‘Taking out the trash’ is an appropriate metaphor for this journey since minimalism is fundamentally about getting rid of life’s excess.
And the reason we must jettison what’s unnecessary is so we can focus on what’s important: we want to live a meaningful life, one that is filled with happiness, passion, and freedom.
We want a free life—one in which we are truly free: Free to contribute. Free to grow. Free to live freely.
In a more literal sense, Ryan actually is taking out the trash today: he is taking dozens (yes, dozens) of large trash bags to the curb for the trash collector to collect.
Today, after seven days of unpacking, Ryan separated every unused thing into three piles:
Pretty simple. Ryan took everything he hasn’t unpacked—everything that’s still hidden in those mountains of boxes in his second living room—and determined whether he can sell it, donate it, trash it. Only the things Ryan was certain he couldn’t donate or sell ended up in the trash pile.
You can do the same.
And if you stumble across something you think you need, ask yourself three questions: “When is the last time I used this?” and “Does this thing add value to my life?” and “Is this something I can replace?“
Chances are the answers are: you haven’t used it in awhile; it doesn’t add value; and, yes, it can be replaced if you need to replace it (which you probably won’t).
So throw caution to the wind and get rid of that stuff. Sure, there might be a few things you find you need, but everything else must go.
Take the trash out today; we’ll deal with donating and selling over the next few days.
Feel free to hold on to sentimental items—for now: we’ll deal with those in the coming days, too. (Related essay: Letting Go of Sentimental Items.)
Today is the day we begin the cycle of letting go.
“Trash” is Day 11 of Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism. Move on to Day 12. Read Ryan’s journal entries from this entire journey in Everything That Remains. You can also subscribe to The Minimalists via email.