Of all the steps we made in our attempt to live a simple & intentional life (pay-off debt, remodel a vintage airstream, live on a bare-bones budget & build online income) purging the unneeded stuff from our lives was by far the most challenging — both physically & emotionally.
We were not hoarders by any means but 7yrs of marriage and a, “more is more” mindset had filled a 3 bedroom house, garage and shed with WAY more than we needed. This stuff was keeping us from living the life we wanted. A life that valued relationships and experiences over income & consumption. As we evaluated our lifestyle I guess you could say we adopted a minimalist mindset.
Our journey towards minimalism was about doing more with less. Taking away the distractions & superfluous for peace & clarity. This looks completely different for everyone. The key is to be thoughtful & intentional with the things that are in your life.
Here is how we downsized our possessions by 95%!
1. BEGIN with the END in MIND
You need to be very clear what your time-frame is and the amount of stuff you want to eliminate. For us we had very specific deadlines for our garage sale and when we needed to be completely out of our house. The size of the Airstream and the amount of space we had was constant feedback the amount of space we had. This helped us layout a clear timeline and an objective decision making tool on what to keep & what to purge.
2. PRINCIPLES: KEEP OR PURGE
Next we developed principles that would help us decide what was important and what wasn’t. Besides the obvious, “will-it-fit-in-the-Airstream” we also used this principle for deciding what things to keep in our life: Do I love it, do I use it & would I buy it again today? Do I really like these pants? Do I wear them regularly? Would I buy these exact pants again today? If you answer no to any of these questions (especially the last) it’s probably time to say goodbye!
3. CLEAN SWEEP
We began our process by doing a clean sweep of the entire house. Purging has a way of wrecking you space and we wanted to start with a clean house. This way while we worked on small areas we could contain that area while still enjoying other parts of our clean house.
4. THE OUTBOX
An, “Out Box” is a great tool for those items that are hard to make a quick decision. If you are not sure whether you should keep it or give it away you can simply put it in the Out Box and decide later. The more emotional energy you have to spend on deciding the less you’re going to be able to get done. The outbox can be revisited when you are fresh and you can process hard decisions. Here is more information on the outbox method from Apartment Therapy.
5. MOVE FAST + SHORT TIME BLOCKS
It’s best to move very fast when sorting your stuff. The longer and more thought you put into specific items the less emotional energy you will have. If you get hung up on one item put it in the outbox and deal with it later.
I am a huge fan of the Pomodoro Method for productivity. You basically set up short blocks of time (generally 20-30min) with 5-10min breaks between. During these sessions you get as much done as possible then after several sessions you take a longer break. This method worked great for us! It took a very large task and broke it down into little manageable chunks.
6. KEEP, SELL, GIVEAWAY or RECYCLE
When working on a specific space we made several piles: keep, sell, giveaway, recycle & outbox. During your short sessions you go through your things placing them in one of the above categories. Here are some notes on each of these categories:
Things you love,use and would gladly purchase again.
The possessions you have are assets. While it took a lot of time and energy to sell our stuff we needed to leverage these possessions to beef up our Emergency fund. Depending on the item we had we used different marketplaces to list and sell our stuff. (Another option is to barter stuff you have for stuff you need.)
Smaller ship-able items that appeal to a certain audience. Like: Tivoli radio, photography stuff, watch, old iPhone 3GS.
Large items that were worth $50 or more like: couch, washer, dryer, desks, dinning table & chairs, crib and bed.
Misc items that have value but didn’t have time to list individually like: baskets, smaller furniture, lawn tools,
We held out any of our books that were selling for $4+. Other books we have to friends, sold at our garage sale or donated.
There were many of our things that we knew our friends would use like some of Shae’s crafting stuff. If you have stuff you’re going to donate why not offer it to some friends?
After our garage sale we had roughly a pickup truck load of random stuff. Many thrift stores will pick up donated items. This is what we did with our garage sale leftovers. You can also post your freebies on Craigslist.
Whatever is leftover from your sale and donations recycle! Far to many people haul their junk to the dump. Please be responsible with your stuff! 99% of the stuff you no longer need can re-purposed, recycled or salvaged.
That’s the process we used. It’s a simple concept and it can be very difficult to execute.
You are bound to run into emotional attachments to things that do not improve or support the life you want. When we reached these difficult decisions we asked ourselves this question: How will this make my life better?
If we could not come up with a valid reason that supported the life we wanted we let it go. We also continued to remind ourselves that possessions do not equal relationships & memories.
Videos of our Project Eliminate Process
Clean Sweep (Before Video)
Emotional Attachments Video
Garage Sale Video
Do you have an experience with s-t-u-f-f you would like to share? We would love to hear your thoughts and comments below!
[bubble]-NICK & SHAE[/bubble]
My Sisters Project Eliminate Journey
The Home Cure: 20 Days / 20 minutes per day
The Minimalists Take on Minimalism
The Benefits of Minimalism By Joshua Becker
World Traveler Explains Minimalism
Ha ha, videoing our home is a great way to get motivated to clean it up! Also inviting people over… it’s amazing the cleaning we get done in a mad dash before people come over 🙂
Nick- great to meet you today, and congrats on your moving forward on your journey! I will follow up re: documentary- Ron
I am going to do this, at the moment my hubby and I work together, travel for work, when we started about 23 yrs ago we stayed in motels, ugh drag our stuff in at midnight drag it back out at 8 ,such a drag, we came across what is called a slide in camper, fits in the bed of pickup, I pull a 18ft flat trailer, we have been with the camper going on 8 yrs, we do have a home, try to get there every other week, it is slam full of what I now know is useless crap, lol, the camper has a queen bed,table/Booth, stove,double sink,med size refrigerator and full bath, but we usually do the truck stop showers, cheap and a chance to be apart for 30 min, lol I love him BUT, so my problem is getting rid of all the stuff in the house and selling it, you had some good ideas I’m gonna try, I’ll keep my eye on ya, good luck to ya, and safe travels
Take your time and be consistent…sorting your stuff is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting!
Let us know how it goes and if you need some encouragement.
Oh man! You have no idea how badly I needed to see this right now. haha! We did things backwards and moved into our Airstream FIRST. NOW is the daunting task of returning to the house and eliminating. I’m seriously scared out of my mind….
Thanks Jess! You can do it — one little space at a time!
Thanks for sharing your story. Super helpful tips.
You’re welcome! Thanks for the note Theresa!