Pretend you’re moving across the country, taking only what will fit in a 1997 Honda Civic sedan.

I’ve been working my way through this great Post over on Ask MetaFilter that asks, “How do I become more of a minimalist?” bit by bit for awhile now. Like much of MeFi, it’s a trove of interesting links, books and suggestions — if you’re into simplifying, you should check it out.

I’ve always had an anti-clutter bent, but when my wife and I moved into our house, one that’s very open and has more space than we really need, we ended up accumulating things. Both of us are terrible consumers, but with space to fill, well. Add young kids and fighting the fights to avoid having too many things becomes that much harder.

A little over a year ago I snapped out of what I would describe as a multi-year kid-and-new-house-induced haze of accumulation, and began clearing in earnest. At first it was easy — clothes that didn’t fit, baby things, orphaned toys, old textbooks — gone.

Next was the media. I’d already digitized the music years before, but having finally cobbled together a reliable cord-cut system with Plex at its heart, I began to digitize everything else. DVDs were ripped, scrapbooks scanned. The local library found itself with a vast expansion of its film collection. I found myself with more shelf space and less anxiety.

Many of the tools I used to renovate our house have gone to my brother, who is beginning his own kid-and-new-house journey this winter. Hundreds of books and the vast quantities of old cords & electrical detritus symptomatic of a technology junkie have been donated.

My work can be done almost anywhere now, and involves regular travel, which has been a perfect excuse to cut deeper. My wardrobe has been halved — slightly-outdated dress clothes, excess shoes, ties — gone. I plan to halve it again in the coming months.

I always thought that I’d eventually reach a point where it would be painful, but if that point is out there, I have yet to find it. Even more surprising, I can’t think of a single thing I miss. I barely remember the things at all. You might think there would be trade-offs, but you might also be surprised. The process takes on it’s own momentum as having fewer things to tend reinforces the habit.

Years ago, before he stepped away from the internet, I used to follow Mark Pilgrim’s blog. One of my favorite posts from that time, also recalled on MeFi, was called “The Pursuit of Happiness”:

  1. Stop buying stuff you don’t need
  2. Pay off all your credit cards
  3. Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in your house/apartment (storage lockers, etc.)
  4. Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit on the first floor of your house (attic, garage, etc.)
  5. Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in one room of your house
  6. Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in a suitcase
  7. Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in a backpack
  8. Get rid of the backpack

I’m working on step 4.

I, too, am now on step 4. I’d be pretty happy with 5 while I still have kids in the house. At this rate it’s actually looking pretty good.