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September Decluttering Challenge

I signed on to do this #minsgame challenge at the last minute after spotting this great printable pictured above. The coloring aspect of it drew me in--I’m a sucker for colorful things. Honestly, I have seen this challenge floating around minimalist world for quite a while but it took an adult coloring page to finally make me do it. And there are only 30 days in September so I figured if it got really hard, at least I didn't have to do a day 31. True story, that was my thinking. Unexpectedly, September turned into a month of looking even closer at the way our family participates in consumerism and I'm actually sad it's over. Backstory: I have spent the past 3 years really clearing the clutter in our life. Because I didn't really think we had much to let go of, I decided that in 2020, I would focus more on what is coming IN the house, as well as what’s leaving. It’s almost pointless to declutter if you’re bringing in the same amount. Turns out, we had plenty to get rid of.

Note: This isn’t perfect. I did the best I could to track stuff but I’m sure I missed a thing or two. And I’m ok with that. Also, some people may think it’s wasteful to part with perfectly good items. I would argue it’s actually wasteful to hold on to things you’re not using. If I’m not using it now, I am not going to use it any more by shoving it in the back of my closet. By letting things go, they will hopefully find a way to someone who can use these things and it makes room for the stuff we need NOW....not stuff we bought to use 10 years ago or stuff we might use...someday. You waste money when you buy things you don’t need, not when you get rid of them….which is why I’m being extra picky about what’s coming into my house. Ok, back to my experience with this #minsgame.

Day 1-6: orchid pot, guidebooks, earbuds, yoga pants, cameras and kitchen/baking stuff

If you played along with the mins game this past month, you hopefully parted with 465 items after the 30 days of decluttering. I had a couple days with extra items in the category pile (day 25 and 26) so I ended up with 476 items out the door. WOOT WOOT! Raise the ROOF!

If you followed along on Instagram, you saw what I was parting with every day. On day 1, I got rid of 1 orchid pot. By day 30, I was parting with 30 various storage containers. What was really interesting is I often had people ask me for the things I was getting rid of after they saw my post. I mailed some yoga pants to someone, I dropped off the earbuds in someone’s mailbox, I gave some of the storage bins to a friend when she popped by as I was loading my car. It felt good to share.

I often find people have trouble getting rid of things they aren’t using because they want to find the perfect place to unload it. I get asked almost every day where people can take this or that. So where did my stuff go? Did it actually leave the house? YES. Everything I said I got rid of is gone. GONE. Most items I donated to a local thrift store that raises money for the programs they support. Many towns have thrift shops that rely on household donations from the community and it’s nice to donate where you know the money raised is staying local. If you're reading this and wondering where to take your items other than Goodwill (which I have also used), look for a local thrift shop.

Day 7-12: sunglasses, sport stuff, kitchen items, lunchbox notes, electronics and tennis balls

Once I started flexing my decluttering muscle, it was easy to find other items we don’t need. I found 154 additional items throughout the month, along with 4 bags of shredded paper from cleaning out files, a trunk load of hazardous waste and much more I didn’t even count. Here is the breakdown of that number: I gave 24 items to friends (including an ironing board, a bookshelf, books, kids clothing, wine, curtains, bedding, and curtain rods, just to say they weren't small things!), I took 102 additional home and clothing items to the local thrift store when I was dropping the rest of the #minsgame stuff, I sold our car DVD player and piggy-baked on a friend’s animal rescue donation by adding 14 towels, along with the tennis balls above. I also dropped 13 items in the textile recycling bin that had no more life left in them but could be used for rags or recycled. I feel so lucky to live in a town that provides us with all these amazing places to responsibly recycle our items.

Total Items OUT = 630 items + 4 bags shredded paper + trunk of hazardous waste

Day 13-18: ribbon, office supplies, reusable bags, kids clothing, books and racquet sport stuff

BUT, the items leaving my house are only half the picture. As I said before, it does no good to declutter if you’re just out shopping and filling up your space again. For the purpose of this analysis, I decided to monitor things we bought in the month of September. That means I am counting all the items we paid for in September, even if the items haven’t arrived yet. Just to clarify, I did not count anything we bought pre-September that arrived to our house after the start of September. And since I literally decided on September 1st I was doing this game, I didn't even have time to stockpile things. Rookie mistake.

As a family, we had 57 items make their way into our home this month. I was shocked at that number but there were a few birthday parties and when I look at the list, it all makes sense. Of these 57 items, it only really added 32 things that are staying in my house--replacements don’t count (as it was one in and one out) and gifts don't count either (they have left or will leave). That’s not bad, but it’s amazing how sneakily things come into your home if you're not careful.

