I love experimenting. When life get’s stagnant, I like to shake it up with an experiment to try something new. When I first considered downsizing, we did an experiment where we closed of the extra rooms in our house and lived in a smaller space within our existing home.
Tanya Loudenback tried a 5 day decluttering experiment and shared her story on Business Insider. I took the first step to living like a minimalist and it felt surprisingly unsatisfying
Ignoring the sensationalized headline, Tanya’s experiment was a resounding success because it challenged her established patterns and resulted in some insightful conclusions.
I want to share Tanya’s experiment, her results, and then give my tips on how to improve the 5 day decluttering experiment.
Tanya’s Five Day Decluttering Experiment
Day 1: Books
Day 2: Beauty items
Day 3: Miscellaneous
Day 4: Clothing and shoes
Day 5: Digital
Tanya targeted the areas of her life where she felt most cluttered. She was successful decluttering these areas to the degree she was comfortable. You can read the details of each day in her article linked above.
The conclusion she reached after a week of decluttering was spot-on.
After this week, I’m reminded that true minimalism is a lifestyle and not something that can be achieved in a week’s time. Still, paring down possessions and decluttering your living space is the first — and arguably biggest — step.
Tanya said she didn’t feel radically different after her experiment. One of the best things about this article, is that Tanya took the extra step to reflect on WHY she didn’t feel radically different.
Here is why she felt unsatisfied with the results:
Not all of my belongings are in NYC. Our digital lives are a beast of their own. Minimalism takes continued commitment.
I agree with her assessment. If you don’t have all your belongings in your home, with some housed with parents or in a storage unit, then decluttering will feel incomplete until you tackle those areas as well. Digital clutter is a wholly different category of clutter, and it can take a lot of time to get under control. Her one day of digital decluttering just scratched the surface.
Her final discovery was that minimalism takes continued commitment. This is also true, however, once you do a thorough and complete decluttering, the commitment to minimalism does get easier. On the journey from cluttered to decluttered you will learn much about your relationship with stuff, and that learning makes the eventual transition to minimalism easier.
Tip for a Successful Declutter Experiment
Given my experience with decluttering and minimalism, I am offering a suggestion and a recommended schedule to help you get a better picture of what it will feel like to be decluttered.
My tip is to focus on one area of your home and declutter it to completion. If you can get one room, closet, or area completely clutter free, you will get a truer sense of how it will feel to be decluttered. I recommend experimenting with an area that is either wholly yours or where you have enough freedom to make all the decisions. Typically this would be your closet (or your side of the closet), your bathroom (or your half of the bathroom), or the kitchen (with permission from anyone you cohabitate with).
I like starting in the closet, because it’s one of the first spaces you see every day, and a decluttered closet feels good first thing in the morning.
Sample Schedule for a 5 Day Declutter Experiment
Day 1: Clothes – Daily wear. The clothes you wear on a regular bases, including work clothes, after-work clothes, and weekend clothes.
Day 2: Clothes and Shoes – Do a second pass of your clothes (or finish if you didn’t have time to get through all of them on day 1) and then declutter your shoes.
Day 3: Clothes – Occasional wear (jackets, sweaters, formal wear, seasonal items.)
Day 4: Items that shouldn’t be in your closet. Declutter what you can, and re-home whatever doesn’t belong.
Day 5: Final pass – tidy and organize what remains. When storage is limited, you’ll end up with extra stuff in your closet. Ideally you would have nothing but clothes, but in reality other stuff will need to be stored there. Organize it as best you can so that the main focus of the closet is on clothing. Minimize the space taken up by other items by stacking vertically or storing on high shelves.
At the end of day 5 you should have a decluttered space that feels “minimal”. This gives you a better taste of minimalism as you can see it all in one spot. In Tanya’s case, she made good progress, but since the progress was spread out over 3 areas, it was difficult to see and feel. Focusing on one small area will give you the feel of minimalism.
I’d love to hear from anyone that tries this experiment or one similar. Do you have another 5 day experiment to suggest, or another sample 5 day declutter schedule? Share in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.
Photo credit: Feature image is from Tonya Loudenback’s 5 day experiment on Business Insider