Courtney Carver brings her own simplicity views in a calm and loving way. Actually, the book is all about love. There were chapters that brought tears to my eyes because she writes in such an intimate and sensible way. It is a wake-up call for all of us to be here, in the present moment. She teaches us how to listen to our hearts and define what matters to us.
It was an enjoyable read and by reading it I fell in love with calm mornings, cozy afternoons and quiet evenings. I read it during the holidays so I was in sync with the spirit of the book. The reading calmed my mind and helped me eliminate the anxiousness that usually comes with a new year.
One of my favorites quotes was this one:
“ With all of the focus on minimalism, simplicity, decluttering, and capsule wardrobes, it’s easy to believe that a simple life is the dream, but a simple life is not the end goal. We don’t remove the clutter, reduce the stress, and boycott busyness to have a simple life. We do it to have a life.” — Courtney Carver
Forget about rushed new years’ resolutions or to-do lists. The book invites us to reflect on our priorities and listen to our hearts. And search what feels good. I liked that Courtney focus is on intuition and finding answers within ourselves. We usually want to use our rationale and external pressure to define our lives. She invites us to be calm and listen. I highly recommend it if you want a different approach to simplifying and slowing down.
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I will be moving abroad next month (in 23 days to be exact) and I’ve been evaluating my possessions and minimizing since 2015. By then, I just wanted to live more intentionally and get rid of excess stuff. I wanted to travel light, with only a carry-on. I wanted to have a capsule wardrobe so that I needn’t waste time deciding what to wear in the morning.
These are all normal things everybody desires when they discover intentional living or minimalism.
I’ve read more than a dozen books about this topic since 2015.
I’ve read countless blog posts and articles about living with less, wasting less and choosing to own only the essential.
I started meditating in the mornings.
I started practicing yoga.
I’ve sold almost all my physical books, I’ve sold all my CD’s, I donated clothes, shoes, towels, magazines, pens, notebooks.
I’ve scanned all the print photos I still had with me and recycled them. It was a huge pile!
I did the Minimalism Game for two consecutive months and got rid of 902 items in 59 days (February and March, 2017).
And I wondered if that was enough. Deep inside I felt that I wasn’t touching the surface of being really intentional. I felt all the benefits though. I am a much happier person. I have less anxiety, less stress. I remember to breath deeply in the middle of the day. I can focus.
Now, due to our future big move overseas, I started to sell and donate things that I thought were essential to me. As I am getting rid of furniture, electronics and even domestic appliances I am realizing that these things are not so essential after all.
This month I am selling big things. An office cabinet. A drawer cabinet. A sofa-bed that was “just in case we had visitors”. A kitchen mixer. A blender. A high quality office chair. All these items were in my daily routine (except the sofa-bed, which was really a “Just In Case”). They were essential to me! But after not having them at my disposal, I noticed I can live without them. It’s not that bad!
I am feeling powerful, in a good sense. I can be as light as I desire. Each day I am filled with a sense of achievement and freedom. It’s funny, though, it’s one of those things we can’t really explain, just feel it.
So, if you want to truly experience essentialism, try getting rid of something that you use routinely. Or, get rid of some container item. Containers often hide unused paraphernalia. You will realize that most of the stuff in that cabinet wasn’t important at all. Eliminating the container made me rethink all that was inside it, because now I had to decide if I really wanted to keep it. And if yes, where would be its home?
I realized that even after years minimizing I had too many full containers. And I don’t need them to live a happy life.
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The sweet thing about the game is that it gives us momentum. It breaks the inertial state. And it provides a sense of progression. You start slow, with one item, and you comfortably go adding one more item to the previous amount until you reach day 15. Then things start to get more challenging. But you’ve prepared for it, you’ve been training and so you put your fears aside and continue on the quest for more items to let go.
When I finished the first month, which were 28 days, I looked at my stuff and saw that there were more items to purge. I was not done with my plan. It was natural for me to go for a second round.
The second month of purging: March, 2017
My plan was to declutter the following categories of stuff:
CD’s — data/backups;
Old Printed Photos (needed scanning);
Old Medical Exams.
Some of these things have been on my to-do list for years. I could never take the first step to start dealing with my old printed photos and backup CD’s. It was a task that was time consuming and needed some preparation, such as: sorting thorough the stuff, verifying what I still wanted to keep, digitizing or making a digital copy and throwing away the rest.
It turns out I digitized the selected photos (using PhotoScan), I copied to the cloud the selected data from my back-up CD’s and recycled everything. I didn’t feel the need to keep any of the printed photos. I simply let go. And it felt good.
During the last few days of the game I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I made a huge effort to keep going, since the digitizing task was laborious and time consuming. But I kept the focus and the goal in mind. I discovered it was easy to go on and learned that we should never underestimate the amount of paper we accumulate!
And that’s it! I finished this second month with 496 items less in my life! And if I sum up with the February challenge, it was 902 items in 59 days.
