Greg and I own about 20% of the stuff we owned in 2010. That’s a crazy thing to write.
It all started as a habit. One of our first monthly experiments in 2011 was to find in our home and get rid of 5 Things A Day for a month. It was almost like a game: quick, go find a piece of clothing you hate; quick, go find a book that you won’t ever read. We set aside ten minutes every morning and thought after a month of doing this, we’d have a handle on our stuff. Ha! :) The habit lasted two years! Yep, we got rid of at least 5 Things A Day for two years. (We stopped counting at 5,000 items!)
We created rules for what would constitute a “thing”. A binder clip wouldn't count but a bunch of them would count as one item. If we were handling paperwork (which let’s be honest, is a major player in our clutter), we would just scan or sort for ten minutes.
Some days were easy, some were a little more challenging and sparked emotional conversations. Here are the steps that we followed for 5 Things A Day:
1. Find a trigger for the habit so you make sure to repeat it. We used our morning routine.
2. Start in an easy place. Places with trash are really easy ;) The pantry or medicine cabinet? Expiration dates help out. The car? Not a ton of special items stored in there.
3. Time box so it doesn't take more than 10 minutes. Set aside more emotionally difficult items for the weekends when you have more time or towards the end of the project when you have more momentum.
4. Have a bag or box ready to fill with the items from that week. Unless they’re worth selling, get them out of the house quickly so they don’t creep back!
5. Do it again tomorrow. But if you don't, that's okay, start again the next day!
Removing all of the crap from your life can happen all at once or it can be a gradual process over years like in my house. Either way, maintenance is a crucial and iterative process. I’m pretty vigilant about not allowing new stuff in and I still continue to purge every six months or so—but with far fewer things and a lot less effort. 5 Things A Day can help alleviate the constant creep of stuff into our lives and it might even be fun!
What about you? Would you try 5 Things A Day?
+ It's a good idea to record what you get rid of or take photos for before/afters or tax-purposes.