My daughter Chloe and I have taken an interest in the concept of minimalism. We’re both making a conscious effort to eliminate the excess stuff that’s surrounding us while not adding any value to our lives. We’re both big fans of The Minimalists and have been inspired by their documentary which is on Netflix (see trailer above), so much so that we’ve watched it multiple times. In our family of four, the two of us have now become the household advocates of minimalism. We’re on a mission to help our family de-clutter, simplify, and consume less stuff.
We are clearing away all but the most essential things — to make room for that which gives us the most joy. Clear away the distractions so we can create something incredible. Clear away all the obligations so we can spend time with loved ones. Clear away the noise so we can concentrate on inner peace, on spirituality (if we wish), on our thinking. As a result, there is more happiness, peace, and joy, because we’ve made room for these things.” — Leo Babauta
Starting with the Garage
For many weeks now I’ve been engaged in an effort to clean out the whole garage. It’s been an off-and-on project that I’ve tried to dedicate free time to whenever possible. While I’ve been working on both the downstairs and the upstairs office space, I’ve been trying to put more of a focus on the upstairs lately. As I explained in a previous post, my plan is to turn the upstairs office space in our garage into my own personal sanctuary, a place where I can think, plan, and create.
At the moment I’m deep in the process of eliminating as much excess stuff as I possibly can (Chloe is already way ahead of me). While this is something our whole family needs to do as part of this project, I’m dealing primarily with my stuff. The easiest part of this process in the early stages is throwing away the obvious junk. Once this is done, eliminating the stuff that’s not junk takes a bit more time as it’s easy to get stuck trying to decide whether to keep something, give it away, or donate it.
3 Habits to Break
As I make my way through this process it’s easy to see that I’ve held on to far too much stuff for far too long. These are just three obvious habits that I need to break in order to prevent myself from getting buried by the same stuff in the future.
1. Stop Buying So Many Books
At this point, I’ve eliminated more than a hundred books that have been sitting on shelves in our garage. The large majority of these were self-help books. While I’ve learned a lot from these books over the years, I’ve had a nasty habit of buying too many of them and then holding on to them in the hope that they’ll be there when I think I might need them. If I’m re-reading one of these books for the third time, or worse yet, buying another one, it’s likely just become a form procrastination. I could probably write a whole post on this topic alone. There are a few special ones that I’ve chosen to keep but I’ve gone ahead and donated the rest.
2. Stop Hanging On to So Much Paper
There are stacks and stacks of paper sitting on the floor in the garage. These are years and years of old bank statements, utility bills, and all kinds of other documents that seemed necessary to hold on to at one time. I had the intention of neatly filing all of these documents away in some sort of all encompassing filing system. Obviously, this never happened. Now, as I tediously wade through all of this paperwork I’m realizing that I shouldn’t have been holding on to most of it in the first place. I was just endlessly putting off the decision as to whether to keep a document or trash it by burying it in the garage. Now I’m shredding or trashing over three-quarters of this stuff and only saving what I really do need to save. To prevent these stacks from building up again, I’m making a concerted effort to eliminate the need for most paper documents in the first place by going paperless wherever I can.
3. Stop Keeping So Much Old Technology
I’m amazed at all the old technology that’s landed in our garage over the years. I have containers filled with old phones, computers, cameras, cables, chargers, etc. I can’t believe how much this old gear has built up over time. I’ve always made the assumption that it’s better to save this stuff instead of getting rid of it. Now, as I stare at the boxes filled with this stuff, I’ve realized that I’ve very rarely had to dig through any of it to recover anything. Time to let it all go.
I’m Already Feeling Less Overwhelmed
It’s the early stages in this journey towards minimalist living. I’m about halfway through the elimination stage of this garage clean-up effort. However, I’m already feeling the benefits that the act of decluttering brings. As I free up more physical space in my home, I feel like I’m doing the same in my head. As you can see from the picture above, I’ve already made significant progress with the upstairs office space. This has allowed me to move the desk in front of the window and enjoy the view of our yard. When I’m sitting at this desk in the morning I get to enjoy the view of the sun as it rises up through the trees. I already find myself looking forward to going up in the garage every chance I get.
If you have an interest in learning more about minimalist living and how it might help you create a better quality of life, I encourage you to start exploring these three resources: