Minimalism Isn’t a Numbers Game

March 23, 2015
one-size-fits-all

Last week, I announced I’d done one final declutter and had officially removed 65% of my belongings from my home; this means I’m living with just 35% of what I once owned (which are now 100% of my belongings and there’s literally nothing left to get rid of). For the first time, since starting on this journey, I felt a tiny bit of pushback from a few readers/followers. It wasn’t negative, but the concern was that I’d potentially given away too much, and a few people even wrote to say they wished they could do the same but they’d never be able to do what I had done. The minute I read that, I knew I wanted to write this post.

Nine months ago, I declared that I was going to embrace minimalism. It was my 29th birthday, and I made all these statements like, “I want to enjoy what I have,” and “I want to live an intentional life,” but I honestly had no idea what minimalism looked like or how I was going to embrace it. I got this idea in my head that it’d be nice to remove 250 things from my home, but there was no rhyme or reason to it. No magic calculation helped me decide on that number. I didn’t even know how much stuff I owned, let alone how much I could get rid of! All I knew was that my home felt cluttered, I was sick of not being able to find what I was looking for, and I wanted to stop bringing more unnecessary stuff into it.

In the first month that followed, I opened every closet, cupboard and drawer in my apartment, grabbed everything I owned and put it on the floor. There were boxes full of stuff I’d moved multiple times to multiple different homes, piles of clothes, over 120 books and a sinkful of bathroom products. It was a freaking mess to walk around in my condo. My friend Melissa had flown out from Toronto for a visit, right as I was in the middle of it, and I felt awful that she had to see my place covered in so much stuff – but it had to be done. Once it was all out in front of me, I went through each item and asked myself: When was the last time you used this? and Why are you holding onto it?

I chose to take inventory, as I touched every single item and decided which pile to put it in: donate, toss or keep. If I hadn’t used it in 6+ months and it was in good condition, it was donated. If I hadn’t used it in 6+ months and it wasn’t in good enough condition to donate, it was tossed. And then anything I kept had to immediately be organized and put back in its place. By the end of that first month, I had removed a total of 43% of my belongings from my home, and I got a new idea in my head that it’d be nice to clear out an even 50% before the end of 2014. Again, there was no rhyme or reason to it, and no magic calculation that helped me decide on that number; it just seemed like a good goal.

From then until now, I’ve continued to do little declutters/purges here and there. I’d notice there was a brand new bottle of lotion I’d held onto in a scent I didn’t actually love, or a sweater I thought I’d wear but it just didn’t fit right anymore. Each time I noticed something, I put it in a bag in my front closet. If, at the end of the month, I still hadn’t needed to grab it from that bag, I donated the entire thing. There were a few months where I managed to do larger purges, like when I finally opened my box of Christmas decorations or when I decided to give up my magazine collection. For the most part, though, it was just a gut instinct I felt when I saw something I knew I didn’t need – into the bag and out the door it went.

Last week, I did one final sweep (I swear!) of my place, and somehow managed to gather up more things I didn’t use, need or want to keep. There were a few magazines I’d held onto “just in case”, two sweaters I thought I would’ve worn this winter but didn’t (and don’t even like), a jacket I had tried to sell but couldn’t and a few other random odds and ends. I bagged it all up, dropped it off at the donation centre on Saturday and now I’m living with just 35% of what I once owned.

Despite all the percentages I’ve shared here, I have to tell you: minimalism isn’t a numbers game. Sure, I chose to take inventory of my belongings, as I did my initial declutter/purge, but it was purely because I wanted to collect the data. (Remember: This was originally just a personal finance blog. I love numbers!) Yes, I removed a total of 65% of my stuff, but to achieve the same life-changing side effects as I have, you don’t have to do the same. I continued to remove stuff until I could look around my place and say that everything leftover was something I used often or truly added value to my life – that’s it. Whatever percentage it takes for you to get there will be unique to you and your life.

The same is true for keeping an inventory of your belongings. While I’ve continued to track how many items I’ve removed from my home, I haven’t taken stock of how many have come in – and I don’t plan to. Since I can’t shop, the only things I buy are toiletries, but I don’t do that until I’m within days of running out of something. There’s no stockpile here. I have what I need. For fun, I can tell you that I now own just 40 items of clothing (76 with socks/underwear), but I don’t know how much I own of anything else. And I don’t have a goal to live with 100 things or less, which seems to be a common misconception about what minimalism entails. I probably have ~350 things. You might have 150 or even 500, either of which would be fine.

There’s also nothing saying that the size of your home is a direct reflection of how successful of a minimalist you are. My dad has jokingly asked when I’m going to move into a tiny house, and the answer is no. I currently have about 650 sq. ft. of living space. I’ve lived in smaller and have been fine, but I love this condo. It looks a little bare (I still have nothing up on the walls), but it’s open and bright and I’m happy here. Some minimalists live in less than 100 sq. ft. and others have 4-bedroom homes for their families. Whatever you need for you and your family is exactly that – what you need.

The more I think about it, one of the things I love most about minimalism is also what I love most about personal finance. We all have different backgrounds and took different paths to end up at this place where we had to decide what type of life we wanted to live. Everything we learned on those paths is what we use to help us make our decisions, as we start the trial and error process and see which method works best for us. The same way some of us use the snowball method to get out of debt is similar to the way some of us choose to live in tiny houses. Our stories are all unique, so our solutions are unique, too. It’s like the “personal” in personal finance. But it’s not about the numbers.

There’s no list of things to check off before you can embrace it and wear the title proudly. To be a minimalist, you don’t have to toss 65% of your belongings, own 100 things or less, live in a tiny house and never shop again. If you do some or all of those things, that’s great! But you don’t have to. It’s not about the numbers or how we stack up against one another. It’s not a competition. To be a minimalist, you just have to be able to recognize what adds value to your life, so you can subtract what doesn’t – that’s the only calculation you need to know. The more you can recognize what adds value to your life, the easier it’ll be to decide what to cut from it, and the happier you’ll be; that’s the prize you should be after.

Flickr: krawcowicz

  • Alison March 23, 2015 at 4:26 am

    Great article & I agree 100%. Minimalism is something different to everybody.

    I dont know if I would even consider myself a minimalist but in past 6 months I have consciously dumped, sold, donated a lot of my stuff, all of which I cant even remember now, but the one aid that I keep coming back to which helps me stay on track when Im tempted to buy something pretty or cute etc is to ask myself one simple Q

    “Is this item worth my freedom?”

    I strongly believe debt inhibits freedom. So I can buy that cute dress (which I dont need) or I can reduce my debt more which will lead to more personal freedom.

    Cute dress – v – freedom ….. its a no brainer I think!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      I would have to agree, Alison! And that’s a great question to keep in mind. :)

  • ieva March 23, 2015 at 4:36 am

    i’m with you on this 100% !

    during our journey to minimalism we decluttered our stuff, routines, closets, diets… you name it – we did it :) Copenhagen secondhand shops got to know us by names during all this and now i don’t get usual “hello” when i come in, but “you can’t possibly have anything more to give away! ” :)

    but there’s one thing we did maybe not that usual for people on minimalism road: we’ve sold our tiny 38 m2 apartment and moved into 75 m2. 3 rooms instead 1. i’ve never thought i’ll say this but it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever took!
    more white empty walls ;)

    see, minimalists come in difenet sizes and numbers ;)

    best wishes from Denmark

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      So less stuff but more space – that sounds ok to me! And your story reminded me of the first carload of stuff I dropped off at the donation centre. I think they thought the first few boxes was a bit much… then 8-9 bags of stuff came out of my car, and they looked really surprised, haha. :)

  • Beth March 23, 2015 at 4:38 am

    Cait, what I love about your writing is that you don’t preach or condescend. I love your comment about being able to recognize what brings value to your life.

