How to Live Minimally (When You're Actually a Garbage Hoarder)

Tips from a chronic mover

Truck Driving on Empty Road during Daytime

A few months ago, I packed up everything I owned into my 2 door Fiat and moved across the country. This was my 7th move in 6 years so, I had some experience editing and purging. This move however was, by far, the biggest exercise in minimalizing my life. Not to mention testing out my real life Tetris skills by piling everything into the backseat of my car while leaving enough room for my boyfriend, myself and my dog.

While I’d love to say that I am a minimalist, I am not. I love clean lines and white walls, clutter-less shelves and drawers-- but, that’s just not what my life looks like. The things I get rid of every move are the plants, the fancy shoes, the cool thrifted furniture I’ve collected—I keep the clutter. In fact, I’d say 90% of the things in my apartment are just knickknacks (it also helps that knickknacks are usually very easy to pack).

minimalist work space

To me, minimalism is less about cutting as much out as possible and more about curating the things you have into the things you really want.

Even if you aren’t moving, this is a quick guide to clearing out the crap that you’ve been holding onto for way too long. Step back and ask yourself:

Am I willing to haul it across the country?

Is it useful?

Is it important to me?

Is it mine?

Am I willing to haul it across the country?

 

I’m 24 so nothing I own is expensive. I think the biggest investment I’ve ever made was the $200 I spent on my bike 4 years ago. So, I’ve never had to worry about what I was going to do with an expensive piece of furniture or art. But, if you’re going to drop serious cash on something, make sure it’s something you are willing to haul across the country. Even if you aren’t planning on making that move, it's a good question to ask. This isn’t so much a test asking “will it fit in my car/suitcase” but rather, “Is it so essential to me that I’m willing to take it with me wherever I go?” If not, why waste your money on it?

Is it Useful? Is it something I use every day? If so, is it replaceable?

I pitched it: I had a rice cooker that I decided to get rid of two moves ago. I eat rice almost every day. I fucking love rice. But the rice cooker, however useful it was, was big and bulky and new ones are like $20. To Goodwill it went.

I kept it: I did keep my duvet cover and comforter because it’s useful yes, but also something that’s pretty hard to replace. While I’m an advocate for buying new sheets as often as you can, my bedding is something I have carefully curated. To me, the comforter I have is an essential, so it stays.

Bonus Tip: If you have a box in storage that you haven’t opened since you moved and can’t remember what’s in it anymore, just get rid of it. I had a box that moved with me 3 times that was labeled “Kitchen” and every time I moved I just stuck it back in a closet. Before I moved to Portland, I opened it up and realized it was a bunch of old plates and a few sweatshirts I must have packed in a hurry at some point and I obviously, I didn’t miss any of it.

Is it important to me?

The operative word here is “me”. Your home is about you; don’t fill up your space with things you don’t care about. Even if that creepy clown painting was hanging in your grandmother’s house for years—if you don’t want it, don’t keep it. I find that the important stuff is what usually makes up the clutter but it’s also what makes a home feel like it’s yours. Every time I move, my record collection gets cut down but that only makes the ones I have more important to me.

Is it mine?

I don’t know about you but I seem to be a magnet for other people’s stuff. Plates, t-shirts, shoes, furniture, appliances, somehow it all ends up with me. If you’ve left something at my house and never came back to claim it, it’s probably at Goodwill. I am a firm believer that you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s crap. If it was important to them, they wouldn’t have forgotten it.

Minimalizing doesn’t always have to be an exercise in making your life look as much like a Pottery Barn catalogue as possible. It can be as simple as realizing what you don’t want and clearing that shit out.