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The Minimalists Decluttering: On day one throw out, sell, donate or recycle an item. On day two, 2 items. On day three, 3 items. And so on.

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In the Marie Kondo tidying up genre, meet The Minimalists:

I am stuffing a letter between two books when I realise my possessions are in charge of me. It’s a hoarder’s attempt at tidying: hiding stuff inside other stuff. My coffee table groans under books, digital devices, coffee cups, lint rollers, newspapers and one or both of my kittens, Ollie and Sebastian.

Bottles of toiletries line the bathroom mirror collecting dust, and upstairs cubbyholes burst with clothes I no longer wear. Let’s not even talk about my inbox, crammed with unread emails. The Stuff is winning. Enter The Minimalists, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, who believe that without the abundant clutter of material possessions you’re free to prioritise the stuff that matters: family, hobbies and passion projects.

Nicodemus and Millburn launched in December 2010. In the first month, it attracted only 52 visitors to the site. Last year, it drew more than two million, as well as nearly 30,000 Twitter followers – and their TED talk has had more than 600,000 hits on YouTube.

Tidying up is a trend:

The idea of tidying up our lives, ridding ourselves of material clutter, is ancient and enduring, a practical and emotional goal we’re constantly trying to achieve – check out “storage solutions” on Pinterest to see almost fetish-like homages to tidiness. The concept is big again now with Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up currently topping the New York Times bestseller list. Now, as we claw our way out of a recession that forced many to embrace a “less is more” lifestyle, Nicodemus and Millburn have captured a moment of backlash against the endless, mindless accumulation of stuff.

Marie Kondo on the Magic of Tidying Up:

Step one Decide why you’re becoming a minimalist

“I can’t tell you how many times I went for a new car, promotion or job on impulse, never asking myself why,” says Nicodemus. “So before you even start, ask yourself: how might my life be better with less stuff?”

I get down to three reasons for waging war on stuff. First, I think my time would be better spent on humans I love than wasted on objects I don’t – half a weekend is a ridiculous amount of time to spend cleaning a flat that’s not much bigger than me. Second, when I need something, I’d like to find it, not go on a quest for it. Third, I haven’t seen my cat Sebastian in days. He’s got to be in here somewhere.

Step two Play the 30-day minimalism game

This is a way to declutter in daily steps. On day one throw out, sell, donate or recycle an item. On day two, two items. On day three, three items, and so on. After 30 days, you’ll have removed 564 items. “People resort to coathangers and paper clips in those later days,” says Nicodemus, who recommends playing the game with a friend or work colleague “and betting something – a coffee, a steak dinner. Having that accountability helps”. If you don’t know any other clutterbugs, tens of thousands of people tweet their way through the 30-day challenge using the hashtag #minsgame.

The first thing I throw out is a pair of ripped jeans. I earmark two Post-it pads to throw out tomorrow, and I already know on the third day I’ll throw out these old lint rollers and the cup with a chip on the rim. Then I think, why not just throw them out now? Long story short, I remove about 100 items on the first day.

Step three Get rid of your ‘just-in-case’ items

In most cases, any item you’ve been hanging on to “just in case” can be replaced “in less than 20 minutes for less than £10” – usually in a charity shop, or even for free online. For example, the French grammar books I kept just in case I learn French. Many JICs will never see their save-the-day moment. In a year, Nicodemus and Millburn had to replace their disposed-of JICs fewer than five times between them.

I sheepishly admit to having a JIC bag of old mobile phones. “It’s hard to throw out mobile phones,” Nicodemus says. “You think, ‘This is worth £300. To get rid of this is to get rid of £300.’ But it’s sunk cost. We hold on to things because we spent a lot of money on them five years ago, but the second you bought it you were never going to recover that money.”

I donate the phones, as well as two sacks of clothes I was keeping just in case one day they magically fit, look good, or no longer have holes.

A lot of these tips are oriented towards young people, but I think the older you get the more your life choices are determined by how much stuff you're lugging around. I once knew an elderly person whose entire life was blighted -- like to the point of almost becoming homeless -- due to an inability to get rid of things like 60 year old textbooks. On the other hand, I respect my parents because at one point they were able to move into an 800 square foot apartment successfully. As you become elderly, if you don't have a strategy for divesting yourself gracefully of your earthly possessions... it will eventually be done for you in an extremely ungraceful manner.

Well said. 

The good thing about giving things away while you're still alive is you get to see other people enjoy those things. 

I've been practicing letting go of things every week.

Throwing some out, giving some away.

So far it has not gotten easier emotionally.

