I Tried Minimalism for 30 Days7 min read
Why do I own so much junk? My closets are stuffed. My drawers don’t close properly. There are some items in my fridge I haven’t touched in years; jeez, that smells. Clearly, I have too much stuff. But are there negative consequences beyond just the physical items? Is my cluttered living space leaking into my life, into my mind?
I have a closet of 100s of clothing items that I never use. I won’t go into it because it’s so cluttered. Every time I pull something out, nine things fall on my head. It’s so difficult to find items there that I’ve begun keeping my clothes in a separate part of my house, next to my bed.
Things have gone too far, I need a change.
I remember seeing Matt D’avella in his house with no table or chairs, Fumio Sasaki using one soap for everything, and Steve Jobs wearing the same outfit every day. There is something extraordinary about eliminating the decision of what to wear. I admire how many people in Japan simply have no furniture. Minimalism could be a way to clean up not only my immediate physical surroundings but also my mind. I want to be more organized and purposeful.
I decided to try Minimalism for 30 days.
I planned on attacking Minimalism in stages, all based around Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and Fumio Sasaki’s “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism”:
- Days 1-5: Clean and Remove as much as possible from my life.
- Days 6-10: Organize what is left, emphasize what gives me joy
- Days 11-30: Eliminate choices and embrace minimalism:
- Wear the same clothing
- Eat the same food
- Strictly wake up and go to bed at the same exact time
- Make the first hour after I wake up and hour before I go to bed identical
This plan, quickly, got thrown out (like many of my things).
The Great Throwing Out
I had some serious work to do. I had to eliminate everything that didn’t “spark joy.” Or, using Fumio’s question, “If you lost it, would you repurchase it?”
Opening my clothing closet, I was quickly reminded I had too much stuff.
There are limits to the capacity of your brain, your energy, and your time.Fumio Sasaki
It took me a day, an entire day, to clean out my clothes.
Then I cleaned out my kitchen.
Then I cleaned out my living room.
My amazingly messy YouTube gear room.
Finally, my bathroom and bedroom.
I ended up with about 13 large bags of trash and five bags of things to be donated.
I was amazed at how much space I had created.
I realized, however, after this cleanup, my digital space was still distracting. I needed to delete Instagram, YouTube, Mail (on my phone), and Twitter. The brain is a sneaky thing, however, a day later, I was just obsessively checking reddit and google news, so I had to delete those.
A New Life
Now I had to find a place for everything, my three sweaters. My five t-shirts. My four plates. My books.
It was easy because I had so much space; I wondered where all my previous junk had come from.
I found great joy in organizing and admiring the fantastic things I did have.
The question of what you own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.Marie Kondo
Amazingly, now, because I had less stuff. I had much less cleaning to do. Much less organizing. Much less hunting for things. I knew the place where the item was, and the thing I was getting gave me joy. So, now, I found everything I hunted for and could not only find quickly, but I felt happy when I had it: my tea cups, blanket, and boots.
I finished what I thought would take me 10 days in 5 5. So on Day 6 I decided to venture into the world of minimizing the rest of my life. This was harder. Wearing the same clothes, eating the same food, meditating longer, deleting apps from my phone, waking up and going to bed at the exact same time with the same morning and nighttime routine.
However, as the days went on, especially around day 14, when I began eating and dressing the same way every day, the days felt boring. The emptiness was scary to me. I went through the mental gymnastics of saying that I had thrown away all this stuff, so now I need to buy new expensive singular items. But did I? Weren’t these items good enough?
Shouldn’t I be varying my diet?
I wanted to buy new stuff!
The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.Socrates
I pushed myself to find the joy in every single item I already had. I didn’t need anything else.
Around day 20, something magical happened, and I stopped thinking about those things. I stopped thinking about my clothes, food, bedtime, and alarms; they just became things like brushing my teeth or going to the bathroom. I didn’t label them as good or bad; they just were. And it freed up my mental space to do things that mattered.
I had no activation when studying or working on a YouTube video. I came up with fantastic and exciting new ideas in the empty spaces of eating while not watching TV or showering with no music on.
I realized the most valuable thing I have isn’t my various possessions but my time.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. (interpretation from Aristotle)Will Durant
Overall, minimalism is fantastic. Extreme minimalism, however, is silly. You’ve gone too far when you start to obsess over the exact number of items you have or a stain on the only pair of shoes you have.
Like everything, throughout this experiment, I began to find a happy medium; joy in the simple things. The character of my jeans, the difference in the flavor of blueberries per batch, and the different noises in different parts of my apartment. Even better, this clarity, this newfound gratitude, bled into my thoughts as well. Sometimes I would feel sad or happy, but I realized these feelings were transient, fleeting. Sadness isn’t bad; happiness isn’t good; they just are feelings I am having. They aren’t me; they just happen to occupy the space now.
Finally, I want to reiterate that even now, I don’t miss anything I threw away except my left arm. The one I have now is robotic, and I can’t scratch my back in this one place.