Two rounds of the Minimalism Game wasn't enough for Claire Birnie, who's on a seriously inspiring mission to live with less stuff.
If you were asked to estimate the average number of items in a home, what would you say? The actual answer is 300,000! This is how much stuff is crammed into a typical Western house to support an average family size of 3.14 people in the United States and 2.4 in the United Kingdom. Isn't that outrageous?
Now, most people will express amazement and then shrug it off, getting on with everyday life, but one woman in Edinburgh was so moved by this statistic that she embarked on a unique decluttering project. Claire Birnie is a professional organizer and founder of a business called The Tidy Life Project. At the beginning of 2018 she made a New Year's resolution to purge 3,000 items from her home. It is only 1 percent of the estimated total of items in her home, but after completing two rounds of the Minimalism Game (which we've written about here), she wanted to step her decluttering up a notch.
After discovering Birnie's #Project3000 on social media, TreeHugger got in touch to find out more about this intriguing venture. Over email, she explained that her only rule was to "declutter in as environmentally friendly a way as possible," which is also her professional approach, setting her apart from others in the industry.
When asked how she tackles such a gargantuan task, Birnie explained that Project 3000 feels more freeing than other decluttering schemes and games she's done in the past:
"The beauty of deciding to let go of 3,000 things in a year was that I didn’t have to declutter every day. I declutter when I’m motivated and rest when I’m not. Some days I declutter nothing, others I find 200 things to go. That being said, the more I’ve decluttered the easier it has become. Decluttering is like training for a marathon: the more you practice, the easier it becomes to go further."
Her household items are divided into a few key categories: books, memorabilia, toiletries, and clothing/accessories. Interestingly, at the beginning of the project, Birnie didn't think she'd touch her books, but now, ten months in, she has gotten rid of one-third of her collection. She described books as her Achilles heel, representing what she recognized to be a 'fantasy self'.
"Letting go of certain books felt like giving up on a picture of myself as a studious, intellectual person, which was particularly difficult as I left a career in academia to become a professional organizer. Ultimately I have realized that keeping those books just made me feel bad about myself. The same goes for holding on to clothes two sizes too small, or an array of craft tools that you’ve never used."
Birnie has been pleasantly surprised by the number of other people who have jumped aboard Project 3000, even though it was never meant to be a group activity. She said there are participants on every continent except Antarctica, and that 10 percent of those are posting about their progress on Instagram.
Her resolution is nearly at its end; she is confident she'll finish by the end of this year, and is actually aiming to do it all over again -- another 3,000 items that will take longer than a year to purge and will focus mainly on "using up the excess I own so that I can arrive at a clean slate."
Project 3000 has transformed not only her home, but also her sense of wellbeing and her spending habits. "These days I am living the life I’ve always wanted." And who doesn't want to be able to say that?
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1371/3000 #project3000 I’ve come to the conclusion that somebody is breaking into my home at night and leaving pens behind. It is the only explanation for how many I keep finding. The crayon went to a friend’s kid, the pens are going into my @terracycleuk drawer. As soon as I’ve got a big bunch of used pens they’ll be headed to recycling ♻️ who knew you could recycle pens?! #thankyouandgoodbye
It's not too late to start your own Project 3000 equivalent, or 2000, or 1000 -- whatever you feel you can do for yourself. An emptier home feels more spacious, is easier to clean, is good for the mind and soul, and will save you money -- if you can suppress the urge to refill it.