All this time that I’ve been following blogs like Zen Habits, Elevated Simplicity, and A Walk to Simplicity, I never really thought that I fit into the “minimalist lifestyle.” I mean, I have a ton of crap, a ton of piles everywhere, and my life is in no way simple. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hoarder. My house does have a “cover” of being clean a lot of the time, but I do have my fair share of collections around the house:

am i a minimalist?Piles of paper on the extra table in the dining room
Piles of paper on the desk in the basement
Piles of clothes waiting to be ironed in the laundry area

you get the picture…

But that’s not the only reason I haven’t considered myself a minimalist.

Some of my stuff I don’t want to get rid of. I don’t really desire to only own 100 things. I am not convinced yet that we need to move into a 1 bedroom apartment. And while we have greatly cut back on the amount of TV watching we do, I’m not ready yet to give it away entirely.

Then it occurred to me. Last year after reading Your Money or Your Life, I realized that Hey! I don’t need all this crap! I don’t have to make as much money as I think I do because I don’t NEED all this junk!

So it’s actually been about a year now since I stopped buying so much stuff.

Oh ok, I am still a little guilty here and there (like did I really need that extra pair of sandals???) but for the most part, I really have reigned in my spending. Like I’ve said before, Eric and I have a habit of asking each other when we want to buy something: “now is that a NEED or a WANT?” It really helps us keep things in check.

Ok so that’s ONE step towards simplicity, right?

Then another thing we have been doing is going through our stuff and slowly but surely getting rid of the extra stuff. We had a yard sale last summer and everything that didn’t sell either went on Craigslist or to Goodwill.

That’s another step, yeah?

I think I’m getting the hang of it…. This year, we plan to buy Adam Baker’s Sell Your Crap and really get rid of more crap. See, my biggest hang up with just giving everything away? I want to sell things that still have value and put that towards our debt. So yes I know, there is an attachment in there somewhere.

So what steps are you taking this year to become more minimal? Does anyone else out there feel like they have a hard time relating to the minimalist movement as well?

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30 Responses

  1. Erica on 12 Jan 2011

    When I was getting rid of my stuff, I wanted to get money for it, too. But it was summer in north Texas and too hot for yard sales. In the end, I gave most of it away to my neighbors, who were thrilled to get it.

    I have only two things left I won’t give away: a drum from Taos, NM, and a silk hand-knotted rug from Egypt. I no longer want these, but what I paid for them just won’t let me get rid of them for nothing. Hopefully I’ll be able to sell them in February when I get back.

    BTW, giving the stuff away to just get it out of my apartment and not having to move it? VERY freeing. And I don’t miss any of it.

    • marianney on 12 Jan 2011

      that’s a really good point Erica about getting rid of stuff so you don’t have to move it. I guess part of me feels that I can wait to REALLY minimize until we move out of the country. Then i will practically be forced to get rid of it or pay a lot of money to move it overseas!

  2. Rachel on 12 Jan 2011

    I’ve already gotten rid of SO MUCH stuff. Even my 600 sq ft apartment has extra empty space, but there’s still more work to do. I have given up on making money on anything, because the work to do that is just too much. The more effort I put in to selling, the more present something becomes in my mind, and the more I wonder if I should keep it. I’m good at just getting rid of it, and then it’s out of sight, out of mind.

    Since you have them on your link list, I’m sure you saw the post on Rowdy Kittens today, about minimalism. That’s where I am at. Do I keep this photo, that card, that love letter, that other thing that reminds me of time and places gone by? And what about art?

    • marianney on 12 Jan 2011

      rachel, i did not read her post yet today, so that’s ironic that i wrote mine just today.

      my biggest struggle is with memoirs. and paper. if only i could stop the paper monster!

      • Erica on 12 Jan 2011

        Rachel, yes, out of sight, out of mind is best. I, too, tend to keep stuff if I keep looking at it.

        Marianne, the paper monster is indeed a problem. I’ve got a box full of tax returns from 1998. When is it ok to toss them? I recycled something like 4 boxes of paper crap last August. Most of it was stuff I’d printed off and wanted to read. Some I’d read, some I read just before I tossed it. What a waste of paper!

        • Rachel on 14 Jan 2011

          Erica, I tend to read/download a lot of PDF articles for academic research, and I’m starting to think that an iPad, while being yet another digital thing, might be a great thing for documents that I want to read. I also scan a lot of things I think need storing, and do digital backups.

      • Gena on 22 Jan 2011

        You might enjoy a post I wrote about having an abundant mindset. We’ve simplified pretty radically, but there are certain things we sort of gave ourselves permission to keep, things we felt really brought a certain person to mind or we imagined we would really wish we’d kept later in life. Its a process that’s for sure.

        • marianney on 23 Jan 2011

          great idea gena, i will definitely come read your post about that.

  3. Barbara on 13 Jan 2011

    Marianne, I have a “clear-out” at least twice a year, literally go through everything I own (AND force my husband to do the same!) and give it all to charity and friends.

    There are things I insist on keeping – books being the biggest culprits – but there are three key areas you can ALWAYS reduce massively – the contents of your wardrobe, the contents of your kitchen cupboards and the contents of your bathroom. At the end of the day, there are always clothes and shoes which were mistakes and which you never wear, there are always spices you used once for a recipe five years ago and weird packets of stuff going out of date in your kitchen and you never actually need all those bottles of creams and potions in your bathroom.

