30 Day Minimalist Challenge

by Grace Bonney

Last week I stumbled onto the amazing website The Minimalists. Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus run a website devoted to minimalism in every sense of the word, from what they own to the way they approach the world and the emotional baggage they (try not to) carry. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve felt an overwhelming need to just let things go. And by things I mean everything from the little clutter that fills up my drawers to the big things that weigh on your shoulders and keep you from feeling at peace. Inspired by several of their posts, I passed the link to Max and Amy. Amy jumped at the chance to take their Minimalist Challenge and got me on board immediately. The basic premise is simple: The first day you get rid of one thing. The second day you get rid of two things. The third you get rid of three things, and so on. By day 30 you’re seriously cleaning things out and getting in touch with the way you relate to the objects around you and what you truly need to be happy, healthy and functional.

We’ve been talking so much about mindfulness this month that I thought it would be fun to invite anyone else who wanted to challenge with us to join in.

Amy and I are sharing our daily edits (#minimalistchallenge) on Instagram every day and I plan on sharing the results in a big post a month from now. I think the key with this is to not focus so much on the numbers and the objects, or even the act of editing, as the process of examining what lead to those purchases or the way they’ve become obsolete or aren’t organized in a way that’s useful. I’m learning a lot about myself already (for example, I have a hard time letting go of something if it’s still ‘nice’ but I never use it.) and I think this challenge will help me be more aware of what I buy and why. I’m excited to see what everyone else is doing in this challenge so I hope we’ll see you online!

Here’s what you can do: We’re interested in the story behind your editing. Upload an image to Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest and hashtag it #minimalistchallenge. You can also email it to us here with the hashtag as the subject line. The image should contain a picture of you with the item you’re tossing/donating and a sentence about what you learned from that process. For example, I could post a picture of a patterned pillow I bought when I saw a sale I couldn’t resist. The lesson I learned was that I don’t need to buy something just because it’s a ‘deal’. If it’s not what I need, it can stay at the store.

Our favorite pictures and stories will be featured on D*S in a big “end of the challenge” post that includes interviews with some of our favorite submissions. We can’t wait to see what everyone learns from this early spring cleaning! xo, grace

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  • I love the Minimalists! They have inspired me so much. Living with less is freeing… and I like the stuff I have so much more! Definitely going to join you guys in this challenge and free up MORE space in my life. :)

  • I so needed this post. My life needs editing in almost every area: a bin of half used toiletries and makeup, tins of buttons, drawers of clothes, friendships that are toxic and draining. I have a hard time letting go. So thank you for writing this and giving me the kick that I need.

  • I plan on taking the challenge as soon as we’ve unpacked the kitchen/cleaned up a bit. I don’t even know what I have at this point… But yes. totally need to let go. This is a a bit off topic, but it’s been on my mind a lot: Would it be out of place for you to do a post on paper clutter? Keeping receipts? Filing? Managing that aspect of design? I’ve been told by my accountant I have to keep 7 yrs of physical receipts; diaries, etc to prove (should i get audited) that my work is legitimate, i.e. as a food professional my spending isn’t ALL on work related stuff (books, freelance, blog, recipe development). Also: contracts. And so on… I’m just feeling besieged by paper these days, and trying to figure out how to manage it.

  • I think this is great. I’ve been living by the William Morris quote for two years now (have nothing in your homes…) and it’s changed my life. A good life is an intentional life, and that’s the key to practicing minimalism.

  • I’m pretty much the opposite of a hoarder (a purger?). I’ve often thrown things out that I end up re-buying. Once I threw out a box of photos and mementos that I found, unlabeled, in my attic. I didn’t even open it; I figured, well, if I haven’t needed it so far, I don’t need to know what’s in there. Oops. I realized later the mistake I made. But frankly, I didn’t get too upset about it. But since we bought our house, I’ve been keeping things, because we have room, and you know, who knows when whatever might come in handy? Big mistake. Time for the 30-day minimalist challenge!

  • this sounds really refreshing! I’ve been trying to do something similar, but not on a daily basis! It did help me get rid of a lot of unnecessary junk and one can FEEL THE PEACE POURING IN!! :D

  • I just found out about The Minimalists last week and I am obsessing. (dorky plug- I wrote about it yesterday a little). I’m excited to join in on this challenge.

  • I love the direction Design*Sponge is taking — especially since it matches how my thinking has shifted! It’s easy to be distracted from mindful purchases when you’re trying to create a beautiful house (I’ve discovered since buying a house last March). Over the past year, and especially the past few months, your essays have felt very meaningful — and I love hearing from all the crew members!

