5 Ways to Become a Minimalist

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Clever games and strategies can make the purging process more effective.

Getting rid of stuff isn't easy. We get attached to belongings, whether it's because of the memories associated with them or the money we spent to acquire them. We get used to our houses looking a certain way, even if they feel messy and are a source of stress. Purging can feel painful, disorienting, and endless, which makes us disinclined to do it.

Fortunately, there are some ways to make it more manageable, even fun. What follows are some rules, games, and strategies developed by minimalist experts for purging excess belongings and preventing more from entering your home too quickly. Use these to conquer the clutter at home and feel better about your living space (and yourself) in the process.

1. The 1-in-10-out rule

This rule, created by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, states that, for every item you bring into your home, ten must leave. Not only will this shrink your belongings at a rapid rate, but it's a serious disincentive to shopping; it will make you think long and hard about whether a new item is worth it.

"Want that new shirt? Ten articles of clothing hit the donation bin. Want that new chair? Ten pieces of furniture make it to eBay. Want that new blender? Ten kitchen items are axed."

2. 90-day rule

If you haven't used an item in 90 days, then get rid of it. Perhaps 90 isn't the right number for you, in which case select a new one and stick to it. Everyone will have different needs based on their lifestyles and location, but the point is to purge the items that are not serving a purpose or bringing joy to your life on a regular basis.

3. Minimalism Game

When I first covered this on TreeHugger, it was a hugely popular post. I think people liked having a strict schedule for their decluttering process. Start at the beginning of the month and get rid of 1 item on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third, and so on. Obviously this gets much more challenging as the month goes on, but you'll have gained momentum. Stick with it and notice a real difference by the end.

4. All you need is one

A beautifully simple point made by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, we often hoard multiples of items because we think they'll come in handy someday. But really, it just makes our lives more cluttered and complicated. Go through your belongings and get rid of the duplicates. I wrote last year:

"There are many reasons to own one of whatever you need. There’s less stuff in the house, making it easier to find that single item. It’s easier to designate a specific location in which to keep it. You will be able to afford a nicer version of one item than if you had to spend money on two.You will likely value that item and care for it more carefully than if you had an extra at hand."

5. Packing Party

When you don't know where to start, do what Joshua Fields Millburn did at the beginning of his minimalism journey. Pack up all your belongings as if you were moving and label the boxes. Then, each day as you need something, go get it out of the box. It will quickly become very clear to you which are the most important and useful items in your life.

"After three weeks, 80 percent of my stuff was still in those boxes. Just sitting there. Unaccessed. I looked at those boxes and couldn’t even remember what was in most of them. All those things that were supposed to make me happy weren’t doing their job. So I donated and sold all of it."