Minimalism Journey: Decluttering

July was the month when I finally kick-started the “Minimalism Journey” I had been intending for months.  Over the past few months, I have started to accumulate a list of “Decluttering To-Do’s,” but as with most of my cleaning-based tasks, nothing really got done, and the mess just kept on expanding.

Last month, I finally was able to tackle two of the bigger ones: Clothing and Living Room Closet.  Just today, I finally made it to a non-profit thrift store to donate the bags of extraneous objects from around the apartment; something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

“Living more deliberately with less…
And see where the journey takes us.”
Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

I began the “Minimalism Journey” as many others did; following the allure of de-cluttering and getting rid of unnecessary possessions to make room for more mindful set of objects to surround myself every day.  I wanted the luxury of loving everything I bought and owned, and having them in my life because they brought me excitement and joy.

I apparently wrote about this exact topic in November, 2015, but clearly, I gave up fairly quickly, or just completely forgot about it, because my apartment was recently much more cluttered than it ever was.

Progressively over the past few months, I have been feeling more and more weighed down by the sheer amount of things I had in my apartment.

As I traveled more often, and lived out of a small duffel bag for weeks on end, I came to realize how little I actually needed on a daily basis, and how I did not miss anything that I had at my apartment.

Why, then, do I have so much?  My closets are overflowing, my rooms are a mess, and my clothes are hap-hazardously piled on every empty surface and crammed into bursting bedroom closet.  I don’t even fit properly into half the clothes I own!

As I began obsessively watching YouTube videos about the concept of Minimalism and what it means, I came to realize that you really can apply this concept to every part of your life, including relationships, work, home, and habits.  It enables you to worry about “less,” and in turn, have more time and emotional capacity available for the present.

Step 1: Excess Clothing

I had been wrestling with wanting to start decluttering my life for over a year now, but always had a roadblock or an excuse to push it back (mostly, I was procrastinating because I hate organizing and cleaning).  A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a company-wide distribution list.

To celebrate Day of Giving (which had already passed by that point, because what’s a company-wide initiative if not fashionably late?), the legal department was collecting gently used and new clothes, electronics, shoes, and make up to donate to local non-profits.

That was it.  The push I needed, and didn’t know I was looking for.  Better yet, the hard deadline was Friday, which didn’t give anyone much time to dwell.  I tend to push things back and back without a hard deadline.  But this needed to be done in the next few days, and they had done the “hard part” for me: finding the charities and donating to them.

That night, after dinner, I spent two hours going through my drawers, closets, and boxes to select out 50 articles of clothing (including 5 brand-new socks… donating used socks just seemed weird…), an old android phone, and a few pieces of electronics.

I lugged all 30+ lbs of it to work on the subway (did I mention my commute includes 20 minutes each way of walking?), a huge beach bag and a backpack stuffed full of clothes, regretting each minute.

But this was great.  Dress for Success and a few other nonprofits will receive the clothing and electronics, I got rid of a dress I’d never worn since purchasing (the tag still on), and tons of clothes I no longer wore, and overall, clothing was going to be actually used, instead of being wasted, hanging in my closet, collecting dust.

So Many Hangers!

I went through all of the clothing I had left in my dresser and closet, and organized them.  I came to realize just how many extra hangers I now had, after my clothing purge.  Just a few weeks ago, I didn’t have enough, so I kept on having to double up my thinner clothes just to hang them.

I removed a few more pieces of clothing to give to my sister or donate, because I realized I still had some “duplicates” (styles that were very similar, and not original enough to keep both).  After staring at my closet, I came to the conclusion that I like flowers, stripes, and gray/black.

I spent another couple of hours, reorganizing the closet, lining the items up by type, making sure everything still fits, and removing the excess hangers.  I also hang my small purses and little miscellaneous items up in a canvas Hanging Handbag Organizer I purchased back in 2015, which helps to declutter my closet.

