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Simple Living Challenge Week 1

Image: by ohn Kasawa

Welcome to the second month of our Simple Living Challenges!

Week 1 of the month is all about decluttering – removing trash and donating or giving away things that aren’t adding to our life.

Last month we focused on files and Christmas decorations.  We got rid of 4 bags!

This month lets look in another area. Turn on some music and get ready to work.


Since we are getting close to valentines I figured we would do a valentines edition of our simple living challenge 1.  Lets work with our memories this week.

Memories are super touchy and hard for some people when they simplify so if you aren’t ready to look at this area yet you can find another area to declutter, but if you stick with me you might be surprised with what you find out.

First off let me say that memories are very important and some things are very valuable and important to keep.  In no way does minimalism say that memory items don’t matter… they just shouldn’t control your life.

The best post I have seen on memories is this one (super good, check it out) by Small  We keep things for memories so that we can remember the most special times of our life and so we can pass on special things to our kids when we pass on.

So they are important, but how much do you really need?  What is special and what is just clutter?

First, take a walk around the house (mentally or physically) and think about how much you are keeping in this area.  Things you don’t love or need but are keeping either because they are connected to a memory or because someone special gave them to you.

  • In the kitchen – do you have dishes/china or other specialty items that you rarely use?
  • Photographs – how many are you keeping?
  • Closets – how many things are you keeping from your childhood or college years?
  • On the walls – Pictures or decorations – how many are connected to a trip or were a gift?
  • Garage – anything in storage that was inherited when a loved one died?
  • Book shelf – any memory items?
  • Closet – things people gave you that you never wear or don’t like?
  • Wedding stuff? Cards?  Christmas ornaments?  Kids drawings? Collections?
  • Anywhere else I missed?

Keeping things as a memory is great… but how much are you keeping as a memory?

These things have a way of spreading out all over the house so we never really realize how much we are keeping.   In this list most things aren’t probably things you use… and may not even be things you like (except for the memory part of them. You wouldn’t buy them if you saw them in a store).

  • How much do you have if it was all piled up?  (if your brave and ambitious try it out)
  • How much house and effort do you want to maintain for keeping these things?
  • If you were to have a fire would you die hunting through your stuff for the few things that matter?
  • When you die will your loved ones be sorting through this for days to find the few special things?

Memories are great, but memories can be a great excuse for clutter.  (tweet this)

What has helped me is to give myself a spot for memories.  I have 1 tub (plastic box with well fitting lid) that I store memories in.  What fits – I keep.  If I have more I want to keep that doesn’t fit – there is probably something else in the box I can pull out and get rid of.  (I also keep my wedding dress so that probably counts as 2 tubs)

You don’t have to limit yourself to the same amount as us but it might help to limit yourself.  Keep your most important things and don’t get bogged down with the rest.

A reader had a great idea a few weeks ago when it comes to kids drawings:

“I was having a hard time getting rid of all the things the kids made me. Finally I figured it out for us. My mom gave me a digital picture frame so I decided to just take pictures of each thing they made and put all the pictures into the frame. It was so freeing that I ended up scanning all our pictures from the photo albums and doing the same with them. I can see the pictures whenever I want in 1 frame instead of the piles of photo albums and scrapbooks that were stashed in boxes because we couldn’t a place for them. Make sure if you do it to back them up though. We have all the pictures on 2 different jet sticks and our hard drive. One jet stick stays in the picture frame and the other is in a fireproof safe.” — Danni

I have heard different ideas about keeping pieces of fabric and sewing them into something new or keeping different pieces of other memories all together.  There are lots of creative ways of downsizing memories to maximize the memory and minimize the clutter.

Have any other good ideas?  Feel free to share them in the comments.

It might not be all memory stuff but do you think you could do 4 more bags this week?  4 bags leaving the house (trash, recycle, giveaway etc)  Good luck!


  1. I also have minimized down to one tub. I found out what helped me was just keeping a piece of something like my high school letter jacket or certain cherished pieces from my childhood dollhouse. I have a piano from the dollhouse that is a music box. It is the only keepsake I actually keep out (I have very very few actual decorations in our home – I hate to dust!) but all of my childhood memories fit into this one bin otherwise. When I actually went through everything, it was amazing the things I once thought were important enough to keep but packed away for years.


    • Yes, great point. Keeping the super special part of something as a memory can really cut down on total volume (for storage and for finding stuff)

  2. Valerie Valerie

    Hi Again, This area is not a difficult one for me either. I have 2 small file boxes of pictures and things. I need to go through the boxes and organize them (when school is out for the summer). I also have never figured out what to do with all my digital pictures on the computer. I have to go through those this summer too. Beyond that I have a stack of prints (of airplanes) from when my father was in the air force. I don’t want to throw them away but am not sure what to do with them. I have a few other items like that but not many. I might put them on Freecycle (is that nation wide?).I would be happy is someone who was interested in them got them.

    Now that I am thinking of it…my mom is a minimalist even though she doesn’t know what that is technically. I will have no trouble helping her move when the time comes for her to downsize.

    By the way, I am on day 3 of “Simple Living”. It is very motivating!

  3. Rocio Rocio

    I actually began my minimizing journey about mid-January 2013. So far I have gotten rid of 35% of the stuff that was clouding my life & mind. My hubby is in the military & we will be moving soon so decided instead of carrying around half a decades worth of love memories, our baby’s stuff, anniversaries,etc. i would dump them & save them digitally (via foto). So I still have the memories w/out the junk…still working on it though! I also told my husband no more cards, bears, etc…only consumables like flowers or chocolate.. :). Thanks & can’t wait to read more tips! Really helpful

  4. We scan our kids’ crafts, and will eventually frame the best ones like this, or make a photobook out of them. In terms of photos, we have scanned all our loose photos onto our computer, and a couple times a year we make photo books which are much easier to store than bulky albums. A far as other memories, I have limited myself to one shoebox full of old letters etc (we have zero storage space in our apartment so I had to keep it small). I still have my wedding dress hanging in the closet of the spare bedroom at my parents’ house, and will very likely hold onto it forever. Maybe if I have grandkids someday I will hire someone to make a quilt or Christening outfits out of it for them.

    This past Christmas I contacted an Etsy seller and had her create a Christmas Tree skirt out of some of my favourite pieces of baby clothes from the kids. It turned out beautiful and I am so glad to have those pieces memorialized in one compact item that we will have in our family for years.

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