Recently, I embarked on my latest minimalist project (or challenge, depending on how you look at it). I kicked off the month of April by holding a packing party. The “party” part might be debatable, especially since I was the only one who showed up. But party or not, it went off without a hitch.
What is a “packing party”? It comes from an idea that The Minimalists (Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Milburn) had a few years back.
It goes like this: you buy several boxes and a couple rolls of packing tape, then–on your own or with the help of a friend–you pack up every single one of your belongings. You pack up your silverware, clothes, sheets, gadgets, artwork, trinkets, etc, until every item is in a box. Then, over the course of the next three weeks, you unpack things only when you need them. As you can probably guess, at the end of the three weeks you discard, donate, or sell whatever you haven’t unpacked.
This may sound a bit daunting, but anyone who has attempted it will tell you that it is easier than you may think. Even after the first few hours, you’ll probably find yourself forgetting what is in the boxes.* Over the next few days, you’ll be amazed at how few things you will need to unpack. The only things I took out in the first week were the clothes I needed to stay warm (not to mention decent), my toiletries, and my coffee supplies.
The whole idea is pretty great if you ask me, but there’s a pretty daunting question that hangs over it all. What if you don’t have the time, energy, money, or desire to pack up all of your material things and live among boxes for three weeks? Well, this is where I have some good news for you. There are several ways that you can go about doing a packing party, and I guarantee you can find one that suits your budget, schedule, or level of motivation. Here are a few ways you can customize your packing party to make it right for you:
- Pack up one area at a time.
If packing up everything in your entire living space is a bit intimidating, ease into it by packing one room or area at a time. Pack up your kitchen to see which utensils you actually utilize. Or pack up your desk and find out how many of your office supplies you actually need.
2. Pack up by theme.
Try packing away certain things in your home. Box up your movie collection to see which ones (if any) you miss. Get out a couple of hampers and put away all of your clothes, taking out only what you plan to wear that day. Do you have a small library of books? No need to pack them away, just drape a sheet or blanket over the front of the bookshelf and see which books you find yourself looking for over the next few weeks.
3. Find a friend.
Find a friend who might be more willing to try it than you are. Help them start their packing party, then talk to them throughout the process to see how they like it.
4. Start small.
Don’t be afraid to start as small as you want. Clean some gift cards out of your wallet, unwatched shows from your DVR, or throw away the spoiled food in your fridge. The point of this challenge is to get rid of the excess in your life, no matter what form that excess may take, big or small.**
Whatever approach you decide to try, keep in mind that a packing party should not be a stressful experience. It should challenge you, yes, but the end goal is to improve your life by removing whatever you don’t need and focusing on what’s really important.
*DISCLAIMER: don’t make the mistake I did and forget to label a box or two. Take it from me, make sure you are labeling every box with what is inside so you know where to go when you need something. It’ll save you some digging and searching later.
**As with any excercise in minimalism, keep in mind that there will probably be exceptions. You might decide to keep a football you only use in the summer, or your coats and snow boots that keep you warm in the winter. If there’s an item you don’t unpack during the three weeks, but you know you’ll need it eventually, by all means keep it.