Minimalism is a lovely thing… and it’s also a big can of worms. “At its core,” writes one of my favorite bloggers, Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” So…identifying the things, people and activities that we most value. And clearing clutter. Sounds good, right?
So what’s the problem? Here are a few issues, as I see them:
For the sake of discussion, let’s divide people into three general categories: Minimalists, Organizers, and The Public. Sometimes The Public shies away from Organizers, fearing they will be forced to get rid of all their stuff (Organizing Myth #4), which is bad enough. Then there are Minimalists, by whom The Public often feels looked down upon for not having parted with all but 10 things. Or 50. Or 300. Certainly fewer than the average 300,000 things estimated to exist in our homes.
Some Organizers call themselves Minimalists, and some of them are more minimalistic than others. In 10 Silly Things Organizers Argue About I wrote: “I suspect most organizers are just like me in that purging is so much a part of the organizing process that they see no need to separate it, or to call themselves Minimalists.”
The Minimalists — Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus — were the opening keynote speakers at the NAPO2015 conference in Los Angeles. In their article, Organizing Is Well-Planned Hoarding, they state: “We need to start thinking of organizing as a dirty word. It is a sneaky little profanity that keeps us from simplifying our lives.” Really, Joshua and Ryan? And you know how all professional organizers operate, and the benefits that are, or are not, realized by their clients? I’m not saying they don’t have a point at all, but I do think they make broad generalizations in an unnecessarily click-baity way.
Degree of Minimalism
Most Minimalists, in order to encourage simplicity, will concede that not everyone is starting at the same point and has the same goals. But there are, indeed, many articles that encourage one to pare down to 30 items of clothing, or 100 possessions, or whatever. I think The Public is confused about what Minimalism is and isn’t.
Some see Minimalism as the exclusive domain of single, rich white guys. That’s just silly. Althought I don’t agree with them on everything, I do like The Minimalists’ 20/20 Rule as a guideline for getting rid of just-in-case items. It goes like this: Anything they can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from their current location goes away. They do not get rid of things they use every day. These are only items they are saving just-in-case that are cluttering their lives unnecessarily because they might never need them. For more help in deciding what stays and what goes, check out my free “Keep or Toss?” chart.
Even my favorite Minimalist, the aforementioned Joshua Becker, goes too far, in my opinion, when he gets critical about things I enjoy such as TV watching. (Click to read his several posts about that.) I agree that mindless and non-stop TV watching is detrimental to mental peace and productivity. Just like other forms of activity clutter and physical clutter are. But mindful and selective TV watching – what’s wrong with that? People have worse hobbies. I submit that the TV you watch is no different from the company you keep. If it is uplifting, or educational, or entertaining, why not? If it is making you sad, or anxious, or distracting you from your work, friends, and family….then, by all means, clear the TV clutter!
Although I definitely believe that less is more, I do not call myself a Minimalist. I help you realize how much your clutter is costing you. Then we determine what you love, use, and need to keep, and store or display it in an organized manner. The rest — the things you do not love, do not use, and do not need to keep – is clutter. Decluttering frees up space – and time — for the life you really want to live.
What are YOUR thoughts on Minimalism?
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Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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