Day 19-24: gift bags, doggy stuff, misc home & kitchen, jewelry, necklaces and more books

Here are some of the items that made their way into out house. Since you got to see the bulk of what left the house, I thought I'd share the breakdown of what came into the house, too.

  • The girls got 10 items of new clothing on various shopping trips with friends (using their own money)

  • We got 3 items for school (a binder, laptop case and small folding table to use as home desk)

  • 23 of the items were gifts for other people (some have left, others have not yet, some are for Christmas because I had to pre-order and haven’t yet arrived. Yes, I realize it’s not even Halloween. When you see something that sells out each year on pre-order in September....)

  • A replacement phone screen protector (4th one in 4 months, but who is counting?)

  • A glass top for my office desk (because I'm scratching it up!)

  • A massage gun (The best purchase of the month, which I knew nothing about since my husband ordered it.....and I'm so glad he did!)

  • 4 masks for our family

  • A yearbook (obviously doesn’t arrive until next Spring but I had to pre-order it)

  • Chain and hook for hanging plant in one of the girl’s rooms

  • 3 packs of tennis racquet grips

  • A replacement bike tire

  • 2 specific craft supplies (canvas for one child, cross stitch materials for the other)

  • We got some swag from joining the PTA: 1 reusable bag, 1 magnet and 1 face mask

  • 2 mouse pads and a 1 wrist pad for a desk (none of which we ended up needing, ugg)

I also brought some things into my home office for work: 29 items, to be exact. This included 1 pack file folders, 2 pair of scissors, 1 new-to-me computer, 1 new trackpad, 5 packs of negative sleeves, 5 packs of negative folders, 1 extension tube for my camera scanning lens, 6 large custom photo boxes for client’s physical photos, 2 negative carriers for scanning and 6 items to help me gather digital images, like a new CD drive, cords and such. It's hard to count some of these things as I bought them to have ready for projects (like the 6 photo boxes), but it's still stuff that came into our space or paid for this month so I'm counting them.

Total items IN = 32 family items + 29 work items = 61 items

Day 25-30: clothing, holiday stuff, kids crafts/games, shoes, earrings and empty containers

So let's do the math...

630 items OUT - 61 items IN = NET 569 things GONE

I am happy with that number, especially considering the items I parted with were small to really large (like that bookshelf...and a rake, I forgot about the rake...I decided we don't need 3). The scary part is, if I wasn’t trying to declutter, I would have instead just brought in 61 items. Over the course of a year, that’s 732 items (assuming 61/month, which is not realistic especially in December or birthday months for the girls, and with impromptu add ons when shopping). It's good to have some awareness around the amount of stuff coming and going from your home. I'm definitely going to continue to keep an eye on our material belongings as time moves ahead.

MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT THE MINS GAME (and why you might want to try it)

  1. You start small. It’s easy to commit to start and you have major success on day 1 when you part with 1 item and that feels good. "Yeah, I was successful today! I can totally do this tomorrow!" As you progress through the days, it’s harder and harder but because you are flexing that declutter muscle, it actually gets easier. The reward of finishing each day builds and builds and when you start to have clear spaces that are easy to keep tidy, you won't want to stop. Starting is often the hardest part of any project but because this challenge starts small, it’s easy to build momentum to keep going.

  2. You dig deep. You find more than just the daily amount and you look in places you weren't thinking to look. Even though I have been doing a lot of cleaning out over the past few years, this challenge really got the wheels turning and pretty soon I was really having to consider new categories. It makes you think about other places you might have clutter, other drawers to tap into, other nooks you may be hiding things. There is always more.

  3. You build community. I gave away so much stuff to friends and got to connect with people. I got multiple text messages a day from people who saw my posts on social media and were also working to clear their own clutter. They were excited and I was happy to see their pictures of their own progress. I was thrilled to share my discards with other people when they could be of use. Nothing makes me happier than things being used as intended, either in my home or elsewhere.

  4. You feel amazing! Our house feels so light. This is the best part of the mins game. My drawers feel so good. They are not jammed. They have space to breathe. It's easy to put away the laundry. With less stuff getting in the way, I have more time to deal with the things I actually want to do. It’s a fantastic feeling I want for everyone out there!

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? I encourage you to try the #minsgame for one month. You may do it solo or challenge a friend. Whatever you do, I know you will feel a lot lighter at the end of the month and I’ll be cheering you on the whole way! And, of course, if you're clearing the clutter, you might want to get rid of those photos that aren't on your 5-star list....the ones with your eyes closed or the blurry ones from your childhood. You have my permission to throw them away so the real jewels can shine!

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