Minimalism Week 1: Cleaning Stress

MinimalThe first week of the Minimalism Challenge is over, and it’s off to a slow but steady start.

Here’s the first 7 days of the challenge:

  • Place one item a day into a donate box for the next 30 days (recurring)
  • Eliminate the need for a “junk drawer” by tossing all the junk
  • Recycle one item beyond repair
  • Remove the items you’re storing in your guest room
  • Donate one bag of clothing to those in need
  • Clean up your mail
  • Declutter your dresser

The first week was a series of “this is easy” and “this is really stressful” moments.  Having read over the week’s challenges before they actually began, there were a few things I was prepared for: I found a box to start the recurring donation challenge, I’d already filled half of a bag previously for clothing donations, and most of my bills are already sent electronically (for the mail cleanup challenge).  Those parts were easy.

Things started getting more difficult when I needed to tackle larger sections of my apartment that were truly  more cluttered, verging on disastrous.

The junk drawer, for example.  I don’t actually have a junk drawer in my house, so I went ahead and instead worked with what I considered my “Other” drawer.  I’m sure to the outside eye it looks like a junk drawer, but the fact of the matter is that I actually regularly use many of the things in it, so calling it “junk” just isn’t quite right.

Junk Drawer Pre-Clean

“Junk” Drawer, Pre-Cleanup

Or at least that’s what I thought.  The corkscrew, tape, can opener, and even the matches were items from the drawer that I use pretty regularly.  Many of the other things, though – the string, push-pins, and coozies, for example – were things I used rarely, if at all.  To figure out what to do with everything, I decided to dump the entire drawer out and organize them into functional groups:

Junk Drawer Contents

“Junk” Drawer Contents

I sorted the drawer’s contents into 3 groups: Cooking Utensils, Utilities, and Other.  Once I actually took a good look at everything that had been stuck into the drawer over 3 years, I realized a reorganization was in order.

For example, why was I keeping so many cooking utensils in this drawer if I already had both a silverware drawer that holds smaller utensils, and a basket that holds larger ones?  Why was I keeping a set of broken birthday candles that I hadn’t used in the first place because they were…you know…broken?  Quickly I trashed the candles and redistributed my utensils in their appropriate locations.  Everything that went back into the drawer I considered useful and appropriate for what I would now call my “Utility” Drawer:

Junk Drawer Post-Clean

“Junk” Drawer, Post-Cleanup


…though come to think of it, I could probably ditch those earplugs.  Why did I decide to keep those in the first place?

At any rate, the cleaning up of my “Junk” (now “Utility”) drawer was really helpful, and helped me rediscover things I’d forgotten I had.  Plus now when I open it there’s no longer a 50% chance I’ll have jerk it a few times, then swear and fumble a hand inside it to get it to open properly.  Go team!

The other more stressful challenge of the week was cleaning out the guest room.  Because I live in an apartment I don’t have a guest room, so instead I decided to work on my Coat Closet.  Or…is it a Utility Closet?  A Storage Closet maybe?  Perhaps you can see my dilemma:

Storage Closet PreClean


This was another one of those catch-all locations in my apartment, not unlike the Utility drawer in the kitchen.  This closet had started off as an honest-to-goodness coat closet, then quickly expanded into a place where I kept anything I couldn’t immediately decide where it belonged.  You can’t tell from under all those plastic bags (and the sombrero), but there’s boxes of Christmas decorations, old baking tools, and my backpacking equipment.  So yeah, I figured this would be a good substitute for cleaning out a guest room.

Just like with the junk drawer, my first step was to remove everything and look at what was actually in there.  When I talked about things being occasionally stressful earlier, this is what I meant.  Despite my best efforts to keep thing sunder control, the contents from the closet ended up strewn about the floor, spilling over and more often than not tripping me as I attempted to climb through them.  This closet had definitely gotten out of control.

But also just like with the junk drawer, cleaning it out this way gave me a clear idea of what was in there and what I could do to better organize it.  I made a quick trip to my local Target to pick up a set of plastic drawer to keep the things I really wanted, namely my Christmas decorations and a few various other holidays items.  I wanted to move my precariously-balanced bags of things to a central location I could easily access.  I also went through and simply threw away a lot of old baking supplies I was either clearly never going to use or were to old to be good anymore.  Other supplies like sprinkles or baking cups went where they belonged back into the kitchen.

Here’s the post-cleanup result:

Storage Closet Post-Cleanup


I say this was a stressful organizing experience because the sheer volume of stuff  in the closet left me pretty overwhelmed; after moving it all out to assess the situation I was moving backwards instead of forwards.  What was I going to do with all this garbage?

The good news is that donations, trash, and recycling are always an option, you simply have to buckle-down and do them.  All those plastic bags I had stuffed into the closet were simply waiting for me to take them to Publix and toss them into their plastic bag recycle bin.  The old vacuum cleaner lurking in the closet’s depths was the item beyond repair I took for recycling as well.  And the number of things I threw away?  It certainly made me feel like I was accomplishing something.  The closet still isn’t perfect, but I’m immensely happier with it; I no longer sigh in frustration whenever I open the door to look for something.

Week 1 Summary

How much of this first week was minimalism as opposed to just basic organization and cleaning?  I’d say 25:75% respectively.  I spent some time straight-up throwing things away, which is minimalism in a way I suppose, but I suspect  the coming weeks (as I look at the upcoming challenges) will require significantly more consideration in terms of the items I truly want to keep.

Week 1 was a good first step into organizing myself and realizing exactly how much junk is hidden in the nooks and crannies of my living space.  Here’s to hoping Week 2 will go just as smoothly!

Et Tu?

Have you decided to join Emily and I on our month long minimalism excursion?  Let us know!  And don’t forget to check out Emily’s Minimalism Challenge posts, as well as our Pinterest board.

Top image from iconoclassst on Tumblr

Mary Gezo

Formerly of both n00bcakes and !Blog, the two magically become one on Spatialdrift; expect some lazy baking and serious nerditude. Also, I love semicolons.

6 thoughts on “Minimalism Week 1: Cleaning Stress

  1. Wow! Great Start! I’m wondering if I can talk my pack-rat hubby into joining the 30 day challenge.

    • Everyone I’ve talked to about the challenge – both minimalist or otherwise – thinks it’s a great idea so far, and I’m certainly enjoying it (at least, after one week). Good luck trying it out on your own!

  2. I’ve lived by the “If you don’t have money, then you can’t buy things” form of minimalism. Can’t say I recommend it, so I think your way of doing things is far, far better! 😉

    • Haha, while maybe not the most *fun* form of minimalism, at least it keeps you from going crazy with too much stuff! A big part of minimalism, from my point of view, is considering the value of each of your belongings, both old and new, something you already have down pat if you’re making those decisions from a fiscal perspective. 🙂

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