How I decluttered 1,000 things in 3 years

I moved to Vermont in 2003 with too many things, into a too tiny apartment. I had wall-to-wall stuff and when you constantly have to dust, step over, move or ignore things you don’t even like, it’s time to declutter.

Even when I moved to a huge apartment three years later, I still noticed the sporting goods piled up in the corner and the spare bedroom full of boxes of more stuff.

A bit like Goldilocks, that first apartment was too small, the second was too big, and my current apartment is just right. Nonetheless, I continue to develop an ethos and aesthetic that revolves around simplicity, utility and beauty in all areas of my life.

In 2011 and 2012, the simplicity/minimalist blogger wave started to rise and I was inspired by Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge, about getting your possessions down to just 100 things, and Courtney Carver’s Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, about starting off just getting rid of 100 things.

So, since January 2012, I’ve been on a serious mission to simplify. The first 100 things were pretty easy. I pretty much just got rid of a bunch of junk that was taking up space.

Highlights:

  • Lots of cassette tapes
  • Dead pens
  • Food storage containers without lids

By the end of 2012, I had gotten rid of 500 things. I started counting “gross” and “net” numbers. Gross counts include everything I got rid of, while net counts include everything I got rid of minus any new items I brought into my life. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always consistent in my blog titles – sometimes using a net count, other times a gross count – although I was always transparent about the numbers within the blog post. At this point, I was at 500 (gross) and 400 (net).

Highlights:

  • 2 gavels (seriously?)
  • 2 ice cream scoops
  • Clothes I haven’t worn in a year or more

Just three months into 2013 and I’d already decluttered another 319 (gross) and 300 (net). My totals at this point were 819 (gross) and 700 (net). I wrote about that here, avoiding the list this time and outlining ways to think about decluttering your home and life.

Highlights:

  • Limit yourself to 2-3 of any type of item
  • Digitize, digitize, digitize!
  • Attack the hidden places of clutter

But after that March 2013 blog post, my numbers really stalled. I continued to get rid of things, but I also got out of debt, which gave me a bit of license to buy some things I’d put on hold for years. For example: a bicycle and touring gear, and camping and hiking gear, which brought hundreds of new items into my home.

Nonetheless, I kept track of everything, continued to simplify, and now have a tally of 1,100 things (gross) and 867 things (net) that I’ve decluttered in the last three years and two months (January 2012-February 2015). That’s nearly 1 item (gross) per day.

You might be thinking, wouldn’t I love to keep going, just as 1,000 things net are within sight? No, not really. I’ve hovered around 800 (net) since October 2014 and I just re-canvassed my home…there’s not much else I’m going to part ways with. I’d have to get rid of beloved objects or plan to never have guests in my home again (if I simplified, for example, down to one chair, one coffee cup, one fork, etc.)

Therefore, I’m going to celebrate my success over these years and close the books on this experiment. Oh, I’ll definitely continue to keep things simple and declutter when necessary, but I’m not going to count my things anymore.

Because, wonderfully, everything that’s left is no longer about quantity, it’s about quality.

 

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