I also recently purchased Closet Organizer Hangers for Camis and Tanktops. GAME CHANGER.  It was so difficult to keep a tab on all of my camis (I wear them under work-clothes so I don’t sweat directly onto them, especially during winter), but now it’s so organized, takes up so little space (as opposed to hanging them individually, or trying to fold and store them), and quickly apparent how many I have.  I used to buy them every time I went to Uniqlo, because I wasn’t sure how much I had… Now I know I don’t need to buy any for a very long time.

Once I was through with my closet, I moved on to my dresser.  My “dresser” is a plastic 3-drawer “cart” that I bought off Amazon in 2014, after I moved in to my 2nd sublet apartment. Given I bought it for $17 at the time (inflation? now it’s $26), I should just honestly be surprised that it’s still intact and functional.  But it’s been serving me well, even moving with me to this apartment in 2015.

I spent another hour or two folding all of the not-hanging clothing into the 3 dresser drawers, the KonMari style. The “Rule of Thirds” worked pretty well, so I even had some left-over space, which I filled with my 2 pairs of jeans, which are hard to store because they are so bulky.

Until then, I had been using the “Roll-Up Method” for storing clothes that people advocated for traveling.  While it works great when I travel, it seems like it uses more space when all you are trying to do is store things, not pack for luggage.

But it works great for traveling! I can go on one or 2 week trips to San Francisco with just a small gym duffel bag and a backpack or large purse when I roll my clothes.  However, at home, it just became a mess trying to keep everything rolled up nicely in the dresser.

I do have to say, though, I am a little shocked at how much clothes I still have, despite having gotten rid of so many.  I’m fairly certain I don’t wear a lot of them on a regular basis, so I will have to just keep on being cognizant of which in-season clothes I don’t wear anymore, and keep on donating them.

I kept a lot of clothes for nostalgia’s sake (race T-shirts, college shirts, etc.), which I hope to get rid of at some point, too.  They’re getting old and worn, but they’re just full of memories.  I’ll keep them until I feel like our relationship is over for good, and they will be up-cycled to be used for cleaning the shower or kitchen or something.

Step 2: Living Room Closet (Of Doom)

But actually, though.  This walk-in closet in my living room, next to my kitchen, has been the thorn in my side for the past half year.  Because I use it both as a pantry and a storing unit for things I don’t use very often, it was always difficult to keep track of what’s in there, and quickly spiraled out of control every time I tried to shove something new in or take something out from under the precariously stacked catalogue of items.

How bad was it?  Well, for one, it was a walk-in closet, but you definitely could not walk into it. The toilet paper rolls and paper towels were all the way in the back, so it was always a struggle getting a hold of them.

And the real shock came when I dumped everything (except the jackets hanging in the back) into my living room.

The contents of the small walk-in closet literally covered my whole living room.

I have no idea how I had managed to squeeze this much stuff into my closet, nor what I was going to do with it all, given I couldn’t access any of it, or could I really assess how many cans of tuna I really had.

I had a lot of cans of tuna, salmon, and chicken.  Yes, canned chicken.

It took me a few days, but I did manage to throw away a lot of stuff, and re-organize the whole closet so that now only can I walk into it now, you can see the floor, and the objects are organized so that commonly accessed things like toilet paper, paper towels, and perishables are closer to the door, and easily assessable by just taking a glance at the shelves.

The food and boxes of tea on the shelves are so easy to assess and choose now, so I am drinking a lot more tea, and I don’t have to buy duplicates that I already have in my closet. I’m also slowly going through the boxes and boxes of cereal bars that my mom bought and brought over the past few trips, and started using stuff like the quinoa.

Now that I am taking part in the #1PaycheckChallenge for the month of August, and I am on a strict budget, it’s helpful to know what I do and do not have so that I don’t waste my precious fund of $10.32/day on unnecessary things.

Step 3: Donating The Extra

I have been wanting to donate extra objects around my apartment that I no longer used, or never used in the first place.  I would start a box every time I cleaned in the past few years, but I would never get to actually taking it to the donation location.

This reluctance stemmed party from my social anxiety (I couldn’t bear the thought of having to stand there with bags full of things, and then being rejected), as well as logistical concerns (I had no idea where to donate to, and where not to donate to).

