I’m a compulsive declutterer. It’s a trait I’m actually rather proud of, and one that always serves me well when it comes time to relocate. Whether I’m moving myself or working with a professional moving company, it never fails that less stuff makes everything go much more smoothly. The more I do it, the more I realize that the minimalist move is the easiest move.
Minimalism is the notion that you can live well with less. While you may have an image in your mind of a bare, stark white room, minimalism doesn’t have to mean living without color and personality. It’s about only holding on to the things that bring noticeable value to your life and letting go of everything that doesn’t.
Being a frequent mover forced me to learn this skill early on. The very act of moving requires that you take an inventory of all of your belongings, handling each item for at least as long as it takes to pack it in a box. So why not take this time to edit down what you own and get rid of the things that no longer serve a purpose for you? Here’s how to embrace the minimalist move and make your entire moving process easier.
Come up with a plan of attack
The minimalist move is all about decluttering, which, if you’ve done it before, you already know can be a pretty time-intensive endeavor. You’ll want to get the ball rolling prior to when you start packing so you can focus on the task, though chances are you’ll find additional items to get rid of while you’re loading up boxes.
Your decluttering plan should incorporate a couple of things: one, what types of things you’re going to be getting rid of, and two, what you’re going to do with them. Some items—for instance, furniture—require a bit more planning if you intend to donate them, so you’ll want to wrap your head around what sorts of items you’ll be disposing of and start looking into your options for how to do so. Categories of stuff you’ll want to consider paring down include:
- Kitchen items
- Holiday decorations
- Outdoor gear
The amount of time this initial decluttering process will take depends on the size of your home, how much stuff you own, and how long it’s been since you’ve sorted through all of these things. Planning ahead will help you wrap your head around what needs to be done and tackle your minimalist move in the most efficient way possible.
It doesn’t matter where you start—pick a room, a drawer, or a category of items and get to work. For each item that you decide not to keep, you’ll want to sort it into one of three piles:
Donation pile. For new or gently used items that someone else could get use out of. Get creative with how and what you donate—places like schools, libraries, community centers, animal shelters, and non-profit organizations often have a use for the things you don’t want. Check out a site like Zealous Good, which allows you to list items for donation that local organizations can request and come pick up. Or, you can make some calls on your own and see if a particular organization is interested in what you have. Everything else can be dropped off at a place like Goodwill.
Recycle pile.Papers, glass, and plastics are the obvious choices for this pile, but things like batteries and electronics, appliances, and even crayons can be recycled provided you get them to the right place (your normal recycling bin won’t cut it). Head to Earth911 for tips on how to recycle hundreds of different materials.
Trash pile.If you can’t repurpose it or recycle it and you no longer have a need for it, trash it. It’s not ideal, but as long as you do your best to donate and recycle what you can you shouldn’t end up with too much going to the landfill.
Sort as you go, making additional piles as needed if you have various sites you’re planning on donating to and/or recycling at.
Follow the general rules of decluttering
One of the most difficult parts of a minimalist move (and minimalism in general) is saying goodbye to things that you’ve carried with you for a long time. But just because something has been in your possession for years doesn’t mean it has value. The following guidelines will help you speed up the decluttering process and figure out what really matters to you.
Don’t keep an item just because you think you should.Guilt has no place in minimalism. If you’re holding on to a pair of hideous earrings your aunt gave you for your birthday a few years ago just because you don’t want to risk hurting her feelings, let it go. There’s a very strong chance she’ll never be the wiser.
Don’t keep an item that causes you misery.Everything you own should lift you up, not weigh you down. Don’t hold on to things that cause you distress, like mementos from failed relationships or clothing that you want to fit into but can’t. Those sorts of items carry heavy, negative energy, and there’s no place for them in a happy life.
Don’t keep an item you haven’t used in a year and don’t plan to use in a year.Many ultra-minimalists swear by the 90/90 rule—if you haven’t used an item in 90 days and don’t plan to use it in the next 90 days, toss it. For those of us just starting out or a little less extreme in our minimalism, a year is a good marker to go by. For clothing, ditch the second half of the rule and just follow the first: if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.
Don’t keep an item you wouldn’t buy again.If there’s an item you wouldn’t go out and buy now if you didn’t already own it, is it really serving a useful purpose in your life? Sometimes we just get used to the stuff around us without really thinking about why we have it. So think about it, and if you can’t imagine yourself going out to buy an item then you can probably safely assume it’s because you don’t need it.
Consider temporary storage
It’s inevitable that you’re going to come across items that you know you don’t need but you still can’t quite bring yourself to get rid of. For those sorts of things it’s helpful to get rid of them temporarily and see how things go while knowing you have the option to get them back. Most of the time, you’ll realize pretty quickly that you don’t actually miss them all that much. This is particularly useful for sentimental items like childhood stuffed animals and books, or gifts from other people.
Take a practice run at parting with these sorts of items by setting aside a box for temporary storage and setting them in there. You don’t have to actually rent a storage unit, but don’t bring the box into your new home either. Ask a friend if you can store it with them for a couple of months or just keep it in the trunk of your car. And remember: saying goodbye to these things doesn’t have to mean destroying them. Once you realize what you truly don’t need, find the items new life and new purpose by donating them to people who can appreciate them.
You can probably find a way to justify keeping just about anything if you really set your mind to it. To keep yourself accountable, set some concrete goals for how much you want to get rid of and then stick to them. You can set goals by item—say, getting rid of a third of your clothes—or by amount—for instance filling up one extra-large box with donations. Setting goals helps turn minimalism into less of a chore and more of a game, with the reward for achieving your objective that you have fewer things to carry around with you.
A minimalist move doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If it’s too overwhelming to think about completely decluttering your life before a move (or if you just don’t have time to go through your items so extensively), you can do just a little bit and still make a difference. There are so many benefits to simply having less stuff, and easier, less stressful moves are a big one. So get on board the minimalist move trend and find out just how much you can gain when you lose your stuff.