1000 Little Things

By: Carol O’Neill

At the start of last year I was following an interest in minimalism and was inspired by a couple of videos and TED talks that I viewed. I decided to challenge myself to let go of/give away/get rid of 1000 things.

At the time it sounded like a lot – 1000 things! But I decided to break it down into do-able pieces and just begin and see where the process took me. 1000 things = 250 things a quarter, but to give myself a buffer, I set a goal of 300 things per quarter (100 things per month). There would be times when I was busy or out of town, so I wanted to be realistic and support my success.

I chose to track my things on 3×5 cards with 10 things per card, with the running total at the top right-hand corner for easy reference. I told people about my goal and gathered a group that was ‘for’ me and who celebrated with me when I hit marks (100! 300! 500! Etc)

The beginning was easier because I got to do the easy stuff I knew I was ready to let go of. I started by going through my clothes and books (like Marie Kondo recommends), easy swings. Early successes definitely encouraged me and by the time I got to things that were harder I had already developed a pretty good habit and had carved out time to devote each week. As I strengthened my ability I was able to tackle categories that were harder for me. 

As I rounded the bend on the 3rd quarter I knew I would not be able to accomplish my goal without some support (the holidays were coming and I had an out of town trip planned too).  I asked my daughter for a day of clearing and sorting as her gift to me for Christmas. She said yes and we set a date. It was awesome to have a day set aside to be able to dig into boxes of stored items/paperwork and have someone working with me to keep me focused and on track. By the end of the day I was back in the pocket, on track for being able to reach my goal by 12/31.

As of 12/30, I had 995 things on my list. Some were really BIG things to let go of, some were small things, some were a set of things and some were one tiny thing that was emotionally charged. Most were tangible things, but some were intangible things that have had a profound impact on my life.

As I pondered those last 5 things I got stuck for a moment thinking that they had to be MOMENTOUS things to finish out my list. But then I realized, I am not done, this is just 5 more steps on a journey. So 2 bottles of perfume, a favorite pair of ‘Santa’ pajama pants that have lived their Christmas destiny, a string bag that was the least of my favorites, and a crocheted afghan from my Mom that I will pass on to one of my sisters made 5, and I had arrived!  1000 things have passed out of my life in the past year. Have other things entered my life? Absolutely.  But the habit I have cultivated will help me be more discerning about what comes into my life as I continue to edit my belongings. 

As you ponder what YOU want to set as YOUR goal this year, remember to think BIG, but attainable. You want it to feel challenging AND exciting! SHARE your goal! Pay attention to who responds, who is excited? Make a note, BUILD your team. BREAK IT DOWN – if ‘X’ is the end goal, what is the goal for this month? What are the steps for this week, next week etc? TRACK it – I used 3×5 cards, but you may be techy and use an app. Choose whatever method works for YOU! 

MAKE TIME, put it in your schedule, remind yourself that this is important (get clear on your “why”). SEARCH for inspiration. My inspiration came from TED talks and other videos. Who or what inspires you? CELEBRATE your successes! Tell your people when you hit a mini-goal, or when you had a day that was really hard but you overcame the inertia and did one thing toward your goal. 

This year I will continue my sorting and clearing, but it doesn’t have to be my main goal because I’ve already incorporated this as a practice in my life. If you focus on that thing (yes, THAT thing that you are considering putting main stage for this year), by this time next year it will be a practiced part of your life. BEGIN.