375,000 people visit this blog every month. Subscribe and see why.

X

Whoa!

Damn, this thing is huge!

Just try and make this go away. I dare you.

No, but seriously, you should consider subscribing. I send only the best stuff, and I won’t send your email to any spammers (pharmaceutical vendors, body part enhancers, etc), no matter how nicely they ask.

The Short, 16-Step Guide to Getting Rid of Your Crap

Tweet

Yay, it’s Friday! Time to head home and relax after a week of hard work.

1. Enter the front door of your home. Toss off your shoes. Notice, lying beneath, a pair of boots you have worn only once. Shrug.

2. Turn on the television and sit on your Ikea couch. Attempt to relax. Awaken 20 minutes later, realizing that you’ve been passively flipping through channels. Turn off the TV, remove the batteries from your remote. Toss them in your Blendtec blender. Stop yourself moments away from doing something drastic.

3. Briefly fondle the iPhone in your pocket. Stop yourself, realizing you were about to do the exact same thing with Reddit as you just did with TV. Call and cancel your data plan in the nick of time.

4. Begin to wonder what people did before television and internet access. Observe the room around you, looking over the unread books and unwatched DVDs lining your dusty shelves. Consider shopping, then picture the unworn clothes occupying your cavernous walk-in closet.

5. Realize your imagination has turned all black and grey.

6. Suddenly recognize that you haven’t used your “spare” room… ever. Do the math and realize said room is costing you five or six hours of work per month. Take out a piece of paper and compare it to that trip to Japan you’ve been meaning to take. Stare at the math in disbelief. Stuff the paper in your mouth and begin to chew.

7. Realize that the brief emotional rush that accompanied the purchase of each item in your home is now gone, leaving only the object itself in its most basic, uninteresting form. The gorgeous, pastel designer couch has become simply a chair. A beautiful glass buffet is transformed into a mere table. A set of immaculate handmade dishes has aged into nothing but a bunch of plates. Your goose down duvet is actually just a blanket. Wince.

8. Glance down at your groceries and realize that the Doritos, Lay’s, and Ruffles you purchased are all just coloured corn and potatoes.

9. Open your credit card bill. Wide-eyed, discover how often you’ve confused shopping with actual extra-curricular activities. Consider joining a monastery.

10. Remember that time you went over to a party in a friend’s pseudo-abandoned loft. Recall the roommates, the self-made art and photos on the walls, the obscenely cheap rent, and the embraced simplicity.

11. Begin to make a quick list of the top 10 things you own in terms of how much they cost. With horror, make a second list of the top 10 things that make you happy. Sense the creeping dread as you realize there is no overlap between the two at all. Shudder in terror.

12. Decide to have a packing party like your friend suggested one time. Take the old sheets you never used from Crate & Barrel. Cover all your stuff with them. Endeavour not to uncover it unless you decide you need to use it. Realize suddenly that you would never use anything at all because you are never actually home.

13. Remember a time in childhood when you were more excited by ideas, love, travel, and people than by anything else. Realize that you have, somehow, bought into a new religion, and that malls, from the inside, look exactly like cathedrals.

14. Consider starting a fire.

15. Consider that, perhaps, you are more than just your stuff. Begin to take a long walk. Breathe.

16. Begin to relax. Give yourself the freedom to begin to dream again.

(In collaboration with Josh Millburn of TheMinimalists.com)

* Filed by Julien at 2:43 pm under guide, simplicity


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

Check out more of my blog, my free book or add me on twitter. Also, we're hiring. Check that out.

Subscribe via email:

77 Responses to “The Short, 16-Step Guide to Getting Rid of Your Crap”

  1. JohnD Says:

    Well, Tyler Durden (Fight Club) sums it up perfectly in just two sentences ;-)

    “The things you own end up owning you.”

    “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

    • Gavrev Eugen Says:

      The same feeling with me , it’s like FC :
      “You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not … ” and so on. but in less rebellious degree, not just submissive follow.. but totally comprehending. I thinks that’s kind of my point of view too.

      And as usual great narrative stile. Thank You!