It’s amazing how this exercise builds a “letting go” muscle inside of us. I caught myself leaving the “just in case” mentality to embrace what brings value to my life. The challenge helped me go through old memories that I thought were attached to the material possessions I kept, when in reality, the memories were inside myself.
This month (February, 2017) I decided to start the Minimalism Game. It’s an idea by The Minimalists (awesome blog!), you can read more about it here. This is the last post about it, from Day 19 to Day 28. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2.
So, my February Minimalism Game is now complete! That means I had a daily task of looking at my possessions and deciding which ones no longer were adding value to my life…
…That means I trashed, donated or recycled 406 items!
The habit of critically analyzing my stuff got easier day by day. I started to wonder why I held on to each particular object and weighted its importance and usefulness to me. The weird thing is that I remember each one of the 406 items. I have memories about them. I know where they came from. Some of them traveled 1,105 kilometers with me when I left my hometown and moved to Brasilia in 2007. But, oh, well, they are just stuff! They have served me once but now they are just stuff.
Most of the items were paperwork. I have spent some hours of February digitizing stuff too because there were some documents I wanted to keep a digital copy. I finally dealt with a memory box I carried with me since college that contained old postcards and letters (Day 21). I kept the digital images of the important letters to me, the hard copies were recycled. And the box is gone too because it wasn’t useful to me anymore.
Here’s the daily log of my last days:
Day 19: Mostly paperwork, small address book, notepad, speaker manual, a folding cloths board, an old PC game that was lurking around.
Day 20: 16 CD’s and wristwatch stuff: metal container, bill of sale, manuals.
Day 21: Mementos day! So, I had this wooden box that I kept the letters and postcards my husband sent me when were were dating. I took a photo of them and decided to let go. I would never actually open the box. It was something that brought me good memories, but I realized don’t need to own the physical letters to remember these moments! They are inside me already!
Day 22: Why so much paper? I cleaned up old paid bills, old pay stubs from my first job (why was I keeping those? 15 years ago! Gosh…) and just paperwork…Are you also surprised/overwhelmed by the amount of paper you keep?
Day 23: Some more paper, a safety helmet that I will donate, 2 paper clips, 3 boxes of leads, a mechanical pencil, 4 technical books, a notebook sleeve, a pen, a binder and some other random stuff.
Day 24: Toiletries! Forgotten mini soaps, toothbrushes, combs and shampoos and samples of creams.
Day 25: Mementos from a trip I made to Sweden in 2007 (postcards and tourism booklets), notebooks, expired medicines and other small stuff.
Day 26: Lots of paperwork, mostly notes from a course, 3 maps, empty CD box, CD sleeves and an old back-up CD I no longer need.
Day 27: I went through my medical exams folder today. I digitized the important ones. Result: a huge pile of paperwork that can go to trash. And also plastic sheet protectors.
Day 28: Last day !! 12 books, paper and office supplies.
Conclusion and plans
It was a great experience and I want to continue! There were areas in my office that I had planned to unclutter and organize years ago. With this game I finally got the momentum I needed to face the task!
It was challenging, tho! After day 20 I had to spend more time checking my stuff and judging their value. Since there were lots of paper, I had to evaluate each sheet individually to check if they were some irreplaceable important document I had to keep.
There are still unexplored areas that I want to dig in further , so I will start again next month! Some of the areas I want to check out are:
CD’s (old backups of my personal files since 2002);
This month (February, 2017) I decided to start the Minimalism Game. It’s an idea by The Minimalists (awesome blog!), you can read more about it here. This is the second post about it, from Day 10 to Day 18. You can read the first part here.
The “Gamification” Effect
This is when the game starts to become challenging. After day 10 the selection of items is not so fast anymore. You see, I didn’t have a box already full of stuff previously collected to donate/trash/sell. Each day I go through my stuff and select which items will go away that day.
And since I didn’t have previously collected items, I started to plan ahead my game every week. I know which areas I can go through the next day and I even separate the next number of stuff so that I can deal with it the next morning. And this “gamification” keeps me working! It’s less likely I will find an excuse and let the decluttering for an undetermined day in the future.
When I reached Day 18, I started to think that I wouldn’t get to the end. But there is always one more pile of paper, some books here and there and CD’s. I discovered a drawer full of CD’s. I knew I had them, but I didn’t remember how many. I used to back up my data on CD’s before having external hard drives. I had old PC games I no longer play. I had CD’s with MP3’s before there were streaming services. I had old electronics! I had installation CD’s and manuals of a computer I no longer own! So many obsolete things!!
So far, I got rid of 176 items 🙂
Here’s the daily log of Days 10 to 18:
Day 10: Office supplies and my Kindle manual that was still lost and forgotten inside a folder.
Day 11: I’m still going my office stuff.
