A Minimalist is Born
After my realization that the expensive toy wasn’t going to bring me true joy, I started to think about what did. My wife, my kids, our dog (cutest damn Corgi ever). The house we live in is too big (but my wife will be starting a daycare in the basement so it’s not AS big technically). It’s still too big. I grew up thinking I’d never live in anything but a trailer or a crappy apartment. Now I’m in a 3500+ square foot house with a 3-car garage and all this space just does one thing. It holds stuff and allows our family to spread out even further from each other.
As I sat at my desk I looked around at the items covering my surfaces. I opened my drawers and saw things I either forgot about or maybe “one day, I’ll get to later”. The sheer clutter that surrounded me started to call out to me in a profound way. They were the advertiser’s worst nightmares… items saying, “You don’t use me, donate me” and “I’m broken, let me find some friends in the trash or recycling”, and the crazy, “You haven’t even used me, do you even love me?”
I remembered watching “The Minimalists“, a Netflix documentary directed by Matt D’Avella (whom I’d recently become acquainted with through the power of YouTube). The Minimalists particularly spoke to me, their history with their parents rang all too true for me as well. Like many people I coped with pain, loss, and depression with “Retail Therapy.” While they have paired down to very, VERY, little and I applaud them for that. I feel that with my persona (jack of all trades, and a guy who has too many hobbies) it’s not fully realistic for me. Maybe one day. For now, I go full Marie Kondo… kinda.
Marie Kondo is cool and kinda crazy
I watched her Netflix series, I listened to her audiobook. I appreciate her approach and her personal history with clutter, struggles of organization, and think she’s found a successful and powerful way to get her brand out there. I wouldn’t put her down as a minimalist, more of an essentialist IMHO. While many things I’ve looked at over the past week and a half have sparked joy, certain things never will. A frying pan for instance (I’ve yet to get to the kitchen). Marie has a methodical approach to tidying, this creates a system she can profess repeatedly through the several stages of her tidying program.
My Approach to Minimalism
For me, it’s not a race to the minimal finish line. It’s a journey. It’s taken me years to accumulate a lot of the things around. With Marie Kondo’s approach I never really had a true “spark joy” moment with anything, so I should be walking around naked and living in the woods. Her approach tends to minimize the reason that things go so cluttered in the first place and instead focuses on the result. As I said, it’s a journey.
Step One – Focused Decluttering
For me, I work from home in my office a lot on my side business. This is where I need to be serious, on task, and not distracted. I started here because I never knew what drawer contained what or how many HDMI cables does it take to get to the center of the Matrix. I pulled everything out of the drawers, sorted it by category; Papers/Manuals, Cables, Gadgets, Writing implements, and notebooks. I pull all the books off of my shelves and laid them out. I sat on the floor surrounded by enough things to make a paperback iron man suit… with 80 HDMI ports and 126 USB connections. I consciously thought about each category and I started a large donate pile. I went through each category and realized that all the cables I had, I didn’t need and if I did need one… well, Amazon’s pretty quick.
I donated all my books, save for a few drawing ones that my kids might enjoy. I either didn’t read, half-read, or skimmed most of the books anyway and a lot of them were programming manuals that I can get the same or better learning from YouTube or places like Udemy.com. That meant I can get rid of my bookshelf too. I stacked all the papers up to go through later (I have two filing cabinets that needed a flamethrower after all). In about two days I earnest and objectively “minimized” my office. Next, I focused on another area that was sorely ignored and taken for granted.
My closet and drawers. Ratty clothes, gone. Decent clothes I never wear, donated. What was left was practical shirts, pants, and a single sports coat that all fit me, were in good repair, and I didn’t look half bad in. None of these clothes spark joy. I threw out all my old underwear, socks, and undershirts (I was due for new ones anyway) so I went to Target and these were my self proclaimed Christmas and birthday presents. This was real life after all and not virtual reality.
Step Two – Keep Doing It
I’m far from finished, my garage has a lot of work yet… A LOT.
We’ve recently moved and the above picture was after about 2-3 rounds of moving things just so my wife can park the minivan in the garage for the winter. After minimizing my office and my wardrobe – entering the garage makes me anxious and agitated. This is the next big thing and I’ll largely feel “complete” in this process. However, I noticed that when I finished step one I find myself looking at items throughout the house and seeing if the item speaks to me as the others did.
Before engaging this craziness of minimizing… I found myself always too busy to play with the kids or “slow-down” and hang out with my wife. I found myself easily agitated and that’s why I wanted to talk about the side-effects this has created. First, my wife, Ashley, isn’t fully subscribed to this idea but I believe she’s noticed some changes in my general attitude and approach with her as well as the children. I’m finding myself way less stressed and frustrated. I’m getting happier. I was depressed and felt like nothing was going right at times. This has turned that around for me. Minimalism isn’t my purpose, essentialism isn’t my purpose. My purpose is my wife and my children. Minimalism, Essentialism, and Konmari are just some tools I’m using to change the focus TO them.
Shortly after I started cleaning up and noticed the change in my demeanor I knew I had to start sharing my findings, successes, and failures with others. If any of this helps just one person make a change in their life — I’ll consider it a success. I’m not an editor, I’m probably not a very good writer, but I am passionate about the things I pursue and now I’m on the pursuit of happiness through a more purposeful life.