What can happen when two groups of people are inspired to work together? Magic.

Last month, I was lucky to be involved in the Verity Mom meet-up. One of the moms mentioned that she and her husband were beginning to practice minimalism. It reminded me that the practice of getting by with less and less was something that I regularly come around to… usually when my house is messy and I feel tired of looking at the clutter, and/or otherwise remember that it’s something I’d like to do (thanks, Sarah!). Here begins the circuitous loop of Sasha’s Practice of Minimalism

Step 1: Realize that I have more stuff than I need/want/use. Some of it is looking around and realizing that the things I do use don’t get as much care (such as regularly being put away) because the things I don’t use are too busy living in that space like vicious squatters I’m afraid to confront. Some of it is knowing that my storage space has about 8 rubbermaid bins (*aherm* and four or five random boxes) that I have not really gone through since I moved last February. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem. I, Sasha Kemble, have too much stuff.

Step 2: Get embarassed about the stuff. My neighbors unwittingly helped me out with this one. They’d left a note on my door mentioning that they needed to test the batteries on our water heater alarms, both water heaters live in the back of my storage space. They asked that I let them know a good time to stop by. They did this on a Thursday evening. I was busy for the next two days, but set aside time on a Sunday afternoon to get to it. However, I needed to run an errand first, and when I came home, I ran into them in the parking lot. These neighbors are a super sweet older couple, about 15-20 years older than my parents, and who I am secretly adopting as grandparents (no one knows except you and me, internet). We chat and gossip about the sale of another unit in our building for a few minutes, and then they say that now’s a great time to come and replace the batteries. “Oh!” I say, “But I need to clear it out first, could you give me half an hour?” but they are already on the way inside their unit to get the battery tester, and in their grandparent-like force of nature, I am swept along. Before I know it, we are standing at my unit, and all of us are looking at the bins that are piled in such a way that no one can reach the water heaters. “Well, dear,” Pat pats my arm, “Maybe you can just let us know when we can access this.” They disappear back to their place while I blush and move the containers into my living room.

Step 3: Tackle ALL the stuff. Once the stuff is in my living room (and the water heater batteries have been replaced), I decide there is no time like the present to begin sorting through this junk. Never underestimate the power of shame to help motivate a Stuff purge. I get a box ready for donatables, a bag for trash, and a box lid for recycling. My computer’s nearby, at first blasting a podcast (note: podcasts are much better to use than movies as there’s nothing to capture your visual focus) during which time I manage to get through most of one bin. Somehow more piles have been created all around me, creating such new categories as, “Maybe You Need to Think About This Longer” and “You Don’t Have Time to Read This Old Writing NOW, But You Can’t Toss It Without Reading”. This is when I begin to think I’m over my head.

Step 4: Complete and utter denial. “Over my head? Pshaw.” What I begin to do is try to look up that quote from history where someone says that victory is often just a bit beyond certain defeat, or something like that. The internet time suck happens, and suddenly it’s 45 minutes later, my eyes are beginning to feel a little crazed, and the piles are still around me. (To Piles: you’re all jerks, and I want you to leave!) I’ve already heard all the podcasts currently on my computer, so I decide to put on a movie, one that I haven’t seen. I half-watch about 15 minutes of it before I realize I don’t want to watch it (grisly scene, and I recently had a bad nightmare). Put on another movie that I haven’t seen that definitely does not have any stabbing or such happening. Okay, now I can TOTALLY conquer the stuff. Get more engrossed in the movie than I realize/care to admit.

Step 5: Bedtime approaches. What the hey? I just started on these bins 6 hours ago. Clearly I need to wrap up what I’ve started. I consolidate the piles, and rejoice in turning two rubbermaids and two boxes into one rubbermaid, a heaping recycle pile, and a full box to take to Goodwill. As I move the newly consolidated bin back into the storage space with the unexamined ones, I feel pangs of regret. Is it possible to just toss those out? Can I pay a friend to sort through it and ask me, “Do you really need this? Really?” (Note to friends: I need a solid day, but I will cook you dinner and stuff.)

Step 6: Bedtime passes, but look up inspiration on Internet. How I have not “discovered” Pinterest before this time is beyond me. How it magically becomes 2.5 hours past my bedtime (3, given the time change that morning), reveals that Pinterest is a very dangerous site indeed. Resolve to refrain from Pinterest until stuff is gotten rid of, and then use as motivation to take on single projects in the future. (So far, some success.)

Step 7: Repeat this cycle every few weeks until stuff is (hopefully) gone.

Have you successfully gotten rid of stuff? What helped you be successful in striving toward minimalism? I’m currently pretending that if I don’t get rid of all my stuff, there’ll be a disaster that takes care of everything, but that if I get rid of it, it’ll somehow avert the disaster while leaving the stuff I use and love. (My imagination has to be engaged if I want to stay on track.) Anyway, your thoughts, tips, and well-wishes are greatly appreciated!

Sasha Kemble

Sasha may be the shyest social person you’ll ever meet. She joined Verity in 2009, with a couple years in the Credit Union Movement already tucked under her belt (amidst coffee-making and bagel-slinging, running a non-profit, and trying her hand at farming). 

An eternal optimist (except, you know, when she’s not), she enjoys exploring her surroundings and having adventures with friends; yoga, running, reading, writing, and good food. Though not a remarkable cook, she is nonetheless a sincere one and admits she’d be better if there were three more hours in every day. When not doing one of the many activities mentioned in the previous two sentences, she counts herself lucky to be peacefully at home, cuddling with her partner and their cat.

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