    There has been a lot of decluttering going on since we lost two loved ones last year. We kept some things that were useful (small items of furniture) or sentimental value (watches, photographs, etc) but overall we aren’t our “stuff”. There’s piece of mind knowing that what you’re donating is going to someone who needs it and/or appreciates it more than you do.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      That’s how I feel about donating stuff too, Beth. And I think it’s wonderful that you’re giving all those items a new life. Thank you for your kind words about my writing. Made me smile. :)

  • Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents March 23, 2015 at 4:39 am

    I love this! I try to live my life with the things I need and letting go of the things I don’t and this is a great reminder of that goal.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks, Taylor!

  • L March 23, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Nicely put! I did some decluttering this weekend, like yourself I was annoyed I couldn’t find something and it felt great to purge! I don’t think I will ever be a minimalist but I am in no way for over consuption. I try to balance both my needs vs. wants and so far I would say I am doing well. As you say personal finance is personal and that can be extended to many areas. Keep doing what makes you feel great!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      And right back at you, L! Sounds like you’ve found a great balance. :)

  • Jeffrey A March 23, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Hi Cait,
    Great post. I’ve been paring down slowly over the past two years on my minimalist journey. I try not to get caught up in numbers of comparing myself to other minimalists, though I do find it fun to read about other people’s lifestyle experiments (project 333, owning 100 or fewer things, etc).

    In the end, my goal is first and foremost to improve my life, whether that means getting rid of things I already own or just being more conscious of the things I buy and what need(s) they serve.

    A few months ago, when I moved to my new place, I got rid of about 75% of the books and DVDs I owned (this is after having already reduced pretty substantially). That was the hardest part – getting rid of such a large amount after I’d already pared down. Then about 3 weeks ago, I got the urge to randomly watch one of the movies I’d gotten rid of and was really upset that I didn’t have it anymore. I thought about renting it on Amazon prime, but wouldn’t let myself spend more money on something that I’d already bought, owned, and gotten rid of, so I just went without. It sucked that night, to be honest. But now, just a few weeks later, I can’t even remember what movie it was that I’d wanted to see so badly. I’ll be interested to hear from you in the coming weeks and months if you ever get momentary or longer-lasting regrets about anything you’ve purged, and how you address those.

    As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us readers!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Sounds like that was a tough night, Jeffrey! But it’s pretty telling that you’ve since forgotten what the movie it was. I had no hesitation about throwing out my DVDs, except for the fact that all I saw when I looked at them were dollar signs. Goodbye $$$! It didn’t make sense to hold onto them though since I didn’t even own a DVD player, haha.

      So far, I haven’t missed anything I tossed… but I’ll be sure to write about it, if I do! Thanks for sharing your story here. :)

  • Rob March 23, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Hi Cait! Well I admit that I’m not at the minimalist level that you are these days but that’s not to say that I don’t try to keep on top of controlling the clutter in our house. My wife, more than myself, enjoys acquiring new things. That said, however, she (like you) does go through the house, collecting those things that are either old (or we have outgrown or are tired of owning) and disposing of them (often thru charity donations). I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that minimalism is fine but staying pat with always mostly the same things around us does tend to get a tad boring so, to help the economy (lol), we like to acquire new things from time to time and dispose of old things (all within our budget, of course). As the old saying goes: “variety is the spice of life”. And as you say, it’s a “personal” lifestyle choice. Have a great day. It’s still kinda chilly cold here in Toronto this morning (unlike where you are) but at least the snow is almost gone – unlike those poor souls living on the east coast! :-)

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      You actually brought up an interesting point, which is that I don’t want to curb 100% of my spending and stop contributing to our economy. I just don’t want to be sold on a lifestyle I don’t actually need/want. :)

      I heard it was cold there today! It’s supposed to be 16-18C later this week, but pure rain… so… which would you prefer? haha

      • Rob March 23, 2015 at 6:40 pm

        I’ll take our sunny “chilly bear” TO weather, thank you. I tend to melt in the rain. :-)

        • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm

          We had a really dry winter, but spring… not so much (so far)!

  • Kate@GoodnightDebt March 23, 2015 at 6:48 am

    I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards this weekend and discovered that I am the proud owner of a waffle maker. I’ve been craving homemade waffles for years (sadly) but didn’t think I had the proper equipment. I’m thankful my craving wasn’t strong enough to demand the purchase of a new waffle iron.
    This to me is the point of minimalism. Knowing what you own, where it is and what it adds to your life. Now I know that I own a waffle maker and can properly enjoy it! Waffles anyone?

