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Every year, as I move apartments, I look at the same box of just-in-case gym equipment and piles of clothes I haven’t worn in two years. I always stop for a second to think about how I should slough off the extra stuff, leaving me lighter and brighter.
And yet, year after year, the boxes and piles come with me from apartment to apartment, including the untouched kettlebell, jump rope, glider discs, mini band and travel mat.
But if there’s one thing I learned from big goal getters on the #WeGotGoals podcast, it’s that every goal is more attainable when you break it up into smaller pieces to tackle bit by bit. And, when the clever Kristen Geil mentioned a month-long de-cluttering challenge to me, I thought February would be the perfect time to tackle my big, hairy, audacious goal to become a quasi-minimalist.
Every day of February I threw or gave away an amount of things that corresponded with the date. On February 1, I got rid of one item, February 2, I tossed or donated two items. It went on like that until I reached February 28 when I got rid of 28 extra things. In total, I got rid of more than 400 items over the course of the month.
If you’re anything like me and feel overwhelmed at the thought of figuring out how to de-clutter your life, this challenge taught me five things that helped me rid myself of my low-key hoarder tendencies.
By making it a small, daily task, I found it much more doable.
This is obvious, but it was so easy the first week to eliminate one item, then two items, then three.
It wasn’t like I had to walk into my closet and say, “Okay, I’m clearing out this whole place by the end of the day.” I eased into the habit of getting rid of items by keeping it short, sweet and simple at the beginning of the month, which made it more doable as the days went on and the number increased.
The more I got rid of, the more I wanted to get rid of.
Perhaps less obvious, about one week into the process, I started to get excited to reach the purging portion of the day. Filling up one new bag each day and stacking it next to the bags from previous days made me feel so accomplished, and it took less than 30 minutes each day to do.
I had to change my perspective when clearing and cleaning.
Getting rid of 406 items isn’t easy. I had to comb through the same drawers, cabinets and closets multiple times as the days went on. But after taking that initial sweep and getting rid of items I definitely didn’t want anymore, I looked in the same places just a little bit differently.
At first pass, I breezed over my bag of nail polish thinking, “I paint my nails all the time.” The second time around, I looked into my bag and thought, “Which colors haven’t I used in over a year?” The third time I went through the bag I thought, “Which colors bring me joy and do I actually want to use?”
I got creative in the places I looked for things to get rid of.
My zeal for tackling obvious drawers and closets started off strong, but I was surprised by how quickly I ran out of new spots to shuffle through. When I was forced to get a little creative, though, I found things to throw away I never would have looked for otherwise. For instance, I got rid of old medicines, lotions and perfumes I’d kept past their expiration dates. I threw out cans and dried goods in my pantry that hadn’t been opened but were around long past their “best by” date.
Some days I actually had to force myself to get rid of things – and that was a good thing!
Around day 20, I’d already thrown out or given away 210 things. I was looking through my drawer of workout clothes – a place I rarely ever clean out (because you never know when you’re going to need that extra sports bra or pair of black leggings) and thought, “What if I didn’t own X anymore?” When the answer was, “It honestly isn’t a big deal,” I knew it was time to start throwing away things I didn’t ever think I would.
And then, when I decided to get rid of things I actually genuinely do like but just never wear or use, I really felt the breakthrough. Just as in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo that asks you to use the filter, “Does this thing bring you joy?” I could easily part with things I knew could bring someone else more joy than they could bring me.
Now I’m left with a less cluttered living space and an overwhelming sense of gratitude that the month was only 28 days. Take these lessons on how to declutter your home and get a jump on spring cleaning.