Attempting Minimalism

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(Today’s post comes to us from Karen of Dreamin’ the Life. Today, she shares her experience (ordeal?!) of attempting to become a minimalist. I suggested checking her site out as a great way to be inspired to live  a better, more fulfilled life. With no further adieu, I present Attempting Minimalism)

I have an affinity for bathroom products. Anytime I have an extra hundred bucks to blow, I go to CVS or Target and imitate supermarket sweep as I blow through the beauty products isles. Unlike most girls, I’m not crazy about clothes or shoes… but new shampoo and face wash? That’s what does it for me.

There are lots of reasons why me trying to become a minimalist is laughable. I realized a few years ago that I had an irrational fear of running out of bathrooms products. Particularly, q-tips. So, I would stock up on the 500 packs, and silently squeal with glee if I found any 2 for 1 sales on them. God knows why I need a back stock of 1,000 q-tips (last time I checked I only had two ears). I can’t even remember when I haven’t had those two 500 packs under my sink.

After reading Dave’s articles here on Life Excursion about minimalism, as well as Leo’s from Zen Habits, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve never considered being a minimalist before. I liked my stuff too much. But seeing as I constantly desire to be perfectly clean and organized, I figured having less stuff would make this goal easier to achieve.

I have high ideals, and someday dreams of my home only having things that I find remarkably beautiful, or consistently useful. Everything would have it’s place, and after I used it I would place it back in it’s spot. The reality of my life is that it is much more messy. I do have certain areas that are perfectly organized and maintained, but, in general, I am pretty messy until I can’t stand it. Then my perfectionist side comes out and I scrub, clean and organize until an area is sparkling. My surroundings flop back and forth from being incredibly clean to a disaster. Maintenance and consistency are not my strong points.

So, I decided to tackle my bathroom as the first area using Dave’s criteria here and here’s how it went.

1. Write a List.
Okay, I have to admit I cheated on step one. I did step two first, and don’t recommend it. I love lists, but impatience got the best of me. I wanted to just get started. The problem with skipping this step and doing #2 first is that once everything is pulled out of the designated area, suddenly everything looks essential. Make a list so that you can refer to it once everything is in a pile out of the area.

2.Pull Everything Out of Your Section.
This was the fun part. Pulling everything out of an area is the best way to clean and organize, even if you goal is not to minimize anything. Once I pulled everything out, it was obvious that I had some serious scrubbing to do. I minimized the bacteria in the toilet, and sink with Soft Scrub. I minimized all my hair on the floor with the vacuum. I minimized the dust on the base boards with Clorox wipes. Hey, this minimizing thing is easy. Not so fast tiger….

3. Place Necessities Back in Your Section.
Since I was a bad student, and didn’t have a list, I began by taking my most important things. This is where the concept of minimalism became clear to me. Prioritizing what I placed back in made me reevaluate everything’s importance. I grabbed the things I use on a daily basis first. I grabbed my favorite products. I suppose a true minimalist only has these things. When I got to the second half of my products, I began rationalizing why I needed to keep something. The truth is, if I began to rationalize it’s necessity, then I probably didn’t need it. I made a bag for things to give away and had a big garbage bag on hand. Once I started throwing things away, there was no stopping me.

4.Now Remove One More Thing.
This was the best advice. I went back and took out a few more things. Make up I haven’t used in over a year. I checked expiration dates on everything, and was amazed at what I found. As soon as I decided not to keep any expired products or medicines, the trash bag quickly filled up. And it felt GOOD.

5. Get Rid of It.
After I was done, I took the trash bag out immediately. By doing this, I couldn’t regret anything and try to save crap that I didn’t need. My bag of give-away is going to the Goodwill on my next trip. Another area where I cheated was by moving things into another room. Some things I realized I never actually use in my bathroom, so I moved them to my room where I do use them. But, this was only for a handful of things, and they were all objects that I deemed very useful. Make sure you don’t repeat my mistake, and deal with everything you take out of the area, not just move it to another room it be dealt with later.

What I Learned

As I was working on these step, I wondered if I really wanted to become a minimalist. Do I just want to be clean and organized? What’s the difference? For me, I’ve discovered that there isn’t any. How I define being a minimalist is very different from the next person’s definition. After removing and replacing everything in my shower, I still have around 10 different shampoos and conditioners. This may seem far from minimalist standards, but it works for me. I gave away 8 other bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I don’t like and don’t use. What I have left are all products that I use and enjoy. And the reality of it is I really do like using a different one each time I wash my hair, and it’s something I do every day. You have to decide what minimalism means to you. For me, it meant taking out everything that wasn’t being used and/or don’t value.

