Unveiling the January Challenge

Recap of December.

Using the December Challenge of reaching out to one person each day I was able to start a few conversations and touch base with people who I haven’t talked to in a while.  I don’t think that it was as successful as the first time I tried it, but I did have some great conversations that I would not have had beforehand so I count it as a success.  I had some issues with timing and responding if they threw the conversation ball back my way, but that was something that I expected.  All in all it was a worthwhile experience and I am glad that I gave it another shot.

And now on to the future.

When designing a challenge it is easy to think about the New Years resolutions that we all make.  I really don’t like resolutions because there is generally not enough planning or follow through.  One of the things that I want to accomplish during 2015 is to reduce the amount of things that I own.  I am not planning on going full minimalist, but after looking back fondly at 2009-2010 where everything I owned fit in the back of my Buick I think it is time to reduce the clutter and get back to the essentials.  As the Fight Club quote goes “The things you own end up owning you” and January is a perfect time to fight back against that.

The Challenge: Get rid of one thing each day.  Donate, throw away, give away, burn, get it out of the house.  For an extra twist if I get anything new that I really want to keep I am going to get rid of 2 old things.

The System: Getting rid of stuff is hard, especially if it has sentimental value, but sometime you just need to take the plunge.  I am not talking about getting rid of cherished possessions, but do you really need the tee shirt from Grand Council 2009 that barely fits anymore, because I really don’t.  Having a system in place to get rid of these things help to make the transition easier.

  • Make a list of the things that you want to get rid of: You know that box that has been in your closet since you moved in, or the old pants that you are keeping just in case you lose a few pounds, or the piece of kitchen equipment that you couldn’t live without but have only used twice, why not get rid of these.
  • The 100 days rule: Anything that I have not used within 100 days is part of the conversation.  If it is something that I have used within the past year then it probably makes sense to keep it, but if not then it is fair game.  If there is something that I haven’t used in a while but I see benefit to then I won’t feel guilty about keeping it, but it is important to have that conversation and evaluate rather than just blindly chucking things.
  • Define what “one thing” means to you: You could technically get rid of one sock each day, but that will defeat the purpose of this challenge.  I personally am going to group things by type, one day I am going to get rid of socks, then next old shirts, the next my collection of old bookbags.  If I get rid of 15 socks it will count as 1 thing, as will 5 tee shirts and 2 dress shirts.  You can divide it in any way that you want, but just make a commitment to getting rid of stuff.
  • Figure out what to do with things:There are many avenues to getting rid of stuff.  I personally like to repurpose and give them to people who would use them better than I would.  I would prefer to give them to people who I know, but Goodwill is an appropriate alternative.  The key is making sure that they actually go, not just storing the box of stuff to go to Goodwill indefinitely until you forget about it.  Selling on craigslist is another alternative, but because of the time delay it may not go on that same day.  I plan to set a limit on things that I am going to sell, if they don’t sell by date X then I am going to donate them instead.
  • Celebrate the things that you are getting rid of: I plan on taking a picture of everything that I get rid of during the next month and then flipping through to create a visual representation of the amount of space I have opened up and the amount of meaningless stuff that I don’t have to take with me next time I move.

I will never be able to live a minimalist lifestyle, probably because all those years in boy scouts have left me too paranoid about being prepared.  By February 1st I will hopefully be one step closer.  At some point in our lives we move from having “stuff” to having “things” with tend to have greater value.  I started making that transition a few years ago and have changed around my wardrobe, furniture, and even the mementos that are worthwhile to keep.  Making this step and getting rid of more “stuff” will help to ease that transition and make sure that I only keep things that are important, even if they no longer fit in the back of a Buick.

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