31 Day Minimalism Game: A Decluttering Challenge

In October I participated in Brooke McAlary’s monthly Slow Home Experiment. Brooke and her husband Ben try a different ‘experiment’ each month – this month it’s daily playfulness, and in October, it was the Minimalism Game, a decluttering challenge. On the first day of the month, declutter one item. On the second day, two items. And so on. It sounds easy – but becomes challenging towards the end of the month when it’s 25, 26, 27 items a day! The challenge declutters nearly 500 items from the home over the month.

I thought I would find this extremely challenging, having already done a couple of large ‘declutters’ this year. But, I also thought it would be an excellent opportunity to break through the more problematic areas of the house – like THE GARAGE, with all its dread-inducing spider-webby corners.

Over the month, I was able to remove a range of bigger items, like the unused deep fryer, a couple of large mirrors, a bedside table; and also to delve into the pokier spaces that are easily forgotten about, like my jewellery, and old boxes filled with ‘treasures’ I’ve been carting around for twenty years. In the end, I removed far more than 500 items – finding, for example, over 100 old letters written to me by school pals (my family frequently moved around when I was a child), some of which have been returned to their now-adult owners to reminisce and cringe over. I also gave away a large number of books, although I have always tended to donate my books. This idea that books should remain on the bookshelf as a symbol of intelligence, social status and how ‘cultured’ someone is, really irritates me. Although I hold on to some favourites and a bunch of cookbooks, I’d prefer that the rest be enjoyed by someone else, rather than get dusty on my bookshelf, hoping that someone might one day be impressed that I owned The Picture of Dorian Gray (which I never even finished, by the way!).

This challenge was also a motivator for my husband to finally sell off his old home-brew gear, in order to put the money towards his new bike, which now has a place of honour in the garage and which I’m not allowed to touch.

Brooke has spoken about ‘layers’ of decluttering on her podcast, which I didn’t really understand until about halfway through the month. In my previous declutters, there was something quite ‘surface level’ about them: clothes I hadn’t worn for years, unused kitchen items, too-small baby clothes, magazines and books. Doing this challenge at this time, especially after having done those earlier ones, meant I was looking a layer deeper – to really ‘see’ things and think about their value and importance. Did I really want to hold onto my wedding shoes? No. My Year 12 formal dress? No. These items seemed so important at the time of their use, I think I felt that I should have an attachment to them. Or, that if I was to remove them, that they should go to someplace or someone ‘special’, who would treat them with the appropriate level of love and respect. What a load of bollocks, really – I can’t impose my own memories onto someone else’s ownership. After grappling with this I ended up just taking them to my local Vinnies store.

Having said that, there were some things that I still felt too attached to – this time round. I suspect that when I revisit them in the future I’ll feel differently again, and be able to push through another ‘layer’. I re-discovered things I do value, like my engagement ring, which was buried in the bottom of a box. I can better appreciate the items I do enjoy, like the few artworks and ornaments I own, because they’re no longer buried within and behind the clutter. I was surprised to find that having less cluttered spaces also makes me feel a little less anxious – I’m not sure why this is but I think that having lots of stuff contributed to a sense of having ‘lots to do’. Plus, it’s easier to clean now!

Although I thought I’d struggle with finding enough things to declutter, I genuinely think I could do it all over again, and probably will at some point. To get through that next layer. The garage is hugely improved but not done yet! Doing the challenge as a month-long game like this, definitely helped to keep me engaged, accountable and moving forward.

The Minimalists Game is an initiative of The Minimalists, and runs every month. Get more information here, and hashtag #minsgame!

the minimalism game

5 Comments

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I also joined in playing the Minimalism Game when I heard it was the Slow Your Home Experiment. I’d done it a couple of times before and stalled on my third attempt, until I heard Brooke was doing it and thought I must finish it off. I shared my experience here – https://moretimethanmoney.co.nz/tag/minsgame/
    I am just like you when it comes to bookshelves! I always have a quiet giggle at the status symbol bookshelf. For me books are something to read (radical!). I do keep some books – mostly they aren’t available at the library.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Amy, I will check out your post too! Well done on doing it a few times – I imagine it must have gotten pretty challenging by the third round. And yes that is a pretty radical notion that books are something to read hehe πŸ˜‰

  2. As always a pleasure to read Erin …

    I really could idenifty with the feeling that you SHOULD have an attachment to certain items, or gift them to someone β€˜special’… almost like passing over the responsibly or burden 😳😊…When you sit back and reflect on it… “what a load of bollocks” indeed ! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    l bet this was truly liberating πŸ™Œ

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you Sarah πŸ™‚ That’s a good way to put it actually, that we’re passing over the responsibility or burden! hahaha – and I can totally relate to that feeling when some items have been ‘passed down’ to me – and then I feel like I have to hold on to them too!

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