The Minimalist Challenge: Journey and Aftermath

Josh Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are The Minimalists. They host a spectacular podcast and started the 30 Day Minimalist Challenge, #MINSGAME. I recently fell head over heels for Minimalism and wanted to take my new lifestyle to the next level. Each day was great fun, truly a challenge, and as by design, prompted me to face parts of my emotional self that needed a good dusting. Here, I reflect on the experience.

Day 1 — Sweet, a bracelet I never wear. And wow, look at all the other cheap bracelets I never wear.

Days 5 and 6 — This was my first taste of why they call it a challenge. I’d already gone through the easy stuff — the stuff that sits in plain sight that I could quickly grab without too much thought. But on days 5 and 6 I had to start looking. It’s amazing how your stuff starts to blend in with your other stuff and you don’t even see it anymore. Once you do see it though, you can’t unsee it, and I had to ask harder questions to reach truer truths. Staring these items right in the eyes is like reaching a crossroads of emotional attachment, functionality, and Minimalism. This crossroads is precisely why The Minimalists created two guiding questions:

Does it bring you joy?

Does it provide value?

Day 7 — I read a blog about productivity and managing inboxes. Which made me wonder, does Digital Minimalism count towards the challenge?

Day 12–14 — I traveled to San Francisco for work and hotels aren’t exactly the environment for minimizing. I took this as a creative constraint and I love those. It became the perfect time to test my Digital Minimalist theory — I unsubscribed from 12 emails, unfollowed 13 people on Instagram, deleted 14 files from my Desktop.

Days 20–23 — The plot thickens! It’s so many things! The further you go on this Minimalism journey, the more creative you have to be. And around this time, as the holidays and coinciding stress drew near, there were some emotional weights I had been carrying. In fact, they had come to dominate my thoughts and I figured, if I can get rid of stuff and of digital noise, then perhaps there is an opportunity to minimize my emotional burden as well. For instance… there’s this chair. A green, vintage, some might call it ugly, but I love it, chair. It used to belong to my family but was given to a friend. In recent weeks I’d found out his living room had been rearranged and that my beloved green chair was now living on the porch. Who puts upholstered, vintage furniture on the porch??? In the dead of Portland’s relentlessly damp winter?? Mold!! You’re going to ruin it! And then Judgemental Grace takes it a step further and says things like “Inside furniture does NOT belong outside! You should park your car on the lawn while you’re at it!” This was driving me so crazy, my thoughts were derailing, and my repeated pleas to my friend were met with “I just have nowhere to put it.” Sigh… I decided to let it go. I told him so, and then the most miraculous thing happened. The next day he called to say he would move the chair inside. Inside to the garage at my house, but still a WIN!

I also let go of a friendship that was needlessly complicated and was no longer serving either of us.

Day 23 is also when my Aunt and Uncle arrived from Vienna and my sister arrived from San Francisco and my other Uncle arrived from just down the road, and our whole house was turned upside down with guests, holidays preparations, and the task of going through my recently deceased Grandmothers possessions. It featured a tornado of family relics and a game of musical beds. And is when my Minimalist Challenge paused.

Days 24–28— Fast forward to January something. I picked up my Minimalist Challenge again, this time armed with a bunch of useless Christmas crap I could add to the pile.

That’s it. I made it to Day 28, just shy of the full 31. And in that time I minimized my life to the tune of 406 things, feelings, and files.

But where did all this STUFF end up??

Free Geek: My two laptops went to Free Geek, a local group that restores technology and either sells it on the cheap to those of lower income or donates them to schools, centers, etc. Their mission is to increase access to technology for all.

Rose Haven: Many of my clothes, including that 3-piece, brand new Banana Republic suit went to Rose Haven, a shelter for women with an emphasis on professional development and resources. Rose Haven does amazing work and I respect and admire them with my whole heart.

My sister and Natalie called dibs on a few books. Veronica gets the leather gloves. I burned the sensitive paperwork. All in all I’m trying my best to be responsible about where these things end up. A lot will go to Goodwill, a lot will get recycled, some stuff is simply trash.

I don’t miss any of it!!!

And in case you’re curious, here’s a damn near exhaustive list of everything I minimized:

Bracelet — dead plant and pot — empty soap container — spare razor handle — old candle — ring — bun pins — lipstick — mascara — notepad — old spirulina — foot exfoliator — adidas tank — Mindful Work by David Gelles — nail polish — incense — hairbrush — travel size lotion — pen from Timberline Lodge — more nail polish — jewelry bags — cheese slicer pin — Kate Spade watch links — jewelry box — glasses pouch — two laptops — laptop sleeve — laptop charger — two more nail polishes — contact lens case — sample size perfume — email unsubscribes — Instagram unfollows — deleted desktop files — ugly christmas box — two charger boxes — weed grinder — make up — Arabic flashcards from college — graphing calculator from middle school — craft supplies — lens cleaner — two old cards — two piles of old notes — bra straps — belt — hair gel — more lipstick — another candle — eye drops — travel mug — t-shirt — snow globe — earrings — car charger — books! So many books, a huge pile of them — even more books — three picture frames — iPad case — dress — tank top — sweatshirt — so many more clothes — gloves — terribly painful Jessica Simpson boots — moms wedding garter — handful of sharpies — pocky sticks — diptyque perfume — floating candles — teen pop CDs — GMAT study guide — even more clothes — 3-piece Banana Republic suit — body lotion — burned copies of CDs from high school — two vases — two coupons — two old college t-shirts — stack of outdated business cards — one pre-IUD pack of birth control pills — expired flonase — another nail polish — box of chair nails — Norwegian cook book — emotional attachment to the green chair — a friendship — expectations around a crush — another batch of Instagram unfollows — pen cup — sketchbook — box of old checks — two boxs of envelopes — notebook from architecture school — foot rollers — puzzle — badge from recent conference — three coinpurses — keychain — two picture frames — business card holder — old business cards — space themed bed sheets — more old business cards — so many more CDs — CD case — book — four picture frames — pile of stickers — smashed iPhone — pile of papers — pen cup — pens — mesh bag — adidas sneakers — candy — TOMS sunglasses — three magazines — nipple pasties — make up — nailfiles — dried flower — vaseline — cough syrup — heat protectant spray — hand carved box — brushed wool flats — Patagonia fleece.

Grace Moen