    • Easy_Ebes Says:

      Excellent quotes, but let us not forget:

      “You are not you’re f*cking khakis.”

  2. Adam Welker Says:

    Nice. Ya got me! Totally not what I was expecting.

  3. Lazer Says:

    Great post. Recently started doing this myself. Just got rid of my couch and am ditching my smartphone over to Johns phone. I also all ditched all my utensils and cooking devices as well except the bare essentials. Its amazing what you can make with just a pot and a pan. Anything really more than that and they’ll only pile up in the sink or dishwasher.

  4. Luc Says:

    Good work.

  5. HANNA Says:

    Picture this, a couple of hundred years ago and before. You’re travelling and stop at an inn where you are offered a room to stay for a few weeks. A sparce room a bed and small table with a single book on it. Sunlight streaming through the window. Like many of your contemparies you are illiterate. You settle down to relax for the remainder of the day, alone with your thoughts. A meal is being prepared and you are asked to help. You gladly offer a hand and enjoy the hospitality of new acquaintances until it is time to sleep. No electric light, no internet, no tv, no running water, no reading, no information overload, just friendship, food and a place to rest. A situation that is empty by today’s standards but that emptiness gives you what you really need and this freedom helps you to be yourself. The nearest thing I have come close to this is wild camping, perhaps we should organise a wild camping group for IOYH fans? no iphones allowed and we can really start that fire, lol.

  6. Easy_Ebes Says:

    The amazing thing that I noticed after doing this (a couple months ago after reading Joshua and Ryan’s excellent blog) was even after getting rid of a couple dozen garbage bags (selling, donations, trash) worth of stuff my room and house didn’t look any different. All the things in view were things I used, the rest was junk lurking beneath the surface.

    • Sara Says:

      That’s exactly what I am noticing. My husband and I just moved and dumped at LEAST a dozen garbage bags of trash and donated another huge pile of stuff and yet, the new house looks pretty much what the old one looked like. Lets me know there’s still more to do, but it also encourages me when I realize how little (if at all) I miss the stuff we got rid of!

  7. _beccap Says:

    This list is awesome! I’ve always been the type to throw things out periodically, even as a kid, so these really hit home. Getting rid of stuff really does lift a weight off my shoulders!

    • Gavrev Eugen Says:

      I’m thinking twice, before I’m buying something.The whole industry are working to make me buy thing I don’t even need and in some months to sell same thing but more advanced. I think we should not follow instincts when we are buying fancy-looking stuff and throwing it out in a couple of months .

      Without this amount of garbage we produce , or if we could make it fewer world would be better or at least cleaner… that’s for sure..

      One article which I found out recently on NPR site , made me think a lot about it, there are some excerpts from a new book by Edward Humes mostly describing situation in US, but in the whole world we should care about this.
      http://www.npr.org/2012/04/26/150735732/following-garbages-long-journey-around-the-earth

  8. Andre Says:

    I want your background image.

  9. Donna Says:

    I am from the baby boomer generation and when I read “remember a time in childhood” I almost teared up and thought what a mess I am. It was such a treat when Saturday evening came and you got to go get that ice cream treat and then stayed up late getting to play cards with the family or reading that good book from the library. What changed…….ME. Help. I know I can fix this! Thanks this was great.

  10. Justin Says:

    Kudo’s on this fellas. I started taking pictures on anything I found to be sentimental. Then I proceeded to throw it away. The pictures are always with me and evoke the same emotional response.

    PS: Flinch was fantastic and it led me to Pressfields “War of art.” Thank you

  11. Momekh Says:

    If nothing else, EVERYONE should do #11.
    And the last two steps are where the real difference will probably begin to happen.

  12. Kalvyn Evans Says:

    The hard part is convincing your wife to go along with you on this.

  13. Cindy La Ferle Says:

    Absolutely, painfully true. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about #13, which hits like an epiphany when you reach middle age. Great list — thank you!

  14. Rob Says:

    I like the post, though I like all my shit too. Maybe some day. You might have convinced me if you’d have dropped a few F bombs. LOL.

