As I de-owned each room over the last three months, I threw away far more than I donated (who knew we had so much junk). Anything that was remotely useful, I gathered into a haphazard pile, waiting for critical mass before making the first trip to Goodwill. In mid-December, I took my first load. As I shook the volunteer’s hand and drove away, I was struck with the most amazing feeling.

I was lighter.

Good-bye Stuff!

Good-bye stuff!

I will never again have to pick through that stuff. I will never again have to clean it or ponder whether to keep it or rearrange it so that I can reach something that I actually use. My car was lighter and I felt lighter, like the proverbial anchor had been removed.

That feeling was addictive. I went home that same day and cleaned half of the scariest room in the house and quickly amassed a pile bigger than the one I’d just shed. What ELSE could I get rid of? I went upstairs to the closet where I’d turned all my hangers backward in September and grabbed a sweater, eight shirts, and a belt that hadn’t been worn in almost four months. I never really liked them anyway.

I drove back to Goodwill and happened to catch an NPR TED Radio Hour discussing the various perspectives on compassion in today’s world, which made me realize that minimalism, though it many times begins as a self-improvement project, is also an important vehicle to spread compassion. Old belongings – the excess – move on to help someone else. The products that we discovered we don’t need and have stopped buying never make it to the landfill so we save a small corner of the planet for the next generation. The time we save goes directly back to doing something we love or being with someone that we care about. We’re calmer, happier, and that’s contagious.

By changing a small corner of the world – our corner – we can ignite change throughout. Minimalism, so far, has been the Best. Project. Ever.