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!
I'm excited to have a small article published in York County Medicine on the topic of reducing stress by getting organized!
When our spaces and lives are disorganized, we are constantly behind and overwhelmed. It can seem so hard to regain control - but by building systems brick by brick, we can start to find the peace that comes from having good routines and having tidy spaces where we know where things are.
Some seasons of our lives can throw even the "naturally organized" for a major loop. These events make it really hard to keep up with things, much less get ahead of them. The illness of a loved one, a new baby, a change in marital status, a move... It is always okay to reach out for extra help, but if you find yourself in a season that has you stretched thin on time and emotional bandwidth, I really encourage you to be gentle with yourself, and consider bringing in some extra back up!
It's Memorial Day weekend and time to kick off summer!!
We spend more time out and about over the summer - picnics, hikes, park days, baseball games, fireworks - so you might find yourself living out of your car more than usual. Here are some items worth packing (and repacking!) so that you are ready for whatever adventures summer sends your way!
1. Sunglasses, Sunscreen, baseball caps - I always have back up shades in the car, though our family can usually get by without the others!
2. Sheet/picnic blanket - This comes in handy any time you need to sprawl on the grass - parks, concerts, beaches, etc. It is also useful to protect your car's seats and floors after a muddy, sandy, or wet adventure!
3. Camp Chairs - Because I'd rather not be on the ground these days! And you fit in better with the "cool" soccer moms!
Sharpie - I'm going to mention this must-have here as a public service announcement for the team mom in charge of Lost and Found: Label your kids' stuff! With this in your car, your kids can put their name back on their balls, their disc golf frisbees, their water bottles, your camp chair!
4. Water and Snacks - I keep an entire case of water in the trunk so that we are always ready, though we try to pack fresh each day! Chocolate-free trail mixes, beef jerky, and chips are good to "keep around" and fresh fruit is perfect for packing fresh, or grabbing from a roadside stand!
5. First Aid Items - For us this involves both conventional items and essential oils, but we want to be ready to treat: bee stings, cuts, headaches, bruises, allergies, and with a Type 1 Diabetic: Low Blood Sugars.
6. Grocery bags, napkins, paper towels - this was an add-on from my Aunt Kathleen - if you have ever taken a road trip with an incident involving bodily fluids, you know this is a lifesaver! But, it comes in handy in the summer for damp items, bagging up an amazing discovery, wiping up the juice of delicious fruit dripping down your arm, etc.!
7. Backup Clothing - this changes over the years, but:
*Swimsuits, water shoes, towels - they aren't going to resist the creek, water park, swimming hole, sprinkler, so be ready and let them have at it!
*Bowling Shoes - we LOVE the KidsBowlFree program, so bowling shoes are at the ready for frequent rounds of bowling!
* Socks - You need them bowling, at a play place when you stop for lunch, when your other socks are [muddy, dirty, wet] from [puddle hopping, hiking, morning dew]
*The full-out outfit change - we started with toddlers, babies, and mamas caught in the crossfire. I don't know the last time we utilized a clean outfit (I think it was for a younger friend and we rolled up sleeves and pant legs!) but I still have them stashed, because you might as well be ready!
What do you keep in the car for summer?? Must haves? First Aid? What did I miss? Comment Below!
Gretchen Rubin's book, The Four Tendencies provides insight into the way different people react to expectations and motivations. It considers weaknesses of each tendency and ideas to overcome the weaknesses. It also explores how each tendency reacts with others and how to "get along" with the mindset of each!
As you can see above, Upholders respond positively to expectations, both from themselves and others. They enjoy rules, routines, and structure. They thrive with goals and to-do lists. They are the people who find keeping their New Year's Resolutions an achievable plan, and also friends you can count on to come through for you.
Their weakness can be rigidity and inflexibility. They can get stuck in a routine because it is "what I said I would do", sometimes blind to the fact that it is not working for them anymore or no longer a priority. They can benefit from regularly analyzing whether the way they are spending their time is still in line with their priorities.
Because they HATE to make mistakes, they can take it very personally when someone calls them out on an error, especially publicly. As rule followers, they flourish in environments with fair and clear guidelines. They can frustrate others at times with their need to strictly adhere to expectations, but can sometimes be refocused on priorities with a question like, "Is this really important to you?", as it forces them to weigh their strongest internal expectations against a myriad of external expectations that would be impossible to juggle.
