Playing the Minimalist’s Game

Minimalist's game : clutterDuring Lent, it’s traditional to give up something to imitate Jesus’s fast for 40 days. I like my food, and admit I have never managed more than a day of fasting, but I like to set myself a challenge. I’m so aware of the privileged lives we all lead in the West, and I think it’s good to say ‘no’ to myself every once in a while.

Last year it was sugar- great health-wise and challenged my sweet-toothly habits! A few years ago I did something creative daily and wrote a blog about it (spot the throwaway comment on Day 15!)

This year I‘m giving things up again! I read recently about the Minimalist’s Game: this involves decluttering 1 item on Day 1; 2 on Day 2; 3 on Day 3 and 40 on Day 30. I was immediately inspired. “Why not do it for Lent”, I thought- “it’s only a few more days”…

If you are of a mathematical bent (and I’m not) you will have quickly calculated that Min’s Game declutters a total of 465 items in 30 days. Continuing on to the 40 days adds a few more items (or should I say, subtracts a few more items!)

820 in total.

820 items!

How I did the Minimalist’s Game

Lent actually is 46 days, but I don’t count Sundays. I won’t be rigid about daily numbers: when working, I may not always have time to declutter daily but I will cover the total weekly. (A recent casual survey of APDO declutterers showed that we often come home from a day’s work and are inspired to get stuck into our own homes before our coats are off!)

So how about joining me?

If you think it’ll be too hard, how about the original 30 days, or set yourself a challenge to clear out 10-50 things a week? (If you toss three things daily, you will have cleared over 1000 things in a year – just don’t replace them!) Set a realistic goal you can stick to and do it with a friend. The hardest part is starting…

I’d love to hear about your own challenge, so do comment, or send me an email/ message!


Minimalist's game- week 1

First week done!

Before starting I went through the house to identify the cluttertraps. I listed all those areas, then prioritised them from 1 to 10: 1 being my easy stuff – my clothes, followed by utility stuff, kitchen etc. The very last item on my list will be sentimental stuff & photos. You might have a different order- if you love clothes for example, but I do regularly sort my clothes each season, so the pickings are pretty sparse around there…

As a Professional Declutterer & Organiser I do try and keep on top of clutter, but there are corners which are relatively untouched- boxes I’ve just left ‘for later’. These are the ones I’m hoping to get on top of at last…
I will photograph the ever-growing pile and write weekly about the experience. My family are VERY nervous, though I have assured them (as always) that I won’t clear out any of their stuff without their agreement…

So how has it gone?

Due to being away from home over half term I had to catch up on Saturday- four days in. In my bedroom I decluttered eight pieces of clothing pretty quickly, By Monday I had collected another seven from our cloakroom which got us back on track (two odd gloves among the trawl!) On Tuesday I dug out some old toiletries and a just read book that wasn’t a keeper and my work was done- phew!

To be honest, I’m a little scared. The total collected this week was 21 items and that is approximately a fortieth of the way through. The sofa may be rather cluttered by the end! The Minimalist’s Game starts off easy and our house is big- no corner will be untouched by the end of my ‘clutter hunt’.

I’m finding it a challenge though – my job is to helping people process their ‘stuff’ – and when I work with clients we usually handle everything and make a decision. But I can see how easy it is to just glaze over certain items – it’s as if they’re invisible. To combat this I recommend that you completely empty a drawer or wardrobe out so you really look at each item in turn.


Second week

Minimalist's game- week 2

Another hectic week meant that I decluttered AHEAD of the third week. I decluttered the basement- some obscure liqueurs went, and some forgotten pottery objects created by my children when little (no-one loved or missed them). Old mobile phones & chargers went, as well as bath products… and even took photographs.

The perils of perfectionism

I often tell people I’m a recovering perfectionist and it’s true. People think of perfectionists as being very neat but that’s only half the story- there are two kinds. The consistent ones put loads of time & effort into finishing every job perfectly. That was never me. You may have heard of the All-or-Nothing Rule. That was me. If I didn’t have time to do it properly I wouldn’t bother even starting it. So as a child, my bedroom was pretty messy- but then I would spend all afternoon blitzing it, and it would stay good for a few days then gradually revert back to mess!