  • just wanted you to know i’m a daily reader of your blog and finding the changes you’ve made of late to be really exciting. thank you for your good work. :)

  • Hi Grace,
    I will echo some of the above commenters who said that they really like the direction Design*Sponge is taking. I have to admit that after being a long-time devotee of the blog, I stopped reading it last year because I was just so sick of (what felt like) constant product-pushing and repeated claims about items that were “must haves” or trends that were “so 2011” and therefore had to be replaced by something newer/trendier. As someone who reallllllly detests that sort of conspicuous consumerism (despite also being someone who loves good design and home decor), I had finally had enough. A friend told me recently about some of the changes to the content and perspective of your site, and I was truly pleasantly surprised to see more articles like this and fewer articles pushing more stuff that people don’t need. For example, the hashtag post about old home love was wonderfully inspiring and beautiful, and yet didn’t involve your authors trying to convince us to BUY BUY BUY. That, to me, is exactly why I read design blogs, and this minimalism post is also great!

    Keep up the good work and great job on re-examining some of your material!

  • i am so into this, and excited to see the project progress for you and amy. i struggle not as much with identifying what needs to go and why, but with where it goes after. between an extreme fear of wasting things, and a sentimental attachment to the provenance of items (i.e. junk jewelry of my grandmother’s – is it horribly disloyal to her memory to get rid of an old blue corn necklace of hers that i have worn twice in the eight years since she died?), i don’t know if i’m ready for this yet. but maybe that’s the biggest sign that i should try?

  • I did the minimalist challenge last october and it was rejuvenating. It’s easy until the halfway point, but that’s when you have the breakthrough. When you think about it, at the end of the month, you’ve gotten rid of about over 500 objects.. doesn’t that sound insane? 500! 500 of anything is a lot, but 500 things you can live without is quite shocking. I’m seriously considering doing a second round because it was truly amazing.

  • I’m in.
    Like some of the other commenters, this comes at a good time for me. I’ve just come back from 5 months overseas and was appalled at the amount of stuff I came home to.
    For day #1, I got rid of the trashbag of clothes I culled while unpacking — that could have gotten me through the first week or more, but why make it easy?

  • Are you still posting your purges on Instagram? I can’t find anything since January 30.

    • cathy

      i’m working on a collage post of my collections- stay tuned. though amy and i have found this particular minimalism challenge isn’t working for us as we move forward. so we’re in the process of creating our own version to launch on d*s next month. i think it will be a bit more practical and more about learning something rather than just tossing everything.


  • Since I wasn’t seeing daily shots on Instagram, I wondered if perhaps The Minimalists approach wasn’t quite working. In theory, it’s a nice idea to snowball an increasing number of things to purge, but unless you want to count each piece of garbage/recycling as part of your purge, it isn’t always realistic. I’ve found myself combining ideas from several different declutterers plus keeping in mind my favorite William Morris quote (useful and beautiful). What I like best is that, no matter what approach I take, it all helps me consider the Stuff that surrounds us and to look at it with a fresh perspective. I was surprised to find that Peter Walsh’s 31-day January declutter had the most unique (for me) approach.

    Looking forward to your post and the d*s minimalist approach!

    • thanks cathy- and i totally agree. i thought it would be great, but we’re learning it’s not really teaching us anything, except to panic and throw out too many things without learning anything along the way. :(


  • In reading The Minimalists’ story, it sounded like they each had A LOT of stuff and they wanted to live super minimally. Not all of us want to be that minimal. I, for one, want to live intentionally. You really got me thinking about buying fewer things (even at second-hand stores) and, instead, using the money to buy a few beautifully crafted, well made items. It put that Chemex that I want into a whole new light. Still can’t swallow the cost of the Kone reusable filter, though!

  • I too was wondering if you were still working on this challenge. I decided to start on 1st february and I still don’t have difficulties to find things to get rid of. But I guess it depends on whether you already purged your things before starting or not. Your things look quite edited already.

  • I like this idea but am doing it backwards and not being exact about the numbers. Yesterday (day one) I got rid of 37 items. Most were clothing items and shoes and some books. Some were clothes that I haven’t worn in a while. Some are clothes I wear but aren’t crazy about. There was a pair if darling shoes that hurt my feet. I honestly don’t think I will miss them. Today I am planning on going through my kitchen and seeing what can be purged. The next day I am going to go through my paper files, and clear out unused makeup and beauty products the next.

  • Ahh so sorry I missed this Grace, totally would have participated. I turned my whole blog into a minimalist challenge indefinitely though haha, but hope you guys launch this again. Love seeing minimalism on social media, especially Instagram. Its my meditation :)