The Questioner cannot tolerate rules they deem arbitrary or pointless. They use logic to determine whether any expectations is one they personally find worthy, and if so, it becomes an internal expectation they are willing to fulfill. They like to improve processes, increase efficiency, and share their knowledge with others. They are likely to consider January 1 an arbitrary date to make a new goal, so they reject "New Years" Resolutions, but are fairly willing to make and stick to goals on other dates not set randomly by others.
Their questions can cause others to label them as "bad team players" when they seem to question authority, or group consensus. While internally motivated, they can have trouble completing tasks they see as "pointless". (And let's face it, sometimes in life items ARE silly in and of themselves - school assignments, paperwork in the government or a large business, etc.) It can help a questioner to look at the bigger picture and find motivation in the fact that this item propels him toward a greater goal - his degree or a promotion.
A questioner can dislike being questioned! In the mind of a questioner, the assumption is that of course he did his research and made a careful decision with all due diligence. Questioning such a carefully considered choice is offensive, while carefully asking them to share their process and explain how they came to their decision (to teach you) is more easily accepted. It helps to accept that a questioner needs to ask (and understand) WHY? This might come into play with deadlines - if you tell a group you need an RSVP by Friday, most people will accept that, but the questioner, if he thinks it is arbitrary, will NOT be motivated to comply. If you explain that Friday is the last day to purchase tickets, though, and he understands the reason for deadline, he is much more likely to respond!
An Obliger is dependable, meets deadlines, and keeps promises... to others. But those personal goals that are just for him? He tends to let himself down and just can't find the motivation to get them done. They are flexible, easy-going, willing to do their share, and great team players.
The first major weakness is taking care of personal goals that don't have external deadlines and expectations automatically attached to them. The solution is to find ways to attach that external accountability - the chapter on Obligers is FULL of tricks that might apply, and if you are an obliger who can do a huge project for a group but can't ever make time for self-improvement items, I would HIGHLY recommend for the specific anecdotes. Sometimes just making the to do list is enough to create an external expectation (I MUST check it off the list). For a health goal, working out on a schedule where others are expecting you, rather than alone, might help (same idea for a study group). You are probably the mindset that most needs to guard against the inability to say NO. Practice it!!
Because obligers say yes to others and NOT themselves, they can easily burnout. When they do, they can become resentful. Don't be another person taking advantage of the generosity of obligers! Help them set boundaries and protect themselves - rather than asking them to do it for THEMSELVES, though, ask them to do it FOR YOU!! (Ah, External motivation!!)
Rebels resist all expectations, and value freedom. They don't like to be controlled or told what to do - they will tend to dig in their heels. They even dislike being trapped by commitments of their own choosing. Usually they do the things THEY want to do, enjoy making their own choices, and stay true to their natures. They are driven, and great outside-the-box thinkers.
But, sometimes their desire to defy rules means they will stubbornly refuse to do what they have been asked, even if it is to their detriment, and EVEN if it is the thing they WANT to do! (Picture the child who has decided on the sweet surprise to secretly clean the kitchen the minute his mom leaves for the grocery store. But just as she is about to walk out the door, she turns and says, "Please clean the kitchen while I'm gone." This is the difficult plight of the rebel.) It was harder to get a read on solutions for this mindset. It seems helpful for the rebel to step back and ask what he really WANTS, identify it and avoid the self-sabotage of letting someone's expectations force him to take the opposite stand - which is really very limiting. They can remind themselves they have the power to choose what they want to do, and to be the kind of person they want to be (which like any of us considering our best selves involves many positive character traits.) Rebels need to work to intentionally have that mental picture and make choices to reflect that best self.
If you interact with a rebel, there was a bit more information - and most tips involved a bit of reverse psychology. For example, rather than issuing a deadline as a demand, try a challenge - "I don't think you could possibly get all of this done by Friday, do you?" It may help to clearly present the options and consequences and leave it as a choice, and allow the consequences to happen. I am not clear on how that plays out if your spouse is the rebel and the thing they don't do has consequences for BOTH of you, but it might be worth reading and thinking these things through if you identify this in someone close to you.
Thinking about our personalities and tendencies, and those of the people we are close to is very revealing. The insight into the strengths and weaknesses we each possess, and cultivating the wisdom to accept, embrace, and work with and around them, stretch and grow us! Best of luck as you identify your tendencies and learn to make them work for you!
Embracing my love for organizing and the joy of encouraging others as we journey through the ups and downs together!
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