Y’all know I love a good minimalism challenge. There’s something about stretching yourself to try something new that sparks motivation and refreshes your drive toward the life you want. It’s exciting to see if you can hit your goal. And even if you miss, you’re bound to have made a lot of progress.
Minimalism experiments stretch you as you push toward new goals. I have failed at The Minimalist’s Minimalism Game and rocked my own minimalism challenge in 2018 when I decided to #decluttertheyear by removing 2,018 items from my home in 2018. I saw such good progress with that experiment that I’m decluttering the year again with a 2019 minimalism challenge. I
t was actually my 2018 decluttering challenge that led me to try a new annual challenge- tracking the number of items brought into our home for the year.
Now before you write me off as insane for doing annual challenges, let me tell you that this challenge can be adjusted for any time period. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TRACK FOR A YEAR! Even doing a 30-day minimalism challenge would give you some great insights. Track for a week if that’s all you can handle on your plate. The point of a minimalism challenge is simply to experiment and try something new. No matter what time frame you choose, I think you’ll be surprised by the results. I know I was.
Back in February of 2018, I decided that I would set a goal to declutter 2,018 items from my home for 2,018. Decluttering that many items seemed like a daunting task, but I had a vision of what my home would look like at the end of it and that kept me motivated. In my mind, releasing over 2,000 items would make my home look like this.
Uncluttered. Simplified. So easy to clean. Y’all, I thought it would look like I didn’t have kids. Like we didn’t actually live here. You know the dream.
But, after getting rid of that much stuff, I couldn’t feel the difference I was after. To be fair, many of those items came from the basement storage area and the garage, two places I don’t spend my time hanging out on the regular. I know the challenge made an impact on the amount of time I need to tidy our house and the overall feel of our space. It just didn’t feel like the house I had envisioned.
This led me to two conclusions:
1. I needed to declutter more…especially the lived in spaces (hello, #decluttertheyear 2019 edition)
2. I needed more awareness of how much stuff was coming into my home
Sure I tracked getting rid of 2,018 items, but how many items came in during that same time period? How many items did I truly get rid of? Did we bring in so much new stuff that the level of clutter felt the same? I had no idea what our habits were for bringing items into our home. I decided I needed more awareness of what was coming in, not just what was leaving our home through decluttering. So, I came up with this minimalism experiment.
Minimalism Challenge: Tracking Incoming Items
1. Track all items that come into your home. Exceptions include food and perishable items such as toiletries.
That’s it. That’s the only rule. I bet you don’t even have to write that down to remember it.
ANYTHING not on the exceptions list that comes into our home- for any reason- gets tracked. Birthday gifts. Hand me downs. Happy Meal toys. New plates. Anything.
Handling Replacement Items
When I first started the challenge, I struggled with what to do with replacement items. For example, Ryan needed a new pair of gym shoes and he threw out the old pair. Would I count that as a decluttered item for my 2019 challenge, and add it to my total incoming, or would I not track it since it was a net of zero items? Obviously, this problem would only occur when someone was doing both challenges simultaneously, but I decided to count them on both because I wanted to get a full picture of what we were bringing in.
I decided to track my minimalism challenge in the Counter+ app I was already using for the declutter the year challenge. I just created a new sheet and named it Incoming + the month (i.e. Incoming, June) You can find details about the app and where to download it here.
Minimalism Challenge: Monthly Incoming Item Results
January: 47 items
Y’all, this is the thing that made me decide to make this an annual challenge. 47 items came into our home in one month. That’s more than one a day on average. And want to know the eye-opening part for me? We only bought ONE thing. One. Uno. Singular. We are pretty frugal in general and don’t purchase a lot of things regularly. I knew this about us, which is why I thought our numbers would be pretty low. But, apparently, we get gifted ALLLL OF THE THINGS!!!! Wow, I was shocked.
Now, this number actually included 29 hand-me-down items for the baby, which I know saved us lots of money. And, because I added 29 items in, I decided to remove 29 items through decluttering (I actually ended up parting with 54 items, so the net of this action was still negative, but you can see how tracking that math would get complicated real quick!)
February: 16 items
February is my birthday month so we went on a weekend trip to Nashville, Indiana. I picked up the most amazing cut glass window hanging and a ceramic pocket mug. Very hygee.
March: 43 items
Ahhh, EJ’s birthday month. Most of this number can be attributed to little man’s epic 3rd birthday bash & his needing summer clothes. I decluttered some toys to make room for the new stuff but didn’t get down to a one-to-one trade.
I also bought a few goodies for his Easter basket this month. He’s big into taking care of his “garden” right now (which is actually just our flower bed with shrubs), so we got him some gardening tools. And his first kite. I should be able to declutter that $3 mylar goodness the day after Easter, cause, you know, toddlers & kites.
April: 88 items
April was a big month for a few reasons.
1. Hubby never buys clothes until it’s time to go on his annual spring mission trip. Then we have to stock up on all the stuff. So, 23 items came in for him.
2. While hubs was across the world loving on Cambodian orphans, I decided to turn our bland master into a minimalist bedroom oasis. It’s been a neglected space the entire 7 years we’ve been married, so I decided to finally update it with intention and make it a space we would actually enjoy spending time in. Thanks to the help of my mom and in-laws, we crafted a beautiful space, complete with a grasscloth photo gallery wall. If you love a good before and after, be sure to check out my minimalist bedroom room tour.
3. My mom delivered a bag of old high school memorabilia that had been in her basement.
4. Ryan brought home souvenirs. Nuf said.
To Be Determined. I’m not Marty McFly.
Minimalism Challenge Takeaways
As I work through this annual challenge, it’s helped me realize that keeping a minimalist home it really a two-fold process. Decluttering and simplifying gets a lot of attention (Hello, Marie Kondo), but that’s only part of the puzzle when crafting a home you love. It doesn’t matter how much you get rid of if you continue to be unintentional about what you bring into your space. It takes mindfulness on both ends to keep clutter in check and curate a home that you truly love.
Tracking incoming items has heightened my awareness about how much money we spend on stuff and has saved us money. Believe it or not, just the act of having to add an item to my incoming items tracker has been enough to make me put things back at the store. It’s created an awareness of what we actually need. It’s made me think twice about purchasing stuff. And being aware of our habits and how they impact our lives is half the battle.
I’m not going to say that tracking all items into and out of my home this year isn’t a bit of work, cause it takes mental energy to remember to track each thing and vigilance to say no to the stuff others bring into our home (is it just me, or do people constantly try to give kids stuff?!?), but I will tell you that I have found this particular minimalism challenge to be enlightening. The work has been worth the reward. And the reward has been a heightened awareness of our habits and how they affect the state of our home.
Try your Own Minimalism Challenge Tracking Incoming Items
There’s nothing complicated about this experiment. Track everything that comes into your home that isn’t food or something you’ll use up. Then decide how long you want to track. I’d recommend at least a 30-day minimalism challenge if you can swing it, just because some weeks might be low and others might be high. A minimum of a month will give you a good idea as to what you might bring in over the course of a year, and that will be eye-opening. If you try the challenge, leave a comment below or tell us about your results on our Facebook page!