paper with Begin Saying on Wood Table Top
Photo credit – iStock/marekuliasz.

If you are, here is a 15-minute challenge to help you decide. You can easily accomplish this in the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, during a break at work, or in the evening after the dinner dishes are done.

If you like jotting down your thoughts, grab something to take notes or doodle on. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Spend the next fifteen minutes contemplating how you could benefit from owning less stuff. 

When the timer goes off, ask yourself this question “Do I want to try living happily with less stuff?” If the answer is yes, then pick one of the tasks below (or come up with your own) and make an appointment with yourself to do it in the next seven days.

  • Talk with your spouse, partner, or family about why you want to become a minimalist and ask for their support.
  • Click on the links within this post or the “Related Posts” section below for information, ideas, and perhaps a little inspiration.
  • Clear a staging space in your home and obtain some boxes.
  • Call a friend and tell them you are going to become a minimalist and why.
  • Minimize or eliminate your kitchen junk drawer.

If you start now, on the first day of spring next year, you will be able to look back and admire how far you have come on your minimalist journey.

Featured Image at Top

A strip of blue paper is rolled back revealing the words “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.” – photo credit iStock/IvelinRadkov.

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Minimalism – Procrastination

Action begets action.

Once you reach the almost inevitable procrastination phase of becoming a minimalist, accept it and then try taking a small action to overcome your inertia. It worked for me.

Footprint on Earth Globe - Carbon Footprint

People decide to become minimalists living happily with less stuff for a variety of reasons. Mine is the desire to live more lightly on Earth. Take a moment to remind yourself of why you are on your own minimalist quest.

If you are like many if not most aspiring minimalists, you will likely begin by divesting yourself of things you own that you no longer need, want, or use.

Simultaneously, you will probably have to change your shopping and buying habits and perhaps revamp your gift exchanging philosophy. If you don’t, you may find yourself in an infinite loop of acquisition and divestment.

The divestment stage could take you a few weeks or several years. My spouse and I are taking the multi-year approach for a variety of reasons some of which I explained in a previous post entitled Minimalism for Couples – Getting Rid of Stuff. We made a lot of progress in years one and two and then procrastination set in.

Some stuff that we had decided to part ways with somehow began settling into our garage refusing to leave. Worse, I was allowing it to reside there.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

Procrastinators Meeting Postponed Sign

Of course, I am no expert on why people procrastinate, but my impression from reading about the topic over the years is that like many things involving humans, it is complicated.

There are many reasons you might put off doing things that you could or should be doing now. Ramifications for procrastinating vary in severity from significant to none.

For instance, say you are facing a looming deadline for a project at work. You need help but you are embarrassed to ask for it. Stressed out you decide to scroll through your social media feed looking for cat videos and other distracting content. If you miss the deadline, the repercussions could be minor or major. It probably depends on things like the importance of the project, your track record, and your boss’ management style.

Sometimes, dilly-dallying might be considered a good thing.

In this scenario, it is Sunday. Your laundry has piled up to the extent that no one in the family has enough clean socks to make it through next week. Instead of doing the laundry you choose to spend the day with your kids at a nearby park eating a picnic lunch and tossing a Frisbee around. Everyone has a great time. The repercussions are minor. You either do the laundry that night or everyone selects their least dirty pair of socks to wear the next day. (Minimalists do not go out to buy new socks).

For me, having stuff hanging out in my garage was low on the scale of the bad consequences, but once I overcame my inertia, I was able to enjoy the benefits of taking action.

Minimalists Procrastinate, Too

Our garage houses my spouse’s prototype shop, my car, gardening equipment, kayaking gear, and stuff from when our kids were children (another future divestment project). Our garage does not have room to spare.

At least six months ago, we had placed several items for donation in our garage intending to move them out quickly. These consisted of two teak steamer chairs with cushions in excellent condition, a somewhat faded market umbrella with a heavy metal stand, and parts for three multi-tiered wire storage baskets on wheels.

The only space to temporarily stage these items was a 4’ x 4’ space at the front of the garage near the cupboard where I store my gardening tools. With little clearance between the pile and the cupboard, it was not easy to get things out or put them away. (I forgot to photograph the pile.)

Somehow I had gotten it into my head that I wanted these items to go to the nonprofit Habit for Humanity ReStore in the “big” city located about 35 miles from our small town. It was my understanding that a ReStore takes in donated home improvement items and then resells them to the public but I had no idea whether they would accept our items or not.

I said I would find out. I even put it on my “to do” list.

Months later the stuff was still sitting in the garage annoying me every time I wanted to get out a shovel, hoe, or loppers. I kept saying to myself and sometimes to my spouse, “I need to call the ReStore to find out if they will take this stuff.” But, I did not do it.

More time passed until not long ago on a warm day in April, I wrestled my shovel out of the gardening cupboard so I could go dig up some invasive thistles. When I turned around, I looked at the donation pile and sighed for the umpteenth time.

Then it struck me. Someone could be relaxing in one of the steamer chairs right now sipping a cold glass of iced tea under the umbrella—if we had actually donated them.

That was not motivation enough for me to pick up the phone and call the ReStore, however, I did make a note on my calendar for the next Thursday when we would be going into the city to run errands and participate in an SLO Climate Coalition meeting. I thought we could easily swing by the ReStore to ask them if they would take our items.

Habitat Restore in San Luis Obispo, CA

We did stop by the San Luis Obispo South ReStore on the way to the meeting. The friendly gal manning the checkout counter said they would take our things and asked if we could drop them off.

The next Thursday we were scheduled to attend a monthly meeting of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the California Native Plant Society, so I wrote ReStore on my calendar. The afternoon of the meeting we wiped the dust and cobwebs off the items, loaded everything in the back of our 1999 Chevy Tahoe, and headed for the ReStore.

The guy running the store that day was not too happy that we arrived after the volunteers had gone home, but he did seem pleased with our donation items. When he saw the steamer chairs he said, “We can sell these in a heartbeat.”

He asked if we had photos of what the baskets looked like put together. Thanks to my spouse we did. I said I would email the photos the next day (I did).

As we were driving away, I felt relieved and happy. We had cleared out space in our garage but more importantly, it seemed likely that our chairs would soon find a new home with people who would appreciate and use them.

That accomplishment reinvigorated me. Now, I am ready to tackle more divestment tasks.

Overcoming Procrastination

Red Reset Button

Committing to one small action and not trying to tackle the whole project at once made it possible for me to clear up my inaction logjam.

Stopping by the ReStore on the way to somewhere else was easy and it did not necessarily mean I had to do anything further. Fortunately, that step encouraged me to take the next one.

If your minimalism divestment process is stalled, perhaps one or more of the ideas below will help you get moving again.

  • Accept that you have procrastinated.
  • Give yourself a break and do not beat yourself up for not taking action sooner.
  • Imagine your items being used and enjoyed by someone else.
  • Break down the project into smaller parts.
  • Pick an easy thing to do first.

Okay, now it is your turn.

Decide on one small and easy action you can take that would put a dent in your divestment roadblock even just a tiny bit. Then do it. Repeat this process as necessary until your minimalist journey is back on track.

Featured Image at Top: Coffee cup, pen, and a piece of paper with the words “The best way to get something done is to begin” on a wood table top – photo credit iStock/marekuliasz.

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