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Haha, I’ll take two!

  • charlottaway March 23, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Love this post Cait! I’m definitely no where near the 65% target you’ve reached (which blows my mind, by the way, and is so awesome). But this weekend my husband and I donated another three full garbage bags of stuff from the office, and we threw out two garbage bags of junk and two full bags of SHREDDED PAPER. I keep opening up my filing cabinet and smiling at how clean and organized it is. Even looking in the linen closet (which we tackled last weekend) makes me happy now. I also hit my goal to clean out everything beneath the two bathroom sinks and got ride of another garbage bag of stuff there. I’m on a roll here, and it feels so good. All thanks to you for the boost of motivation. :)

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      That is HUGE! Actually, this past weekend, I got an email from a reader that sparked me to further go through all my papers and shred more… so that’s down to the bare bones, too! Great work with your purge, so far! Is there more to do?

  • Daniel (SaveWithDan.ca) March 23, 2015 at 7:56 am

    “To be a minimalist, you just have to be able to recognize what adds value to your life, so you can subtract what doesn’t” – GREAT quote!!

    I would like to add something I recently discovered: to be able to find out if something adds value to your life, you have to know what your life’s values are! It’s a self-knowledge journey.
    I have a list of my top 5 values and whenever I got stuck with any hard decision, I ask myself “how will this reflect my values and make me a better person? Is this against my values?”
    If it IS against my top values, I know I’ll regret it later.

    Thanks for sharing, Cait. You are amazing!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Yep, that’s a fantastic point, Daniel! I don’t know that I have values written down, so much as I know what my priorities are (personal and financial). My spending has to align with them. :)

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach March 23, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Love this Cait! It feels so freaking freeing to be rid of things you don’t need. I’m pretty good on daily basis, but things start to add up quickly again and the next thing I know, things are disorganized. It’s a big project I plan on taking on after I get back from my trip!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Nice! Can’t wait to hear if it helps bring some clarity. :)

  • Bridget March 23, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Fiance & I hang out with one couple pretty regularly and every time we come home from their house, we both can’t help but remark on how much STUFF they have.

    Just stuff everywhere. Some of it’s nice, some of it’s odd, but almost all of it’s useless… and it’s just EVERYWHERE.

    I don’t write on minimalism much anymore but I think getting into it a few years ago really changed how I keep my home. Our apartment decor is spartan at best, and even though I regularly buy new clothes, I promptly donate the same number. I read most of my books on a Kindle now but we will still go to the used bookstore — and every time we do, we bring the books we’re done reading before we take anymore home. It’s totally a one in, one out rule and has been for years.

    The reason I like this is because it’s just so much less to worry about and keep clean. I don’t have to spend any time reorganizing or excessively dusting. Laundry is so easy: I wear 80% of my clothes in one week, I wash them on Sunday, and done. Nothing piles up, nothing gets lost, it’s amazing. I don’t know why anyone lives any other way.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      My laundry routine sounds almost identical, except I wait until most of my socks/underwear are dirty, then do everything. I usually do laundry every 10 days or so. Easy peasy!

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore March 23, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Great article! I don’t know that I’ll ever meet the minimalist definition that most people believe in, but I think I could meet this one. As you said, I don’t think it’s about owning a certain number of things, etc. More it’s about just only owning what you need, love, and use.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      You got it, Kayla.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods March 23, 2015 at 9:30 am

    So well said, Cait! I find that I’ve been more a minimalist in terms of how I live my life than in the amount of stuff I have. Decluttering is certainly part of it for me, but, I find that simplifying my life in other ways is also so beneficial for me. All that to say, I think I employ minimalism more as a mindset rather than necessarily an action, if that makes sense.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Yea, I honestly feel like decluttering was just the beginning of the journey. Since there’s nothing left to get rid of, this new world/lifestyle is mine to explore. :)

