Today is my $25K Challenge’s one-month anniversary! My excitement is immediately overshadowed by a scarier thought: I only have 11 months left. I’ve been concentrating on de-cluttering, but I haven’t changed a lot of our spending habits yet.  Yes, we haven’t bought anything major this month and, yes, I think about being frugal all the time now, but in reality, that’s only translated to $190. I still have $24,810 to go.

I could see this as a sign that I’ll never get to $25K, but as an eternal optimist, I’d rather focus on the good things that have happened over the last month and relish the fact that this goal and blog have given me the motivation to start. Here are my lessons learned from my first month of minimalism.

  1. Family Onboarding: No one else in my household was really on board with eliminating a bunch of our stuff, but I’ve noticed a subtle change in the right direction.  Once they started to reap some of the benefits (easier cleaning & more organized spaces), I got a few compliments.  Then, finally one or two items of their own were offered for the chopping block.  Getting everyone involved is a slow, and not always steady process, but it seems to happen naturally if you start with yourself.
  2. Do something every day. Picking something small (like throwing away 10 things a day) and getting in the habit of doing it made minimalism seem less daunting. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. Organization: One side-effect of de-owning is that you can organize your spaces at the same time. My husband is a bit skeptical of my minimalist project, but he seems delighted when he catches me cleaning out another drawer. Could this project be slowly winning him over?
  4. Don’t throw out something without asking the owner.  They will probably notice.
  5. The fact that you’re de-owning doesn’t change the fact that junk still accumulates (e.g. mail). You need to set-up a defensive system to keep junk out of your house in the first place.  I’m still working on that.
  6. Kids: Clearing their stuff demands a special strategy that I haven’t quite figured out yet. Case in point, the other day, my 4-year-old walked into the kitchen with three markers and told me that her pink and grey ones didn’t work. When I suggested we throw them away she said, “Nooooooo, they might start to work later.”
  7. De-owning seems to give me MORE energy. In the same way that exercise can make you more productive, some early de-owning wins can give you momentum for an entire day or longer.
  8. De-owning in your home makes you think about creating space in other places too, like your inbox and your calendar. Minimalism is a mindset change that takes on a life of its own once you start.
Lake Manyara Elephants

Elephants in Lake Manyara National Park (Tanzania) are free to roam through forest and grasslands, without anything holding them back.