But maybe it's not supposedly to be easy emotionally to let things go. 

I like those 15 great decluttering tips:

  1. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. It’s amazing how much you can get through if you just do it in small increments like this.
  2. Don’t allow things into the house in the first place. Whether you’ve begun decluttering the living space, or you’ve just completed it, stop bringing in new stuff NOW. Even if that’s ALL you do and don’t start decluttering immediately, if you can only establish one habit at a time, establish the no-more-stuff habit first. This way, when you do get to decluttering the existing stuff, you’ve already stopped making it worse. Think of bailing out a boat with a hole in it. You can bail and bail, but it won’t do anything for the leak.
  3. Donate stuff you’re decluttering, so you don’t feel bad about wasting it.
  4. Create a Joe’s Goals chart with decluttering on it — either daily, or 3 times a week. Check off the days when you declutter, and you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment.
  5. Start at the corner by the door and move your way around the room, doing the superficial stuff first – surfaces, empy the bin etc. Repeat, but do more the 2nd time around – ie. open the cupboards.
  6. Whenever you’re boiling the kettle for tea, tidy up the kitchen. If the kitchen is tidy, tidy up the next room – it’s only 3 minutes but it keeps you on top of everything (helps if you have an Englishman’s obsession with Tea as well!)
  7. Use the “one in, two out” rule. The rule: whenever you bring in an item, you have to throw away two other items. First you cheat, by throwing out two pieces of paper, but soon you will have to move to big stuff.
  8. Make your storage space smaller and more minimal. If you have lots of storage, you’ll fill it with stuff.
  9. Clothing rule: If you haven’t worn an item in 6 months, sell or donate it.
  10. The One-Year Box. Take all your items that you unsure about getting rid of (e.g. “I might need this someday…”), put them in a box, seal it and date it for 1 year in the future. When the date comes, and you still didn’t need to open it to get anything, donate the box WITHOUT OPENING IT. You probably won’t even remember what there was in the box.
  11. Declutter one room (including any closets, desks, cabinets, etc.) before starting on the next one. Spending time in that room will feel *so* good, and it will be so easy to keep clean, that it will motivate you to do more!
  12. Keep a list in your planner labeled “Don’t Need It – Don’t Want It.”When you’re out shopping and run across some kind of gadget or other item you crave, note it down on the list. This will slow you down long enough to reconsider. Also, seeing the other things on the list that you nearly bought on impulse really helps.
  13. Internalize that your value is not in your “stuff”. It is just “stuff”. And realize that your value grows when you share your “stuff”. Hoarding is a selfish act.
  14. Have someone else (who you trust!) help you go through things. They don’t have the (sometime’s irrational) emotional attachment that you might have, but can still recognize if something should be kept.
  15. Gift everything. Books you’ve read immediately get recycled among friends, family or local libraries. If you buy a new gaming system, donate your old one – and all the games.

One tip I have is to USE TECHNOLOGY aggressively to help you reduce things -- swap atoms for bits whenever possible. These days there are whole categories of thing that honestly have zero value -- for instance, financial records -- because if something goes wrong a slip of paper has no greater legal or informational value than the database from which it was printed. Or if you need a ball gown very occasionally, rent it instead of making space in your closet for it. Or move all your photos to cloud storage and get rid of all those janky CD-ROMs and old hard drives that won't be readable soon anyway.

In my case, the biggest issue is books. At some point I realized that I could use technology to reduce my book collection quite a bit:

* All books that I re-read or reference quite often, I am trying to move to Kindle form. Many of these are classics or otherwise older titles -- I own 3 different translations of The Iliad, for instance (!) -- and therefore quite cheap. Most of the physical books I'm replacing in this category are in really poor condition, yellowed and used, so it's nice to get rid of silverfish bait too!

* Whenever I read a book -- even if I don't finish it -- I write a very brief (even just one sentence!) review on Goodreads. I note where I got the book, if I disposed of it later, whether it was a re-reading, etc. I have found this ledger TREMENDOUSLY helpful, especially in terms of tracking what I actually read rather than what I think I should read. Not to be morbid, but incontrovertible proof that under current life conditions you only finish 12 books per year... when you're my age, it's pretty simple arithmetic to realize that you don't need to hold on to a copy of any book you didn't enjoy A LOT.

* I realized that I had a rather large category of book that I was holding on to because I was afraid I would never find a copy again if I got rid of it. A combination of Goodreads and my library's online catalog can assuage these fears and make it easier to decide to let go of that complete set of Harry Potter but hold on to my uncle's memoirs.

This is a useful set of tips but it does require time to digitize and organize.

