As a Professional Organizer, I frequently get asked, and consequently think about, what it means to be a minimalist. Clients will often wonder, “If I were a minimalist, my life would be easier, right?” to which I say, “maybe.”
The reason for the “maybe”? Years of conditioning and the implication that minimalism means living sparsely with very few belongings. Cue image of a Japanese monk in a white-walled room with very few pieces in it…
Perhaps you have a broader sense of what minimalism means, but for many, discarding, getting rid of, and decluttering to the point of next-to-nothing seem to be the main components. And while these actions help in the process of embracing minimalism, they simply fuel the actual transformation. Minimalism is not about stuff, it is about choice.
Maybe like me, you have been looking at minimalism from too narrow a lens. While we actively try to make our lives easier through organizing and decluttering, what we really benefit from is more time, space, control, freedom, and choice. For these, we need space, literally and philosophically.
After considering this broader and more realistic meaning of minimalism, I was drawn to the work of the minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, two guys who have a lot to say about the benefits of minimalism through their website, books, podcast, and documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.
Not unlike my own conclusions, they see minimalism as an act that “is about being super selective about what you choose to live with – flipping it from ‘less of’ to ‘more of’ in daily life.” Of course, to get there requires action, and that is where releasing things comes into play, but fundamentally it is about intentionally making space.
As Ryan says, “clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.” And the way he did that was to pack up everything in his condo as if he was moving, then live life normally. He would only take out the items he needed, and after 3 months, guess what was left in boxes? Over 80% of his stuff! Useful stuff = 20%, stuff getting in the way = 80%. Wow.
If you did the same experiment, what would your percentages be?
Why do we keep more than we need? Feelings of security and safety? We like the feeling of abundance? Because we’ve “made it” and we can? Because we aren’t our parents? All valid reasons, but if we are to truly achieve meaningful happiness with less stuff, we have to strip away the excess and make room for what matters most.
Perhaps adding minimalism to the decluttering and organizing mix isn’t unattainable after all if we see it as, “the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things.”
Let Ease Up – The Organizing Experts help you get there and please let us know how your minimalism journey unfolds. comments, suggestions and feedback are always appreciated and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Having caught the organizational bug early on trying to “balance” things out as an elite gymnast, Jessica Tudos brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to her role as a professional organizer. Drawing from her global work as an experiential educator, author, and motivational speaker, Jessica is on a mission to empower people to lead healthy, creative and organized lives.