“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
Yes, minimalist living is a long-term project. There’s no getting out of the fact that you’re going to need to regularly renew your commitment to living simply. Not because you’re not committed enough, but because, unless you’re really, really lucky, you’re probably immersed in a culture of overconsumption. This means you’ll be confronted with your choices regularly and thus forced to check in with yourself and make sure you’re still doing something that resonates for you.
At the same time as maintaining this long term view and checking in with yourself often, in order to keep yourself motivated and on track you’ll need to give yourself tangible, short-term goals to accomplish. That way even when you’re feeling overwhelmed you can still, at the same time, feel like you’re moving forward!
43.1 Clean Out the Clutter Corner
“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination”Christina Scalise
Every home or living space has that little nook or cranny where things just get shoved “out of the way,” never to be seen again. You know…that bottom kitchen drawer, the top shelf in the coat closet, the bowl where you drop things like pennies, elastic bands, etc that is about to spill over onto the floor…those places. We’re not talking about that entire room that you keep the door closed to, or the garage – those are projects that take more time and can bog you down if what you’re looking for is a quick decluttering fix.
Pick a small, manageable space in your house that’s been accumulating clutter and getting on your nerves. This could mean sorting through the tupperware and getting of rid of whatever doesn’t have a match. It could mean going through your sock drawer and doing the same. Or sorting and getting rid of old makeup, hygiene and home remedies stuff that’s been wasting away in your bathroom. Whatever little corner in your living space has been haunting the back of your mind.
Give yourself 15-20 minutes and just do it! You can even get your (hopefully willing) partner and or kids to get involved in a little small-space decluttering blitz! The important thing is picking something you can start and finish. Giving yourself an easily achievable goal so that you can feel the benefits of having accomplished something despite however little time you may have!
43.2 Out With the Inbox!
Another super easy and quick way to clear some clutter from your life is to sit down and go through your emails and delete anything you don’t absolutely need. If you’ve been backlogging them for months and have thousands to go through, don’t expect yourself to get through ALL of them in one go…give yourself a specific amount of decluttering time and then stop! You don’t want to burn yourself out either.
Admittedly, this is isn’t “physical” clutter in the strictest sense of the word, but digital clutter is equally weighty these days despite being basically immaterial. The simple fact of having thousands of messages staring at you everytime you go into your email is a bit of information and clutter overload for your brain.
IF there are a fair number of things you really do need to keep for whatever reason, once you’ve deleted absolutely everything possible, make yourself some folders and archive messages accordingly so you can still have the mental clarity and satisfaction of an empty inbox as often as possible! Joshua Becker of The Minimalists recommends clearing out your inbox everyday (the way you would with a physical mailbox!), replying to anything that will take two minutes or less right away, and putting the rest in a “work in progress folder.” This should insure zero clutter in your online workplace moving forward! Which is super satisfying!
The secondary benefit of clearing out your inbox is that, even if emails are technically not physical clutter, they do take up digital space and have to be stored somewhere! According to The Guardian Weekly, “the sending, sorting and filtering of spam email alone accounts for 33bn units of electricity each year”!
They continue on with the comparison between paper mail versus email, saying “The average email has just one-sixtieth the footprint of a letter…That looks like a carbon saving unless you end up sending 60 times more emails than the number of letters you would have posted in days gone by. Lots of people do. This is a good example of the rebound effect – a low-carbon technology resulting in higher-carbon living simply because we use it more.” 
43.3 Unsubscribe From…Everything!
“The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” Elise Boulding
For similar reasons to the inbox decluttering, unsubscribing from newsletters and mailing lists can be both quick, satisfying and rewarding in the long-term for not only your mental clarity and effectiveness, but also in decreasing your ecological footprint! Most listservs you’re on you probably never read and either delete or save in the hopes of getting around to them one day anyway! The ones that you actually do read and truly care about you’re likely to take the time to visit their actual websites and read the content…in fact, you’re probably more likely to read it there then if you get it delivered to your inbox where you can save it for “when you have time.” Never going to happen! So just unsubscribe already!
