This weekend was so freaking awesome!
First we took our daughter to the zoo. That wasn’t the awesome part. I don’t care what anyone else says, animals are stinky & disgusting, especially in the heat, so that flies are buzzing around and sticking to your sweaty face. And if your car doesn’t have air conditioning, this whole thing is made doubly-sucky. But the kid was extremely happy, we bought a family summer pass, and in her eyes we are now MOST. AWESOME. PARENTS. EVER. So I can live with that.
The Minimalists come home.
In addition to pleasing our child with in-person viewings of bears, foxes, crocks, and monkeys, the hubz and I found further pleasure that evening in our date-night. We got to meet up with The Minimalists. Again. THAT was the awesome part. Not that making my baby girl happy isn’t awesome — obviously, or we wouldn’t have gone a-zoo-ing in the first place, much less purchased a family summer pass — but chatting it up with local blogging celebs for the second time around? So kewl!
Allow me to introduce you. Josh and Ryan are the cutie-pies behind a giant paring-down empire known as MINIMALISM — visit them at http://www.theminimalists.com/. More than just bloggers, they are great guys with an even better message, which basically comes down to this: Only do and own that which brings value to your life and the lives of others. Both worked for Corporate America (*shudder*) and pulled in six-figure salaries, but even having achieved “The American Dream” of having it all, they weren’t happy. After experiencing some heavy revelations, they decided a change was in order. Josh, with his passion for writing, and Ryan, with his passion for helping others, teamed up and tossed their collective crap. I’m not, nor have I ever been, in the six-figure salary category, so I can’t even imagine what this tossing involved, but I can only guess it was massive.
But Minimalism isn’t just about “stuff”.
Several months ago, prior to the explosion of this here bloggy-blog, I wrote a piece on Minimalism and what it means. Here is a portion of that essay, pulled from the wreckage.
So glad you asked. I had to search several sources, because it has several different meanings, depending upon whom you ask. It can be anything from “getting rid of clutter” to “living free of consumerism” to “adopting a Spartan lifestyle”. It can be as simple as a flexible guideline or as stringent as a life philosophy. Minimalism, as a word, is anything but minimal in its definition. This can be perplexing. Because really, when is enough… enough?
Minimalism is De-Cluttering, Cleaning, and Organizing Stuffs.
My first introduction to the most basic of Minimalistic practices was via Marla at FlyLady, a de-cluttering maven whose basic method relies on taking Baby Steps, with the understanding that “Your home did not get dirty in one day, and it will not get clean in a day either.” She emphasizes not taking on too large a project, only going for fifteen minutes at a time (set a timer!) so as not to become discouraged. For many people (read: *ME*), this is a fabulous practice. I tend to become overwhelmed at how much needs to be done, and decide a nap on the couch, curled up under an afghan, sounds much more appealing than housework.
See here a BEAUTIFUL picture of an area in my home that could seriously use some de-cluttering; ironically, you will see dusters buried behind folders and papers which stand on the shelf no one can reach for all the boxes of books lined up on the floor. Hint: It’s not really beautiful. I was lying just then. It is sad and makes me want to cry and vomit simultaneously.
Minimalism is Getting Rid of Stuffs and Fighting Consumerism.
The next step up from de-cluttering (or what I like to refer to as “getting your shit under control and finding a way to stop being such a lazy-ass slob”) is getting rid of things you no longer use, need, or want. This level contains many sub-levels, and is where the whole process begins to get tricky. And personal.
I mean, who disagrees that the mess displayed in the posted picture is a serious wreck requiring immediate attention? Right, I’m thinking that’s unanimous except for that weird guy in the back who was too busy stuffing his face with chips to raise his hand. Yes, YOU, Sir. Pay attention.
But when we go from obvious chaos to personal belongings… that opens a whole new bag of… um… yeah… chips. Shaddup.
How does anyone get to decide what I should keep versus what I should toss? The “rule” is that you should examine each object and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is it useful?
