Minimalism, the year in review
Well, I started 2017 with an aggressive goal: get rid of 2017 items in one year. Was I nuts? Did I fail? Was I a success?
I will have to say the results were mixed. I managed to get rid of 1017 of the 2017 item target, so by the numbers, I failed. However, I learned a lot and that cannot always be quantified by a single score.
In case you were wondering, here were the rules I set for myself at the beginning of last year.
What didn’t work
Well, to start with, 365 days to get rid of 2017 items is 5.526 items per day. No holidays or weekends. At the start of the year, I had a fair amount of low hanging fruit to purge and so I made some good progress, even getting ahead of schedule for quite some time. However, as the easy items disappeared, I had to spend more and more time going through things to evaluate them. Which meant that the early days of removing 30 items in 20 minutes turned into spending 30 minutes to get rid of 1 item. (Based on my rules, a folder with 150 sheets of paper to scan was 1 item.)
I also may have overestimated the amount of clutter I have. My original goal was never to get down to 100 items, or what I feel is extreme minimalism. My goal was to simplify and reduce the noise in my life. As a result, I am not sure I had 2017 items to purge. Do I still have clutter and noise? Yes, some, but I will say I have a lot less than when I started.
What did work
I got rid of 1017 items in 2017 (yeah, once I hit a certain point in the year, I aimed for that specific number). It was no small feat, especially when I have a lot of other things going on that consume a significant amount of time. Therefore, I am proud of where I ended up and don’t consider the number to be a failure. The original number was something of a stretch goal anyway and my result is an average of 2.786 items per day, no weekends or holidays.
Another thing that worked for me is that the very act of going through things allowed me to find some items that actually had some meaning, but were buried in boxes in the back of the closet. Those items I pulled out and have actually put on shelves so I can see them (after I got rid of things I didn’t need that were clogging up the shelves).
An additional result of this exercise is that I can take a more clinical look at things and decide if they really are items I need and want or if they won’t really bring me any long-term pleasure. Am I perfect in that? Heck no, I still have some things I wasn’t ready to give up, even though I doubt I will do much with them in the long run. But in the future, I may finally decide to get rid of them and that is a start.
Valuing time over money became another lesson. I had held on to certain things because they had monetary value and I wanted to sell them for a profit. As I moved into the period where it was taking me more time to review the items to get rid of, I started to realize just how much time was involved with trying to extract value. Sure, I might make a few dollars on this or that, but if I spend hours doing so, I won’t be making a real profit. Therefore, unless there was a significant delta in the value to time, I simply got rid of the item (donated it or sold it for pennies on the dollar at the one yardsale we did do this year). This lesson may be one of the most important of the year: Your time is worth more than a few bucks.
Finally, with what I gained by taking a good hard look at my stuff is that I now have a framework for getting rid of more things over time. Something I buy or keep today, perhaps tomorrow I won’t need or want. With this mental adjustment I made, I won’t have the baggage that forces me to hold on to it indefinitely.
I intend to continue to purge. I might even set up some additional target goals for 2018 (though not as aggressive). I expect that my sentimentality will continue to diminish over time and I will end up with less and less as the years go by. My inner editor continues to comment on my choices of what to keep, even now as I write this article.
Another area I will focus on in 2018 is my digital clutter. When I first had computers with hard drives (and I even had several before hard drives existed in the consumer market) the drives were very small and I pruned out the junk regularly. Now my systems have multiple terabytes of storage and I do a very bad job of cleaning things up. So, bookmarks, files, software, and other things stuck on those drives will become a focus as well.
The best part, I actually look forward to getting rid of things.
Happy New Year to everyone and good luck with all of the goals you set for yourselves!