There was the year of “no”; then the year of “yes”. Now we have the year of “less”.
Picture it: a young man in his late 20’s or early 30’s, dressed casually in a pair of khaki’s, a polo shirt and some loafers; he has his iPhone in one hand, and two small duffle bags slung over each shoulder. The question is posed: Who is he? You could easily mistake him for a grad student on a break, a tourist, or perhaps, someone from out of town, visiting with family or friends.
The answer is none of the above…he’s homeless! This is not a cruel twist of faith, but rather, one of choice. A choice to live free from all the “trappings” of modern society; all 50 items this man owns, is in his possession. Yes, you read that correctly: 50 items! Because of this, he’s free to travel wherever and whenever free from hassle.
This Is The Life Of A Minimalist
In discussing solutions to ways to keep your closet organized, I thought it would be interesting to step away from the usual tips and how to’s for a moment and take a peek into the lives of people, some of whom would consider having four plates as having too many!
We’ll take a look at how to live like a minimalist, as well as some of the key elements of living as a minimalist. Don’t worry…there’s no need to lock up, sell or hide anything! But maybe, after we finish scoffing at the idea, we can expand our minds just a little, as we look to how, we can possibly have more, with less…a lot less…
Before we begin…
Just to be clear, I am not looking to live the life of a minimalist…not now nor do I predict I will be doing so in the near future! But I do look for ways to “scale back” as they say. Truth be told, I consider myself an organized hoarder! It’s shameful to admit, but true. I love things to be orderly and neat, but I also tend to hold onto certain items, longer than would be considered healthy.
I believe I told the story in one of my other blogs, about how I held onto cardboard egg cartons (yes, more than one) for over a month…OK…it was more like 3 months! The idea was that I would decorate them, and use them for my miscellaneous nick nacks. It seemed like such a great idea that I found from Good Housekeeping magazine. It was in cleaning the back closet – about three months later – that I decided to throw them out, very reluctantly I might add.
Before discarding them, one word just kept lingering on my mind, “But…” Now, my hoarding-like tendencies, are not to the point of not being able to find the couch because it’s buried under a pile of rubble! It’s not even close! I really do not like any sort of clutter, or for things to be in disarray or disorderly, but I do have some…ah…issues. Most of my “extra things” are stored in my back storage closet; this will be a project that I’ll be tackling this year in the next few months (stay tuned). But let me move on, lest you find me unfit to offer any advice on organizing!
Something Different This Way Comes
A friend of mine told me about a documentary on Netflix, about people who lived with less…a lot less; it’s titled Minimalism: A Documentary About the Import Things. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was mentally prepared to watch something so foreign to me, but after about a week or two, I decided to take the plunge, and just watch it with an open mind, secretly hoping that I could learn something. But before I give my “review”, there’s a question that may have already come to mind: What exactly does it mean to be a minimalist?
Do you have to sell your car? Give up your three bedrooms and two bathroom house and live in a one-room apartment that even a mouse would consider too small? Or, perhaps it’s just having 25 items of clothing (GASP!!!). Absolutely…not (I had you for a minute, didn’t I?). But, if that’s what you think you need to do to, to get to a place of peace and tranquility in your life, no one will stop you.
But my limited understanding is that minimalism has to do with MORE…yes, more…more of the things that matter the most – family, health, purpose, joy – and less of anything that may rob you of what’s really important (and if you’re having trouble defining what’s really important for you, now may be the time to “take stock”). This is less about being extreme, and more about figuring out how to rid yourself of any excess “toxins”.
Living the life of a minimalist has helped some people: live a more purposeful life, embrace those important relationships in their lives, and of course, getting rid of excess material possessions. In essence, focusing less on consuming, or taking, and more on creating or giving back. Tell you more you say, no problem…
The beginning of Less
The opening scene is one of chaos: thousands of people walking down the street, people stuffed into trains and subways, almost like a herd of cows; then there are the crowds that flock to the stores on Black Friday in hoards, with some people actually being trampled, all in an effort to be one of the first to get the latest “it” gadget or toy. It looks like utter madness! Sadly, many of us may have experienced this firsthand.
The scene quickly shifts to something more peaceful, with a small-town feel, you can almost smell the apple pie cooling on the window ledge. The voice of a young man is heard, as he shares his story, of how he had a “secure job but was living paycheck to paycheck, in his quest for more things. Yet, this search did not lead him to the happiness he was seeking, but rather, a feeling of discontent set in, that no amount of fancy stuff could replace.