Like, as in, do I actually use it? Even more specifically, has it been used more than once in the past year? If no, toss it. If yes, put the stupid thing where it belongs, ya doofus.
2. Does it bring joy into my life?
Do I beam with sparkly glitter when I look at it? Is it just the most awesome Elephant Poop ever? If no, toss it. If yes, put the stupid thing where it belongs, ya doofus. (See a theme developing here? GOOD!)
No, for realz. This is a very serious question which bears relevance if you have family members in the mob, for example, or who are prone to heartache, or who are just very emotionally involved in what has been passed down through the generations.
A lot of my junky-junk falls into this third category.
My mom is extremely worried that my sister and I might find ourselves fighting over her amassed quantity of goods, so she has taken to giving them to us now in preparation for her passing from this planet. The woman is only in her fifties, not exactly on her deathbed. So I’m stuck holding on to stuff without question, because you don’t just give away your inheritance of Lladros while your mom looks on, ya know?
There are many folks offering help in this area.
Tsh over at Simple Mom is a great resource to whom I turn regularly. On a similar note, I also like the organizing queens over at I Heart Organizing as well as at I’m An Organizing Junkie. These are just a few of the awesome people eager to help you get your belongings into appropriate boxes, bags, shelves, and other helpful containers. I’m not there yet, but I like to look ahead and see who the murderer is.
Somewhere in the middle of all this confusion you are encouraged to actually clean your messy home, which is not the same thing as organizing it. You know, all that vacuuming and dusting and washing and scrubbing kind of thing. That’s not what this is about. Don’t be confused. You can have a very clean mess which isn’t at all tidy, so that you can’t find a pair of scissors anywhere at all, but by golly the air smells like lemons. Likewise, you can have a very dirty house which is completely tidy, so that your house smells like cat piss, but holy crap you know where resides every single pair of scissors in your house. Optimally, your house will neither stink nor hide scissors.
Minimalism is Staying Below a Threshold.
Moving on to the final step in the Minimalization process, we arrive at the extreme position wherein you actually count your belongings one by one and keep the total number below a certain threshold. I’m not even kidding.
I’m not counting my stuffs. And that’s okay.
Maybe you want to count your stuffs, though. And that’s okay, too. There are several individuals who catalog what they own and keep the list to under a specific number of items. David Bruno has written a book called The 100 Thing Challenge (I recommend checking it out from the library so you don’t have to count it on your list — unless you count all your books collectively as one item. “Rules” vary.). Tammy Strobel accepted the challenge and got down to 72 things over at Rowdy Kittens. The adorable Colin Wright travels the world with the only 51 things he owns, writing about his adventures at Exile Life Style. And Leo Babauta personally owns fewer than 50 things!
Of course, it’s up to you whether or not to count furniture;
whether or not to count separate items within a category or collection, such as DVDs; whether or not to include things you share with a roommate or family. Counting gets even trickier than organizing. Most participants agree, it’s not really the number that counts, so much as the act of paring down to what’s essential.
Back to The Minimalists
What I like best about Josh and Ryan’s take on Minimalism:
They don’t preach, “Everyone should do it exactly like we do.” Instead, they recognize it is adaptable for each person’s lifestyle. A single bachelor is not going to have the same concerns as a parent. And at that, not all parents are going to agree on which priorities take precedence. What they *DO* preach is this:
Lead a fulfilling life based on experiences, not items.
Love people, not things.
Be yourself, passionately, and let go of the rest.
Josh says the hardest thing to give up is not actually a specific “thing”. It’s your identity — that is, how you define yourself, once you no longer base your self-worth on a title or monetary status or what you own. Ryan agrees, stating he had to change his incantations or self-talk, redefining how he viewed himself as a person. These ideas capture the heart of Minimalism most succinctly.
Who are you?
What are you passionate about?
What do you want out of life?
What are you doing to add value?
Answer these questions, and you will have discovered the meaning of life.
HINT — it’s not about “stuffs”.