Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Minimalism by Theft

The other day I had, what I hope will turn out to be, a great idea. In the book Et Tu, Babe, Mark Leyner (both the author and main character) is caught stealing a vile of Abraham Lincoln's morning breath. His punishment is that every week, the authorities come into his home and remove one item. He doesn't know what it is (it could be anything) and if he discovers it missing, he's not allowed to replace it.

I used to think that was a terrible punishment (what if he needed those things someday?) but now I'm intrigued by the idea. In fact, I've even asked Ian to help me implement a similar project.

The rules are simple: every day Ian takes something of mine and puts it in a box. I don't know what it is and it could be anything. At the end of the month, I'll go through the box and keep what I think I need and give away everything else (especially things I didn't notice were missing). If I choose to keep something, I have 30 days to use it or it goes in the donation box for good.

Also, if I go to use something but can't find it because it's already in the box, it can come out so long as I actually use it that day. If I remember correctly, they took Mark Leyner's toothbrush and I can imagine Ian might find confiscating similar objects similarly funny.

I'm really excited about this idea. I'm especially interested to see just how many things I won't even know are gone. So far it's day 15 and I haven't noticed anything missing. I haven't peeked in the box either, although it is tempting. I'll show you September's collection on October 1.


  1. I once moved to a temporary place for nine months. I put nearly everything I owned in a GIANT full size moving van and then into storage. I packed what I thought I couldn't live without in my tiny Corolla. It turned out I only missed my sewing machine... everything else - all of it - I didn't miss a bit and actually forgot about half of it. You'll be surprised what you can get by without.

  2. I love these experiments! although I don't have your willpower - I'd be peeking in the box every day.
    One (more) idea for minimalism is to go through all of your things and think: would I buy this again? Most of my things I buy for one-use reasons, like "gee, I really need a screwdriver!" and then keep because I probably will need/want a screwdriver again sometime, even if it's not for ten years and it'll just take up real estate in the meantime. Hmm, but I still feel frivolous.

  3. This is a really cool experiment! I can't wait to see September's items!

  4. Oh, can't wait to see whats in the box! I'm sure I could go quite a while before missing anything!