While backpacking around New Zealand for seven months, I learned to love living with only the necessities. All of the possessions I brought with me fit into one backpack and it was still more than I needed. It is incredible how little you actually need when you are forced into a limited situation.
I knew that this living style was going to be an adjustment, so I began to read about minimalism to prepare. Walden by Henry David Thoreau is the classic example of minimalist writing. This book provides a lot of valuable information but for a more modern and applicable example of these principles, I suggest reading Leo Babauta’s writings. The combination of his books (The Power of Less and Focus) and blog posts (Zen Habits and mnmlist) will provide you with the concepts needed to simplify your life.
This material and my experiences in New Zealand has helped me take a minimalist approach to the number of possessions I have. It is definitely a struggle to maintain in a society that is constantly pushing people to buy more. However, it is amazing the amount of stress that is relieved by simply living in an uncluttered and organized space.
This leads to the challenge for the week: Give away one item each day for seven days. This will not be seven random items either. I want you to make it a challenge for yourself by strategically choosing the items that you give away.
Take the next five minutes to figure out seven items that fit one of the following two categories:
1) Items contributing to a bad habit
– Moderate Example: Give away your DVD’s. Having a large collection of DVD’s can be a huge barrier preventing you from being social. Without any movies to watch, you eliminate a reason for staying home. This gives you more incentive to go out and build deeper relationships with friends. Remove barriers between your current life and your ideal life.
– Extreme Example: Give your TV away. If you want to instantly transform your life, eliminate all TV from it.
– Other examples: Unhealthy Food, Video Games, etc.
2) Items not used in the last six months
– Don’t allow yourself to hold onto something that you “might use at some point.” If you have not used it in the last six months then you will be fine without it.
– Books are a great example of this. When you finish a book, you are probably never going to read it again. Be honest with yourself. A few special books might be worth keeping but the majority will never be used again. Why not let someone else enjoy them? Especially if you know someone that could really benefit from one of them. Be strategic with your book giving.
Now that you have your seven items, give them away in one of the following three ways:
1) Give it to a friend. There are numerous things that you are not using that a friend could benefit from having. Do you have extra gardening tools, kitchenware, clothes, or exercise equipment that you could do without? Go on Facebook and list items that you are willing to give away and you will be surprised to see the number of responses.
2) Donate them. Goodwill and local shelters are always in need of donations. There are plenty of people that are in desperate need of items you have. You can improve a person’s life by simply un-cluttering yours. What is old and not needed by you is new and useful to someone else.
3) Listia – This is a great website that helps you to give away stuff you are not using. When you put an item on the site, people are able to bid on it with points that they have earned. You earn points by putting more items up to give away. Therefore, you can get rid of all the stuff that you are not using and load up on points so that when you finally see one item you really want, you will have the points to get it. You are essentially trading lots of things that you don’t want, for a few things you do. Great concept.
One warning about this process is not to get caught up with money. Don’t wait to eliminate this stuff just because you think you can sell it. Trying to sell the items will simply create another step in the process of removing them from your life. You will begin to become concerned about how you will sell them and how much you will receive. This will only add more stress to your life. The goal is to eliminate stress.
You will benefit by removing these items from your life. You will help another person out and help yourself out at the same time. That should be payment enough. Spend the week eliminating stress and helping others at the same time.
What kind of stuff do you need to give away?