Don’t Organize. Minimalize.




Right now, I know you’re being inundated via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, Ebay and a hundred other entities with ideas and products for getting organized after the holidays.

Friends, I’m not going to be that voice.

I’m going to be the voice of reality and sanity and tell you that organizing doesn’t work.  If organizing worked, we’d all be organized, having all made the very same resolution back in 2013 to “get organized” and as a result, Hoarders wouldn’t exist as a reality TV program.

With few exceptions, organization isn’t the problem.  The problem is we have too much stuff.

One of the reasons our grandmothers always had neat and tidy homes, were always ready to receive visitors, and were rarely up to their eyeballs in debt:  they owned less stuff.  In my mind, I can walk through my great grandmother’s 4 room house on Rt 5 in Ashland, Kentucky and tell you where each of her things were located…because there were so few things.  Dusting wasn’t an issue.  Maintenance wasn’t an issue.  Clutter wasn’t an issue.  Compare and contrast that to today where we make more money, have more stuff, are far less content and far more overwhelmed than even a generation ago.  Crazy, isn’t it?

Last spring, I became tired of the stuff and began moving hard and fast toward minimalism.  The difference was immediate and amazing.  We had free time because there was less to do.  Personally, I was far less anxious, perhaps because my eyes had places to rest. Cleaning was far simpler.  And here’s the thing I didn’t expect: it greatly impacted our finances.  We tended to think twice about a purchase because we didn’t want to clutter up the house with something we’d turn around and throw away.  We still have a long way to go; books, clothing and sentimental items seem to be our collective nemeses here, but I’m finding we’re far more content to live with far less and it makes me quite anxious to live with far less still.

Let me dispel a few myths for you.

Minimalism is NOT:

  • Punishment.  There’s nothing punitive in getting rid of stuff we don’t need.
  • Misery.  There’s also nothing disheartening about it though admittedly, you may have to face up to a few emotions that perhaps you hadn’t dealt with.
  • Stark.  There is nothing barren, dreary, desolate or cheerless about getting rid of junk cluttering up your living space. It showcases the things you love!
  • Boring.  Minimalism doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.  It means you won’t have clutter preventing you from enjoying life.

Here’s the funny thing:  once you begin to declutter your living space, the desire to minimalize will begin to extend to other areas of your life.  Your job.  Your relationships.  Your goals.  Your media life. I love this quote from Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s most important things–which actually aren’t things at all.

Doesn’t that just sum up what most of us really want out of life?  That’s why our grandparents were so content with so little.  And perhaps that’s why we are so stressed out with so much.

Baby Steps Toward Minimalism

Minimalism isn’t an all or nothing prospect.  It also doesn’t happen overnight.  It took us a lifetime to accumulate the clutter and develop the bad habits; it’s going to take a while to undo them, but here are a few steps to get you on the way.

  1. Remove duplicates.  You don’t need 15 winter hats or  4 “I Love Vegas” mugs.  If you have multiples, purge 1 (or 12).  Sell it, donate it, junk it, whatever.
  2. Throw away broken items.  That sounds like a gimme, but I’ll totally confess to hanging onto things I intended to mend and it just never happens.  Probably WON’T happen.  Junk it.
  3. Break it down into bite-size jobs.  Don’t tackle the entire office in one afternoon.  How about just the books?  Or just one cabinet?  Accomplish that single task, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and move on.
  4. If you’re like me and you like seeing a completed checklist on paper, go to Pinterest for a printable declutter checklist.  There are zone-based, monthly-based, number-based…I’m sure you’ll find a checklist that will help keep you motivated.
  5. Find a collector/dealer/website that will be glad to take your things.  I had a cedar chest full of mid-century items from my grandmother’s first husband who was killed in Korea.  His burial flag, for instance. I was thrilled beyond words to find a military museum who wanted to display it in their Korean War memorial.  The cedar chest was emptied and a 19 yo soldier was remembered again. Win.
  6. Don’t get hung up on perceived value.  The fact you paid $179 for an item back in 1967 means nothing in this economy and culture.  If it doesn’t bring you joy, be rid of it, regardless of how much you paid for it.

I hope those baby steps will get your started in the right direction, if you’re resolved to never organize again!  My simple decluttering goal for 2018 is to get rid of 2018 items; just 5 things a day.  Do you have goal?

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I started doing this. I did clothes first. Slowly working on other stuff. It makes a huge impact on finances. I don’t have cable. A land line. It’s interesting how at first these were important and now…eh.

    1. Clothes are a never-ending battle, it seems; especially if there are growing children in the home! Books are another difficult area for us. With 4 avid readers in the house—yikes!

  2. This!! I used to hoard my things terribly from Jr High on. Then I moved several times and it cured me. Lol
    I purge things all the time; it’s kinda addicting, actually. Lol But you’re right, it makes life so much more enjoyable!

    1. When we bought our farmhouse, it came with all the contents, going back several generations. Initially it was a blessing, because many of the items were usable/valuable antiques….but it became tiresome after a while. As my style has changed to more contemporary/minimalist, I’m finding it easier and easier to let things go!

        1. There was soooo much stuff lol….coolest find was a couple journals from 1914-1945 documenting what this farm produced. Lots of interesting wartime stories and recipes. We kept those!

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