Simplify - Joshua Becker
This blogpost is not an exhaustive summary of the book. Just contains the notes I took.
The heart of minimalism can be summed up in this phrase: It is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it. This promotion can be seen in how we spend our time, the artwork that we display, and even the clothes that we wear.
When I talk to runners about their accomplishment and the daunting task that it must have been to run 26.2 miles, they usually tell me the same thing: you don’t run 26 miles your first time out. You start with a small, manageable distance and build your way up. For many, the idea of decluttering their home seems daunting… or even worse. It may be helpful to consider the process more like training for a marathon. You don’t declutter your whole house the first day out… you start with a small, manageable job and build your way up. I have a good friend who is trying to get out of debt. He was given some interesting advice by his debt counselor. His counselor didn’t tell him to pay off the highest percentage loans right away, instead he was told to pay off the smallest debts first. At first, I thought that was a bit odd until my friend told me the rationale: paying off the smallest debts first results in a victory – one less monthly payment. Even though it wasn’t the biggest burden, it is still one less burden – one victory. And victory breeds more victory. With this picture in mind, you can begin your marathon. Jump right in. Start small. Gain some quick victories. And let victory breed victory!
This is the exact order of rooms that were decluttered in our home: Living Room / Dining Room, Guest Room, Bathrooms, Master Bedroom, Children’s Bedrooms, Wardrobe, Home Office, Toy Room, Kitchen, Storage Room, Garage. Your exact order may look different, but I offer our progression as a beginning guide. We chose rooms with the least amount of clutter first and worked our way up to eventually declutter and simplify every room in our home.
No matter which drawer, closet, or room you choose to simplify, the same process can be applied to each. As reasonably as possible, remove every item from the space. Physically touching each item provides your mind adequate room to focus. Then, sort each item into one of three categories: keep, move, or discard. Items to be kept should be returned to their home in an organized manner with less-used items in the back and frequently used items in the front. Items to be moved should be moved to their new home immediately. Sometimes, these items will just be returned (a hammer goes back to your toolbox or a book goes back to your library). Other times, they will find a brand new home. This new home may be a new drawer, a new room, or a new level, i.e., the attic. Items to be discarded should be sorted as you see fit to be removed completely from your home: sold, donated, recycled, or thrown away. These simple steps hold true for any space you choose to simplify. Splitting whole rooms into smaller parts makes every project manageable.
One of the joys of becoming minimalist is that we are constantly pushed to define what we truly value in life. Through the process we have learned that a home filled with only the things we use and love is a home that we truly love to use.
What and how much you decide to purge from each room in your house is a decision entirely up to you.
- A general rule of thumb to guide you is, “If it isn’t essential, remove it.” With that principle in mind, here are a few quick tips to think about in each room of your house:
- Living Room / Dining Room – Make a commitment to keep only the decorations that mean the most to you. Too many knick-knacks and photos in one room distract you and your guests from the ones you hold most valuable.
- Bedrooms – Look to clear as many surfaces as possible. Keep your drawers and closets free from clutter by removing the items you no longer use.
- Wardrobe – A typical person wears 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. Try this experiment: turn around all of the hangers in your closet. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with its hanger facing the right direction. After 2-3 months, you will have an irrefutable, visual representation of the clothes you no longer wear. Donate them.
- Bathrooms/Linens – Someone once said, “You really only need two towels or sets of bed sheets. One to use while the other is being washed.” While minimizing down to only two towels may be a bit irrational, you can certainly find inspiration in the thought above to clear your closets of unused linens.
- Home Office – Paper clutter is a never-ending battle. You’ll need a filing system. And you’ll need the discipline to use it.
- Toy Room – Kids need to play. Kids need toys. They just don’t need quite so many. Include them in the purging process – as difficult as it may be at first, they will get used to it. Make sure every toy gets a home and every child knows where that home is.
- Storage Room – While some argue against the use of boxes in the storage room saying they discourage true purging, I believe they can be helpful in storing things neatly. If you are nervous about the minimizing process, store items in a specially-marked box with the date clearly marked. After 3-4 months if you had no need for the item, perhaps you can function without it permanently.
- Simplicity brings freedom. Simplicity brings joy. Simplicity brings balance. You will experience this freedom, joy, and balance as your home becomes simple and decluttered. Soon, you will begin to ask the question, “Where else in my life can I remove distraction and simply focus on the essential?”