Sustainability blog Two Sides spells out just how much of an impact email has on our overall carbon footprint, referencing a book by Mike Berners-Lee which “estimated that an ordinary email that you click on, open, forward or reply to emits 4 grams of CO2. If that email has an attachment of, for example 1 MB, the CO2 goes up to 19 g and if that attachment is then forwarded or filed, the footprint for that one email could be as high as 50g! If the email is spam and blocked by a filter, then the number is only 0.3 g.”
Furthermore, according to estimations done by the Radicati research firm in 2015, calculations showed that almost 2.4 million emails are sent every second and some 74 trillion emails are sent per year. If we assume all emails emit the lowest amount of CO2 estimated (0.3 g CO2 each), 22 million metric tons of CO2 per year are emitted worldwide as a result of emailing, which balances out to the greenhouse gases produced by almost 5 million cars!
Clearly, unsubscribing from emails we never, or rarely, actually read, can help reduce emissions globally. It also help you maintain that magical empty inbox, which is your ideal goal in integrating minimalist practices into every sphere of your life! AND it should only take you 15 minutes or so. (You can also unsubscribe in an ongoing fashion as you receive emails from things you had forgotten you even signed up for!) It’ll do you a world of good.
43.4 The Fast Track Clothing Sort
“When your room is clean and uncluttered you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Marie Kondo
Similar to point one of this piece, the fast track clothing sort is about zoning in on one specific, “bite-sized” bit of clutter you can work through in 15 to 20 minutes. Basically all it involves is choosing on type of clothing you have too much of and going through it all in one go. This lines up with Marie Kondo’s recommended method of sorting things by category. Same idea! Only here you’re only taking on one little section of your stuff at the moment. Whatever you can manage and will feel satisfying enough to reboot your motivation. Try and pick whichever category of clothing you really find you have too much of, to the point that it annoys or frustrates you. It could be shoes, it could be pants, it could be coats…
Give yourself 15-20 minutes and take everything you own in whatever category you’ve chosen. Lay it all out somewhere. Get rid of anything you have something similar to (say you have two coats that are very similar, keep whichever one you wear more often or has more practical functions that you need!). Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the last year or last time the appropriate season went by (did you wear that winter coat you’ve been storing for years because you like it so much? No? Then it’s time to say goodbye…).
The fact of going through things quickly often allows us to bypass the emotional attachment and anxiety factor, which can be helpful if you’re someone who ends up holding onto things “just in case” or because they remind of such and such a person or such and such a time. As Joshua Becker puts it, “owning less is better than organizing more.”
43.5 This One is Super Important!
“Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world and protect the planet.” Tristram Stuart
Another satisfying small space to attack when you need a little boost of decluttering motivation is any and all of your food storage areas. This could be your fridge, your freezer, your pantry, your teas and spices box, or heck, your root cellar if you have one! Not only will you be happy to have a clean, clutter-free space afterwards, you’ll get insight into what you actually have in there and be able to better plan your meals and reduce your food waste!
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations “roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America.” So yeah, food waste is a big, and widespread, problem. Applying minimalist practices to your food consumption and storage habits is an absolutely essential element of a true holistic minimalist lifestyle! Plus, it’s relatively easy to stay on top of if you take 15 minutes out of your day every now and then to do a deep cleanse or simply make sure there’s nothing you’re forgetting about that’s on the verge of going bad.
43.6 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Have to Do Now!
Now that you have a few places to start next time you’re feeling low on motivation and high on frustration, all you have to do is remember to put these things into practice when you start feeling “stuck.” Which is pretty much inevitable in most people’s lives at some point. No matter how much we know we’ve chosen the right path and how much we truly enjoy our lifestyle choices most of the time, there will be moments where minimalism seems like a mountain of things to remember or things you haven’t gotten around to decluttering yet.
Just remember that the whole point of shifting to a minimalist lifestyle is to make those moment of overwhelm fewer and far between! If you’re feeling demotivated it’s likely because you’ve been trying to bite off more than you can chew. Take some deep breaths and focus on a small, manageable, easy to accomplish in a short period of time, short term goal, and get it done! There’s no end to the good a little action can do you in times of mental “stuckness.”