    Also very freeing – clearing people out of your email and phone contacts list 🙂

    • marianney on 13 Jan 2011

      nice, all good points. i do consistently clear out my wardrobe because i host or attend clotheswaps twice a year 😉

      as for kitchen and bathroom stuff….i do clear that stuff out from time to time. it’s amazing to find prescriptions from 8 years ago! gawd!

      email and contacts…..i am not so good at clearing that out yet!

  4. AnotherdayinParadise on 13 Jan 2011

    We scan everything that would be needed to file taxes. All medical bills are under a folder “medical” and a sub-folder for each member of the family. A folder for car and sub-folder if you have more than one car. A folder for each utilities, bank statements, etc….
    We also have everything entered in Quicken (you can indicate if an item is taxable or not) so at tax time we do not need to look at any papers. Should we get audited in the future, we can send the files to the IRS with all documents contested, or print the documents if absolutely needed, but what is the chance of that? You can start scanning starting from January 1st 2011 and shred the papers. When you are bored you can start scanning your 2008 stuff. Good luck

    • marianney on 13 Jan 2011

      yes Erica, I think you only need to keep reciepts for tax purposes for up to 7 years anyway, so im sure that 1998 stuff is ok to recycle.

  5. Eric on 13 Jan 2011

    That’s awesome Marianne! And I’m a huge believer that there are different degrees of minimalism. I consider my self more of a simple living practitioner than anything.

    Where priorities of family, friends and life overrule Job, debt and TV.

    It’s awesome to see someone else realize they don’t have to own 50 things to be considered a minimalist.


    P.S. Glad my blog helped in a small way and thanks for the include!

    • marianney on 13 Jan 2011

      of course Eric! you always have very real, insightful articles.

  6. Marnie on 13 Jan 2011

    Hi Marianney,

    I LOVE the book “Your Money or Your Life”. It completely changed my outlook on life and steered me toward a life of decluttering – a “life set free”! 😉


    • marianney on 14 Jan 2011

      it really is a great book isn’t it? i borrowed it last year from the library, but i just bought it from amazon recently so i can re-read it and actually follow through on the steps this time.
      i will be reviewing it on here shortly.

      • Marnie on 14 Jan 2011

        Yeah, it’s definitely a book you want to buy rather than borrow.

        I look forward to your review!

  7. Jo@simplybeingmum on 14 Jan 2011

    Hi Marianney – definitely identifying the difference between need and want is key to accumulation of less stuff. The less I have the less I want. It’s addictive… Jo

    • marianney on 14 Jan 2011

      ooh that’s a good point, i like that Jo! The less I have the less I want. I think you’re right…..getting rid of clutter and stuff really does make you want less!

  8. Jody on 14 Jan 2011

    Great writeup! I totally agree on a lot of points here. There are a lot of stuff I don’t want to get rid of. There’s also a long way to go with the things I do. I think whether we see ourselves as minimalists or not, the important thing is the frame of mind. If we consciously take note of our spending habits and our reduction of crap (regardless of how slow or fast) we are on the right path.

    • marianney on 14 Jan 2011

      i think you’re right jody. it’s a frame of mind. we don’t all have to get rid of everything we own overnight to be considered minimalists.

  9. Jody on 14 Jan 2011

    Thanks for the link love, BTW! Oh and great bucket list!

    • marianney on 14 Jan 2011

      of course! (and thanks) 🙂

  10. Kala on 16 Jan 2011

    I dont’ think you are a true minimalist, your blog is very elegantly minimal so that’s my guess.

    • marianney on 18 Jan 2011

      Hi Kala, I never considered myself minimalist before, but I think that a lot of it is a state of mind. I may not “look” like a minimalist, but I do embrace many of the ideals and am working towards being more minimal in every aspect of my life… it’ll take time though…

  11. […] recent post over at A Life Set Free about steps toward simplicity really got me thinking.  It got me questioning where I fit into the […]

  12. Debbie on 01 Feb 2011

    I saw your blog and it reminded me of an article in the Jan 2011 Sunset magazine of a family of 4 (two adults, two kids and a dog) in northern Calif. that live in a zero-waste home. This family has really taken minimal living to the extreme but seem very happy doing it. They went from a 3,000 ft house to 1,400 ft. What’s fascinating is how they go about shopping and how they store their food and other household items.

    • marianney on 04 Feb 2011

      Hi Debbie you are not the first to tell me about this Sunst article. Looks like i will have to go get that magazine before it’s gone. I also hear they have a blog too. Might have to check that out. Thanks for reminding me about it!

  13. SoCal on 06 Feb 2011

    I luv YMOYL…it’s one of my favorite books! I’ve been on a mission to declutter for several years now. I’m definately not under 100 things. I’m also conflicted b/c I’m interested in being green and frugal and healthy…so it’s hard to combine all of those all of the time. I also had a hard time just giving away or throwing out alot of stuff. Thank goodness I live in a big city, craigslist has been fantastic!

    • marianney on 06 Feb 2011

      I am re-reading YMOYL right now because I feel that there is a lot more I can do to manage my stuff and finances, SoCal.

      Good for you for getting rid of a lot of things. So what if you have more than 100, we all have to feel comfortable about how much we own or we won’t enjoy decluttering. You do what works for you!