4 Easy Ways to Declutter and Become a Minimalist, According to Netflix’s “Less Is Now”

updated Jan 13, 2021
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For some, accumulating material items was considered part of the American dream. However, there seems to be a gravitational shift toward minimalism, which raises the question: how many material items actually add value to your life?

That’s what The Minimalists Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn ask and challenge others to think about in their new Netflix documentary “Less Is Now,” which dropped earlier this month. 

Since launching their podcast “The Minimalists” a decade ago, Nicodemus and Millburn have amassed a major fanbase around the globe, published books on how to declutter, and made a separate Netflix film called “Minimalism” about their life-changing ideals that have taught others how to live with less. Now, with this second documentary, they are telling their unconventional rags-to-riches stories, then how they purged their accumulated belongings to make room for real happiness.

The film explores how the concept of minimalism can maximize happiness, during which Nicodemus explains that by giving up stuff, he received so much more. “I got my time back. I got my life back… and to get there, you might have to let go of some stuff that’s in the way,” he said in the documentary. 

While nothing will replace watching the film in its entirety on Netflix, here are four of Nicodemus and Millburn’s fundamentals in the film that are also highlighted in their online handbook to help live with less:

Host a packing party

How much of what you keep do you really use? One actionable way The Minimalists say to declutter is through the concept of a “packing party.” Here’s how it works: You basically pack up all of your belongings — clothes, electronics, kitchenware, etc. — like you are moving. Then, over the next three weeks, only unpack the items that you need to use.

“After three weeks, 80 percent of my stuff was still in those boxes. Just sitting there. Unaccessed,” Nicodemus explained in a blog post dedicated to the practice. “I looked at those boxes and couldn’t even remember what was in most of them. All those things that were supposed to make me happy weren’t doing their job.”

All the stuff that is left over, you can donate, sell, or give to others. “I started to feel rich for the first time in my life. I felt rich once I got everything out of the way, so I could make room for everything that remains,” he concluded.

Play the 30-Day Minimalism game

Millburn admits that when he first decided to go minimalist, a “packing party” was just too extreme of a concept. The next best thing? Playing the 30-Day Minimalism game. This method will help ease you into a minimalist lifestyle by slowly encouraging you to part with all the unneeded clutter in life.

Find a friend or family member to play with you, and on the first day of the month, each of you will choose one item to purge. It can be anything — clothes, tools, gadgets, furniture, collectables. On day two, get rid of two items. Day three, three things, and so on. “Whether you donate, sell, or recycle your excess, every material possession must be out of your house — and out of your life — by midnight each day,” he explained in the “16 Rules for Living with Less Handbook”, downloadable for free on their website.

At first, the game might seem easy, but as the days go by it will get increasingly harder to part with your stuff. Whoever lasts the longest is crowned the winner. Or, if everyone completes the game, all win. And perhaps the best part is that there actually aren’t any loser because everyone involved will enjoy a life with less clutter. They also encourage participants to share their experiences using the hashtag #MinsGame.

Follow the ‘1 In, 10 Out’ Rule

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you can’t bring new things into your life. However, Millburn encourages others to get rid of the old to make way for the new. “Based on the ‘one-in, one-out‘ policy that’s used in many nightclubs, bars, and military establishments to control the number of people in one building at any one time, this rule helped me both control what new items I bought and what items I kept, because for every item I acquired, I had to get rid of ten things I owned,” he explained in the handbook.

Try the “wait for it” 30/30 rule

Impulse shopping is a major threat to minimalism, as clicking “buy” has become increasingly easier. Millburn came up with the 30/30 rule (not to be confused with their 90/90 rule that applies to purging) to prevent useless clutter from accumulating for this very reason. In a nutshell, any time you want to make a purchase over $30, ask yourself if you can go without it for the next 30 hours.

“This extra time helps me assess whether or not this new thing will really add value to my life,” Millburn said in the handbook. If you are still pining for it at the end of the period, then buy it. However, he admitted that “often, after deliberating, I recognize my life will be better without the new widget, so I forgo the purchase.”

For items over $100, wait 100 hours. “If I do acquire the new item, though, I feel better about the acquisition because I brought it into my life with intention, not in the impulse of the moment,” he added.