The 10/10 Decluttering Exercise Will Make You Rethink Your Attachment to Stuff

published Aug 21, 2017
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Living room with a grey sofa with a throw and a pillow; a wooden side table with a bowl; a framed piece of art on the wall
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Some people just aren’t “stuff” people—they’re born minimalists who just don’t acquire much and seemingly don’t get attached to their things. But there are plenty of us who are stuff people. It can be because we assign emotional value to things that makes them hard to let go of. For others, it may be that we just don’t like parting with things we’ve spent money on.

So what happens when you’re naturally a stuff person but you want to become more of a minimalist? Well, that comes with a lot of decision making—what does minimalism mean for you? Why do you want to pare down your things? How do you part with things that make you feel nostalgic or sentimental? How do you give yourself permission to get rid of something that you spent a good chunk of change on? It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s about reframing the way you think about the things you own, and The Minimalists can help.

You probably already know about The Minimalists’ 90/90 Rule, which can help you make decisions about what items you should keep or get rid of based on whether or not you’ve used them in the last 90 days, but they’ve got another trick that can help you get yourself into the right frame of mind to let go in the first place—it’s a quick exercise called the 10/10 Material Possessions Theory.

How the 10/10 Material Possessions Theory Works

“Your material possessions—those things you’ve worked so hard for by slaving 40, 50, 60 hours a week to acquire—how much value do they actually add to your life?” they—Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the pair behind The Minimalists—ask on their blog. “We bet it’s less than you realize.”

So, how does it work? All you have to do is grab a pen and paper and make two lists: The first, a list of the 10 most expensive purchases from the last decade, and the second—and here’s where the rethinking part comes in—a list of the 10 things (and by things, they don’t necessarily mean things, it can be experiences, too) that add the most value to your life.

If you’re totally honest with yourself when writing each list, you’ll probably discover that the first list and the second don’t overlap at all.

It’s a short exercise that doesn’t require much effort, but it will get you thinking and give you some perspective. Pair that fresh outlook with the 90/90 Rule and, while it won’t eliminate all difficult decisions, you might find decluttering will be a whole lot easier for you.