I looked around my friend’s apartment and thought, I’ll never be a minimalist. Sure, it was super easy for her to pick up and move from one place to another. But I saw the empty walls, the mattress on the floor, the few pieces of furniture without any photos on them, the lack of personal touches, and I knew I couldn’t live that way.
The thing is, I had a different problem and I didn’t even realize it yet: I had too much stuff. Way too much stuff. A friend even commented that my apartment felt crowded. Then a second friend said the same thing. That made me look around and see my place with fresh eyes. I saw that they were right.
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Decluttering for space
When I started getting rid of stuff it had nothing to do with money. It was all about wanting more space. I wanted clear tabletops, room to put things, and a more spacious feeling. I hated feeling cramped in my relatively large (about 650 sq ft) 1-bedroom apartment. There was just no excuse for that.
I started reading blogs. I still read this one for inspiration. I came across Project 333 to reduce my wardrobe and it felt overwhelming at first. It’s not like I had that many clothes, but I still seemed to have so many more than I needed! It was intimidating, but I gave it a shot. That was probably 2 years ago and now I’m excited to choose my 33 items for next season later this week.
Clothes were one thing, but books were another. I never got rid of books back then and that was super hard. Still, It was exciting to finally have all of my books fit on the shelves without having double rows and more horizontal piles on top.
Bit by bit, things improved.
And then the strangest thing happened….
It took a while, but eventually I started to feel a difference in my home. And as I got rid of stuff, I stopped wanting to accumulate stuff. I’d read that would happen, but experiencing it was still surprising. I didn’t want to spend an afternoon shopping for clothes, because I was more aware of what I had and that what I had was enough. I didn’t pick up random kitchen gadgets because I was more aware of what I had in the kitchen, too, and I knew it was enough.
And aside from knowing that what I had was enough, I didn’t want to bring in more stuff that I would have to declutter again later! Besides, owning more than I need feels so wasteful now.
So how does this translate into dollars?
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. This blog is supposed to be about money, after all. I am so thrilled I decluttered, and I’d do it all again even without a financial benefit. But it just so happens that there’s money to be had, too!
First, my expenses went down because I stopped wanting to shop. It’s not like I haven’t bought anything in the last few years, but I’ve bought a lot less. Clothes, books, knick knacks, even groceries… I just don’t buy as much.
Then there’s the income! Yes, it would have been much easier and faster to just give everything away, but I felt it made more sense to sell some things. So every time I declutter, I make 4 piles: trash, donate, sell, keep. I don’t throw out a lot. Most of it gets donated. But yes, I have definitely sold some items. I’ve sold them through Craigslist, through ebay, and in yard sales.
In 2014 and 2015 alone I made over $840 dollars! No, this won’t let me retire young, but what would you do with an extra $840? That’s a good chunk of a down payment for a used car. It’s plane tickets overseas. It’s a vacation rental. It’s a new cell phone and a year of service. It’s dozens of meals out. And I made even more pre-2014 (when I started keeping track of it) and I’m still selling things now (4 days ago I sold a kitchen gadget that I wasn’t using anymore.)
And I’m still going
I’d love to say I’m done decluttering, but I’m not. After doing a half-assed job for a couple years, I finally really got into it and made a lot of progress. Then last year I found a book that changed everything for me. It’s not for everyone, but this approach just makes so much more sense to me! Ever since, I’ve been zipping through the decluttering process.
First I went through my clothes. Project 333 was a great start and this new approach got me the rest of the way. Now my off-season clothes sit in a large suitcase in my closet. That’s it. My drawers don’t overflow. My clothes aren’t squished in my closet. It still amazes me. There’s actually room for everything!
Then I got rid of books. I won’t lie – it was hard! The library helped a lot, though. I kept telling myself that I had thousands of books just a short drive away. I got rid of about 200 books. Then I sold my bookcase (yeah, that big one in the photo at the top) for $50.
I’ve cleaned out papers, cds, kitchen stuff I no longer use, yarn I don’t love. I got rid of an old laptop and other electronics I’ll never use again. I sold 2 old smartphones, a set of mugs, an old film camera, a globe, a suitcase, a cooler, books, costume jewelry, board games, and so many more things that I can’t even remember anymore. A coat that became too small for me was able to keep someone else warm this winter. Ditto for extra gloves and hats that I really didn’t need. I gave jigsaw puzzles to friends who love puzzles. They did them, then passed them on to others. I got rid of things I no longer used or loved so that other people can use them and love them.
And now my place doesn’t feel crowded anymore!
Somewhere along the way, I learned that’s what minimalism really is. My friend’s version was a bit extreme. It’s really just about getting rid of everything you don’t love and making room for the things you do love.
What about you?
Ok, it’s your turn. I’m challenging you. Walk around your home right now (or as soon as you get home) and find 10 things you can get rid of. I bet you can do that in 10 minutes or less. Then sell the ones that might have some value. What will you do with the extra cash? Use this calculator to see just how much cash you could have to fool around with!