Organizing Is Turning You Into A Hoarder

Hoarder_slide04Illustrated by Sydney Haas
Okay, maybe you’re not an actual, clinical hoarder — but if you think those five hairdryers, nine spatulas, and 12 pairs of high tops are necessary for your existence, you may have a problem. Friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of Everything That Remains and founders of the blog The Minimalists, thought they did. So, they left their six-figure jobs, fancy cars, and various gadgets and gizmos and are now living minimally in the small town of Missoula, Montana, happy as clams. Why? They believe "organizing" is a dirty word, because it essentially means squirreling all your crap away in boxes and bins rather than dealing with it. In keeping with that bold theory, they got rid of 80 to 90% of their stuff; stuff they thought would make them happy but didn’t, stuff they barely knew they even had, let alone actually used.
Here, the duo's 10 tips to help you pare down your belongings and live a happier, lighter, more meaningful life, too.
Hoarder_slide01Illustrated by Sydney Haas
1. Get rid of one thing a day for 30 days.
This is a great way to start — it’s easy and gives you momentum: The more you purge, the more you’ll want to purge. If you’re not sure about something, ask yourself: Is this thing adding value to my life? Or, if you’re the literary type, bring to mind the quote of English writer William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
2. Care to make it interesting?
“Decluttering is boring,” says Joshua. “Make it more fun with friendly competition.” Grab a partner (a friend, a sister, a guy you met on the street). On the first day of the month, you each get rid of one item; on the second day, two items, and so on. Whoever goes the longest, wins. The prize is up to you: Loser treats for a night of drinking? If you both get to the end of the month, you’ll have rid yourselves of hundreds of items. (We're not doing the math, but it's definitely a lot.)
3. Minimize multiples.
You really only need one nail clipper, one cheese grater, one cocktail shaker (ok, maybe two). And, no, you do not need all 27 of those plastic takeout containers just in case friends and family need to cart home extra turkey and stuffing after Thanksgiving, which you don’t even host.
4. Have an insurance policy.
Here's a hypothetical you might be familiar with: First, you think, But, if I toss my heart-shaped egg poacher, what if someone who only eats perfectly poached eggs comes over, and I kick myself for not having a poacher anymore? Then, you keep that heart-shaped egg poacher, and it follows you from apartment to apartment, still in its box because you’ve never used it (and probably never will). If you tend to hold onto things “just in case,” force yourself to toss (or donate!) the next one, knowing you have the Minimalists' 20/20 rule in your back pocket. If you later find yourself needing the thing you parted with, you can buy another, if it’s less than $20 and reachable within 20 minutes.
Hoarder_slide02Illustrated by Sydney Haas
5. Think twice before buying.
Everything you bring into your home takes maintenance (read: energy, which lazy girls like us have in short supply). “You buy a $50 shirt but then you have to store the shirt, you need to wash it, iron it, take it to the dry cleaner,” says Joshua. “There’s a certain amount of underlying discontent in our lives, and we try to fill the void with stuff. But, then the stuff leaves us overwhelmed and stressed out. We chase happiness. But, when we chase it, the farther away we get. It’s a weird paradox.” He adds that, “material possessions are the physical manifestations of internal clutter.” And, getting rid of all that clutter clears the way to help you figure out where to really find your joy. “The truth is," Joshua concludes, "lasting happiness comes from matching our actions with our values.” Also? The less stuff you have, the less there is to clean!
6. Whittle down to what you truly wear.
Why dig through piles of so-so sweaters to grab the one that makes you feel smokin'? By donating the meh stuff, you're simply clearing a path to the pieces that will always look good on you. “I had, like, 70 Brooks Brothers dress shirts, 12 pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes — it was insane,” Joshua admits. “Now, I own 2% of the clothes I used to, but they're all my favorites.” Try the Project 333 experiment: Go through your clothes and pick out 33 pieces (including accessories, shoes, and jewelry; not including underwear, PJs, and gym clothes) that you’ll wear over the next three months. Box up the rest. Repeat every three months, rinse unwanted, unflattering, un-everything pieces out of your life.
7. Screw being sentimental.
Just because Grandma gave it to you doesn’t mean it deserves to live in your apartment for eternity. Especially if it’s a random, creepy owl figurine that makes you cringe every time you meet its gaze. “Our things only have the meaning we give to them,” Joshua says. “When I was going through my mom’s stuff after she died, I realized she held onto things because of the memories they contained, and I did that, too. But, then I realized the memories weren’t in the thing at all, they were in me — it’s impossible for the memory to be IN THE THING.” So, he donated. “If other people can get value from something, me holding onto it is, in a way, selfish.” (He said it, not us.)
Hoarder_slide03Illustrated by Sydney Haas
8. Listen to Idina Menzel and "Let it Go."
For a fair price, that is. Whether you’re peddling your wares at a stoop sale or on Craigslist, “don’t price items based on what you originally spent,” Joshua warns. “If you have an old Blackberry from 2006 that you spent $400 on, you’re lucky to get 10 bucks for it. But, having it sit in your drawer is getting you nothing. Your stuff is only worth what someone will pay.” So, if someone offers you half of what you asked for, and you're in a position to, give them the deal. You'll get the lovely, light feeling of having let something go, and they get that cool, new thing!
9. Pack it up, pack it in.
Box up all your stuff as if you’re moving, then unpack day by day as you need things. “I had a 2,000-square-foot condo with two living rooms — I have no idea why a single guy needed two living rooms,” says Ryan. “I packed up everything — my clothes, kitchenwares, electronics, toiletries.” The first days, he took out necessities, like his toothbrush, sheets, and tool set. But, after three weeks, he says he still had 80% of his stuff sitting in boxes. “That was my revelation moment,” he says. “Here are all these things I worked so hard for over the last decade to have, and I didn’t miss any of them.” Cool, huh?
10. Stop pretending to organize.
“Organizing prevents you from removing the clutter in your life,” Ryan asserts. “It appears to be organizing, but it’s really hiding stuff in boxes. By getting rid of superfluous items, you’ll be organized without even organizing.” And, it's as simple as that.

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