Now I avoid aiming for perfection- ‘good enough’ is good enough.

(By the way- that’s why you won’t find beautiful pictures of magazine interiors on my website- the vast majority of us don’t live like that.)

So I admit I got a little distracted by my photographs. I’m creating a time-lapse video of daily additions. It will look great, but last week I was trying to get the lighting identical for each photo. This meant I ran out of time and then didn’t post anything at all!



Third week

This week it was mainly paperwork. I cleared some old paperwork from a property we no longer own. I cleared old paperwork from a garden re-design and decluttered my box of cards. Now the ones I like are all matched with envelopes and ready to give. Does anyone else keep cards you wouldn’t actually give to anyone…?!


Fourth week

Minimalist's game- week 4

This week I actually got ahead for the first time- by Saturday I was decluttering 28 items! My ‘day job’ is all about decision-making – helping clients make trivial and tough decisions about what to keep. How do we decide what has meaning to us now in our present life? Things we have collected in our home often represent possibilities or opportunities. ‘One day’ we may have time to try that recipe, fix that piece of furniture/ clothing, contact that person etc…

Decluttering requires us to be more honest with ourselves about how we want to live. Life can be overwhelming and we are bombarded by advertising and marketing. I consciously limit what ‘comes in’ now – unsubscribing to emails & junk mail as well as reducing shopping trips! I edit out any unrealistic ‘possibilities’. For example, I often tear out recipe ideas from magazines, but now chuck them out ruthlessly if I don’t use them. This felt quite hard initially. Obviously I liked the recipe, that’s why I kept it- so it sat there just nagging away in my kitchen. Now those recipes quickly go out- one less pressure on me! Life is busy, and I’d rather spend more time with friends and family…

(People are more important than stuff aren’t they?)

When this obvious truth sank into my brain I started to get much more decisive about things. This helped me support my clients through more difficult decision-making. The less stuff you have, the easier it is to organise and the less time and energy you spend on it.

So I ventured into our loft and binned most of my college notes, paperwork and ancient gardening magazines. I decluttered fabric from old sewing projects, packing peanuts, old business cards, flower arranging materials as well as a few spare Christmas crackers! Lofts are great for seasonal stuff or true archiving, not for procrastination…
Could you be more honest with yourself about some of those ‘opportunities’ which are cluttering up your life…?


Day 40 (Fifth and sixth week)

Minimalist's game- week 5

I now have 820 items fewer in my home. What did I learn along the way?

  1. Firstly, the hardest bit was logistics, as I was away for a few days during the challenge. I’d given myself permission not to stick religiously to the daily challenge, keeping to the weekly numbers instead. I found it worked much better to do a big session a few times a week…
  2. A welcome result was that I re-organised some areas. The golden rule is to declutter first- organising what you’ve decided to keep is then much easier. I sorted my wrapping kit, my utility room, larder as I went along.
  3. Hunting the hidden stuff. We do both try and avoid clutter, but it does still exist. It’s just hidden away in certain drawers, cupboards and the loft. It felt pretty easy to do the actual declutter; once I’m looking at stuff I’ve learned to be more decisive about it. The hard bit was seeing the invisibles…
  4. Getting other people involved. As I got to the last week I was decluttering between 35-40 items a day. Inspiration struck and I recruited my boys onto my team, so I could have a relaxing family Easter weekend. We completed Days 38/39 with the incentive of an extra Easter egg each. This motivated them in just 20 minutes each- proof of how much clutter they had in their room!

So what did it amount to?

Three full bin bags and one box of books to charity, one bin bag of recycling, one bin bag of textiles & wool, one bag of rubbish, a pile of stuff to go outside my house, a bag of clothes for a friend’s younger child and a small pile of items to sell, or give back to their owners.

Minimalist's game- week 6

My boys were very happy to reclaim their sofa bed and finally enjoy a less cluttered room!
Where do we go from here? The truth is that there are still a few areas of the children’s rooms I didn’t get to. The loft also has some corners unturned and of course there are the dreaded photos… We agreed that we should continue, but at a slower pace- maybe 40 items a week would be more manageable?!

If you would like less clutter, how would you get started?