Minimalism. Quite the buzzword lately, no?
I’ve been sucked in. I’ve read a lot about minimalism over the past few months. Two of my favorites are Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits. The information I share here isn’t groundbreaking or particularly special. Others have written far more and far better than I could on this topic. I’m here to share my personal take on minimalism and how I’m trying to implement minimalism in my life (spoiler: it’s a work in progress, slow progress).
I especially love authors and articles that recognize the necessity of a flexible approach to minimalism. I’ve seen a number of people recoil at the thought of minimalism, thinking that there are hard and fast rules to it that they can’t possibly achieve. I don’t think that’s helpful. What I think is helpful is providing a philosophy or framework that people can adapt to their own situation and priorities.
The general philosophy that I’ve taken away from various readings is as follows…
Our lives are made busier, messier, more stressful, and poorer because of our obsession with “things.” By eliminating the things we don’t truly need*, we free up time and energy for more fulfilling and richer lives.
The benefits are numerous, and are alluded to above. I KNOW I spend way too much time looking for things, moving things around, cleaning around things, being stressed out by clutter, trying to decide what to wear. When I take a moment to reflect on this, I realize that most of the stuff I’m moving around, sifting through, tripping on, reorganizing, even decluttering (ironic, right?)… this stuff is NOT stuff I care that much about. It’s not stuff I use, it’s just stuff we have. For some reason, it has accumulated in our home, and we haven’t gotten rid of it. The implication is that these things have power over me. Whether it is sentimental value, a bad case of the “what if I need this?” mentality, or sunk cost (well, I spent $xx on this, I can’t just get rid of it). Those are all excuses and they are the reason I got in this situation. Not cool. I should be in charge, not my things, and I am empowered to call the shots.
So, here’s the plan. I’m going to share my minimalism journey here, with insights I gain and tips I pick up along the way. And why wait? Let’s start now!
Step 1: Gatekeeping
The first step, as I see it, is to become a very strict gatekeeper. Even before you start to sift through your existing stuff, you need to stop the influx. All that stuff I described that I clean around and sort out etc etc. It got into my house somehow. Step 1 is stopping more stuff from coming in. This doesn’t mean NOTHING comes in your doors, but it DOES mean that everything that comes in is scrutinized to make sure it is worthy of your time and energy.
Do you NEED that shirt even though it’s 80% off? (This is one of my major downfalls). Do you LOVE that tchotchke that you’ll have the pleasure of dusting around for years to come? I hope so, otherwise you’ll be cursing it in a few short months.
The point is, if you don’t stop the influx of things, you’ll never get ahead. Some people institute a strict one in = one out policy. I think this is a good idea for certain things, but I don’t see myself adopting it across the board. If it resonates with you , go with it!
I will say this is one aspect I’m doing a much better job on lately. I try to think very hard about how much I will use or wear something that I’m considering buying. This slows the flood of “things” coming in my door and will allow me to more easily stay on top of things once I get through my purging stage (or stages).
Are you a good gatekeeper? A bargain hunter? Can’t resist ALL THE SHOES? Need every cute toy for your baby? (Guilty! Also, I rationalize it by buying more and more and more books – that makes it ok, right?!?)
What can you do to start being a more effective gatekeeper? Do you need to get some partnership from others in your house on this? What about gifts you receive? Think about what you can do to stem the tide and regain control over your things.
*I’ll expand on this in another post. Sometimes we “need” certain sentimental things. Separating the things we truly need from the things we only think we need is not an easy task, so it requires separate thoughtful reflection.