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4 Tactics For Becoming an Unconventional Tourist

The following is a guest post. My love of unconventional travel started when I was 12 years old. My dad had decided that, of all the ways to spend Christmas, we should go on a cycling tour around Cuba. And so we did it. We figured out how to...

I Hate Hair: Reasons Why Shaving Your Head Skyrockets Confidence

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Aron James: Hair loss is something that happens to our grandfathers. It is the sign of the wisdom that comes with old age; a rite of...

How to Be a Solo-Female Hiker: Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes shares how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Hayley Turner (a.k.a. Little Foot): I can still remember everything about that day, from waking up and walking 12 miles by noon, the dogs...

Do You Really “Find Yourself” When You Travel?

"I know this sounds cliché, but I have to ask—do you really 'find yourself' when you travel?" the girl asked me. Her young friend crouched next to my table, gently stroking the cats as they slept. Café Neko is a small coffee shop in Vienna that allows cats to wander...

When Not Everything Goes as Planned, It Still Goes: A Story About Finding Your Passion

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Jen: As a kid, I was told that I was lucky that I already knew what I wanted to do with my life. From age four, I knew I wanted to be...

The Digital Nomad’s Roadmap – A Complete Guide: Successfully Live, Work, and Travel Anywhere

So you wanna be a digital nomad. I’m not surprised: the future is bright for freelancers and location independent workers. Statistics show 40% of Americans will be contingent workers by 2020. That’s a lot of potential for digital nomads! Yet there’s no hands-on guide...

Limitations: Why the 9–5 Job Doesn’t Need To Stop You

Over the years I’ve had a number of conversations with people who talk about cool things they want to do, see, or make. A lot of these conversations end with “Well, I’d love to do it, but unfortunately I have XYZ,” and many times those XYZs are very valid limitations...

Stealing Second Base: From Side Gig to Self Employed Full Time

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Katherine Stimson: “You can’t steal second base with one foot still on first.” In the spring of 2010, a Facebook ad posted by a total...

Dreams Are Like Pirate Treasure: Hard to Find, But Worth the Risk

All dreams start somewhere and typically, no matter the size of the overall dream, most dreams start small. Let’s say yours is to feel better at work every day. You focus on sitting up straight in week one. Week two finds you taking a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. Week...

Why Is It So Hard to Let Go of Our Things? My Excuses for Avoiding Minimalism

Minimalism as a movement may leave a bad taste in your mouth, and that’s okay. I have my own definition of minimalism that works for me. What I’m here to talk about is why getting rid of our stuff is so damn hard… Even when those things are holding us back. Here’s my continued story on the road to achieving minimalism.

It’s official – my second month’s rent just deposited. That means it’s been over a month since I moved to Ocean Beach, San Diego!

There are still two unpacked boxes waiting for me to sort through them, and a pile under my loft that hasn’t found a home yet. I shudder to think of what my studio apartment would look like if I hadn’t made a pointed effort to reduce what I own.

You might not guess I’m trying to go minimalist by walking into my house. Sure, it’s cleaner and more organized than my last apartment, but there is still clutter. You would probably think, “Wow, lots of stuff.” In other words, I still have a long ways to go.

Have you ever wondered how you got to owning so many things? When was the last time you had to pack up and go, only to realize just how much of that stuff you forgot even existed?

The experience is eye opening. To be honest, I still struggle with throwing out those unnecessary things that cost me time and space. Today, I’m going to talk about the biggest reasons I have struggled to put those final items on the chopping block.

Maybe you’ll feel the same.

Reason 1: Reducing Isn’t a Priority

When I packed to move in, I already managed to cut down my life’s inventory in half. Now that the move is over, I don’t make the time to actively reduce what I own.

You see, I’ve been running myself a bit thin lately. Organizing my closet doesn’t make it to the top of my priority list.

There’s regular apartment cleanup, exercise, sleep, teaching classes, and being self-employed to worry about. I don’t feel motivated to fill what little time I have left dealing with inventory.

