Friday, December 27, 2019

Three Years of Discarding: What I said Goodbye to and Why

I've read a lot of other minimalist blogs that make lists of what their readers should discard, but have yet to see many lists of what the minimalists themselves have discarded. One kind of post I don't like is the "100 (or some arbitrary number of) items you should discard today". Curation of a happy minimalist home takes more than a day. It might take more than 100 discardable items to get there, but it also might take fewer.

Finding useful items and objects that "spark joy" can be overwhelming when first starting a journey toward modern minimalism. When you come from the background of being a broke college student like I did, there's a lot of memory of need and sentimentality attached to objects that helped you get through difficult times. The hardest things for me to get rid of were books and glassware, which come close to last on my list.

At the start of my journey in 2017, I discarded (recycled, tossed, or donated):
  • "Some-day" clothes that I was saving in case I lost or gained weight - I'd kept these initially because I'd either enjoyed the shape, color, or print, or because someone else bought the item for me. Anything that didn't fit me plus or minus 10 pounds ended up in the donation bags. My first swing at discarding clothes and shoes resulted in at least 8 13-gallon bags full to bursting. I even got my husband to join in and he filled 3 bags himself.
  • Notebooks from my undergraduate and graduate studies - I kept these with the lofty goal of revisiting the information within, but in reality they were stuck in boxes for years and I never needed to reference them. I recycled two bankers boxes full of notebooks.
  • Craft supplies that went unused for over a year - I grew up sewing, and when I moved cross-country at the end of 2010 I took a lot of craft stuff with me, or had it mailed to me later. I was at university from 2011 to 2016 for undergrad and grad studies, so I rarely had time to craft. When I finally cleared out my craft supplies, I had 10 13-gallon bags of supplies destined for donation centers.
  • Home decor items I'd never displayed - Any time I went thrift shopping, I had a hard time saying no to any shiny knick-knack that even remotely fit the decoration styles I liked. They spent their time in my possession in bankers boxes and paper boxes, never to see the light of day until I peeked inside for discards and keeps. I didn't take anything out before sending 4 boxes of home decor items back to secondhand shops.
  • Excess bedding - Because I was a broke college student until I got my internship and then salaried job, I generally elected to turn the thermostat down in the winter to save on the gas bill. I stocked up on easy-to-wash blankets from thrift shops to keep warm. I filled at least 3 bags with bed spreads, sheets, throw blankets, and quilts fit for donation once I moved back into a space I shared with others.
Throughout 2018, I discarded more items, though nowhere near the volume I did in 2017:
  • Clothing I had replaced - I tried to adhere better to a "One in, one out" policy for new clothes. If an item that I replaced was still in good condition, I donated it. I also got my husband to give his wardrobe a second look, and together we (mostly he) said goodbye to another 3 or 4 bags of clothing.
  • Crafting books - I only got rid of a few books at first, but they were books I knew I'd never use because I'd outgrown the content. I sent a handful of books off to donation centers.
  • Storage bins/shelves - Because I had less to store, I had removed a lot of the need for storage bins, shelves, and storage containers. I said goodbye to a 12-bin shelving unit and two 5-foot tall utility shelf units.
I revisited KonMari books and read some other books on modern minimalism at the start of 2019. At the end of 2018, my husband and I decided it was time to save for a house, so I wanted to make sure we weren't going to box up so many things that we would only get rid of after the move. This was the year I finally got rid of the last few categories of items I'd had extreme difficulty discarding.

In 2019, I finally discarded:
  • Non-fiction, fiction, and history books - I studied history and read a lot, so I had an affinity for collecting books of all stripes. Many were purchased from secondhand stores, history department book sales, and library book sales. I love to read, but acquiring so many books because they were cheap and seemed interesting led me to have an insurmountable TBR (to-be-read) pile. At the start of 2019, I donated 90 books. Throughout the rest of the year, I donated over 30 more. My TBR pile is more manageable, and I have space now for books I'll acquire because I'll actually read them in the future.
  • Crafting books - Knowing that I would soon have space for a proper craft room, I started to consider which crafts I wanted to dedicate the space to--did I still want to do a little bit of everything, or just focus my efforts on a few? I decided I wanted to keep up with sewing, soapmaking, and mixed media/painting, so I donated about 20 craft books I no longer felt I needed.
  • Crafting supplies - With the book collection whittled down to a few favorites about sewing and soap making, I discarded a few plastic grocery bags full of knitting tools and yarn, jewelry-making supplies, and even some soap molds and other soap supplies I didn't plan on using. Anything in good shape was donated. I cleared out a couple of small bags of items to throw away, mostly fabric scraps too small to reasonably use, and expired/old soap supplies.
  • Excess cocktail glasses - I started learning mixology in 2009, and collected all sorts of specialized cocktail glasses from 2016 through 2018. I always loved the look of collections of  sparkly-clean glassware, but the reality was that I generally used just my rocks glasses or coupes for most drinks. I donated about 60 pieces of glassware. I now have just simple sets of 4 of rocks glasses, coupes, and wine glasses (red, white, sparkling) that I actually use. 
  • Specialized/single-purpose kitchen items - I collected a lot of bakeware, casserole dishes, and single-purpose utensils to support a fantasy of entertaining others--a fantasy I don't often make reality, and when I do I don't need any of the items I thought I would. I ended up keeping a few bundt pans and layer cake pans, two muffin tins, and a baking sheet and cooling rack. I said goodbye to a set of three casserole dishes, excess baking sheets and cooling racks, excess oven mitts and trivets, a garlic press, and several sets of plastic measuring cups and spoons. Several boxes and grocery bags full of kitchen items made their way to a donation center.
There you have it! That's the bulk of what I've discarded over the past few years, and rehashing some of it made me realize I've got more yet that I can do without (namely kitchen and craft items). It's hard to remember the specifics of anything I got rid of, which is proof that they're items I wouldn't miss if I didn't have them. I'll have much less to discard in 2020 thanks to three years of effort already... but achieving just the right minimalist lifestyle does take years and I know my style and needs will change over time.

If you're going to get started with, or even continue discarding, remember that it's a long process. Stay patient with your items and with yourself, and ultimately you'll figure out the perfect amounts and types of items you want to keep.

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