These are the words of one of the co-founders of “The Minimalist“, Ryan Nicodemus. Later, we meet the other co-founder, Joshua Fields Millburn, who also shares how his constant quest for more, often left him to neglect those people closest to him, including his mother. Throughout the documentary, we see the two travel together through the country, sharing their ideology at book-signing events, speaking engagements, radio shows, and even an appearance on The Today Show!
Meet More Minimalist
Along the way, we meet many more people who have embraced the minimalist lifestyle: a couple who decides to trade their spacious living space, for a 100 ft. “smaller home”, almost like a trailer, but perhaps, even smaller; then there’s Courtney, who decided to set aside just 33 items (including shoes, belts, and handbags) to wear for the next 3 months, with none of her co-workers noticing, and went on to create Project 333; interior designers speaking on how they desire to create a more conscious living space.
But one of the most moving stories for me was that of AJ Leon: as a young man, AJ decided to pursue a career in finance and accounting, strictly for the monetary benefits. Upon graduating from college, he was immediately hired by one of the top and respected financial “giants” on Wall Street, right in the heart of the Financial District in New York City.
He advanced several times, making a solid six-figure income; within a few years of starting, he was called into his boss’ office and was told that he was up for junior partner of the firm. What he described next seems almost unreal: after receiving the news from his boss, hearing the very thing he had spent his career working towards, AJ went into his office, closed the door, and “started weeping”.
He states that he felt “completely and utterly trapped”; that if he continued down this path, he knew that he would never be able to walk away from that amount of money again. He also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would no longer be able to live an adventurous or purposeful life. So, without another thought, he left his office, rode the elevator down 28 stories, walked out the door of the building, and never looked back.
So…what the heck does this have to do with closets?
Well, maybe nothing…maybe everything…Granted, clutter, in some instances, has to do with not putting things away in a timely fashion, or simply not having the proper “home” for those items. But there’s also another element to clutter: buying too much of things we already have. I am definitely guilty! Just today, I went to Trader Joe’s, just to get “a few items”; I even had a list!!! Well, I got everything on the list, and extra. Did I spend the money I intended to use to pay the electricity bill?
No…but sometimes, it’s the subtle spending that gets us in trouble, because it seems so innocent. To mask our guilt, we make excuses or rationalize it away, “Oh, it’s just a few extra items, I should have room for them.” Once…no biggie; twice…still no cause for alarm; but what happens when it becomes the norm instead of the exception. Therein lies the philosophy of The Minimalist: a focus on less stuff, less clutter, less stress, less discontent, and distractions.
Are you ready to purge?
Within 20 minutes of watching this documentary, I knew I wanted to write about this, primarily because it was just so fascinating. I wanted to share this with others, not in a “Do it now!” kind of way, but rather, as a way to self-examine, to see where, in our own lives, we have excessiveness. Just before the new year, I decided to get rid of some of my books.
Now, I absolutely love reading, so this was a difficult task; what challenged me, was reading an article where the author stated that she just had to accept the fact that if she had books that she hadn’t read after a certain period of time, that it was unlikely that she would ever read them, so she decided to get rid of them.
So, before I really looked at my collection, I decided to get rid of 20 books. Don’t ask me why I chose 20, I just did; it took me some time, but I did manage to select 20-25 books to give away. As it turned out, I was able to donate my books to my local library, so that was definitely a great feeling!
Are you ready?
There are some, no doubt, that are willing to make that dramatic plunge towards living on much less than what they already have, but I believe the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle.
So here’s my challenge for you: Pick a room, any room, then look to see what items in that room, and see which of those items you have way too much of (we probably already know this, but have decided to ignore this for a long time).
What are the items that are just taking over that room or space: clothes, shoes, books, CD’s, DVD’s, items you collect, tools, cookbooks, hair products, makeup, nutrition bars, gadgets, etc, etc. Once you have selected that item, pick a number, one that’s not too drastic, but one that will make you sweat a little. This will be the number that you will give away of that particular item. Have someone hold you accountable if you feel you may waiver. Getting rid of 20-25 books may not seem like a lot to some people, but for me, it was huge!
There’s something about saying you want to do something, then committing to that task, no matter how uncomfortable or hard. I believe that if we focused less on what we thought we were giving up or losing, and more on what we were gaining (peace of mind, calm, being organized), removing the extra baggage in our lives would not be so difficult.
I would love to hear from you, so feel free to leave your comments below.
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