The problem is, minimizing would help me become more productive.

My energy levels would rise exponentially as the clutter disappeared, that’s just science. Even logistically, it would help: It’s 5 minutes less making room for my bicycle. Another 5 minutes I don’t have to shift everything around when it’s time to sweep the floor.

The little minutes here and there all add up, and it’s less visual clutter. It all means I have more attention to focus on the tasks at hand.

Reason 2: Getting Rid of Stuff is Scary

There are a few elements at play here, the first being that we tend to create an identity around the things we own.

There is also this thing called the sunk investment effect. It makes it difficult for us to let go of things we already spent money on, even if it doesn’t make sense to keep them.

I am terrified of what to do with all my things. One box is full of art stuff: Portfolio pieces, to high end markers, paints and pencils.

The fact is I don’t practice art much these days. But, it’s a huge mental block to know there are ultimatums to be made about my art supplies. I’ve held onto them for this long, just in case, you know?

Realistically, I get the urge to paint or draw only a few times a year, and even then I rarely actually do.

The rational decision is to get rid of most of it, because I don’t have the space for it.

But that makes me sad. (Which makes me ignore the problem, because I know how it’s going to end.)

Reason 3: Organizing Takes Effort

Finding space where the is none takes creative thinking and wizardry you didn’t know you had. There is effort involved, which you spent a lot of time anticipating and avoiding.

That’s why I always say: If you want to get something done, don’t anticipate it.

Clearing out belongings takes physical labor, which I’m not looking forward to. Not to mention, the whole process is emotionally draining. I am still not used to dealing with sentimental value in a healthy way.

So what is there to do about it?

There isn’t much to be done other than doing it. Stop thinking about what is involved, and just freaking do it.

It’s good exercise – physically and mentally – anyways.

What stops you from letting go of your stuff?

Everyone has different reasons for holding onto everything they own. I already decided it was time to start working towards my goal of less. I want the physical and financial freedom that comes with that.

These are the reasons I’m struggling now that the move is over and I’m comfortable again, when it’s an easy problem to ignore.

I want to know: What is the one thing that’s stopping you from being minimalist? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Funny how I am starting this right now in my life. As I ponder it, I wonder if I should wait til my middle school children graduate and hopefully move on it life, but I know if I start now, I will be well on my way. It’s going to take awhile to slowly weed stuff out. I have come to the point in my life where I realize I don’t need everything I have. I am slow at doing things like this anyway, but it helps to slowly integrate new ideas so one day I will wake up and go…”wow…I did it!” 🙂 Keep thinking if I had a smaller house it would be easier to do so as well, but I don’t know if I can handle a smaller house with two crazy kiddos and a cat. I don’t know who hides more, me or the cat. 🙂 I think this is a great article and really tells the truth. You just have to find out what method works best for you. 🙂 One trick I learned is when you get into Spring cleaning every year, if you haven’t used something more than once in the last year, get rid of it. 🙂

    Reply
    • Anne Dorko

      Great points Rebecca!

      I can’t speak to what it would be like trying to be a minimalist with children (and animals), but I can only imagine that the sooner you start, the better. Bonus: You’re setting an example for your kids on how to live with just what you need.

      Slowly integrating is much better than not integrating at all in my opinion 😉

      Great idea on the Spring Cleaning. One idea I read on Pinterest was to hang all your hangers backwards, and flip them around once you wear the item. At the end of the year, get rid of anything that’s still hanging up backwards.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    NOOOO! There is not only one rational choice – getting rid of the art supplies!!! There is another choice – use them! You know you want to… think of using them up as a way to downsize LOL – practicing creativity is a boost for productivity, it makes your mind work better.

    Can you tell that I have overflowing boxes of art supplies as well? I am working on using them up – I started a personal poetry anthology/art journal. It is a good thing.

    Reply
    • Anne Dorko

      Hmm, maybe if I assign myself a weekly art project I will allow myself to keep them. Otherwise, they’re probably going to have to go…

      Reply

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