    #4 reminded me of this awesome The Far Side cartoon http://eardstapa.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/the-days-before-television.jpg

  15. Guilie Says:

    Great post! The comparison between the top 10 things that cost most and those that make you happy is excellent–and so true.

  16. Jo-Anne Says:

    I rarely feel like I own crap………….lol
    I also do not like other people to touch my stuff……lol
    Hubby often wants to have a clean out and throw out my stuff, and I will not let him touch my stuff if he wants a clean out he can toss out his own crap…..yes I have stuff he has crap……..lol

  17. Howard Stein Says:

    I think you need to reconsider your diet.

  18. Francesca Tasmania Says:

    Genius, damn genius!

  19. Tracy Says:

    Thank you. This post isn’t something I consider “crap” and luckily I have space in my email account for it.

    I’ve already gotten rid of much of my ‘things’ as I’m sick of physically moving them and every time I go to buy something I think “Wouldn’t you rather travel than buy ANOTHER dress?” The answer? Yes. (I have enough dresses already to wear in my travels.)

    Thank you for the further reminder and inspiration!

    • Tino Says:

      Over the past 5 years I have gotten rid of, given away or sold 90% of my stuff. Similar to you, now when I go to buy something I ask myself “Wouldn’t you rather retire with money in the bank?”, then I put down whatever I have in my hands and move on.

  20. Ken Morrison Says:

    Thank you so much for both parts of #13

  21. Bruce Says:

    I must re-post!

    Thanks Julien. I needed to read this.

  22. Christine Says:

    I don’t usually link my blog in other people’s comments but after reading #14, I just had to share:
    http://100things100days.com/2011/07/18/day-41-sometimes-i-think-id-like-to-watch-it-burn/
    Thanks – from a fellow believer in the fire cure!

  23. Dave Delaney Says:

    I read recently of a great idea to help clear your extra clothes.

    Rehang all of your clothes backwards on their hangers. When you use something, place it back regularly.

    At the end of the year remove all of your hangers that are still backwards. These are clothes that you haven’t used in a year! Take them all to Goodwill or Salvation Army.

  24. Michael Day Says:

    I like #11. I think I’m going to do that myself. I’ve been trying to get rid of some stuff and limit my purchases to things I either actually need, or I know I am going use frequently, so there might actually be some overlap in my list.

    One trick I like to do is when I think of buying something new, I hold over for at least a couple of months before buying it. Then I try to notice if there is some actual need in my life that isn’t being met the way I like because I haven’t made the purchase. Times when I say, “Oh, I really wish I had bought X, it would have been so useful right now.” If that happens enough times in the couple of months that I’m waiting, I know it’s an item I will make use of regularly. In the last several months, this has amounted to a smart phone, a single video game, and a new pair of headphones. A lot of things didn’t make the cut.

  25. Lauren Hug Says:

    Kudos to everyone who posted a Fight Club quote. I was thinking the same thing.

    Ten years ago my husband and I spent a year living in 200 square feet in London. It completely changed our perspective on what we “needed” to have. It freed us from the never-ending trap of trading up on houses, cars, and possessions. We aren’t tied to jobs we can’t stand to finance a lifestyle we don’t need.

    And yet … this article resonates with me because we still have way more junk than we need, we still don’t take a walk nearly often enough, we still don’t turn off the tv, the computer, the smart phone as often as we could to enjoy the company of other human beings or even spend time with our own thoughts.

    So thanks for reinforcing and challenging at the same time! Much needed and appreciated.

  26. Graeme Says:

    I don’t have much physical stuff myself. But your smartphone/TV comments rings true. I just reconnected to the internet today. Got some useful stuff done, and wasted time, in about the same ratio as before.

  27. Tyler Disney Says:

    Nice. Who was it (Colin? Josh Millburn? You?) who wrote the two-step guide to becoming a minimalist? It went something like

    Step 1: Rent a dumpster.
    Step 2: Put your stuff in it.

    The more you let go, the easier it is to let go, and the freer you become.

  28. Evelyn Says:

    I chuckled when I saw this one…

    14. Consider starting a fire.

    I did just that some years back, it was liberating!

