The Important Things

Have you ever seriously considered what it would be like to live with less?  That’s the compelling question posed by The Minimalist’s, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

Twice in the last month I attended a screening of their new film titled “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.” (You can find a showing near you here.)

Photo Courtesy of The Minimalists

Photo Courtesy of The Minimalists

Prior to viewing this film, I didn’t know much about Joshua and Ryan or the minimalism movement. But now I have become a huge fan of the duo and their message.  My prior perception of minimalism was that this approach to reducing clutter in our lives was too extreme. For example, some minimalists believe you can only own fewer than 100 things, while others have chosen to live in “tiny houses.”

Both of these ideas have merit, but I’ve learned recently that my overall perception of minimalism was wrong.  It’s about much more.

As modern consumers, we are constantly barraged with marketing messages. Not so long ago, we were only exposed to sales pitches while watching TV, reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to the radio, or by sighting the occasional billboard at the side of the road.

But today we face never ending interruptions from these messages while online, in our Facebook feeds, when checking the temperature using our weather app, from texts containing coupons from area retailers, and much more.

Relentless advertising is constantly evolving in new and innovative ways. The minimalists believe that this barrage has led to “compulsory consumerism.”  

There are very important reasons for pausing and asking yourself – do I really need the best and shiniest new smartphone within a week of its release, when the one I currently own works just fine? Do my kids really need that cheaply made Happy Meal prize that serves no long-term value? Should I click on that ad that popped up which may result in an impulse buy?

The obvious answer for most of us is no.  But not so obvious is the impact our compulsive behavior has on our planet.  We’ve been conditioned by a very successful retail industry to accept our throwaway culture as the norm.  We don’t put the effort into fixing the toaster when it breaks, because there’s a newer model with more features available to us at the store down the street.

I could go on, but I won’t.

These are challenges that are much bigger than me, or us. I encourage you to take a little time and check out Joshua and Ryan’s website, podcast, and essays.  Their message is clear and non-judgmental.

There are ways that we can impact our individual corners of this world – primarily our homes/businesses/apartments and daily interruptions. We can reduce the clutter in our homes, inboxes, and smartphones, and focus on the important things.  In turn, this will improve our ability to create space in our lives for the things that provide value and serve us.

So, I have a challenge for you.

It’s inspired by The Minimalist’s 30-Day minimalism game (#MinsGame).  I’m renaming it the “30-Day Minimalism Challenge,” because I think, for most of us, it could be a challenge. But I believe a worthwhile one.

This is how it works:

  • Pick a 30-day period when you can dedicate time and attention to the challenge. Some days will be easy, others will require more planning.
  • For every day of the month, remove or designate for removal, the number of items equal to the number of the day. On the 1st, remove one item; on the 2nd, two items and so on.
  • I define “removing” as donating to a local charity, selling or giving to someone who needs the items you don’t, or as a last resort, tossing the items in the trash.
  • Anything qualifies – furniture, decorations, dishes, magazine/catalog/retailer subscriptions, clothing, and toys… anything!
  • Anyone in your home can participate – everyone’s items count toward that day’s total.
  • By midnight each day, post a picture of the items you remove to my Facebook page (or email me a photo for you non-Facebook folks out there).
  • As an incentive, the first three people who post a qualifying photo every day of the month win 2 hours of organization consulting from me!

Think about it and challenge yourself. Reducing the items we own, and surrounding ourselves only with the items that really matter is an intentional process. 

#MinsGameLook around and decide what you can remove from your life. Notice what‘s weighing you down and not serving you any longer. When you do, you’ll have more time and energy for the important things.

I’m going to start this 30-day challenge on September 1 – who will join me?   I’ve already started a collection box for items I plan to remove.

There is plenty of time between now and then to prepare. Not sure how to get started? Share your concern and ask your questions in the comment section below and I’ll offer some tips and advice.

If you are motivated to start sooner, that’s ok too.

I leave you with this thought:



Ta-Da Tip of the Month

Living a simpler life is the basic foundation of minimalism. Minimalism means different things to different people.

What’s your definition?

Here are a few ideas to help you start thinking about eliminating clutter in your life:

  • Evaluate every possession in a new light.   Look at everything that surrounds you and ask yourself if the item is of use. Does it provide value or weigh you down? Go through your home/office/apartment one room at a time.
  • Take action by de-cluttering something easy — like your kitchen utensil drawer. Do you need four spatulas when one or two will do?
  • Take pictures of items with emotional value. Usually, when you are attached to an item emotionally there is a story to tell. So tell it. Digital photo albums are easy to create these days. Consider taking a picture and documenting the story in a digital photo album for generations to come.
  • Do you wear everything in your closet?   There are many systems for identifying the pieces of clothing you wear vs. those you don’t. It’s pretty easy to identify the items you reach for on a regular basis. Ask yourself why you hold on to the rest of the clothes when donating them to someone in need will simplify your life.
  • Reduce notifications on your phone.   Count how many times you are interrupted both visually and audibly during the day by smartphone notifications from news sources (and it’s RARELY good news), by texts and calendar entries, or when you receive a new email. I think you will be surprised. Turn off all the non-essential notifications.
  • Redefine gift giving. Consider giving experiences or consumables the next time you want to show someone how much you care about them.

My best advice to you is to shed yourself of excess and make room for the possessions that are truly useful and essential – the important things. I believe you’ll be surprised by how much surrounds you that you don’t use or need. TaDa!

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