  • Brittany Bergman March 23, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Yes, exactly this!! Minimalism is so much more of a mindset than a prescribed set of actions or number of things or size of a house. I think of it more as curating the home and life and values I want rather than living on as little as possible. I don’t waste time or money with the things the world says I need if I don’t think they’re worth it. You’re so right, though, that purging tends to have an amazing snowball effect. It feels SO good to get rid of stuff that I usually downsize way more than I thought I would!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      “I think of it more as curating the home and life and values I want rather than living on as little as possible.” Yes yes yes yes yes! That is all. :)

  • Marissa March 23, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Your perspective is great. That is how I feel about minimalism too. It’s so personal, but the message is more broad – living with intention, being aware of what you really need and actually use. For example, I kept and love and use almost all of my art supplies, but was able to pass along many of my fabrics since I rarely sew :) Thanks for the great post.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      I love that! Passing that along would’ve really helped someone else create some cool things, I’m sure. :)

  • Michelle March 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    You’re absolutely right, minimalism is different for everyone. We all have different lives, hobbies, homes, etc which means we have varying degrees of stuff or types of stuff. Sometimes I get the feeling that when you say minimalism to someone they automatically think you have only 10 pieces of clothing that are all black and your bedroom only has a bed, a nightstand and a lamp.
    For me, minimalism means removing the excess from every area of my life so I don’t have the physical and mental clutter that goes along with it. I have things in storage that I won’t get rid of like pots and pans and utensils because I know when I get a place of my own I’ll need those. What I’ve purged so far has mostly been the sentimental crap, the excess books I can get from the library and duplicates of items. ie Do I really need 5 vases or 40 candle holders?

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Hehe, nope, we probably don’t! I can’t tell you how much of that kind of stuff I threw out… (but I do have two vases still).

  • Tamara Koop March 23, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    A simple “Thank you Cait” doesn’t seem good enough.. but in the spirit of Minimization, I’ll keep my words “short and simple”. Your blog is awesome! I found you 2 months ago. I have already been spending a year downsizing after the last of our 4 children moved out. My partner and I have just moved from a 5 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom and HAD to remove over 60% of our belongings. It has been liberating and joyful and all the benefits and positives you write about after purging are so true. The only negative I’ve suffered is a deep regret that I spent the first 40 years of my life as a mindless consumer, wasting so much of what we earnt on wasteful, unimportant “Stuff”. I never ever want to go back to that way of life and intend to live the next 40 years in a state of clutterless freedom. Now that we’ve released over half our possessions it’s time to turn to our $30,000 worth of debts. Thanks to your wonderful financial advice we have set in motion a plan to pay it all off in 2 years. I am so thankful that you took the time to share your life with us and continue to inspire us all around the world to live above the mess. It’s the only place to be!! Bless you girl!

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Wow, it sounds like you and your partner have had some big changes, Tamara! Thank you for sharing your story and your journey so far. As for all the kind words, all I can say is “thank you” right back! I wish you the best of luck in your debt repayment journey. Keep me posted on your progress, please!? :)

  • Carla March 23, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I agree! Minimalism isn’t about numbers so much that it’s about reducing your consumption, living well within your means, and feeling free. To do that, you probably will reduce some numbers, but there is NO way that it has to be a certain number, a set number, or a number the same as anyone else. I have no idea what I’ve reduced, sometimes I wish I’d counted it, but it is the most satisfying feeling to walk around my home and feel the peace from the free space.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      “…it is the most satisfying feeling to walk around my home and feel the peace from the free space.” YES to this. I sometimes walk around my place and feel like I should be doing something. Cleaning? Organizing? Dishes? Something? Nope, there’s usually nothing to do but enjoy it. :)

  • Amanda @ My Life, I Guess March 23, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    There is way. too. much. clutter in my life. And unfortunately, I don’t just mean stuff. Like, my current job does not add value to my life – just a little bit of extra money. Too bad I can’t just get rid of this job, eh? :)
    I’ve been trying to tackle our clutter since we moved in last year, but I just keep acquiring more (mostly FREE). Hopefully I can actually do a good spring cleaning this year and donate a few garbage bags full.