Thanks to last month’s donation drive at work, I decided on Housing Works, a New York City based non-profit fighting the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness.  Luckily for me, they have various thrift stores you can drop off your donations in, around Manhattan and Brooklyn (though regretfully, not in Queens).  However, with my chronic pain and indecisiveness, I had bags of objects ready to go, but not quite able to make the move.

This afternoon, I was talking about the bags full of random stuff in the living room to my roommate, and he said, “Wanna go?” And I decided, “Ok. I’m going to do this.”

I was still afraid that they were going to sit there and tell me my shit ain’t worth shit they won’t take it, but at least if that were to happen, I’ll have a friend who will help me bring the shit back home.  Also, he offered to help carry the stuff, which was very helpful, because I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten the stuff to the shops if I didn’t have help.

So we loaded my X-TRA SIZE Granny Cart up, and took the train into Manhattan to donate at the Housing Works Thrift Shop.  (Every TRUE NEW YORKER HAS A GRANNY CART!!!) I didn’t realize donating things in large batches was so difficult without a car.

One of those “City Living Things,” I suppose.

Many of the things I donated were “Duplicates,” “Freebies,” and “Just-In-Cases.”  I also donated a few of my purses, a lot of kitchenware, winter gear, clothes, and toys.  Some of the things, I had a lot of attachments for, while others, I realized, I had been meaning to get rid of for years.

It’s very exciting to be free of the extraneous clutter that were perfectly good and usable, often brand new and never used, but I just didn’t need.  Now, someone else can use them, find joy in them, and the organization can help people in need.

Later, since we had already made the effort to go out to the city, we decided to stop by Roosevelt Island on the way home and take a stroll through its park.  It’s always such a wonder being on that island, in middle of two very crowded boroughs, just chilling, with very low population density and a cool breeze from the river.

Beginning of My Minimalism Journey

With the “decluttering” of my apartment in the past few weeks, I have managed to rid my living-area of hundreds of items.  While I still have quite a way to go (I need to let go of magazines and purses next), I am very proud of the fact that I was able to finally make the leap towards fulfilling my long-awaited goal of beginning a purge of unwanted and unused items.  I am especially pleased that items I no longer use can be used by others, which definitely helps with my inability to throw things away.

I always feel like throwing anything away is wasteful, and so end up becoming a hoarder… Which puts me in this sort of situation in the first place.  I want to curve this thought process.

At the same time, I want to foster a relationship with buying things and accepting things so that everything I bring in to my life is done so with a purpose.  If I am able to do so, I won’t have as much to give away or throw away, because I would have use for every item that I have.

By reducing the number of items I own, and getting rid of the duplicates, it is much easier to keep track of what I do and don’t have, so I won’t end up buying unnecessary things because my own copy of it was buried in a pile of mess somewhere.

I know as a fact that I wear most of the things in my closet now, which is great.  Too many choices = overwhelming for me, so the fact that I know I like wearing majority of the clothes hanging in my closet, and that I can choose one and feel pretty good about it is very empowering (and saves me a lot of frustration in the mornings).

And now I can stop buying so many duplicates of curry mix and canned vegetables, because it’s immediately apparent how much of what I have.  Some of the discoveries are going to be pretty useful for the #1PaycheckChallenge, because it means I have to spend less to eat because of some of my discoveries hidden under the clutter.

“Minimalism is a philosophy that encourages you to remove the things from your life that don’t provide value.
It’s rooted in freedom — that is, freedom from physical, mental, or emotional elements
that do not add purpose, peace, joy, and intentionality to your life.
Minimalism advocates reassessing your priorities and determining what really matters to you and what’s just excess.
It means having a firm grasp on what you value most in your life and getting rid of anything that gets in the way.”
– Liz Greene (Peaceful Dumpling)

“Being a Minimalist”

Here’s a little funny to finish this post off 😛 I think my roommate and my boyfriend definitely think this way about my newest endeavor… (They beg me to stop watching the YouTube videos.)

