The 30-Day Minimalism Experiment: Why Not Try It?

If you're interested in minimalism but not sure where to begin, why not try a 30-day minimalism experiment?

At its heart, minimalism can be distilled into two short sentences:

Get rid of the things that needlessly distract you from the things that matter the most. Your future self will thank you for it.

That’s it. There’s no great art. No prerequisite quantities. No economic criteria. It’s about you and your long-term priorities.

That, of course, also means its execution is specific to you. After all, one person’s distraction is another person’s aid. Your optimal environment depends on what matters most to you.

How and why you’ve stumbled across this article, it doesn’t really matter. Maybe you’re at least partially intrigued by the idea of minimalism. Perhaps you’re already a fully-fledged minimalist. Maybe you landed here by accident. Or perhaps you’re here because you hate what minimalism represents and you feel like shaking your head in disdain.

None of that really matters. What matters is whether you like the sound of less distractions from what’s important to you.

While we might disagree on how we achieve that end, we all (hopefully) have the same answer to that question.

Which brings me to the punchline: what’s the harm in trying?

The Benefits

Experiments in minimalism de-risk the dilemma. They allow us to dip our toes in the water to see if we like the temperature. They can expose us to the potential benefits of minimalism – more time, more money and improved state of mind – without the immediate permanence of getting rid of our stuff. If you don’t like the experience, nothing is lost.

And when it comes to our physical possessions, all you need are some boxes and a place to put them.

The 30-Day Minimalism Experiment

Let’s look at two such approaches, which I call “box it all” and “box by choice”. Both approaches involve boxing our stuff for 30 days and then reflecting and eliminating but have some subtle differences in the rules of the game.

Here are the steps:

Approach 1: Box It All

  1. Selection: Select an area(s) of the home (e.g. kitchen, bedroom, garage). It’s not unknown to take on this experiment for the entire home (Ryan Nicodemus at The Minimalists did something similar) but this is not for the faint-hearted.
  2. Packing: Put everything you own in that area(s) in boxes. Be sure to label logically, as you will need to use items during the month.
  3. Storage: Store the boxes somewhere for 30 days. Make sure the area is accessible.
  4. Usage: Use items you need from the boxes during the month. Don’t put them back in the boxes once used.
  5. Reflection: Assign the remaining boxed items after 30 days to a get-rid list.
  6. Elimination: Sell, recycle, donate and throw away the boxed items. Keep exceptions if they haven’t been used for logical reasons. (It makes no sense to chuck away a coat during summer or a toolbox because nothing broke during the 30 days.)

Approach 2: Box by Choice

  1. Selection: Select an area(s) of the home (e.g. kitchen, bedroom, garage). Experiments can start small, even with specific areas in rooms.
  2. Packing: Put selected items you own in that area(s) in boxes. Be objective and challenge yourself. Box non-essentials.
  3. Storage: Store the boxes somewhere for 30 days. Ideally out of sight and out of mind.
  4. Usage: Don’t use any boxed items during the month.
  5. Reflection: Reflect on the items you happily went without and compile a list of items to permanently go from the boxes.
  6. Elimination: Sell, recycle, donate and throw away the boxed items. Again, keep exceptions if they haven’t been used for logical reasons.

Both approaches might sound arduous. Who wants to box lots of stuff and deprive themselves of things they might, on the off chance, need?

But a temporary clean break is precisely the point. How else can you simulate the conditions of owning less to assess if the benefits are worth permanent pursuit?

It’s more likely, then, that Steps 5 and 6 will pose a bigger challenge. You’ve done the trial, perhaps you’ve felt some of the benefits. You’ve seen that certain items are surplus to requirements. But you must still confront the final psychological hurdles of decluttering.

Saying goodbye to objects isn’t always easy. Experiments and subsequent reflection can help with this process. They permit us to contemplate whether we need items and whether their temporary removal is worth turning permanent.

Beyond the Physical

The 30-day minimalism experiment needn’t just be physical either.

A reminder of those two sentences:

Get rid of the things that needlessly distract you from the things that matter the most. Your future self will thank you for it.

Those things that distract us from the things that matter the most are not just physical things. Our 30-day trial period can apply to anything that presents such a distraction.

Email that eats up our time and energy. Physical clutter that costs us money to maintain and time to clean. Social media that distracts from productive work and meaningful connections.

Bottom line: don’t get hung up on stuff. This is one of the great misconceptions of minimalism.

As I wrote earlier this year, a social media detox is a perfect example of a minimalism experiment in action, and it has nothing to do with physical possessions.

See minimalism for what it is: a system to better see and then better serve your long-term priorities. We minimise until we arrive at a point where these priorities are better served. It’s not infinitely reductive, and that sweet spot looks different for everybody.

But none of this is possible without at least giving it a try. Experimentation is the fuel of self-improvement.

Which begs the question: Knowing the potential benefits of minimalism, why wouldn’t you give a 30-day experiment a shot?

Get More Insights Straight to Your Inbox

Sign up to the weekly newsletter and never miss a post again.

Share this post

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

RELATED READING