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For a lot of us, the idea of simplifying your stuff involves a person looking at all of her belongings, putting some of it in a box, and taking that box somewhere. And yes, that can work, but it can be lonely. I’ve decluttered many times, but my last experiment involved creating a team – a team consisting of my college French professor, a friend I’d met once in Jaipur at a wedding, a colleague from 2008, two grad school classmates, and a friend who’d stayed at a house party of mine until 2 AM the first night we met. And it was more successful than anything else I’ve tried. 

How did I create that bizarre team, you ask? And, more importantly, why? Stay tuned.

Because, like so many of us, I am constantly trying to do way too many things at once, I think about simplifying and holding myself accountable a lot. (This does not mean that I’m always great at actually acting on those thoughts, but I try.) I’d been reading a bunch of stuff written by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists; they challenged their readers to try The Minimalism Game, in which you find a person (or twelve) who’s willing to get ride of n+1 items with you every day: one thing on the first day of the month, two on the second, etc. until you’re jettisoning 30 things on the last day. Whoever keeps it going the longest wins. If everyone makes it to the end of the month, everyone wins! Hooray! So I put something on Facebook to see who’d be up for joining me in this seemingly crazy plan (if you make it through the whole month, you’ve given away 465 things): 

Accountability Buddy 


The response was much stronger than I’d anticipated; soon, I’d created my aforementioned motley crew of Minimalism Game players. The rules were simple: we made a group text, and everyone had to send out a picture of whatever they were getting rid of that day. We got rid of stuff that had been in boxes we hadn’t opened since we’d moved a year earlier, VHS tapes from God knows when, random kitchen utensils, and A LOT of hangers. In an unexpected twist, I sent a pic of the skis I hadn’t used since I was 18 – and my friend Monica BOUGHT THEM FROM ME! (Everyone wins! Hooray!)

30 days later, I had, indeed, gotten rid of 465 objects. And all in all, everyone loved it. Not everyone went all in – some people decided getting rid of one thing a day was more their speed, and some did things in bursts. And we all interpreted the rules a little differently – you can decide whether a “thing” equals one shoe or one pair of shoes. But at the very least, we all spent energy simplifying our spaces and our lives, and it was amazing to connect with each other over a shared goal. (And laugh at the VHS tapes.) Everyone wins!


Mailande Moran is a musician, writer, and media consultant based in Durham, NC. She is a 2013 graduate of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where she served as a Fellow for the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship's Impact Investing Initiative and the Center on Leadership and Ethics. In the summer of 2012, she worked with Enterprise Community Loan Fund to analyze and communicate the impact of green affordable housing and transit-oriented development in Colorado. While pursuing her MBA, she consulted with the healthcare NGO Healing Fields in India, the microfinance start-up Seeds in Kenya, and the for-profit maternity hospital LifeSpring in India. Prior to Fuqua, she focused on social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in strategy roles at Echoing Green and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Mailande graduated from Duke University in 2006 with an A.B. in Art History. She is passionate about creating a safer, more equitable world. You can hear her music on Facebook (mailandemusic) and follow her other adventures on Twitter (@mailande). read more about