  29. George Mihaly Says:

    This was a very entertaining read :) Thanks -George

  30. Chris Says:

    I gave up the TV some while ago. Really quite liberating. People in the office think I’ve gone nuts of course !!

  31. RP Says:

    Great narrative! I’m on a quest to simplify and get rid of all the clutter and excess in my life. Funny thing, though, there’s actually a lot of overlap on my top 10 lists. My mountain bike, road bike, touring bike, kayak, camping gear, ski gear etc. were all expensive purchases, but they all bring so much joy, connection and community into my life. As for my car, while I’m not particularly attached to it in and of itself, I love that it gets me to some beautiful places and lets me do things I love to do. (I lived car-free for years, & have only had it for a little over a year, so I’m a big fan of being car-free too.)

    I’m all for living simply, don’t get me wrong, and I’m actively working on reducing the amount of stuff I have. I’m just pretty happy with my big spends.

  32. Darren Says:

    for the long walk (15) do I use my shoes or the boots that I’ve worn just once (1)… choice holds me back – inspiring post, thanks.

  33. josh Says:

    brilliant in its simplicity and honesty.

  34. Valerie Herskowitz Says:

    It’s not enough to get rid of your stuff. You have to stop accumulating. I have regularly cleaned out my closets, drawers and shelves. When I moved 3 years ago, I gave away at least half of our belongs. So why only 3 years later, do I have more stuff to dispose off? I’m vowing to stop accumulating. Even though I’m not a shopper, I’m guilty of buying things I don’t need on random occasions.

  35. Shawn Tuttle Says:

    I’m all for inviting in more experience rather than stuff. Kind of along the lines of RP above—though can be artistic, too. Need a tension release break time activity? I signed up for a welding class and am now spending extra-curricular time going to scrap metal junk yards to repurpose stuff to turn into garden and back porch decorations. Crate and Barrel doesn’t have squat on me.

  36. valleycat1 Says:

    #s 6-9 are gonna turn my life around!

  37. Sandra Hansen Says:

    I used to be somewhat of a hoarder. I collected too much, felt needy and made my things my friends. I had trouble getting rid of things and ended up with things stuffed everywhere. Since I didn’t like this I started getting rid of things. I didn’t know what to do with a beautiful antique girl’s dress that used to belong to a grandmother I never met but once. Someone told me that since the grandmother didn’t love me like a grandmother should have I had no reason to honor her by keeping her dress. I got rid of the dress and never looked back. This allowed me to get rid of many “sentimental” items and stop honoring things that didn’t need to be honored. Someone else now really likes the two cocktails, the girl’s dress, and my grandmother’s chair I hadn’t used in years. I have given happiness to many people who got all of the things that I sold or gave away. I am so happy that my basement, closets, and many spaces are clean now. By not buying so much I save enough to go to India most years. A ticket to India is only slightly more than $100 a month.

    • Melisa Says:

      I absolutely understand that dress! Mine is antique china from my great grandmother I don’t even remember. It takes up all the room in the china hutch and isn’t used. My family (dad, aunts, etc) think it’s AWESOME that it’s still in the family, but I ask myself why I still have it? It really means nothing to me.

      • missmemphis Says:

        I’m moving into a much smaller house next month and as I was packing, I realized that I have moved my grandmother’s china at least 8 times since she died in 1986… and I’m be used it twice. It felt REALLY good to give it to a friend who thinks it’s beautiful and says she’ll use it. Surprisingly for me I had no “givers remorse” either

  38. Lolly Parker Says:

    Your belongings are a mirror reflection of some part of you inside. Only keep things you really love or need to use, that way you will be loving and caring for you♡

  39. Brian Fradet Says:

    This stuff is great! I want to get rid of all my shit. One challenge is that my wife is a certified hoarder. She always buys me wonderful clothes, so it’s tough telling her to stop, but it’s going to have to happen. Though I’m a 1 per center, I feel imprisoned by my sh*t. Thanks for letting me vent. Brian

  40. Shellsterooney Says:

    love all of these sentiments and that there’s so much swearing on here ;-)
    I also have a husband who likes to cling on to his sh*te, it includes a box of tapes for which we no longer have a tape player and endless videos / dvds / cds / books, i have to do deals to get donations from this stash.
    i thought back to being a teenager and being mostly interested in seeing friends / music / doing fun things and am making the connection that it’s work and the constant taking care of the house, garden & car which stops me from concentrating on the best things in life!

