It you’re stuck with applying minimalism to your life, do it on paper first.
I don’t blame you.
If you’re only considering minimalism or paring down or decluttering, your life might already be out of control or the level of distraction brought to you by the excess items is extremely overwhelming.
You’ll probably try but after putting a few items in the trash or setting aside items for recycling or giving away to friends and less fortunate, or selling it you’re probably already slowly backing away.
It’s a big project. Sometimes it takes years.
And usually, we tell ourselves we’re in an impossible situation.
A difficult problem is probably 5-10 easy problems jumbled together.
That said, an impossible problem might be 5-10 difficult problems jumbled together.
With that in mind, an impossible problem can be anything between 25-100 easy problems combined.
Where do I start when I’m stuck trying to become a minimalist?
Whenever I’m stuck, I stop and consider the best way to approach my situation.
Almost everyone I met tell me they are good at giving advice but have difficulty following the good advice.
One way to approach the problem is to separate yourself from the problem so you can give yourself good advice.
Stop doing anything to your physical space.
Snap a photo of areas that you wish to declutter.
Take a photo of your bedroom, workspace, living space, kitchen, storage, all the drawers and all the piles of whatever on the floor that you don’t want to look at.
Post it on instagram, here and tag me.
Stop! Don’t do the posting part. The photos are probably too embarrassing to share.
Just take all those photos.
Make sure you got all the details in place. All the piles of clutter where you can distinguish what most items are.
Retake any blurry photos.
Define your dream space.
Get a large piece of paper, position it in landscape view and divide it in the middle.
Use A4 or Long/Legal or a full sized sketchpad.
Begin writing on the middle right hand side.
Look at one of the photos from your phone.
What do you want to keep?
Put it there.
What upgrades do you want to include as well?
For example, I have a list of 2020 tech.
It contains a combination of existing items that I want to include next year and new tech that I plan to buy.
I have a list for the following items:
- Tech. Not discussing this here.
- Clothes. I don’t have any clothes that I want to buy at this point. I’m just replacing my dailies as they die off.
- Shoes. I have dress shoes, gym shoes, outdoor shoes. I’m only wearing these down so I can pare it down to one formal/one casual/one gym shoe (currently, five) and my slippers.
- Bags. I have two backpacks, one messenger bag, one tiny bag and one duffel bag.
- Kitchen Tools. Started eating an all meat diet. I only need one pot and one pan for steak now.
- Books. Late stage letting go according to Mari Kondo. I probably have 4-5 I can say goodbye to right now.
- Toys. My Figma, Nendroid and Anime collection stays. I’m cutting room from my clothes/shoes and kitchen to make room for this. It’s already complete anyway. I sell one before buying an additional item whenever possible.
- Other Activity Specific Items (Gym Gear, Cycling Gear)
On the left side of the paper, you’re allowed to write down items you want to let go or considering letting go.
This practice serves both as a wish list and motivation for me to make space.
It also serves as an inventory of what I own.
Helps me find missing items and keep track of what I have.
I also use this as an opportunity to “Give My Items A Home” a Mari Kondo lessons.
Forget 10% if it’s too much because 1 is better that zero.
There’s a lot of advice asking you to give 10%. 10% goes to God. 10% goes to savings. 10% goes to investments. 10% goes to charity 10% goes to learning 10% goes to enjoyment. 10% goes to education of future kids.
And so on.
How many people actually do it?
I’m sure there are people who can pull it off. You are super disciplined.
Then there are people who are like me who are struggling.
There’s a lot of minimalist games. Let go of one item this week. Then two next week, then four a week after that. Then eight a week after that. Sixteen the week after that. Thirty two items at week 6.
Thirty two fucking items. That’s crazy!
If you play this game, you probably won’t start because you know that at week six, you know that you’ll throw out thirty two items and it doubles from there.
Stop doing hard things if you can’t even manage.
One is always better than zero.
Only do one thing at a time.
For this week, let go of one item. You’re allowed to let go of two but don’t force yourself.
“You Can Direct Your Focus By Asking Yourself Better Questions”
I got that from Tony Robbins.
Answer the following questions:
What items do I own?
What do I want the space to be?
If you’re having difficulty describing your objective into words, use a list.
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
You can add more detailed descriptions later.
When you’re done with the list, look at your photos again.
Better if you can do this process outside of your house so you have the space to think. Go to a Starbucks or a coworking space, a nice restaurant, go on a staycation and review the photos you just took.
This will help you separate yourself from the problem and get back your ability to solve it.
Are you really happy with it?
Would you post the photo on Instagram and tag your friends?
What kind of space would you be proud of?
List the items you want to move around then assign a home.
List down as many as you can before moving anything.
There’s advice about spending money on paper before spending the paper.
You can also spend time on paper before spending the time.
Do minimalism on paper before you apply any minimalism to your life.
When it’s time to remove the items and you still cant just pick one or two items to say goodbye to for that week.
Still can’t think of one?
Consider the following questions.
What items are taking up the most space that I don’t really use?
What item is causing the most frustration or distraction this week?
Sometimes I think about this joke:
A blonde walks into a bank in New York City and asks for the loan officer. She says she’s going to Europe on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The bank officer says the bank will need some kind of security for the loan, so the blonde hands over the keys to a new Rolls Royce. The car is parked on the street in front of the bank; she has the title, and everything checks out. The bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan. The bank’s president and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the blonde for using a $250,000 Rolls as collateral against a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drives the Rolls into the bank’s underground garage and parks it there. Two weeks later, the blonde returns and repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41. The loan officer says, “Miss, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely; but we are a little puzzled. We checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is - why would you bother to borrow $5,000?” The blond replies…..”Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?”
What item can I conveniently buy again if I need it back? How can I utilize these billionaire’s stores as my personal storage.
Don’t worry about getting the value back, You never will. Sell items for 1/10th the price if you have to. If it’s a valuable you can sell it quick by offering it at less 1,000-2,000 of the cheapest same value item on a sales listing like OLX, Carousell or FB Marketplace.
What do I do if my problems is building urgency?
I like to fantasize about living a double life. Where I am secretly a mercenary assassin, secret agent or a serial killer and I have to escape at the drop of the hat.
The cops, mafia are after me.
How would I do it?
Do I have a bag with cash, my important documents and all my essentials. I’ll be on the run for a long time.
I don’t need to buy toiletries. I only need tissue and wet wipes. The rest can be bought outside. What’s in my escape bag? I sometimes refer to this as my Ark or survival bag.
Sometimes I simplify.
I visualize my home burning down. I spend ten minutes retrieving my family and my dog. Yay CrossFit!
I only have two minutes to save items from the home. What can I save given this time and how the items in my home are arranged?
How can I arrange my items that will allow me to escape capture or fire?
If you’re stuck, do it on paper first.
I’ll stop here.
Hopefully this advice solves a few problems out of your attempt to do the impossible and become a minimalist.
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
Thank you for reading.
If you have a question or would like to say anything tweet or send me an email.