If you managed to read this far… KUDOS TO YOU! Thanks so much for sticking by.  I know it was a really really long post.  But I hope it wasn’t too boring!  The past month has been very important in terms of beginning my journey into owning less, worrying less, and becoming more free.  Now that the physical clutter has been reduced, I can start working on the psychological, economical, and social clutter that plagues my life.

Are you embarking on a challenge of any sort?  A summer clean-out?  Have you tried Minimalism or reducing the amount of things you own?  Let me know!


Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).

7 thoughts on “Minimalism Journey: Decluttering”

  1. It’s weird commenting on your stuff when we talk every day d:

    I’m still amazed by how much of a difference your closets look. Though I think most of our clutter is empty boxes? Because… we anticipate moving… so we want to keep the box the stuff came in? I don’t even know. But there’s definitely a closet full of just empty boxes in our house. :c

    Either way, kudos on the clean up and reorganization o: now you just have to keep it that way.

  2. Wow. I am so proud of you that you managed to do this. I admire minimalists to be able to get rid of items. Personally I don’t have much stuff and once a years if I don’t use an item well, I just get rid of it.

    But I was thinling about minimalism lately and I don’t think I can get rid of things.

    Every object in my house has a story, and it’s bought with money I hardly saved. Also I tend to get attched of things. Because I had them with me when I lived certain experiences, and when i see them they just make me remember those times and the feelings come back.

    But I guess I don’t buy a lot of stuff. I only buy what I need and what makes me happy and has value for me.

    I am proud of you for decluttering your home and for living a simpler life. I am sure that your journey will be amazing and in the end your life will change for the better <3
    Take care <3

  3. I’ve been wanting to do this myself for over a year. I have way too much stuff and it just can be overwhelming. Sadly I come from a family of pack rats. XD

    But congrats on getting started!

  4. Wow, that’s what we are kind of doing in our place. We are selling the things we don’t need or want anymore and decluttering this place a bit more but there will always be stuff here because of our passions. Still, that’s impressive you went through a lot of that and I commend you for sticking to something you believe in will help your life because not a lot of people can’t do it.

  5. Congrats on starting your minimalism journey and for doing so much already! That’s amazing how many hangers you have left after your donation. It really is crazy to look at how much you have when you do stuff like this. I felt the same way after my most recent donation. How do I still have so much clothing left?? So I’m already working on another pile to donate. I also enforced a rule in our house that we don’t buy new hangers. If we run out, then something needs to be donated to make room. That’s helped keep the number of clothing under control.

    Also, that hanger for camis and tanktops is so nifty! I think I’m going to get one too! And I’m with you on the rolling clothes thing. Ever since I saw it, it’s been really helpful for travel, but I wouldn’t want to deal with that for my everyday clothes.

    Whoaaa, I’m kind of shocked at how much stuff was really in your walk-in closet. That’s great that you finally sorted that out, so the closet is more usable now! I did something similar with our kitchen pantry last year, and I was annoyed at myself for keeping so many expired things in there. Good job on getting those all donated!

    I’m also reducing the number of things I own, which will be an on-going thing. Every time I get something new, it probably means there’s something I can get rid of. My current focus is on doing a clean-up of the house because we get lazy about breaking down boxes and packaging that things come in. Makes sense to keep it a bit for returns, but some of them have been around for years!

  6. I’ve said this already Hiro but you really inspired me to be serious about minimalism again! I was really into it back in January but then slipped again (especially with gym clothes obsession) with work getting in the way too, I’ve just had stuff pile up – I found myself bringing excess crap into my house again.

    When I started reading your blogs (I might’ve gone back and read a few other posts #sorrynotsorry) I really enjoyed them and honestly feel really motivated! I started travelling a lot this year too and found that I didn’t really need much; in fact, as long as I have my laptop and clothes on my back I can actually work and live. I loved the feeling of being free from all the excess!!

    After reading this post I’m going to have a look at my excess again (especially hangers which I wasn’t really mindful of!) and donate!

    Thanks for inspiring!! Keep up these posts, they are life changing 😉

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