  41. Nick Says:

    Great blog! Aw yes simplicity. Makes me want to get an axe, drive to the most desolate area, ditch my car, and wonder into the woods with nothing but a hatchet and build a log cabin, and simply, live.

  42. Carolyn Wagner Says:

    How funny I should stumble upon this when I have been considering exactly this. I have moved house and had so much stuff I am now also paying for a storage unit. :( Time to give lifeline a while new collection of things. :D

  43. Willy Cunningham Says:

    Give it away! A wise friend once told me as I was lamenting my tendency to give my art away rather than sell it, “when you give something you value away, it (the object) and the person you give it to will remain in your heart forever”. I’m happy to have a cluttered heart, and miss nothing I have gifted.

  44. robin Says:

    Julien, point number 13 is wonderful. It saddens me to think that this may not hold true for this generation of children.

  45. vivienne Says:

    Just what I am in the middle of doing – at 61 years old am selling my business, my house and sorting the accumulation of a lifetime, to step out on the future and all its possiblilities. It is difficult to part with my Grandmothers dresser, my Fathers miners couch, a desk my Mother carved, and the memories attached to paintings and photos and ornaments etc – perhaps have to put some things that cant easily be replaced in storage for a couple of years until I find the place I really want to live.
    Make five piles – toss, donate, sell, store and pack – move on. You wont miss anything! Thank you – your blog was an unexpected surprise – was expecting something totally different.

  46. vivienne Says:

    I love your thoughts – illuminating my desires
    Cheers
    Viv

  47. Mads Says:

    Excellent advice, but most people are blind to how getting rid of their crap can help them become happier.

    I have been a minimalist for a few years now and I’m surely not going back.

    Having less stuff means less worries and more freetime (especially since you don’t need so much money and therefore doesn’t need to work as much).

  48. Ethel Says:

    Great message. I, too, am in the process of de-crapping my surroundings. #11 was especially meaningful to me — my condo and my car overlap. My smartphone only makes the most expensive list — no happiness there, just annoyances.

  49. Cass Says:

    Was I being silly for expecting an actual guide? Nice article, though. If I read it maybe a year ago, it would probably motivate me to rethink my choices, but since I’m already on the path it was a little reminder that captured a lot of the reasons why I’m choosing to live the way I do.

  50. Ludovic Urbain Says:

    I’ve never enjoyed shopping, I only buy stuff that I need and the funny part is, even I have way too much stuff.

    Two years ago, I picked up all the stuff (20+ items) that was lying around on my desk, put it in a bag “temporarily”.

    I have searched that bag a dozen times and used one of the contents – and then moved said bag to the basement – not good enough but at least it’s not in my way everyday anymore.

    If you’re afraid of losing stuff, do it like that, pack it, store it and then just realize you didn’t need that crap after all.

  51. Kalai Says:

    Reminds of the http://www.theminimalists.com/288/ which inspires me to release the chains of slavery to sooooo much *fucking* shit.

    This also reminds me of the best Veggie Tale I ever watched, Madam Blueberry (look it up, watch it, it’s only 30 minutes long) and Stuff mart; a children’s show (kinda), but eye opening. Once I’m done being lazy on the couch I plan to throw out some worthless shit I call my life.

    Great blog, I’ve been on it off and on all day.

  52. Kevin Cook Says:

    Thanks Google for bringing me to this site. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve moved house over the last 15 years and each time I move I get rid of a load of stuff but then seem to accumulate the same amount again. In a month I have to move from a 2 bed house into a friends tiny spare room so I’m in the process of getting rid of pretty much everything I own. It’s going to be liberating but finding where to start is a bit difficult. Someone suggested taking photos of sentimental items so that you’ve always got a reminder of it without being burdened by the actual object. Such a great idea and I’m going to be doing that as I’m a bit of a sentimentalist and have got a whole load of stuff from childhood that I’ve not looked at in years but goes with me to every new house I move to. The only things I’m keeping apart from the essentials like clothes and bed is all my art materials of which I have a lot. Luckily my friend has a studio in the garden that I’m going to be able to use. A lot to do in just a month though. I’m tempted to just set fire to the house and be done with it lol.

