Somehow, we ended up in the toy aisle, probably something to do with it being located right next to the kids pyjamas. My son was examining a display of dinosaurs from a well-known movie franchise.
“I’d really like one of these,” began his spiel.
“My friend Johnnie has one of these. He has lots of cool toys; way more than me”.
This was the first time Mr 6 had volcalised a difference I was wondering if he’d notice – most of his friends have more toys than he does, some have a lot more.
A forlorn expression sets on his face. Is he just putting it on or is my minimalism harming his self-worth? I stop freaking out and give him the facts, he likes facts.
“Johnnie does have more toys than you,” I tell him. “But, did you know those are the only toys he gets to play with? He doesn’t get to go to the toy library and choose new toys like you do.”
“He doesn’t get to go to the toy library?”, my son replies in concerned disbelief.
“No,” I explain, “You’re lucky you get to go to the toy library. What would you rather have: all of Johnnie’s toys or go to the toy library?”
“Toy library, definitely” is the firm reply.
We’ve been using the toy library regularly since the wee guy was six months old (not that he had any interest in toys then – just as well we didn’t buy any!). He loves the toy library – every couple of weeks he gets to pick out new toys to bring home. I love it too. If there’s a toy library near you, I highly recommend using it – even if you have too many toys already.
I successfully made it through to the end of the Minimalist Game. Along the way, I learnt about change and momentum – how starting small can make a big difference.
The final days
I really felt the heat from day 25 onwards as I worked to reach my daily goal. However, I managed to power on through. With three weeks of decluttering decisions under my belt, I was able to work at a much faster pace. No longer was I umm-ing and ahh-ing over each individual item, I was discarding more but using less mental energy to do so. I was riding on the wave of momentum.
My decluttering has really ramped up over the last week. I am still amazed by the amount of junk I have stashed away. While my house doesn’t look much different, the kitchen especially is a lot easier to use.
Freedom from the freebies
As I decluttered over the last three weeks, I’ve been struck by the amount of stuff in the house I acquired for free. It is now clear to me that all this free stuff has a cost.
It’s the end of Week 2 of the Minimalist Game and I’m already reaping the benefits of less stuff. I’ve also come to an important realisation – I’ve been hoarding for the environment.
Hoarding for the environment
Most of the items that I got rid of this week were either:
once useful stuff I no longer require or is at the end of its life (eg. old baby bottles, broken safety latches)
potentially useful stuff that is too good to waste and might be useful someday but that I don’t think anyone else would want (eg. piles of plastic cutlery and paper napkins that come with takeout, used plastic bags).
Essentially, now it is rubbish, trash, garbage. Easy to let go of? Umm, well, no.
Week One of the Minimalist Game is in the bag – 28 items successfully out of the house and out of my life. The pace of my de-cluttering this week actually slowed compared to pre-game, but it was still a challenge.
Letting go – the guilt of waste
Twelve out of the 28 items that left the house this week were all parts of a Nintendo Wii game console, its games and accessories. It had been sitting in its box, untouched, since we moved into our current home three years ago.
It should be easy to let go of, right? I haven’t used it and I’m not going to miss it, but it was still difficult. I haven’t been hanging onto it just in case; I’ve been hanging onto it out of guilt. You see, normally I don’t go in for frivolous consumer electronics.
An inner voice chastised me – “What were you thinking spending good money tying up precious natural resources on something totally unnecessary which becomes obsolete almost immediately and is near impossible to dispose of responsibly? You should know better”.
At the time, buying the Wii was a guilty pleasure, but the pleasure is now gone and I was just left with the guilt. I’d been holding on to it in some vain hope that its use would be revived, my guilt assuaged. But it’s been three years, so it’s time to get real. Stepping back, the reality is that I created this waste the day I bought the Wii and hanging on to it wasn’t going to change that. The only difference I could make was what I did about it now.
So I did it – out the door it went. Quickly, before I changed my mind.
This month I am doing it – I am playing The Minimalism Game.
The Minimalism Game
If you’re not familiar with The Minimalism Game, it’s a month-long challenge to get rid of your excess stuff. On Day 1, out goes one thing; on Day 2, out goes two things and on and on until Day 30, when out goes 30 things. That’s 564 things in total if you keep going for the whole month. You can find out more about the game on The Minimalists website.