In a speech on minimalism, [ TEDx Minimalism with Angela Horn ] Angela Horn emphasizes that we have more when we have less, and challenges us all to get rid of one item per day for 30 days. And see how we feel.
Of all the ways to green up my life, I thought for sure this challenge would be the easiest. I believe in living on less. This challenge speaks to my values; to my soul. This is totally do-able. I thought it was anyway – until I got going.
[ 1 ] The first thing I learned about myself is that I will definitely look for the path of least discomfort when making a change. [ 2 ] My inner control freak cringes at the thought of willfully or knowingly putting myself in a position of vulnerability where I am unsure, where I don’t know what will happen, where I am completely out of effing my element. This challenge seemed safe. I would gain more control over my environment, and more peace of mind, by getting rid of items I probably need to get rid of anyway. So let’s do a clean. Let’s get on with it.
Item 1 was clothing. Some shoes I’d held on to that never fit to begin with. What did I think was going to happen? Did I believe I would magically wake up with different sized bits? [ 3 ] I learned I was living with either some unrealistic goals or a wee bit of denial. [ 4 ] Maybe even jealousy toward anyone who would fit in these heels that would never fit me. [ 5 ] And a bit of belief that somehow, if I were better, they’d fit. Better at what? I don’t know. Just elusively better. In general.
Then some books. Ones I’d read, ones I would never crack. I got this.
But as I kept going it was less obvious what to get rid of. And I panicked slightly when I hit 21 items. Thinking ‘I want to win this challenge! [ 6 ] I like doing things with a clear start and a clear end. I can’t get stuck in this gray area of not being done yet and not knowing how to finish. I need 9 more things – I might have to buy 9 more things just to get rid of them’. But I kept looking.
Those last 9 things said a lot about me. Item 22 was a bag of literal garbage – wraps, receipts, packaging, that was neatly tucked in drawers. Item 23 was nailpolish, hardened in the bottle, then some food in the fridge that we forgot to eat. What the eff?! [ 7 ] Am I a hoarder?! I was keeping things that cannot be used again or are beyond expiry. Why was I doing that?
[ 8 ] I think there is a sense of self that we get from the things around us. [ 9 ] I’m sure all my pens (item 25) make me feel organized and prepared to document any significant bit of information that comes up unexpectedly. I had a really hard time getting rid of a collection of cards (number 26) that have been cluttering up my fridge door for years. [ 10 ] I think they make me feel loved. That someone would (and did!) take the time to pick out a card that reminded them of me, write inside it, lick the godforsaken goo on the envelope and mail it to me. It says a lot.
In the end, [ 11 ] I was happy to realize that I didn’t need all those things to feel ok. Now, 30 days later, [ 12 ] I don’t miss any of them. I actually think I’ll do a 30 day, 30 item purge every 6 months or so just to keep my home and my head in check. [ 13 ] None of the items I found actually said any of the things about me that I was letting myself believe. Some of the lessons were a little uncomfortable but they were all worth learning.
[ 14 ] And just like my positive value isn’t determined by the collections I hadn’t even realized I had, the random shit I had piled around didn’t make me a loser.
*Disclaimer – as much as I wanted to get rid of useless stuff, I want to stay in touch with you. If you’ve enjoyed the read, hit Follow. See you soon.