Day 12: Old tech documentation day: I still had manuals and installation CD’s of an old computer of mine (AMD Athlon 6000, 2Gb Ram, Nvidia GT 8800GT). It was a powerful machine for the time… I really can’t believe I still had all this stuff…
Day 13: Empty CD cases, paper, envelopes, a notepad…more office stuff.
Day 14: Today I gathered books! Some literature, a brand new Chronicles of Narnia (I plan on reading the e-book version), a used travel guide to Portugal, dictionaries and educational ones. I have not opened a physical dictionary in years!
Day 15: Electronics day! Old gadgets, a broken digital camera (I think I kept it because it was my first semi-professional camera and I used it a lot!), cables, an old mouse, empty boxes.
Day 16: Random — 6 appliance’s manuals, 4 hair acessories, 2 participation medals (10K runs), another old swimming google, broken sunglasses, old make-up and a bag.
Day 17: 3 old forgotten card decks, souvenirs from the year I graduated from university (unused pens and keyholders), CD’s and other miscellania.
Day 18: 10 CD’s, a pile of old paperwork, 1 envelope, 6 technical books.
Now the real challenge will begins!
From now on, I will have to get rid of 20+ items a day! Well, I have a plan: I still have CD’s and old photos. The difficult part is that I want to go through the data CD’s to see if I want to keep something. Just to be sure, because in reality, I haven’t looked at those CD’s in maybe 10 years! And the photos, I will digitize them before recycling.
This month I decided to start the Minimalism Game. It’s an idea by The Minimalists (awesome blog!), you can read more about it here. It’s very simple: you choose someone to join you, to create accountability. Then on Day One you get rid of one thing, one day two, two things, so on and so forth, until day 30, when you get rid of 30 things in one day.
The game is meant to create momentum while decluttering and eliminating the feeling of overwhelm when you want to tackle a great number of stuff. You can either donate, sell, or trash the excess stuff. By the end of the 30 days, if you keep it up, you’ll have 465 less things in your life.
In my case, since February has 28 days, I’ll have 406 items!
This will be a three part post!
Why have I started it?
I’ve been into a minimal mindset since 2013. It’s a long process, and I started to get rid of unwanted or forgotten clothes and shoes at first. I realized I was hanging on to too many items that didn’t correspond to my life style anymore. I had shoes I never wore. I had old clothes that were setting in my closet forgotten. First, I’ve decluttered my wardrobe. Then my CD’s, my books and my kitchen utensils. But I still had other areas of focus I wanted to tackle. I have office supplies, old electronics, mementos and miscellaneous stuff I want to go through. So, I thought the Minimalism Game could give me the right amount of incentive to start up this process.
The first 9 days or 45 items less cluttered
I started my challenge on February 1st, 2017. It was a Wednesday. And I started with an item that had some emotional value to me. I thought it could be a great way to start this process of letting go.
This first item showed me how much I tend to hold on to material possessions that no longer serves me. Why is that? Well, it was a wooden pencil holder my mom decorated for me many years ago. Probably more than 15 years ago. I used it for a long time, but last year I decided to replace it with a simple mug. I got rid of old pens that were cluttering my desk and so the old pencil holder got too big for my taste. So… I let it go.
During these first 9 days I’ve mostly got rid of office supplies, paperwork and miscellaneous stuff. I’m opening drawers and cabinets to find out which forgotten and unused objects are lurching inside. I found out that I have plastic holders everywhere! And paid old bills also! Bills from 2013 that surely don’t have any purpose by now. (Please, don’t judge me!). In total, I got rid of 45 items so far 🙂
Here’s the daily log of my first 9 days:
Day 1: an unused pencil holder that my mom decorated for me many years ago;
Day 2: not functioning printer cable and earbuds;
Day 3: an old facial cream, an unused plastic holder and a small cloth bag;
Day 4: paperwork I no longer need (an early draft of my master’s dissertation) and 3 old city maps!
Day 5: One empty pen, more paperwork, “Just in case” office plastic holder and 2 empty packings;
Day 6: I opened a drawer this morning and it was amazing how there were forgotten miscellaneous items in there;
Day 7: 2 piles of old paid bills, a swimming google I no longer used (I think it was leaking), 2 travel toiletry bottles, a comb and another plastic holder. I keep finding plastic holders everywhere. That’s weird!
Day 8: Miscellaneous!! I am not sure why, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find 8 items! Well, it was easy when I peeked inside some drawers and doors…
Day 9: Office supplies, 3 tweezers (who knows why!), paid bills, headphone manuals. And that warned me that I have many more electronics manuals lurking in my office…
So far, so good!
I am really enjoying it because of the momentum this game is giving me. Everyday I discover more things that I no longer use. But since we have a numeric goal per day, I do not feel anxious about having to deal with them all at once. And the accountability feature works well for me.
I’m sharing my challenge with 4 other people on the online Facebook group Minimalism.org: Online City. It’s a very supportive group of people wanting to live a meaningful life with less.