3 Things I Learnt Playing The Minimalist Game
For the month of April, 2018, my husband, Tim, and I played The Minimalist Game (or what we like to call: The Minimalist Challenge) created by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. As low consumers, and thrifty spenders, we set out with the intention to get rid of clutter, and make room for experiences and mental space. That's exactly what we got; and more.
Let me set the scene...
Tim: "Take out your Instagram story video."
Tim: "Just film me when I say NOW"
Kate: "Hmm... okay..." *reluctantly gets out phone and opens Instagram stories*
Tim: "NOW" *Kate hits play* "Kate, I challenge you to THE MINIMALIST CHALLENGE."
Kate: Well, shoot.
Tim and I then decided on the rules: we'd give away the amount of things that corresponded to the date (on the 21st of April, 21 things, on the 7th of April, 7 things etc.). I know what you're thinking! It was very tough.
About a week earlier, I wrote an article about minimalism for One Happy Leaf (you can read here), and read it to Tim. After diving into so much research, I'd become intrigued by the idea of minimalism, and apparently Tim had too. I'm not one to chicken out of a challenge, so I took a deep breath, and began to regret taking a bag of clothes to the second-hand shop the day before...
Tim and I are creatives. We're artists, musicians, cooks, fashionistas, and dreamers, so we find beauty in things that others would look past. But that also means, we like 'stuff'. We will never be minimalists, that's not even something we strive to be, but decluttering our lives was the best thing we've ever done. April carried a lot of teachings. Here's what I learnt:
1. Stuff should be helpful; not consuming
Day by day, I felt a little lighter in my soul. I felt less stress, more focus, and I felt more at home in my space. I also had mini adrenaline rushes from the strangeness of giving away things I thought I never would. These intensified feelings made me realise how attached and connected to my things I was. Why should a physical object bring so much emotion?
The problem with consumerism has come from human beings holding meaning, worth, and self-esteem in physical items that can so easily be taken away. I surely don't want to be a part of it anymore. I want, no, I NEED my items to bring me happiness external to what the object really is. I need it to remind me of a memory, help me have an experience, or do something for me that I wouldn't be able to do myself. I must control my possessions. They cannot control me.
2. Experiences make us happier than stuff
At the beginning of April, we went on a short hike in the forest. The intensely fresh air, open space, and company of just the two of us, made me so happy. No item could ever bring me so much joy.
In his book Stuffocation, James Wallman uses a kayak analogy: A man has a kayak in his garage hanging up on the wall, that he has never used. He works long hours, and when he's not working, he's helping with the kids, taking them to soccer, or doing an activity that is more local and less strenuous that kayaking. Yes, there may come a time when he needs to use it, but every time he gets out of his car, he looks at the kayak and thinks "I've got to use that one day!" and feels a twinge of guilt for not having the time to get out. The stress he feels around that kayak, and the fact he has to dust it yearly to get the cobwebs out, is worse than not having it. Ridding himself of the kayak, and any other item that he thinks he 'might use one day' is the best way to rid himself of more stress, and have a happier life.
We need to get over our ideas of 'oh but I might use it one day!', because if we're really going to use it, we'll go out of our way to borrow it or rent it. Keeping things that make us feel like we don't have enough time, is not helpful for anyone.
3. You don't have to get rid of everything you own to be a minimalist
You heard me! Minimalism is not so much about the amount you own, but the value you place on your possessions. Now that Tim and I have been through this challenge, we are very careful about what comes into the house. We question each other when anything enters the front door, and consult on every purchase. We ask the questions:
Will it bring us joy? Does it serve a purpose? Will this last for 10+ years? Does this add to our lives?
We videoed our journey and shared it on my Instagram too, but here's a few videos to show you how it worked...
The most frequent question we were asked was "what are you going to do with all the stuff afterwards?" One sunny Saturday in May, we took everything out, and made categorical piles. We then separated what we could sell (we've already made $155 on Trademe so far), what had been spoken for (people watching my stories sent me messages about what they wanted!), and gifts we thought certain people would like. The rest is to be sold at a garage sale at our house on the 9th of June.
A glimpse into what we gave away: clothes, belts, shoes, games, cups, utensils, a dryer, headphones, knicknacks, childhood toys, beauty products, socks, tea towels, towels, CDS, lighters, stickers, magazines, random gadgets, speakers, coffee makers, bags, and even Tim's scooter!
The minimalist challenge was hands down one of the most fun things to do as a couple, and I cannot recommend it enough! Challenge a friend or family member, and get minimalising - and please feel free to pop me a message if you ever get stuck or have any questions.