What I’m Backing
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The first week of the Minimalism Challenge felt easy; it was more simple organization than anything else, and that made me feel like maybe I was cheating by not taking it more seriously. This week the challenges got more difficult as I was faced with some of the more ridiculously out of control areas of my life (yes, even more ridiculous than the Coat/Storage/Utility closet from last week), so I tried to seriously consider minimalism in conjunction with my organization and cleaning. Here are the highlights of my activities!
Instead of a corner I opted to pick my coffee table.
When I purchased this table second hand from an old co-worker last year, my first thought (after “hooray, now I can throw acceptable gaming parties”) was that I was going to have to be very careful that it didn’t become just another place for me to deposit my junk. I’d done a reasonable job keeping it relatively clear, but inevitably every couple of weeks the piles would stack up and I’d have to take some time to clean it off again.
I could have just gone through another cleaning cycle and have done with it, but instead I decided to take the challenge a little more to heart. The subtitle of the challenge (emphasis mine) is “Remove the items that do not belong and enjoy the space”, so I took some time to think about it: what does and does not belong on my coffee table?
I started by listing what currently or frequently existed on the coffee table: cups, magazines, laptops, controllers, notebooks, and more! In short, too much for a single coffee table to handle.
Next I looked at the list and noted the items that already had another place in my home. Writing utensils, for example, already have a cup in my kitchen in which to live. Obviously cups and dishes belong either in the wash or in their cupboards. All gaming paraphernalia goes on the shelf underneath the coffee table with the rest of the board games. Those I was able to immediately remove (“A place for everything and everything in its place”, as my Grandma says).
Then I thought about the things I wanted on the table, what things I felt belong and knew I use every day. Laptop? Definitely – it’s an ever-present piece of technology in my life. Controllers? For sure – the coffee table is the most logical place for them to live. Everything else? Actually, those are the things I probably use the most, outside of an occasional magazine.
That meant that the remaining items were going to require either a new place of their own or a lifestyle change, and since I was trying to actively minimize the items in my life, a lifestyle change seemed to make more sense.
The biggest issue for me was my magazines and reading material. I subscribe to 4 magazines (1 is weekly , 2 are monthly, and 1 is quarterly), and I have a bad habit of letting them pile up on my table. The new goal I’ve set for myself? Only the most recent issue of each magazine may reside on the coffee table. Everything older must get thrown away. Any that I find particularly beneficial and want to keep for reference I already have an area for on my bookshelf.
For curious parties, yes, I’ve toyed with digital-only subscriptions, but the bottom line is that I like my physical copy of the Economist way better than the app. Bon Appetit is much better, but if I don’t have a physical copy, I can’t clip recipes. For now, at least, restricting myself to having only a single issue at a time will have to do. Perhaps I will reassess in the future!
You can see from my After picture here that I’ve stripped out everything doesn’t “belong” on the coffee table, which gives me a big open area between my ever-present laptop and the single pile of most-recent magazines and notebooks I’ve allowed myself. I think the notebooks will eventually get moved too, but having one available for brain storming and note-taking for projects have proved beneficial. Hey it’s a work in progress, gimme a break!
Not having a toy chest specifically, I decided to clean up my computer desk. LOOK UPON MY MESS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!
This challenge went hand-in-hand with “Turn your bedroom into a place of relaxation”; this crazy-ass desk lives in my bedroom with the rest of my crazy belongings. It is, as the kids say, cray.
Or it was. (cue dramatic gopher)
I started out using the same pattern I used for the coffee table: I took a brief inventory of belongings, and then began to relocate items that already had a home and trash others that simply weren’t needed anymore. But this time instead of being pleased with my progress, the longer I cleaned, the unhappier I felt. Sure, the desk was cleaner, but it wasn’t feeling any better about it. What actually belonged on this desk?
And then I realized that I simply didn’t need the desk at all.
Since I started taking my laptop everywhere with me and since I stopped playing PC games (or, more honestly, since I stopped playing World of Warcraft) I just wasn’t using the desktop computer much anymore. Currently it’s mostly just a repository for pictures; on occasion I’ll play a game of Fallout or Left4Dead, and every once and awhile I’ll mock up a silly image with Illustrator or Photoshop, but mostly it sits alone, poor thing, unused.
Now as much as I’m attempting to be minimal I’d never get rid of it – it’s a great (and expensive) computer and it’s full of potential for future projects…but I didn’t need an entire desk, a desk used mostly (as you can see) as a repository for my flotsam. So I decided to get rid of it. It was a 6-year old piece of Ikea junk, anyway.
Realizing that I don’t use a computer that I relied on so heavily for years was surprising to me, but it was fantastic to downsize from that huge desk to a simple set of drawers for my occasional usage. Not only does it remove a place for me to store things, but it also freed up a big chunk of space in my bedroom.
The desk no longer belonged – I didn’t need it. So I chucked it. Unlike other things I’ve struggled with this week, no emotional attachments.
This week was more difficult; the cleaning took longer and the decisions have started becoming more difficult. While cleaning out my bedroom I started going through my clothing in repeated waves – each time I walk through my closet and boxes, I pick up a few more shirts and drop them into the donation pile. That Kermit the Frog shirt I’ve had since middle school? It’s in the pile (and it still squeezes my heart a bit thinking about it). Those Camp Big Creek shirts from my summer teaching kids at an outdoor camp? Time to let them go too, good memories aside.
I also wasn’t able to complete all the challenges this week because I was out of town Thursday afternoon through Sunday (hence why this post is up so late) – I’ll be sure to make sure I accomplish them by the month’s end, I promise. I do feel like I’m still keeping up with the spirit of the challenge, however!
Oh, though there’s one challenge I’m gracefully refusing – getting rid of my picture frames. I’ll have no problem putting most pictures into albums or digitally online…but I have 5 picture frames of family and friends that will not be relegated to a digital frame – they make me happy, and that’s what minimalism is about, right? Keeping the things that make you genuinely happy, and leaving the rest behind.
Also, digital frames are tacky and I hate them.