The goal when I set out on this was pretty simple: Would clearing out my life help me? Would it help my financial life? Would I realize I didn’t need so much damn stuff?
The challenge is structured by doing one task a day — cleaning out your email inbox and selling your clothes — tasks that help you push through your boundaries, and hopefully help you create habits that create real change. Here’s how I structured my minimalist challenge:
The Minimalist Challenge
1. Purge your wardrobe (get rid of at least 10 things)
2. Journal for 20 minutes
3. Clean out your fridge
4. Find 10 things you’re grateful for
5. Clear out your phone
6. Clean out one of your closets
7. Purge your kitchen cabinets
8. Empty your junk drawer
9. Clean the apps on your phone you don’t use
10. Do something you have been putting off
11. Clean out your old makeup
12. Make five goals for the next six months
13. Take out your credit card information out of autofill
14. Clean under your bed
15. Don’t spend money for 24 hours
16. Sort through your mail
17. Meditate for 20 minutes
18. Download a helpful app
19. Eat at home
20. Sell five items to a local thrift store
21. Clean out your email inbox until it hits zero
22. Unsubscribe from email marketing
23. Write down five things you are grateful for
24. Purge your household cleaning items
25. Toss out old socks
26. Leave a whole day unplanned
27. Let go of a goal
28. Declutter your work desk
29. Empty your wallet
30. Repurge your wardrobe (get rid of at least ten things)
Here’s what happened during my final week. Would it ultimately change my life? Let’s get to it.
22. Sort through your physical mail
I sorted my physical mail and it felt great to throw away junk mail (literally how do they know where I live #spooky). It also felt great to answer letters from my bank! Good to stay on top of things.
23. Clean out your fridge
What a time.
So, even though I am a grown ass adult, I have never actually deep cleaned a fridge before. I was kinda clueless before I cleaned it (but now I feel like a pro tbh!).
First, I mixed waaaaaay too much baking soda and warm water together (misread directions and then kinda just went with it). I took out all of my food in my fridge and laid it out all over the place. I dipped a sponge in my baking soda solution and scrubbed out the stains on my fridge. I had no idea it had gotten so gross. Since I put in too much baking soda, I ended up having to clean the fridge for an hour (instead of probably 20 minutes it would take most people) because I had to clean the fridge and then clean the baking soda off of the fridge. I loaded back everything into the fridge (even if some stuff was a bit melty (RIP my butter). I sorted through the items as I loaded them up and discarded stuff that was old or moldy or I knew we just would not eat. It looked so shiny and clean!
Side note: I was so happy with the result that I went ahead and cleaned the inside of my freezer as well. In case you are wondering, when you live with a chef (which I do) there will be #chickenfeet casually there. Also three packs of frozen corn tortillas? Anyways, moving on.
24. Purge your household cleaning items
Okay *confession*: I didn’t end up throwing out any cleaning supplies but I did discover just how much cleaning supplies I had. I didn’t get rid of anything because I know that I will eventually use up everything. Why be wasteful? It felt great to lay out everything from two cabinets I am constantly shoving things in and hoping for the best. I constantly felt like I was just shoving things into the cabinets before and hoping for the best (and not knowing what was exactly in them). It felt wonderful to sort through and group things together. AND I found dryer balls I had been looking for — it was like Christmas.
25. Do something you have been putting off
I have been putting off hanging up my artwork for months. It just seemed like so much effort to go out and search for frames that would fit and then hang up the pieces. No idea why it seemed like such a huge task but in reality, this one took probably around three hours all in (which includes walking to my local TJ Maxx, looking at frames, carrying them home, cleaning them, choosing which pieces of art should go where, and then hanging up with frames on the walls). It felt incredibly nice to tackle something that had been on my to do list, just sitting there, for such a long time.
26. Write down five things you are grateful for
I thought of another five things I was grateful for. I tried to make this list different than my last one:
- Talking and ability to speak and communicate
- Yoga and meditation
- Taking breaks (from a full-blown vacation to just going for a 10-minute walk)
- Summertime (I hate the cold)
Like the last time I did this earlier in the challenge, making time to sit and reflect upon my life was wonderful. I really do not do this enough even though it makes me feel so good.
27. Clean out one of your closets
I have two closets in the front hallway of my apartment. Both of them are very cluttered but I decided to only focus on cleaning one (instead of both) because cleaning both at once seemed way to overwhelming. First, I pulled out everything in the closest except what was hanging up. I was floored with how much stuff was in there. Lots of shoes, clothing that could not fit in the dresser, old boxes, you name it. Most of the items in this closet were my partners. We ended up going through every item together and ended up tossing and recycling a lot of stuff.
28. Purge your kitchen cabinets
This was met with resistance from my partner (the second task to do so and back to back too) but I managed to get it done. It’s so organized now!!
29. Sell five items to a local thrift store
I went through the clothes that I had gotten rid of throughout the month and sorted them into two piles: one pile was clothes I knew my sister and some of my friends would appreciate and want to look through and the second pile was clothes that I could just flat out sell. I put the to-be-sold clothes in a bag and headed off the work. After work was over, I went to a Buffalo Exchange in Manhattan and tried to sell the clothes. They didn’t want any of them. Nothing! I began to realize that selling clothes would take a lot more effort than I initially imagined. I decided then and there that I would put both of those piles together and simply donate or give my clothes to my friends and family. In the future, I will take a Saturday afternoon and walk around the city finally making some money from the clothes I want to give away. But until then, at least some of my favorite people can receive some new stuff.
30. Clean out your email inbox until it hits zero
I have been working on this one since the first week. I went from over 5,000 emails (across my three emails I have) down to 22 emails. The remaining 22 emails were all things that I had to do—doctor appointments, stuff for my part-time job, updating addresses. Really important stuff. Most of the unread emails were subscriptions and messages from my Aunt (she sends a lot of adorable cat videos). I began to realize that some of the emails were really important (that I missed). And events that I missed. And funny videos. This task, as opposed to any of the other ones, really made me sit back and look at myself.
Staying on top of things helps you be more organized, yes, but it also helps you be present. Isn’t that what minimalism is all about? Being present and not needing so much stuff to clutter your world. Took me 30 days to realize this but it finally clicked.
Final Thoughts On My Month Long Minimalist Challenge
This was definitely one of the hardest challenges I have ever done. The two things I struggle the most with in my life are organization and getting rid of things and cleaning—and that makes up a majority of these minimalist tasks. But honestly, I wish everyone could do this challenge. Really. It made me realize how much I was holding on to and how much I could let go—and that letting go is the best part.
There is more to life than stuff. Seems like a pretty basic concept until you put it into practice. There is more to life than stuff. And there is such a healing benefit in letting go of the stuff that you no longer need. The dress that no longer makes you look like yourself. That lipstick you never use. Those emails that you keep swearing you will read, but don’t.
This challenge made me really look at my life and notice the things I keep putting off (doctor’s appointments) and figure out what I really value (good friends that make you feel good and family that loves you no matter what). If you are someone who is struggling with debt or putting off changing service providers for bills, I have no doubt those are things you would be able to hone in on during this challenge.
During this month I reconnected with my childhood best friend and I broke up with my college best friend. I was finally able to clean out my parents house (something I had put off for a year) and finally called my college to start a forwarding email address (something I had put off since graduation). Little changes inside that ultimately caused big shifts. But this is the purpose of minimalism: letting go. Letting go to grow.
Be sure to read about what happened throughout the challenge:
All Images: Courtesy of Sophia Randazzo