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      I’ll send you good decluttering vibes, Amanda!

  • Kristen March 23, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    I totally respect your choice to decide what you want/don’t want in your life. I think like everything, it is individual.

    I will never be a minimalist. I am ok with that. That being said, I am slowly working on getting rid of clutter in my life. I am getting rid of things that I don’t use/want/don’t add value. I am also working to showcase/celebrate the things that do add value. For example, we are huge board game players in our family. We spend hours playing games. Our old house had built in shelves. Our new house had nothing and for 2.5 years the games sat in a pile in the closet. They were played less. I used my Christmas money to buy a beautiful cabinet for them. I got rid of the games we are never going to play and just kept those we love. I smile everything I walk by it. It makes me happy:)

    Now, if only I could get my husband, who leans towards hoarding, to let some things go. It is far more difficult when you are balancing 2 slightly different agendas.

    The house, minus maybe my office closet that needs a good cleaning out, is in pretty good shape. It is the garage that we need to totally clean out. Once it warms up. That is a spring job.

    A funny aside: As I have slowly be cleaning out and reorganizing, I realized we have be accidentally stock piling two items – dental floss and aluminum foil. I don’t know what this says about us – maybe it just says we had really messy cupboards – but we are set for some time with these items:)

    • Cait Flanders March 23, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      I’ve heard a lot of people mention that they wish a spouse/kid could get on board with decluttering, that one is more of a hoarder than the other, etc. I’m a bit grateful I was able to go through this experience alone, but now I sort of wonder… what if I meet a guy who has a ton of stuff!? Haha. Will I be able to convince him to get rid of any of it!? Future thinking is unnecessary, but makes me laugh sometimes.

      The dental floss and aluminum foil made me laugh, too. I think it shows that you’re practical. I, on the other hand, hoarded body wash and lotion I didn’t even like. What does that say about me!?

      Oh, and if that cabinet makes you smile – and makes you play games more – it was worth every penny, Kristen. :)

      • Kristen March 25, 2015 at 4:50 am

        Why do we feel the need to hoard things we know we don’t like and will never use? It is strange.

        To help with my husband’s inability to let go of anything, I am trying to at least put limits on it. You can have as many books as fit on this book case and as many collectables that fit on this shelf. He is so bad that he had 2 copies of a book that he loves and wanted to keep both. He doesn’t like that I am slowly getting rid of things, but we are trying to find a way to compromise.

      • Amelia August 26, 2015 at 6:22 pm

        Glad I’m not the only minimalist girl out there who wonders whether she’ll meet a guy with a heap of stuff! Someone needs to invent a dating site for minimalists, haha.

  • Ronnica, Striving Stewardess March 24, 2015 at 12:34 am

    I recently wanted to find 100 things to get rid of. It too just seemed like a nice round number. But you know what? I only found about 50. I could honestly say that everything else I had had a purpose.

    I’m not done: I still have some home-less things that need to find a home or need to not be here. It’s a process that’s never done. But like you said, it’s a matter of finding the balance of only having just what adds value or you truly need.

    • Cait Flanders March 25, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Hey, 50 is better than 0, if it made your home feel lighter. :)

  • Sarah March 24, 2015 at 4:19 am

    You had me at less laundry! Seriously though, this article has helped me think… How much time could I get back if, like you, I only had to do laundry once in a while? And if o only had a select pool of clothes to wear to work (and so wasted less time deciding ‘what to wear’?) Hmm I can feel a closet clean out coming!!

    • Cait Flanders March 25, 2015 at 7:29 am

      Nice! Take that feeling and roll with it, Sarah. I don’t expect most people to whittle their wardrobe down to the size of mine, but wearing the same few outfits every week saves a ton of time – in both deciding what to wear and cleaning it all. ;)

  • Adam @ AdamChudy.com March 24, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I’m enjoying the minimalist posts. We still have most of our stuff, but I’ve been trying really hard to start tossing things out of the closet that I never use. It’s amazing how much clothing you accumulate over the years.

    • Cait Flanders March 25, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Yes, yes it is! I tossed 4 garbage bags full. I hadn’t worn some of it in 5-7 years!

