Essentialism 101: Step 1: Stop Digging!

Hello! Last week, I introduced Essentialism 101, or my fundamental formula for the best and most sustainable method for dealing with the excess in our lives. I want to go into each step in a little more detail starting with Step 1: Stop bringing new stuff in.

From our garden metaphor last week, this also means STOP FEEDING THE WEEDS. This step is really important for the long-term success of a decluttering project. If habits or systems aren’t changed (and I see this a lot), your space (or calendar, or budget) will easily go back to where it started. It might be in a month or even a year but you will end up in the same place with the same issues.

This step is damage control. It’s stopping the bleeding. The less we own or commit to, the less we have to take care of or make room for. It might actually make the Essentialism project easier.

So, before creating the framework for editing, stop doing what you’re doing… especially if it’s making matters worse. Stop for a week or, even better, a month. Notice where you’re overwhelmed or where the clutter is so you can stop adding to it. Is it mail? Clothing? Wasted food? Emails? Be realistic about what you’re doing and using.

+ Stop the incoming information. Don't let junk or trash into the house. Especially junk mail.

+ Try to stop spending money for a month, except for on the true essentials like basic groceries. No spending! (and the recap.) You’ll use up items you already have and save money in the process!

+ Stop shopping. Find a new hobby. You can get by with your current wardrobe for a little while. If you see things you want, add them to a wishlist (like Amazon's) and revisit them in a month or so with a new filter. I stopped shopping for “necessities” at Target and excess food at Costco and haven’t looked back! Impulse purchases and decisions are such clutter creators.

+ Stop saying "yes" to everything if you’re feeling pressed for time. Getting into the habit of saying “I can’t right now” will help create space before you examine your commitments. It's exercising a muscle you will use later. 

+ And stop your triggers. One of the main reasons I do my monthly experiments is to question habits that are detracting from my life. Staying up late is an example, so is watching tv. Maybe receiving a certain catalog is a trigger for you to want to shop, or those daily deal emails. You can unsubscribe right now and stop the temptation to buy things you don’t need or sign up for coupons you don’t want. You might miss the rush for a day or two but you’ll quickly adapt.

This exercise can be quick and you’ll start to notice where you spend (or waste) your energy. So stop adding, collecting, agreeing, buying until you’ve set some better guidelines for decision making. Up next, priorities!!