A Life Less Encumbered

My latest performance art project is "Discard Three Things." (You may have appreciated my previous pieces, "Girl Makes Robot (with skitchy arms)" and "A Dop Ting Kittens.") Okay actually, it's a game I'm playing with myself, and you're welcome to join in.

On January 2nd I thought idly, "I wonder if I can get rid of three things each day. When would that start to feel like progress?" The answer was "pretty much immediately."

Here are the rules I set for myself:
  1. Every day—every day—choose three things and discard, donate, recycle, or give them away.
  2. Not consumable stuff like "the box my tv dinner came in," but stuff that has been Sitting Around Forever to the point where it has become scenery.
  3. Merely earmarking something for donation does not count. "Stuff to Donate" has been its own kind of clutter.
  4. I tweet about it, somewhat poetically, using the hashtag #d3t. This makes it a game, and it also makes me do it every day. I'd be letting people down (even if no real people would notice, that imagined commitment keeps me honest).
  5. Adjust the rules to suit your life and keep you motivated.

Amusingly, people are joining in! Friends on Twitter became intrigued and decided it would work for them, too. My Tweetdeck now has a #d3t column, and I'm getting a kick out the sense of liberation their tweets convey. Do you want to try it, too?

This is working for me because three things is nothing. It takes five minutes. It's not scary, in the way that "I'll clean out the garage today" is scary. Kinda fun. The unexpected thing is that it builds a good bit of momentum. I'm usually pitching more than three—but I don't have to. I'm just allowed to. Once I've cleaned some stuff out of the way, it's then satisfying to carry on and neaten up the remaining stuff. Getting rid of clutter makes room for being neat.

It is not lost on me that "too much stuff" is the epitome of a First World Problem. But hoarding it doesn't help anybody, either. What I'd really like is to build a habit of acquiring less.

Folks have asked me when I'll stop. I haven't defined an end condition for myself. I could imagine people choosing something like "for 30 days," "when the kid's room is packed," "when there's room for a pinball table." I expect there will come a point where it cuts too dear, where I have a purpose or a love for each thing in my home. (Or, given prior habits, I will have acquired more crap to discard, and it will never really end.) If I ever do feel finished, there's plenty of drywall to patch and remodeling to do. Keep an eye out for my next art piece, "Watch Me Fix This Thing."

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