  • Jackie March 24, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I’m slowly going through all of my stuff as well. I’ve got a long way to go, but every week when I get rid of stuff I feel better. I’m trying to get back to simple again in all areas of my life. Some things, like tools, I will always keep, since I use them, but do I really need so many pairs of sheets? When I only have one bed? I often go back to this post from Renewable Wealth. I definitely wanted to be the person who had things! Especially when it came to books. I’d keep books I wasn’t overly fond of, simply because I thought any sophisticated bookshelf SHOULD have them. Glad to say I’ve been getting rid of them though!

    http://renewablewealth.com/articles/do-you-want-it-or-do-you-want-to-be-the-guy-who-has-it/

    Cheers!

    • Cait Flanders March 25, 2015 at 7:32 am

      Wow, thanks for sharing that post! Although, it gave me a heart attack, at first, because the author’s name is exactly the same as one of my exes, haha. That was like seeing a ghost! I’ve written about those “kept because I thought grown-up Cait needed them” items before. It’s so freeing to let go of it all and accept who you are.

  • Chris@Rags to Reasonable March 25, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    That was a really beautiful post Cait. Thanks.

    • Cait Flanders March 25, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you so much, Chris. :)

  • jo@simplybeingmum March 26, 2015 at 5:53 am

    There sure isn’t one size fits all. You do whatever works for you. After a tragic life event I chose to look at our family life. The decision was made to start on a journey toward a family life simply done. I was 35. In a way I wish I’d made the decision pre-kids, as I would have accumulated less stuff and commitments had I done so. But regardless it’s never too late to start. There is no way I could be described at a minimalist. Our strategy has been to try to eliminate the unnecessary and not follow any imaginary rule book or formula. Everyone’s numbers are different anyway. What I can live with differs from what my neighbour can.
    Still… I love decluttering and trying to reduce waste in our lives. In fact just reading this post has made up my mind what i’m going to do this afternoon. I feel the urge to purge! :)

  • Lauren March 27, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Nice work on getting rid of so much! I think some people hear minimalism and assume it means a bare room with white walls. For me, it’s about acquiring less stuff and letting go when it’s no longer useful. Stuff sitting untouched in boxes for months or years? Time to toss it!

  • Laura Guyot March 28, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for sharing your journey. My husband and I have been following you and Joshua Becker for the last few months and we feel so empowered. Your concept about the impulsive purchase not being worth your financial freedom rang so true with me, I remind myself of those words daily. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Melanie @ Dear Debt March 28, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    After I moved the first time, I felt the beauty of minimalism. I moved with one big suitcase. I realized that things don’t make me happy, but experiences do. I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff and I don’t shop. I just don’t enjoy it. Minimalism can bring so much clarity to your life. Keep up the good work!

  • Kayla March 29, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Love this post! Decluttering for me was so relieving, I love the open space it provides visually. It makes my daily life so much easier from a practical perspective (I only own four big plates to clean, I empty the dishwasher less!) It helps me remember what I do actually own, so I don’t go out and buy duplicates, and helps me reflect upon what I actually need.

    Great job cutting your belongings by that much! Now you can reap the rewards, by focusing your hard earned money and attention on experiences that matter more.

  • Naomi Alexander May 6, 2015 at 6:21 am

    Loved this post especially the quote ending ” ….and subtract what doesn’t”. Here in the UK our houses are very small (average home sizes have halved since the 1920’s, whereas they’ve doubled since the 1950’s in the USA) and it’s so easy to get cluttered.
    To be honest, our house is still a bit cluttered now but I’ve spent the last year getting rid of excess items on Freecycle and have met some lovely people who are grateful for the things I’ve rarely used. And it’s so nice to have space in cupboards again!
    The main thing is to STOP buying stuff. If you can do that you’re on the way to minimalism!

  • Nathan Atkinson October 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I totally agree! Loved this article. When I first decided to become a minimalist a few years ago I had all kinds of people tell me that I owned too much stuff or that owning or buying this or that made me not a minimalist. Minimalism is all about having enough, like you said, and enjoying and using what you have.