  53. Sarah Says:

    My mom and I joke that we never buy anything for ourselves because then we have to own it. Ugh…So much work. haha.

  54. brady Says:

    This is just what I needed today! I look around and it’s like an empty shell of a house with STUFF in it. Living #6 and like #10. I’m getting there. Just need to sell more stuff and house next. All I need are my pets, TV and a bed to sleep in.

  55. mikel Says:

    Roof
    Cloths
    Food
    And yes the best luxury of all HOT WATER!
    The first three you live by;however when you no longer have anything but your thoughts,you really begin to appreciate that hot shower. Ahh life is good.

  56. Noel Says:

    It’s so true… Sometimes I feel like my life is a prison. But I’m unsure how to escape it. Then I go with friends for a hike in the woods and we’re free! Then we get back to my car and spend an hour checking our messages instead of talking. The cycle starts over.

  57. Sia Says:

    How’s this for simplicity?

    “You Are Awesome”!

    :)

  58. Teeny Says:

    I love this. I moved 6 months ago from Paris and donated 75 books to the American library, sold about 50 others. I gave away duplicate sets of dishes, chairs etc. I am now living in a clearer space. My television died this morning and I have decided not to replace it. I admit to online streaming, but nevertheless, I am cutting back. I still have loads of books that I have read. I have never bought books and NOT read them. I have always been someone who tossed stuff. I have the idea of living with “white” space around me. There are still a few items to get rid off but after reading this article I am letting them go, too. I live in the south of France and the French think I am the nutty American because I keep giving stuff away. I’ve just given away about 60 CDS and a couple dozen DVDS to my hairstylists. The french KEEP stuff. I do feel lighter. When I moved from the states to France; I sold my condo with all the furnishings. I literally had to write and ask for my cookbooks. I do not have attachment issues and I am lighther because of it. Thank you for this.

  59. Teeny Says:

    ooops, hit send too quickly and missed typos. Sorry.

  60. Margaret Says:

    I’m having trouble with books. I have got rid of the fiction and the least valued non-fiction and kept my favourites but if I move to Costa Rica to retire, I’ll have to get rid of them all. Then there are all the Xmas cards and letters from people who have passed on – how do you let them go?
    It occurred to me that mine is probably the last generation of people with actual letters and Xmas cards.

    • Jennifer R Says:

      As far as books are concerned, I’ve been a Bookcrossing membet for ten years now. The site encourages you to put a generated tracking code in your book and let it go. Give it a look and see if that would make parting with yours easier.

  61. Nicki Says:

    I so desperately wanted this to be a life changer for me. I did not fit the target audience for this post. (big frown) Unfortunately and fortunately my husband and I are jacks of all trades….. In order to save money and be more creative, more self sufficient, and just because we love too: our home is filled with materials/gear/tools for our trades. Not to mention I have 2 kiddos; Conley 2, Gabe 9months. Kids require their own fair amount of stuff and thats even minimally speaking. We live in a cozy 1450 sqft home with a gracious yard! I glance around my home and can only spot 3 pieces of furniture that we have purchased in our 8 years of marriage. 2 swivel chairs greatly used and bought at closing price of 400 for both! and a little toddler bed found at a garage sale. And alas I am overwhelmed by either the lack of space, amount of stuff, or inability to remain organized. WEll needless to say I need a different post….

  62. The Gastrocasual Says:

    I get this. If I’m critical, which I’m taught to be, what if you buy things that make you happy, purely because of the joy to be had in owning something of a quality that will endure. If you also believe that innovative creators must be rewarded, this adds to the cost. If you then realise that you are happy because you are wearing a £1000 coat, your happyness spreads. Of course there’s always a counter argument. I love No Logo, but Muji is a brand. A minimalist brand at that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*