The Minimalist Challenge

For some reason in my marvelous memory I have kept a five second video clip that I watched multiple years ago; I was 12 or 13 at the time.  The clip was on MuchMusic, which was popular to watch then (before YouTube); the only way to watch music videos and shows about your favourite artists.  The clip was of a man who was working on the set of a BSB video.  They showed him in the planning stage, standing in a room of his house; he described himself as a minimalist.  This was the first time I ever heard this term.  He stood in a white, sterile room, featuring a simple chair, desk, and computer in the center.  There was nothing on the walls.  There were no bookshelves.  There was no stuff.  Just this man and his work space.  What is wrong with this guy, I thought.

Why this memory stuck with me I don’t know, but it is relevant again now, as my thoughts have gone from “What is wrong with this guy” to “There may be something to this”.  Minimalism can mean different things, depending on who you are, what you’re trying to achieve and why.  Recently, I had read and listened to a few interpretations and examples of minimalism, and then the Minimalist Challenge popped up on my WordPress.

What I had read and heard of minimalism described our addiction to stuff in North America, and the thought that stuff will make you happy.  But we have too much stuff.  Some of us have so much stuff that we need to pay for a storage unit just to house all of our stuff.  We are a consumer-driven society, but when will we have enough stuff?

Everywhere we go, whether in our virtual or real world, we are surrounded by ads telling us what we need, what to buy, and to compare ourselves to others (insert The Source and their famous quote, “I want that!”); we see it on internet pages, cell phones, billboards, YouTube, TV, and hear it on the radio and from others around us.  It’s everywhere.

Enter the Minimalist Challenge into my life.  This is a challenge to rid yourself of stuff.  I did mine last November, so for every day in November I rid myself of that much stuff; on Nov 1st, I got rid of one item, on Nov 2nd I got rid of two items, and so on.  I started assessing my stuff: stuff I used, stuff I didn’t use, stuff I forgot I had, stuff that didn’t fit, multiples of one type of stuff.  I did a few big clean outs and put it all in boxes to give away; I gathered over 150 items.

What this challenge made me think of is our relationship with stuff, and the emotions that come with it.  We are being fed the belief that stuff will provide us with happiness.  But material possessions are not our source of happiness.  Our source of happiness comes from our experiences with others and with the environment.  It comes from the effort we put into our friendships, our family, our spirituality, our health, our work, and our play.  It is beyond physical possessions.

I am not saying material possessions are useless.  I am quite thankful for my pots and pans to cook food, my warm jackets, waterproof footwear, and my bicycle, to name a few.  With everything in life, though, there needs to be a limit.  Are you getting an item because your friend has it?  Are you getting an item because you saw it on an ad?  Are you getting an item because it will increase your status in society?  Or are you getting an item because you NEED it for your life?  What will you gain from it?  And if you do not purchase it, how would that affect your life?  These questions have reshaped my consumer habits.

Who else participated in the minimalist challenge/game?  Were you successful?  What did you learn in the process?  Please share in the comments 🙂

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16 thoughts on “The Minimalist Challenge

  1. This post is like an eye opener! I mean, I like to think that I’m not a materialistic person, but this challenge sounds like something I should try. I have things that I stop and go, “Why do I have this?” and then shove it in a drawer. Meanwhile, there are those who don’t have the basic necessities to survive… I’ll have to try this and then tell you my results 🙂

    You’re post was a real eye opening to me and I hope that you don’t mind that I have nominated you for the Liebster Award. If you have any questions you can contact me through here or Twitter!

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  2. I’m just a want to be minimalist with a tendency towards clutter. I love the ideas behind the movement, but the fact is that I like my stuff! I like buying small souvenirs from travels, and I adore having a gallery wall hanging in my living room. That being said, you’re completely right that there needs to be a limit, and I think an even bigger part is learning when to let go of things. Everything we have should bring us joy, and if it doesn’t it’s time to give to someone else who will find the joy that we lost!

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  3. Pingback: Liebster Award Nomination | The Zero Journey

  4. Did you make it all the way through the month? That’s so impressive! Cheers to a cleaner home. Confession: I LOVE decluttering! Totally not a chore for me – It’s possible I even do it too often 🙂

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    • I don’t find it to be a chore either, more of an organizational task that is actually enjoyable 😉 I made it almost the whole month, but I always have a box in my office now that I toss random stuff in to get rid of as I find it in my house. Definitely a help when you move out! We did a move last year and realized that even for two people we have too much stuff. I parted with a lot, and honestly can’t even remember what that stuff was. Kind of shows how important it really was! Thanks for reading 🙂

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  5. I decluttered (again and again) last past two months. It was amazing all the stuff we gave to the second hand store. Good job! Well done.

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  6. I’ve tried the minimalist challenge two times but it was very important for me not to throw stuff ‘away’ and I also tried to sell a lot of things. That made it really hard in the end to achieve the daily goals. Selling 13 items today and then 14 items tomorrow and so on, that’s a full time job.
    I’ve meanwhile changed the rules for myself and simply gathered everything that I want to get rid of and I’m doing porch sales on sunny days. What ever gets sold makes me happy. Not so much the money that I get since it’s a tiny fraction of what I paid. But the point that I got rid of something that I didn’t use anymore or at all, and that now someone else is actually using it, made me happy. The reason why I don’t simply give everything to a 2nd hand store is that I want to let go of all our stuff and that would be a large financial loss for me.
    I enjoy having a porch store quite a lot especially because people are stopping by and I get a lot of chat opportunities. That’s the best thing about it actually, so much fun 🙂

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    • That was not going to work for me either (selling daily). That’s a nice idea to have a porch sale, I never thought of that. I just keep an ongoing box in my house and give it to second hand, friends, family, or even students sometimes. Last Christmas we had a Teacher collecting nice gifts from staff members that a group of kids could go “shop” through, so they could give gifts to their family at Christmas.

      We just finished our school play as well, and I brought in a “back up” pair of black pants for one of the actors. She loved them so much I ended up giving them to her because I didn’t wear them anymore. That was a great experience because she was so excited and will love those pants way more than I ever did. There definitely are opportunities to get rid of stuff beyond second hand, and there are people that will get way more use out of our neglected items.

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