Sorting Wheat & Chaff

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Creative Commons photo by Orangeaurochs 

By Dave

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My First-Year Teacher Journal — I was sorting through old files and throwing away as much outdated paperwork as I could, when I came upon my file for my teaching credential program.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. 

On the Road to the Minimal Master Closet

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Before we purged the master bedroom closet.

By Renée

I’ve read a number of books on minimalism. One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to document the process instead of writing from a place of fait accompli. I felt so many of these books are being written so long after the actual house-wide purge that it’s hard for the authors to remember life as it was. When we started this experiment we were drowning in stuff and looking for a way out. Is minimalism going to be the answer? Probably. Will it be as easy as they make it out to be? Absolutely not!

Over time, I have noticed our attitudes and patterns changing. On of our latest successes was the master bedroom closet. We started on one side of our non-walk-in closet and took everything out. We decided to begin with Dave’s message tees. You can read his post below. Neither of us have a gigantic wardrobe, so it wasn’t the task it could have been. I’ve been slowly losing weight and have had to replace my wardrobe a couple of times in the last six years. It’s not a capsule by any means but it’s not vast either. By taking things out, it caused us to really look at stuff. Anything I hadn’t warn in six months I tried on to see if it even fit anymore. I have a strict policy that once something is too big I get rid of it. It’s too easy for me to gain weight when I have larger sizes readily available in the closet.

As I pulled things out I asked myself two questions. First, when was the last time I wore this? Second, why? I got rid of anything where the answer was something like, “I don’t really like it that much,” or “It’s not super flattering so I avoid wearing it.” This is prime real estate and stuff I don’t ever really wear doesn’t get to suck up room. At the end of the “cold” season I will purge again. We live in Southern California, I won’t insult anyone by calling it winter.

One of the major issues that Dave and I disagree on is the sentimental stuff. My advice is remove that stuff and put it in another room if you can. We got sidetracked for a solid 30 minutes on a box marked “Wedding Stuff” and I felt it hampered our momentum. Dave thought it was a nice stroll down memory lane in an otherwise boring project. Do what’s best for you. Also, depending on the size of your closet this may take two or three sessions. If you have clothes spread around the house, like in your guest room or office closet, you may want to get it all in one place so you can really see what you have. If you have five black dresses that are similar, you need to see them all at one time in order to decide what to keep and what it let go.

In the end we purged 60 items total. Yes, I actually counted as we went, on  a piece of paper on a clipboard no less. When the year is over I want to really understand where we came from so I can tell you if it was worth it.

I have to say that it has been really nice not needing to practically use a crow bar to get clothes out of the right side of our closet. Nothing is getting wrinkled anymore either.

Well, on to the next project.

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After the purge our clothes have room to hang and not be wrinkled.