One of the biggest challenges when minimizing your life is that you have to really think through things as you are sort the stuff that fills your closets and drawers (and floors and chairs as the case may be). What do you keep and what do you discard (or donate)?
If you set up a criteria for things you will hold on to or pass on to others (like my brilliant wife has), this makes the job much easier. Something as simple as 1) Do you love it? 2) Do you use it? 3) Can it be replaced easily and affordably if the need for it arises again?
Sentimentality, however, tends to be your primary foe when it comes to this battle. Being careful and thorough in this process can help you give/throw away that which you do not need and keep that which you might have discarded. Here are a couple examples from my own decluttering journey:
My Class Key —Yes, I was one of those people who bought whatever my class ring company was selling (Well, not everything, but who can resist a class key?). For someone who desperately wanted to be popular, this item was tailor-made for me. But I am not that lonely teenager any longer, so when I came across it again, I should have discarded it immediately. Instead, it clung to me like the One Ring to Gollum. But, as my bride astutely pointed out, it must have not been that important if only the day before I couldn’t have told you I still owned the item. If it hadn’t mattered to me in years, there is no reason to think its intrinsic value would magically blossom from this point forward.
My First-Year Teacher Journal — I was sorting through old files and throwing away as much outdated paperwork as I could, when I came upon my file for my teaching credential program. Discarding the teaching evaluations from that very difficult year was easy (actually, I shredded them as a form of therapy) and I was on the verge of getting rid of everything else when I came across my required journal entries for the spring semester.
My first reaction was to dump them in an attempt to forget the pain of that year. Thankfully, I decided to read them one last time, and I was so glad that I did. All of the passages gave me brief glimpses into the struggles of that year, but the final entry of the year was so eye-opening. Those couple of paragraphs were filled with my hopes and fears for my teaching career and spoke to me in way few other things could. Had I been hasty, these thoughts would have been resigned to the recycle bin. But a few extra minutes kept this important document preserved for my career scrapbook album and for posterity.
So, when rifling through the accumulated detritus of your life, feel free to take an extra moment or two to separate the wheat from the chaff.