Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. Vincent Van Gogh
I’ve been working with several clients and to help get them moving along on their own journey toward minimalism. I always start off by telling them that the process takes patience and time and as long as they commit a small amount of time each day or each week to the process, they will see results.
This past month, I was away in London and then spent a weekend in Napa; my husband oversaw the house, the kids and the dog while I was away, and my de-cluttering schedule was put on hiatus until I returned.
When I got home from Napa yesterday, I walked into a house that felt congested. Nothing stood out, it was just the feeling of having gone three weeks without any de-cluttering. It would be a good day to implement my “10-Things” activity, a game I play by myself every few days and every few weeks with my kids.
“10-Things” is when I go into a room, look around and see if I can remove ten items that do not belong in the room. This process helps me stay ahead of the clutter, and in some cases, forces me to uncover and discover items that our family doesn’t need, want or use.
As I looked around my office, I noticed a book that was due back to the library, an empty coffee cup, and several papers that needed to be filed – a total of three items that did not belong in my office. Three down, seven items to go.
I looked for additional items that did not belong, any item that I could remove for and donate, give away, shred, recycle or toss.
I found a beanie cap I no longer wore as well as a workout DVD – both tucked into a cube storage ottoman underneath my office window. I had forgotten I had them and could not remember the last time I used them. I pulled them out and set them aside in a donation pile.
This process takes just a few minutes and brings me another step closer toward my goal of a minimalist home. It forces me to deal with things I’ve been putting off (like the small stack of papers I need to scan and shred) and forces me to open drawers and cabinets asking myself questions like “Why do I have this?” “Am I using it?” I no longer hold onto items with the thought of “I may need it” – I know it’s time to pass them along to someone who can use it now.
Yesterday after breakfast I told my family it would be a “10-Things” morning, we hadn’t had one since last month. The same rules apply: find ten things that do not belong in their room that they do not want, need, read, wear, or that do not belong in their rooms and stack them outside their bedroom door. I would pick up their items and consolidate into donations, recycling, garbage, etc.
“Ten items, your choice; my feelings won’t be hurt, and I will not judge” I announced.
My younger son used to be a pack rat; he was the kid I jokingly called the hoarder: he kept stickers, rocks, Lego pieces and all sorts of toys and games he had outgrown.
“I can’t get rid of that! Nana gave it to me” he would say when I asked him if he was ready to donate a small truck he hadn’t played with in years.
“Would Nana be happy knowing you weren’t playing with it or would she be happy knowing you passed it along so that another child could play with it?” I would ask.
“She’d be happy I’m sharing,” he said.
Over the last two years, he’s honed his muscle of letting things go.
When I announced that we were doing “10-Things” he immediately went to his room and removed ten books that he had had on his bookshelf – ten books that he had outgrown years before, books that weren’t even his favorite genre and set them outside his bedroom door.
“Done,” he said.
My older son didn’t start right away, he was busy gaming and texting his friends.
“Ten things,” I said as I walked by his room.
“Ten or can I go with 15?” he responded.
“Minimum is ten but you can go beyond that if you want” I replied.
When I went down the hall a few minutes later he had a small pile outside his door: an old game, a tornado vortex water bottle connector, three pairs of shorts he had outgrown, three baseball caps he never wore, a pair of pants that didn’t fit, and two pairs of socks.
“Done,” he said.
I turned to my husband and asked about his ten things.
“Don’t treat me like the kids,” he said.
“I’m not, today’s ‘10-Things’ applies to everyone” and left it at that.
Later that afternoon, I noticed 2 bags of stuff outside our bedroom.
“You got rid of ten things?” I asked my husband.
“No, I got rid of 11,” he said with a smile.
Patience and bite-sized chunks of time. We are making progress: ten items at a time.