Retrospective: first year of minimalism

What I've materially and non-materially purged in my life, how it's affected me, where to go from here, on gifts, shopping out of boredom.

A little over a year ago, I started seriously getting into minimalism. Since then, I ironically bought a house. 🙂 But besides the excitement of eventually living in a new place, the one big thing that makes the stress of moving worth it is the forced purging of things you don't really need, or realize you can replace with something better. The big move, needless to say, accelerated my already-budding journey towards minimalism.

About 7 months after moving into our humble townhouse, I am finding myself happier and happier at home. There is so much less clutter, most things have a "home" in our home, so it is easier to clean up, and I'm happier with the quality and utility of things with which we have replaced older stuff. Yesterday I made my fifth (or so) donation and electronics recycling haul since moving in; each haul seems to be smaller than the last, but all the more satisfying.

Material purges


Some noteworthy mentions, and how they didn't fit our needs:

  • Donating the old round 4-seat Ikea table I got just out of college and replacing it with a custom dining table / board gaming table.
    • The Ikea table was old, not a good quality for our house as more grown adults, and too small for board gaming.
    • We had placed an order for this custom table shortly after wining our house bid, knowing it would take several months to build, ship, and deliver. When it was time for delivery, I was so excited to purge of our old table in favor of this new one. It is perfect. Well, maybe a tad too wide for our space... but we definitely make it work!
  • Donating the free loveseat the previous homeowners left, and getting a new couch.
    • It was too small and not soft enough for lounging around comfortably. It also didn't look good, but it was a nice starter couch for until we had more money for a better one. Now we love the new couch we got.
  • Moving the round 4-seat granite-top table from the previous homeowners from the kitchen to the basement, and replacing it with a baker's rack.
    • The table was supposed to be a sort of breakfast table, but it ended up being a large shelf for pantry items and other clutter, but in an inefficient way. Getting a furniture piece made for storing things in a kitchen that took up much less horizontal space freed up so much room.
    • We are also debating about fully donating the table as well since it is not serving any need in the basement, but we hesitate since it is very nice quality.
  • Donating my small office desk and replacing it with a bigger one.
    • My small desk was always too small for what I really wanted--something that could fit two monitors and still give me enough space to write in a notebook. But it fit our space constraints at the time when living in a one-bedroom apartment.
    • My new one is a simple L-shaped one. The top is probably made of particle board, but the rest of it is sturdy metal. I love how it perfectly fits my needs: it is simple and spacious.


Clothes. I didn't keep count of how many I had before and how many I have now, but it is a huge difference. 85% of my clothes fit spaciously in my little walk-in closet. 5% are workout clothes in their own dresser. The other 10% are in a bigger cloth closet, either seasonal or ready to be re-evaluated for donation. The ones I donated were typically

  • gifts so they weren't handpicked by me and not really aligned with my tastes
  • uncomfortable because they no longer fit me, or never really did fit me well, so I normally didn't wear them
  • free giveaways from events I didn't care much about
  • no longer suited my tastes
    • Example: thin socks. I now find a lot more comfort in dedicated runners' socks since they provide better arch support for me. I also 99% of the time wear casual clothing now at work and day-to-day, so I don't need so many thin socks for more formal or business clothing. Runners' socks are expensive--at least $8 a pair for good ones--so I've slowly accumulated just the amount I need, no more and no less.

Jewelry. I have accumulated so much jewelry over the years--some gifts, some impulse purchases. The ones I decided to donate were typically

  • gifts, again
  • never uncomfortable, again--typically too heavy
  • very closely resembling another piece of jewelry, so having more than one was redundant
  • falling apart or already broken

Shoes. I never really owned that many to begin with "for a woman," but I certainly still owned more than I needed. Again, I don't know how many I started with before, but now I think I only have 11 pairs, each serving specific needs. I think I can reduce this number further. The ones I donated or recycled were typically

  • uncomfortable, again
  • worn out
  • didn't suit my tastes anymore... or ever

The one other quality that all the things I donated in each category shared was they **didn't "spark joy." **By this, I'm referring to the KonMari Method. See below...

The flow of gifts

Gifts are one of the most destructive parts of consumerist culture. As you can see, for me, many of the things I didn't find value in were gifts. This is the same for other people part of Marie Kondo's The Joy of Tidying show and minimalists. Gifts typically come from good intentions, and that's what makes them so hard for the recipient to get rid of. What makes them good candidates in the first place is that the gifts are from other people who know much less about what you want or need than, well, yourself. My husband and I told our families that we no longer want material gifts unless they are something very special; we'd otherwise like "experience" gifts, donations in our name, or simply more time with each other.

Non-material purges

I left Facebook almost a month ago. Writing about it this way highlights how it and other social media have addictive qualities comparable to drugs. In my 5-month retrospective from two weeks ago, my language further reflects this:

Once in awhile I'll get this twitch to log in, but I stop myself.

Back then, I wrote about replacing my FB time with LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtube. Now it's just really Youtube... But I rarely watch what I think are just wastes of time. Instead, I watch self-improvement or educational videos, mainly about getting better at rock climbing, being a faster runner, being a better minimalist, Marie Kondo, functional programming, social justice, "lifehacks," language learning, etc.

