Organized Treasure: Blog
Katie McAllister, Professional Organizer
If you have an interest in decluttering and organizing and have read how-to books and articles, you have likely been introduced to the concept of Minimalism. In this post, we'll discuss some common misconceptions of Minimalism, and next month, I'll offer my favorite definitions by favorite minimalist thinkers. We'll also come back - a lot - to my favorite definition: Intentional. If it were up to me, we would call it the Intentionality Movement and probably reduce a lot of the misconceptions surrounding "Minimalism"!
As with so many things, Minimalism looks different for each person as they embrace its concepts with their personalities, values, interests, styles, and unique selves!! But when many people hear the term Minimalism, they instantly conjure up some mental images, generalizations that do not have to be part of what Minimalism looks like on YOU!
Myth #1: Minimalist houses are sparse and WHITE.
This is my first mental image, and there may be a definition of minimal interior design that makes this true. But the minimalist movement has moved beyond that interior design aspect. Minimalists can be collectors, love color, love sentimental objects, and surround themselves with warm comfy throws! But they will be intentional: curate their collections, choose great pops of color, limit sentimental objects to favorite memories on display, and get great use out of their decorative throws. What good are treasures in a box in the basement?
My house would scream minimalist to exactly NO ONE. But every time I sweep through with fresh eyes, or paint a room and decide what deserves to go back up on my walls, I seem to find another item that isn't earning its keep. If it isn't making me smile every time I walk past, it at least needs to be reassessed and reconsidered. I am continually amazed at the truth of the phrase: "less is more"!
Myth #2: Minimalists don't believe in fashion.
This might conjure the mental image of Steve Jobs: daily "uniform," black turtleneck, an almost empty wardrobe full of neutrals. Minimalists are unlikely to have closets stuffed to the gills with clothes they haven't worn in ages - whether because the clothes are the wrong size, poor-fitting, ugly splurge purchases, no longer in style, etc. They are very likely to be in tune with THEIR style rather than swayed by every newest trend. But plenty love fashion, and dress in colors and shapes that flatter their complexions and bodies.
I am no fashionista, but I am learning to be intentional with my purchases, only buying what makes me feel great, rather than what is on sale. I am learning to let go of the extras in my wardrobe that just aren't me, and give them away. To focus on the fact I have learned something about my style rather than just having lost money. I think the most surprising change for me is that I am slowly paring my neutrals down to black (rather than browns and grays and blues and blacks). It is my favorite neutral and looks great with the bright, bold colors I enjoy. And I don't feel I have to give up jeans - I'll keep wearing the dark wash I've always gravitated to.
Myth #3: They hate books, too.
<--Here's my mental image - the strong reaction of book lovers to Marie Kondo. Would the minimalist movement, or your favorite organizer, encourage you to reconsider your relationship with physical books, as you would other things? Probably so. Does this mean they don't read and disdain the pursuit of knowledge? Or that no minimalist home needs bookshelves? Probably not. But let's face it - sometimes we keep books on our shelves that we haven't even read because we like what they say about who we are. Sometimes we keep references we will never refer to or novels we will never revisit. And, in my mind, sharing is caring. Most book lovers are excited to share the books they truly love - loaning with open hearts - even while knowing they may have to repurchase the next time they want to "loan". I think it is with the books we haven't read that we have the strangest, or most unhealthy, relationship.
I think for me, this added some new questions to my arsenal. As I think about my intention to make my home a place of comfort and welcome, I often remind myself that libraries, museums, and gardens hold items for everyone to share and enjoy. When I look at books that have sat on my shelves for years, I ask: Will this add to the next "chapter" of my life? Is this something I would buy in the store if I saw it today? Might this serve a *better* purpose in someone else's home, temporarily, or permanently? And now we are back to being book lovers, sharing our treasures with open arms!
Myth #4: Minimalists count the number of items in their closet or home.
You will read books and Challenges referring to numbers of items. I picture Minimalists humble bragging about how few things they own, or into what tiny suitcase they can squeeze all their worldly possessions. Minimalism could be defined as a process of figuring out the "minimum" you need to be content. I think some personalities strongly identify with a challenge and taking the more extreme route. But the minimalist movement is more about being intentional about what we own and allow in our lives than keeping tallies and should never be about comparison or judgment!
I can't imagine trying to hit artificially chosen "number of items" goals in my home, in a room, in my "capsule wardrobe". But the concepts of figuring out what I can do without, what is the least I need, what others would benefit from more, really inspire me at times. We are so accustomed to our society of overabundance that these ideas go against conventional thinking!
Myth #5: Minimalism happens overnight, is all or nothing.
The image is: You either ARE a minimalist and fit within a particular box (perhaps the myths above), or you are NOT a minimalist. Again, some personalities are more extreme, more all in, more inspired by challenges than others. But Minimalism is a mindset and a journey, and the path looks different for everyone.
My sister and I have played with the idea of writing an organizing book together in the future. She jokes that she will share the extreme view - her side of the book will be called the Spartan Method. I will share the slower, more patient view - I may call it the "What turns your Heart on" Method. People process differently, and it is okay to grow in stages. I have always been amazed to watch the "GROWTH SPURTS" God fashioned for babies and children, and I don't think they only apply to the physical. So be gentle with yourself as you make intentional decisions about how to fashion your life and surroundings! Maybe you can join me in being an "intentionalist" who also aspires to Minimalism!
Myth #6: Minimalists are all backpacking the world or living in tiny RVs - crunchy, vegan, millennial free spirits avoiding all responsibility.
I think many Minimalists started with a significant life change, but here we are, back to the all or nothing box! Your priorities might not have anything to do with travel: you may spend your newfound free time serving the elderly, or your extra finances (from more thoughtful purchasing habits) supporting a battered women's shelter. Perhaps you will use the additional space in your easier-to-maintain-home to host neighbors, coworkers, and family regularly, investing in relationships. It's about taking FULL responsibility for the choices that shape your reality and realizing we don't have to walk the same hamster wheel.
This myth makes me laugh because this description may be the antithesis of me. Still, the concepts of Minimalism and the definitions we will explore in the next post inspire me to really consider my big picture. And watching people make dramatic choices on their journeys, no matter how different from mine, is encouraging too!
Embracing my love for organizing and the joy of encouraging others as we journey through the ups and downs together!
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