You know that fable about the tortoise and the hare?
Well, a lot of the change we hear about (and attempt for ourselves) is the hare kind. It’s big and sweeping. It’s flashy. It’s impressive. It’s immediate. (I always wonder: Does it actually last? Is the foundation strong enough?)
Today I want to talk about the tortoise kind.
But first, let me back up.
Why I’m Talking About This Today
As you may or may not already know, my husband and I are in the middle of a year-long project. It started in April, when he suggested that we each get rid of at least a thing a day, for a whole year, and post a daily picture online.
It’s possible he thought I would laugh at him and say absolutely not. Instead, I thought it was brilliant. And so began Project 365 x 2.
We’ve kept our word and gotten rid of even more than we’d planned. At this point, we are up to 884 things, not counting the tons of stuff we’ve recycled, donated, or tossed without actually recording it. If you’re wondering why I’m posting today, it’s because we are just about halfway through. Would you like a visual? See below. (That’s for the past three months. We got rid of twice as much in the first three.)
Why We Went the Tortoise Route
We could have made this decluttering into a dramatic, go-for-broke event. We could have boxed up half our belongings in the course of a weekend and driven them to the nearest thrift store. We could have moved immediately into the smallest dwelling we could find and sold whatever wouldn’t fit on Craigslist.
Obviously, we did not. There’s nothing wrong with these approaches, of course, but they weren’t for us. For starters, decreasing what we own just for the sake of owning less or moving into a smaller apartment isn’t why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re not officially minimalists, nor do we aspire to be. We’re more interested in exploring our relationship with stuff and learning to let go of what we don’t really need (or even want) to keep.
But the biggest reason for drawing this process out over an entire year is the following:
Daily repetition over a period of time creates a habit.
By forcing ourselves every day to get rid of something, by remembering to post that daily photo for public accountability, we are making the awareness of the objects we let into our lives something we tap into regularly. It’s not just about owning less. It’s about building up the habit of evaluating what crosses our paths so that we let less excess into our lives in the first place.
If you look at the pictures, you’ll notice that sometimes we get rid of more than one thing each. We splurge once in a while. But the important thing is that we get rid of something — Every. Single. Day.
Why You Should Care
You can use this trick yourself. Adapt it however you’d like. Instead of finishing something all in one go, you can spread the process out over days or weeks or months. Do a little bite each day. Deliberately do that something for a long, spread out period of time. By doing so, you keep it always in the front of your mind, every day, just briefly, just enough.
This is how you develop a habit: of learning or honing a skill, of blogging, of writing, of reaching out, of decluttering, of exercising, of stepping outside your comfort zone, of practicing mindfulness, of creating, of reading for pleasure, of doing whatever you want to do. It doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment of time and energy in one quick burst. Try taking little daily bites for a while instead and see where you end up.
For my husband and me, the day-to-day actions feel tiny — but the impact on our living space and the way we look at physical stuff is monumental. Where could you use that kind of impact?
(Want to follow along with our project? Stop by the Facebook page. And while you’re there, check out the sneak-peek Principles of Remakeability images in preparation for How to Be Remakeable’s launch on Tuesday!)
What’s one thing you’d like to get into the habit of doing? How can you break it down into a daily action? That action can be as tiny as it needs to be. The important thing is to do it every day, even if it’s just for a minute at a time. Care to share? I’d love to know what you’ll work on!