Becoming a minimalist isn’t going to happen as soon as you go through these five steps. But, if you go through these steps multiple times (for the same area and different areas),you will be on the road to minimalism. I’ve decided to do this process in my bathroom again in a month. And if I do this process once a month, for the next three months, I am sure that my bathroom will be of minimalist standards. And I might even have used some of those damn q-tips.

Karen of Dreamin’ the Life

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12 Responses to Attempting Minimalism

  1. Minimalism in in vogue at the moment. It’s good for those who want to live and travel light. However, as a style it can be a little boring, especially in the home. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a room or two that’s a bit eclectic with some wall hangings and ornaments and souvenirs to give a human feel to it. It doesn’t mean one has to go overboard, but just find a good balance.
    .-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..Be A Lifestyle Design Super Freak: Part 5- Create Powerful Affirmations =-.

    • Dave says:

      I disagree Gordie. I think minimalism is only boring if you choose to make it such. I have seen minimalist homes that are boring and not welcoming,but you can choose to be creative and a minimalist at the same time. It just takes this thing people hate, creativity.

      Thanks for commenting Gordie.

      .-= Dave´s last blog ..Attempting Minimalism =-.

    • Michael Price says:

      @Gordie, I have to disagree with you also about minimalism being boring, minimalism is what you make out of it. I think Leo Babauta explained it best with his Minimalist FAQ, which actually helped me dispel some misconceptions that I had about minimalism.

  2. Nate says:

    Great post! I’m going to be in the process of getting rid of a lot of my clothing soon, so this was cool to read. Minimalism is an ever going process it seems, and I’m ready to get started.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..Why I have the most basic cell phone ever =-.

    • Dave says:

      Good luck with minimalizing your closet. I suggest selling everything you are to get rid of on ebay or craigslist….trust me, worth the time


  3. Srinivas Rao says:

    Minimalism is an interesting phenomenon. I can’t say I’m quite there yet, but I like the idea of less is more. It seems that so much of our life if is filled with clutter.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Why you shouldn’t make a big deal out of small things =-.

  4. Paul Norwine says:

    Dave, Karen –

    Great guest post! I, too, have been thinking about minimalism, lately. I don’t think I ever can (or even want) to become a TRUE minimalist but eliminating the clutter has definitely proved liberating for me recently.

    And I know what you mean with the Q-tips, Karen – except I do it with rolls of paper towels (so weird)…

    .-= Paul Norwine´s last blog ..Graduating to a Full-Time Blogger – Reviewing the First Month of =-.

  5. Ali Pepler says:

    I loved this article!! I am totally with Karen on what it means to be a minimalist. David always tells me that I’m not really and I know a real minimalist would get rid of way more than I do, but I don’t want to feel deprived and I like makeup and products and I don’t want to use the same stuff everyday either, so I think this is perfectly okay! I know that if I throw away a lot of stuff now… when I go to use it, I’ll be mad at myself for getting rid of it. Thus, I will buy it again probably or just feel deprived. Anyways, good article!
    .-= Ali Pepler´s last blog ..Technorati =-.

  6. Karen says:

    Thanks everyone… glad you all enjoyed the article! This was a fun little experiment to take on. :)

    @Paul Good to know someone else has a crazy hoarding tendency of paper products (I can’t stand it when I run out of paper towels!)

    @Ali Good to know that another girl felt my pain of getting rid of too many products! I think Dave needed a little female perspective on the minimalism idea… we just can’t use the same things everyday!!
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Blogger =-.

  7. Dave says:

    Great points made Nazim….I completely agree with the attitude that develops once you become a minimalist….

    Congrats on becoming one of us…..hahahaha


  8. I hate clutter and junk. I get stressed out when I go to a house with tons of little ornaments and decorations. It drives me nuts.

    In my house, I don’t have a single picture on the wall and it is great. It is so calming to see nothing. My desk gets messy and books are often left hanging around, but my wife and I try hard to hide everything.

    I like the your suggestion of removing and reducing. The Pareto rule works for minimalism as well. We use 20% of our stuff, 80% of the time. The rest we should get rid of. This has helped me really cut down on purchases. I have become able to ask myself, “do I really need this?” “Is it something I am going to use everyday?” If not, I don’t buy it.
    .-= John Bardos – JetSetCitizen´s last blog ..What is a Great Lifestyle? =-.

    • Dave says:

      Awesome comment John! I think that you have learned and are practicing the toughest part. Usually, people can’t ask themselves if they really need something. Thus, they tend to just buy buy buy. Unfortunately, the only reason people are doing it today is because of the economy. Hopefully, they are starting to create the habit for better reasons.

      Thanks for commenting John…


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