I actually started writing this post when I was talking about my Counter Consumerism Challenge, but quickly realized that it was too long for one single post when I hit 8 pages. Be prepared-I get a little wordy below.
Some interesting facts to keep in mind as you read….
- The storage industry is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States
- Most American families have an average of 300,000 items in their home. (and that number is growing)- LA Times
- The average American woman owns 30 outfits – Forbes
Minimalism has been an interest of mine for a few years, starting when we moved to Korea and the 2 of us lived out of 3 suitcases for over a year. Never once in that time did we feel that our lives were lacking, although I do remember wanting some new clothing items occasionally (shopping in Korea was difficult for a whole host of reasons, which I won’t get into now,) but I only bought two items while I was there: 1 pair of jean shorts that I still have, and one yellow dress that I bought at a street sale in Incheon, that has since been stained and discarded.
I remember that Sam and I would discuss how (surprisingly) happy we were with so little-I didn’t have the best in kitchen supplies, we didn’t have an oven or even a microwave, and only had 1 burner, but I taught myself how to cook and started a food blog. We didn’t have a dryer and only owned 2 hand towels and 1 bath towel, but were always comfortable. I wasn’t able to go shopping for anything but food, yet we spent weeks traveling the country and created much more lasting memories. By the end of the year, some of our clothing was pretty shabby, but not once did anyone ever point it out to us or mention our repeat outfits (maybe they were being polite or didn’t speak enough English, who knows).
But coming back to the States changed that minimalist mindset more quickly that I could have predicted. While I remember combing through our stored items and getting rid of most of it when we moved back to MN, somehow 3 years later I’m shocked by how much we’ve accumulated in such a relatively short amount of time. The more I dove into personal finance over the past year, the more time I’ve spent thinking about wants vs. needs and what I believe is my calling to be a good steward of my time and resources, including money. And those reflections have led to some painful realizations about my spending habits (see the Counter Consumerism Challenge post).
So I’ve been refocusing and re-exploring minimalism, a concept I mistakenly thought I had mastered. Instead, I’m learning it’s a lifestyle muscle I’ll have to keep flexing.
So this is the story of what I’m dramatically calling The Purge, Round 1. It’s taken a few months, and I have a long way to go, but below is an in-depth look at what I’ve purged. Feel free to skim-It’s long! My hope is that writing about this keeps me honest in the coming months, and provides a benchmark for where I started. And as always, send any thoughts you have my way!
“Life is short, too short for superfluous stuff” – Less, the Lifestyle | David Friedlander | TEDxDumbo
The Purge, Round 1
To be honest, I didn’t have any real benchmarks when I started the initial purge. I knew if I set rules, I would only end up breaking them, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. Instead, I gaged items mostly by William Morris’ oft-quoted maxim:
And so it began. Most items fit into one of these 3 categories, as these are areas of interest for me and I tend to over-buy or over-hoard:
- Clothing: I had already been paring down my wardrobe-donating the clothes that I don’t wear, or don’t fit me, or bought just because they were ‘cheap’ and as a result, are just plain cheap and haven’t withstood time well. I got rid of clothes I’ve had since highschool or college and just don’t fit my personality anymore (super short skirts and ridiculously painful heels, anyone?)
- Closets: As minimalist as I consider myself, I found no less than 8 bottles of hand soap, a shameful amount of contact solution (half of which was expired), more toothpaste than we could use in a year, and make-up that, again, I’ve probably had since college and doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore. (I’m not sure the mega glitter eyeshadow EVER fit my lifestyle!) Fingernail polish, 5+ nail files, a fair amount of small cosmetic samples or hotel conditioners…I could go on. This was in our hallway closet alone. Most of it ended up in the trash, along with any chemical cleaning products since I stopped using chemicals several months ago. If it wasn’t chemical-free or I hadn’t used it in the past 2 months, it was out. I also donated 2 curling irons, because I had 3. (Again, WHY?)
- Random furniture items: I love a good craigslist deal, and I’m a bit of a hoarder by nature when it comes to free furniture from family or friends. In my office was a small roll-top desk that I absolutely adored, but I realized I never used because it was too small to set a computer/laptop on, and instead, it was just housing junk. I cleaned it out, went through all our important paperwork, and sold in on Craigslist for $75. Small wins. I haven’t missed it, because as cute as it was, it was never anything but cute junk storage. See below for other furniture I was able to sell or donate.
- An interesting article in the NY Times about the storage in America: The Self-Storage Self
- Gotta love a good Bloomberg article, and this one highlights the same problems happening in the U.K. and other parts of Europe: The Self Storage Business is Booming, Here’s Why
A Detailed List of Things I Discarded/Donated/Trashed/Sold:
–2 cars (For 2 people, we had 4 cars “just in case”<-crazy!) We now share a car and keep one as an emergency vehicle, which we’ve had to cash in on 3x in the last 3 months.
