As someone who hates to sound self-righteous, this post sounds a bit self-righteous. Please know it’s not intended to come off like that-I have plenty of problems with unnecessary hoarding of crap, and I do a slightly less structured version of this bout once a year.
Before you begin: Identify the most cluttered parts of your living space; if you have things in a storage unit, garage, or at friends’ or relatives’ houses, include these too. Identify how minimal you want to go, and why. Your minimalist challenge will play out differently depending on how much and why you want to get rid of stuff.
Day 1: Where will stuff go when you need to get rid of it? Clear out a designated area of your house for things waiting to be donated, sold, or tossed. Research locations to donate items-you can start with Goodwill, but there’s lots of places looking for specific donations of specific items-for example, the library might light your old book collection, or some shelter dogs could sleep on your old towels. Also, sometimes you can re-sell your old books and clothes to a consignment store or used book store; just be sure they’re in good condition. Get plenty of empty trash bags and have a couple recycle bins handy.
Day 2-8: Identify the worst-offender cluttered areas. These don’t even have to be messy, just anywhere stuff has been sitting collecting dust. Sort that stuff into what you use every day (like your favorite coffee mug, your laptop, and-hopefully-your toothbrush), what you use maybe once a month (that weight bench in the garage) and things you only use once a year or less (does anyone in the family even like enforced snowshoe outings?) Put the daily stuff back in its place, but keep out the once-a-month/once-a-year things aside-you’ll be doing a little more sorting with these.
Day 9-10: What’s most important to you among the things you only use once a year or once a month? Decide your priorities-you would probably rather ditch a shirt you don’t really like and wear little, but not equipment for a hobby you can only practice seasonally. Also, for things you use this infrequently, see if you can’t do without some of them. Look into the options of renting or borrowing tools or equipment, or getting a gym membership rather than constantly stubbing your toes on workout equipment. You’re aiming to get rid of most of the “monthly” items and all but a few of the “yearly” items.
Day 11-15: Now it’s time to sort the stuff you decided to get rid of. Refer back to the list of donation places you made on day 1. Sort out donations, box them up, and designate a day for donation drop-off. Sort out items to be sold, too. You can sell collectible stuff, electronics, etc. on a site like Ebay or Craigslist, or through the classifieds. Less valuable stuff, like stuffed animals or old furniture, can be sold at a tag sale. Anything that’s just beyond the pale gets recycled or thrown out. Recycle metal, glass, plastic and paper; old ragged clothing can be cut up for cleaning/shop rags, and unfinished wood scraps and wood items can be burned in a nice bonfire!
Day 16: Have a tag sale! (you can skip this step if you live in an area that doesn’t permit it-instead, resell or donate as much as possible.) If you have kids who are reluctant to part with their old stuff, encourage them to sell old unused items by giving them the profits from the sale of their old clothing, toys, etc.
Day 17-23: Identify the paths through which excessive crap finds its way into your house. (Trash counts too!) Weigh out all the trash you make in this week and figure out where it’s all coming from. Is it your to-go coffee habit (I know I have that problem!) or is it excessive junk mail? Are plastic bags choking your trash can? Figure out a strategy to combat trash generation, whether it’s buying a shiny new travel mug to keep in the car or unsubscribing yourself from the junk mailing list. Also, look at your shopping habits-are you tempted by the lure of sales? Ironically enough, window shopping can break your bad habits. Often, it’s enough to just admire the items you like in a shop; you’ll discover that you can enjoy looking at whatever you lust after (whether it’s chocolate-covered Oreos, a new chainsaw, or anime figurines) without NEEDING to buy it. Unless it’s the chocolate-covered Oreos. Don’t fall into the trap of buying stuff on sale because “you might need it later!” Stuff is still going to be on sale in the future. And besides, by the time you really do need the thing, you’ll probably have forgot about the sale. (The only exception here is winter clothes and swimming suits; end of season sales are great for these, and you know you’ll need them eventually.)
Day 24: Pat yourself on the back. You made it! Now you actually have space to walk through your garage/basement/efficiency apartment/wherever! Congratulations! Go out for pizza or whatever floats your boat.