As a fol­low up to “Top 10 Rea­sons to Cut the Crap and Go Min­i­mal­ist”, today I will guide all of you through the daunt­ing process that is “cut­ting the crap”.

Though it may seem like a pretty sim­ple con­cept (cer­tainly not wor­thy of a how-to), I found that when I made the deci­sion to go min­i­mal­ist, I could not find enough writ­ten mate­r­ial to assuage my fears of get­ting rid of my pre­cious “stuff”.  How did oth­ers do it?  Were they able to sur­vive min­i­mal­ism?  What hap­pened when they got rid of some­thing that they couldn’t live with­out?  These ques­tions plagued my thoughts all after­noon, and Google pre­sented no solid advice on how to over­come this fear.  So, faith­ful read­ers, let me guide you step by step through the val­ley of the shadow of clut­ter, and offer up a promise that if you embrace it, min­i­mal­ism will be the best deci­sion you ever made.

Step 1: Though I whole-heartedly encour­age entire house min­i­miza­tion, I rec­om­mend tack­ling only one room at a time.  So jump right in and choose the room you want to start with.  Now that you’ve decided, your first order of busi­ness is to look around the room and cog­i­tate on what you can get rid of.  Noth­ing gets a free pass here – EVERYTHING must be eval­u­ated and worth it’s salt if it is going to stay.

Step 2: Make a big trash pile.  Now is the time to get cut­throat.  Start putting any­thing you can bear to part with into a large pile in the mid­dle of the room.  The goal here is to get as close to noth­ing in the room as pos­si­ble.  Look to your caches of knick­knacks and books.  These are big ones that take up a lot of visual empha­sis and instill acute claus­tro­pho­bia in your inner minimalist.

Step 3: Make a big­ger trash pile.  Trust me when I say that your first pass is not even close.  Now that you get the gist of how this works, do it again, and be a lit­tle more heart­less about it!  Think about the ver­ti­cal sur­faces – do you have a lot of posters, pho­tos, or god-forbid more knick­knacks clut­ter­ing your walls?  It’s all got to go!  Also try to get every­thing off the floor.  In a min­i­mal­ist home, you will never see things stacked or piled on the floor.  The only thing that should be on the floor is the furniture!

Another place that use­less items like to hide is inside of things: cab­i­nets, boxes, etc.  As I said ear­lier – every­thing must be eval­u­ated.  If you think it won’t mat­ter what is inside of your tele­vi­sion cab­i­net, think again.  These hid­den spaces will serve you later when you have items that you can­not pos­si­ble part with, but don’t exactly jive with the min­i­mal­ist aesthetic.

Step 4: Eval­u­ate the big stuff.  This is the step that will sep­a­rate the true min­i­mal­ists from the posers, mainly because of the finan­cial com­mit­ment.  Now is the time to look around and deter­mine which pieces of fur­ni­ture are hin­der­ing your quest for simplicity.

If you’ll let me digress for a few para­graphs, I’ll explain two of the biggest chal­lenges that my hus­band and I con­fronted when con­vert­ing to min­i­mal­ism – the sofa, and the custom-built enter­tain­ment unit.

New smaller sofa

The sofa – after laugh­ing in the face of steps 1–3, we came to step 4 and the con­clu­sion that our iconic red sofa just wasn’t work­ing on our newly min­i­mized liv­ing room.  While sit­ting at the counter and cast­ing side­long glances at this herculean-sized tran­si­tional mon­ster we both tip­toed around the con­ver­sa­tion, nei­ther want­ing to be the one to say “Should we sell it?”

The sofa was such a big deal for us because we had pur­chased it brand new just two years prior.  Was min­i­mal­ism just a pass­ing phase?  Would we regret get­ting rid of our first piece of fur­ni­ture as a mar­ried cou­ple?  So before we could bear to part with it, we pushed the beast into the kitchen and tried liv­ing in our home sans sofa.  We dis­cov­ered that we loved it and promptly sold the sofa.


Enter­tain­ment Unit — per­fect for hid­ing unsightly clutter!

The enter­tain­ment unit – Like any spe­cial piece of fur­ni­ture, this West Elm inspired mod­u­lar shelv­ing sys­tem has a great story.  As with most of my projects, the enter­tain­ment unit man­i­fested after months of study­ing the spec sheets online, and exam­in­ing all the types of nice-grade wood at Home Depot.  I had finally con­vinced JT to build it for me, and need­less to say, I thought I could do it bet­ter.  So after this project (that nearly caused the col­lapse of our rela­tion­ship), there was an unwrit­ten rule that this shelv­ing enter­tain­ment unit was going to be with us for the rest of our lives. You can imag­ine our col­lec­tive unease when min­i­mal­ism chal­lenged whether keep­ing the shelves was the best decision.

Like the sofa, we dis­as­sem­bled the shelves and hid them out of sight to test what life would be like with­out our first attempt at home built fur­ni­ture.  We cer­tainly pre­ferred a sin­gle shelf to hold our enter­tain­ment sys­tem and record player, but let me tell you, those shelves hid behind the refrig­er­a­tor for six months before we could bring our­selves to part with them!

So back to Step 4 – yes, this is the scari­est step of all, and will chal­lenge your deter­mi­na­tion to become a min­i­mal­ist.  As some­one who has already lived through the emo­tional upheaval of part­ing with some­thing I paid a lot of money for, I can say that I haven’t regret­ted it one bit.

Did we remain with­out a sofa?  No.  Do I regret get­ting rid of the sofa in the first place?  Absolutely not!  Yes, I paid for a gen­tly loved sofa in the end, but in the process, I learned a lot about what is impor­tant to me, and also acquired a stun­ning mid-century mod­ern sofa (with a sleeper bed for my overnight guests).

Step 5:  Hide stuff.  Now that you’ve got­ten rid of every­thing you can pos­si­bly bear to part with, you will inevitably still have a few hangers-on.  This is where cab­i­nets come in handy.  Take every­thing you can, and get it out of sight.  In my new place, I installed a sin­gle cab­i­net that I use for my enter­tain­ment unit – this is great!  I put my col­lec­tion of LP’s in there, along with the four hard dri­ves of media, allow­ing me to hide a lot of things that I must have, but would oth­er­wise look sus­pi­ciously like clutter.

Step 6: Take a few days off.  After all the energy spent sort­ing, orga­niz­ing, sell­ing, and giv­ing away all of your stuff, it’s time to take a few days off.  Give your­self time to adjust to your new sur­round­ings.  You will be sur­prised to find that after a cou­ple of days, you will start to notice some more things that you can get rid of.

Step 7: Don’t stop!  Once you’ve gone min­i­mal­ist, it’s a con­stant bat­tle to stay that way.  Every few months I find myself going through my stuff and toss­ing or sell­ing things that I haven’t used.  This process has become almost ther­a­peu­tic, and I feel much bet­ter after my quar­terly clut­ter exfoliation.

I hope that this arti­cle has helped to alle­vi­ate some of your con­cerns and fears about going min­i­mal­ist.  The bot­tom line is, when in doubt, throw out.  Thanks for read­ing — please feel free to share or re-publish, but give me credit for my work when you do!