-⅔ of my clothing (accurate number)
-4 pairs of shoes
-Home decor items that I didn’t like but was saving for when our basement reno is done (crazy)
-All but 12 movies-keeping only those that we really, really love and usually aren’t on Netflix. Titles kept included (don’t judge): When Harry met Sally, Sabrina (Hepburn gold), Taladega Nights, Steel Magnolias, and the Rocky series, among others.
-79% of my records (<–accurate number)
-Board games we hate and therefore never play
-Extra blankets that aren’t used
-Our entertainment center which I got for free off of Craigslist and refurbished, but no longer ‘fit’ our living room and was, again, just fancy storage.
-All cosmetic items except:
- my bareMinerals foundation,
- 1 eyeliner, and
- 1 tube of lipstick which I will probably never wear regularly but want to save for a few weddings, etc. coming up.
- I also kept 3 bottles of fingernail polish: black, gold, and red. I don’t really wear it, but decided it’s ok to have some on hand-the rest was thrown.
-Most of our soap items/cleaning supplies/hair products. I kept bleach but all Windex, cleaning wipes, toilet bowl cleaner, and dusting items (because who uses those fluffy brushes?) were thrown out. Instead, I started making my own cleaning products or using Norwex to clean our house. I also got rid of any hair products that weren’t natural, as I’ve switched to clay based shampoos and stopped using hairspray years ago. These items were taken to a hazardous waste collection site and I definitely haven’t missed them since I wasn’t using them anyway!
-Lots of gifted items that I’ve always hated and felt too guilty to give away. (This felt so good!)
-My “Gifting” shelf: I also cleaned out my ‘gift-giving’ items that I were given to me but I thought could use as gifts in the future. A few nicer items that I have double of or wouldn’t use I actually gave as gifts for 2018 Christmas.
-Excess bedding that doesn’t fit our mattress- We had two sets of twin bed sheets. We have no twin beds. Not sure how that happened.
-Any excess kitchen/cooking items: We had so many wonderful gifts given to us at our wedding, and most of them we registered for. Looking back, we were young and didn’t know what we needed yet, so I can understand how this happened, but I will never use all 8 of the crockpots we were given. Nor do I need 3 roasting pans. And I’ve never used my 9×13 pan. Everything extraneous, donated.
If there are any other newlyweds out there, know that Bed Bath and Beyond can find your registry from 5 years ago (in our case) and give you store credit for any items with tags/in boxes. I got almost $100 from 2 crockpots and another $200 from miscellaneous other items.
-Any excess food that we will never eat or was past expiration. I’m pretty good about rotating our food, but we had a giant tub of chocolate whey protein powder in the back of our pantry that was expired, plus I avoid soy and Sam doesn’t like chocolate. WHERE did that come from?
This also motivated me to cook some interesting dishes to use up the random amounts of pasta, barley, canned tomatoes, etc. that had been hiding in the back. I really tried to use anything I could because I don’t want to waste food.
-All our plastic tupperware, which I switched out for glass containers/Pyrex (better for us and environment, and no more searching for covers!)
-Any excess dishes, like some plastic plates I had from college, and some sheet pans/pots that I had too many sizes of or were too old/bent/scratched to be used. We had two teflon pans, and those were donated since I stopped using teflon years ago.
-Any excess papers, with the exception of tax/sensitive documents, cards/letters Sam has written me over the years, and 2 cards we received on our wedding that I will never get rid of.
-All my college textbooks. This was painful at the time, but I can honestly say I’ve never used them OR missed them since. I told myself they are available on Amazon or the library if I ever need them again.
-All my books (again, not Sam’s) except those that have made a profound difference in my life and/or I reread often enough. Example of titles that stayed: A Clockwork Orange, Nine Parts of Desire, Fahrenheit 451, A Man Named Thursday, the Screwtape Letters, Dreams of Trespass, and a few more. These are books I pull down frequently to reread my favorite passages, so I deemed them worth keeping. I also moved them to the living room so they are functionally beautiful and close by.
-Something like 5 pillows went to GoodWill.
-Any excess furniture pieces I was keeping to “maybe” use in the basement, but didn’t really like, including:
- a love seat from a family member that was scratched on the side
- two ottomans
- leather chair
- a couch I got for free on Craigslist and HATED
- an extra dresser
- a beautiful dining room table that was just hanging out in storage
- a few dining room chairs
- our living room armoire (again, fancy storage!)
There was probably more, but that’s the bulk of what I remember. I kept receipts from my Goodwill donations, so we’re going to have a pretty awesome tax write-off for 2017 I’m hoping.
I can honestly say I feel 200% better after having let go of so many items-sadly, although I gave/sold/donated so much, our house doesn’t really feel much emptier/cleaner. That wasn’t a goal of mine per se, but it’s interesting that I had accumulated so much that giving half of it away didn’t make much of a dent. Collection space is definitely a downside to home owning.
How about you? Any interest in de-cluttering your home?