I left my last job for a new one. In between, I get two weeks' break to take care of my new niece and reboot my life, which started yesterday. I'm enjoying it so far! I will miss the people, culture, and commute at my old job, but at my new one I am looking forward to much better pay, a swankier office, free lunch each day, and even more things to learn. From leaving my last job, I am purging resentment from feeling undervalued, sadness and uncertainty from colleagues leaving voluntarily or involuntarily, occasional physical discomfort from the office itself, and lack of confidence in the company's future. For the sake of everyone, I hope I am wrong about the last point.

I stopped music lessons. I'm not sure this was a good idea. It was at the time since we were moving and I would need a new teacher closer to the house anyway, and we were so busy at the time. I guess the time I put into running and rock climbing have replaced otherwise-normal-schedule lesson time. But now that life is more stable, I would still like to practice piano on my own at the least. If I am motivated, then get a piano teacher.

I am trying to let go of the habit of shopping for fun (a nonmaterial thing that leads to more material things). I write more about this in Lessons Learned.

Things to still purge or organize

  • At least 2 boxes of misc. junk (office, kitchen)
  • Rechargeable dehumidifiers (too laborious to use)
  • Another pass through books. "Do not let your stuff define you."
  • Dresses
  • Needs better organization
    • kitchen counter
    • office shelves
    • living room box of misc. junk
    • 1/2 of master bedroom
    • Basement
      • Build bookshelf
      • Box of misc. junk

Last updated: 2020/04/12

The KonMari Method

WIP. I'm only 43% through Marie Kondo's book. Maybe I'll come back when I'm done.

In Summary

Lessons Learned

Having a home for each thing

For me, the main cause of clutter is things not having a "proper home" in my home. If I know exactly where a thing goes, it doesn't take much brain or physical energy to put it away. But if I don't know where it goes, I need to spend some brain energy and time figuring out a place to put it--and who wants to do that? Hence the gradual accumulation of things in piles. This leads to not being able to find the things I need when I need them, which leads to buying more of the same thing I don't need, or just stress, which can lead to stress shopping.

Shopping out of boredom or stress / for fun / etc.

The second cause to clutter for me is **consumerist culture **leading to having much more than you need or want. This goes back to stress shopping, as well as shopping for fun, shopping when you're bored, shopping to create a certain social image, and shopping just because you found a good deal on something that you don't really need. In terms of clothes, I'm glad that I've entered companies with casual dress codes, which lessens the pressure on me to look a certain way. I also personally have become less caring about impressing anyone by my looks or whether someone recognizes I wore the same thing not long ago. In terms of everything else, I'm guilty of shopping just for fun or out of boredom. I am trying to replace this habit with more enriching hobbies, such as reading or watching educational videos. Some minimalists also encourage you to delay buying something for at least a week or a month to assess whether you really can live without that thing. And who knows, if you still need that thing and then later it is on sale, then that's even better.

The cost of buying a thing vs. getting rid of it

It's fascinating: we normally only focus on how much a thing costs for us to acquire it vs. how much it costs the environment to decompose of it. For many things, they can't decompose at all. We can recycle a lot, but recycling takes energy (our energy to sort it, and companies' energy to do the recycling), and some things need specialized recycling facilities that are harder or financially expensive to access. This is the biggest reason for me that it's so important to fight consumerism: the environment. When we decrease demand for things, we hopefully decrease the greenhouse gases needed to supply things, and of course slow the growth of landfills. Not only do I try to buy less, but I also try to buy environmentally-friendly stuff. This means my grocery bills are higher, and most of my furniture is still "cheap"ish but good enough quality.

What about my husband?

I don't think he's anywhere near as enthusiastic as me about this minimalism train. His main realms in the house (board games, his clothes, his books) are arguably the most packed. At the same time, he is not opposed at all to me doing anything to the rest of the house. As with most other households, I as the woman have taken charge of organization planning. But as I learned from Marie Kondo's show and observed over time, my husband should be involved in organizing itself, and anyway, he is more than willing to organize as long as I've established proper homes for each thing. Surely social conditioning has influenced our personalities to develop in such stereotypically genderized ways, but I accept this dynamic. I accept that I enjoy organizing and am better at it than he is, and I'm glad we work together to maintain our house's orderliness. I think of myself as the architect who works closely with the construction workers (lol). I think there is still more mental load on me as a result, but it is okay, and the load lightens as our house gets more organized (and more things get fixed).

Combining KonMari and Minimalism

I am conflicted between Marie Kondo's message of **decluttering as quickly as possible **and minimalists' message of taking your time with decluttering. Kondo's detachment-esque approach appeals to me in terms of getting things done, but I think I am at a point now where I *can *take my time more. The vast majority of my house is organized, and I have the space to comfortably store things for a time should I need to.

I am starting to see how Marie Kondo can attest that, with her KonMari method, you can't rebound back to a decluttered state. You'll always be in a constant, serene maintenance mode, calmly putting things away in their proper homes. The act of cleaning should probably only be in terms of cleaning up your bodily waste: your hairs and sweat that collect on floors, surfaces, sheets, pillows, and clothes. This reality is exhilarating. I can much better relax in my house when there is no clutter to stress me out. I get that much more excited to wake up in my home each morning and come back home from work each night.

At what point can I call myself a (KonMari-influenced) minimalist? I still have so much more stuff than what it appears the austere fancy millennials on Youtube have. As one Youtuber put it, minimalism should be seen as a tool for your life, not a competition to have the least stuff possible. Since that tool, in combination with the KonMari method, is to help rid myself of the things I don't find value in life and only keep the things that "spark joy" in my life, once I take care of the things I still need to organize or purge, I can fully consider myself a KonMari minimalist.