I have piles of things waiting to be decluttered when I have time someday. 

The Minimalists on owning just 288 things:

Someone who own 100 things:

97 things:

Guys who own 57 things:

Here's someone who owns just 51 things, down from 72:

And someone who owns just 15 things:

Becoming minimalist:

"Everything I own can easily be packed in a suitcase and moved in 30 minutes":

30 articles on minimalism:

  1. Why I Got Rid of My Wordrobe – Denaye takes you behind the scenes and shows you how she culled her overflowing wordrobe to 37 pieces.
  2. The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Decluttering Your Home – A truly epic guide on how to declutter your entire house. Set aside 30 minutes to really break down this post.
  3. 25 Areas of Digital Clutter To Minimize – If you’re looking for a quick guide to declutter your computer, this one is for you.
  4. Minimalizing kids’ toys (a different kind of spring cleaning) – This is a good read for parents who are looking to introduce minimalism to their children.
  5. Why I Put My Closet On A Diet (In 6 Simple Steps) – Drew Barrymore share’s some fantastic insights in her process of minimalising her wordrobe.
  6. win over non-minimalists – A great little read by Leo Babuata about how you deal with friends and family when you’re a minimalist.
  7. Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life – This is a large post packed with tons of resources to help you simplify your life. This article was a life changer for me. Enjoy!
  8. 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life (and Make Yourself Happier) – A useful list broken down into the main areas of life that you can simplify.
  9. Less Is More: 19 Reasons Being A Minimalist Is The Best Way Of Life – Fantastic write up by the Elite Daily on the benefits of minimalism.
  10. 8 TED Talks That Will Inspire You To Become A Minimalist – Prefer video? Here’s a curated list of the top TED talks about minimalism and simple living.
  11. Ten Things I Learned by Downsizing My Life – A beautiful post about downsizing the family home.
  12. My minimalist suitcase & 100 things challenge – Are you taking the show on the road anytime soon? Try the 100 things or less challenge.
  13. The Problem With Minimalism – An interesting take on minimalsm. It doesn’t hurt to be objective.
  14. 20 Simple Ways to Save Serious Money by Becoming a Minimalist Family – A great little summary about how being a minimalist will save you money.
  15. Tour My Minimalist Kitchen – Take a tour through what a minimalist kitchen looks like.
  16. Are you minimalist enough? An experiment in giving up clothes for a year. – Some insight into an interesting minimalist experiment.
  17. The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists – A beautiful summary of minimalist lessons.
  18. What IS minimalism? – This is an easy-to-read Q&A type post about a minimalist lifestyle.
  19. How living in a 200-square-foot school bus has made me an ultra-minimalist – Another interesting minimalist case study.
  20. 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life – Brooke puts together an epic actionable post on how you can simplify your life.
  21. A Minimalist View On The Value Of Time – What do you do with the time you create from simple living? Here’s a few ideas.
  22. 27 Simplicity Legends Reveal Their Most Practical Tips To Simplify Your Life – This is an extremely useful expert roundup from some of the most well-known minimalists in the industry.
  23. TOUR MY MINIMALIST APARTMENT – Curious to see what a minimalist apartment looks like? Check out this awesome post from the guys over at
  24. Let Go of These 10 Items to Jumpstart Decluttering – A great starting point if you are lost and not sure where to start with decluttering your home. Everything from clothes and food to other people’s things. You will feel much happier and lighter after this exercise.
  25. How to Let go of Possessions – A very simple, short and straight to the point article about living in the present and not letting the past and future hold you back from experiencing now. A great way to question yourself when letting go of possessions.
  26. my simple home: what i don’t own – Sarah Wilson lists all the things that she doesn’t own and how many items of certain things she does. We do like her concept of not throwing things out just for the sake of decluttering. Instead use it in one or more ways and when it’s no use to you anymore, then discard it. No need to go throwing things out just because you feel like you need to own less.
  27. 5 Life-Giving Truths From Years of Living with Less – This post approaches minimalism as more of a mental shift and what it can do for you in your life. We have found that a lot of these changes have occurred due to pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. It’s an ongoing journey.
  28. How to Clear the Mental Clutter – This article covers four worries and thoughts so you can get rid of that mental clutter and start thinking clearly.
  29. Two Little Words That Can Sabotage Your Kitchen Simplicity – Just don’t buy items you don’t need right now. Great perspective on keeping things simple in the kitchen.
  30. Never Lose a Document Again: A Step-By-Step Guide To Going Paperless – A great app to help you free yourself from paperwork and clutter.


Why getting rid of things is hard:

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