Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

5 Things I Learned from the Minimalism Documentary

On May 25th, a new friend, Nuria, invited me to watch the new Minimalism Documentary from The Minimalists and lead a Q&A session afterwards. The movie was sold out and FANTASTIC!

http://minimalismfilm.com

Kudos to Ryan Nicodemus & Joshua Fields Millburn, who put the movie together and have been tireless proponents of minimalism for several years. The film couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d been a bit lazy about minimizing and had put the KonMari method on hold. I needed an infusion of inspiration and I got it! Here are the top 5 things I learned at the screening.

5 Things I Learned from the Minimalism Documentary

#1 There is a whole community of minimalists out there!

This showing and many others across the country were SOLD OUT and, although it ended late on a Wednesday night, we had 40-50 people stay for the Q&A session afterwards. Everyone in that room had amazing questions and experiences that they shared freely. It felt refreshing and reaffirming to find myself among so many smart, like-minded people. I feel honored to be part of the minimalist community in DC!

#2 There is something called “Essentialism”

One of the questions asked after the film was, “What’s the difference between Minimalism and Essentialism?” I actually didn’t know the answer, but a woman in the front row did and explained it beautifully. Minimalism is the pursuit of less stuff, while essentialism is the practice of doing less with your time. With essentialism, you focus on doing only the most important things and free up your life to really make an impact. THAT is exactly what I need. I picked up the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown and am about 25% of the way through it. It’s amazing. Greg is the real deal. He’s been there, done that, and promises to set forth a disciplined approach for choosing what’s important and getting rid of the rest of your obligations.

Essentialism is minimalism for your time!

#3 Ryan & Joshua Weren’t Successful Immediately

There’s a really funny sequence in the film that shows Ryan and Joshua sitting by themselves at book signings or in sparsely-populated rooms with a few people skeptically asking questions. Over time, more and more people start to show up, The Minimalists get asked onto major television shows, and the crowds get bigger and bigger. However, it took a looooooong time for them to get to that point. That’s an important lesson for those of us just starting out on a journey. Keep going. Do what you love and think is right and don’t stop, no matter how tough it is in the beginning.

#4 We’re Relatively Silent

It dawned on me that with so many minimalists out there (and/or minimalist-sympathizers), we’re a relatively silent bunch. Yes, there are people like Ryan and Joshua and Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta, but for every outspoken minimalist, there are thousands more. They are doing every day things (going to work, coming home, living in normal neighborhoods, and have a lot of friends that don’t consider themselves minimalists). Becker often writes about rational minimalism. That’s what a lot of us are doing. We haven’t gotten rid of everything, but we are living with less and constantly trying to simplify our lives. I don’t share this blog with all of my friends, but I probably should. Those that know have been incredibly supportive (and even call me out on buying things occasionally, which is helpful!)

#5 Just do it.

I look at people like Ryan and Joshua and I think, wow, they’ve done a lot in the last few years (books, movie, tours, moved to Montana), how am I ever going to catch up? But then I sit back and remind myself that that’s not the point. I don’t need to catch up. At one point in time they decided to make a change in their lives and they never looked back. That’s what we all need to do too.

Go get started.

 

Minimalism Documentary: May 25th @ Gallery Place

If you haven’t seen the new Minimalism Documentary (Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things) from The Minimalists, there’s still a chance to see it in our area. It shows this Wednesday, May 25th @ 7:30pm @ Gallery Place Stadium 14. Book your tickets here! I’ll be hosting a Q&A session on minimalism after the show.

Are you on the fence? Check out the movie trailer below. If you live outside of DC, find a showing near you here.

Hope to see you there!

The Toys Have to Go

I’ve struggled with kid stuff for years and have written about it here, here, and here. My kids’ junk may be the main source of clutter-induced stress in my life. Marie Kondo, Joshua Becker, and my mother all agree that you shouldn’t get rid of other people’s stuff (how will they trust you afterwards?), but do kids really count? Mine never want to get rid of anything and I’ve tried all of the psychological tricks. Are my 2 and 5-year-olds really old enough to dictate how cluttered my house is?

I finally decided that the answer to that is a big, fat NO. I agonized over that decision for months before doing anything about it, wondering if I would somehow emotionally injure my children by removing most of their toys. Then, I came across an article that put an abrupt end to my agonizing: Ruth Soukup’s Why I Took My Kids’ Toys Away (& Why They Won’t Get Them Back). Soukup got angry one day and snapped. She cleared out her children’s rooms, all the way down to their comforters; removing everything that wasn’t absolutely essential. What made her do it? Her kids weren’t listening to her pleas to pick up their toys. That sounded all too familiar. That’s when I realized, the toys have to go.

Appreciation

My kids get their toys out by the hundreds and leave them in the living room, their rooms, the kitchen, and even the stairs. They are terrible at cleaning one thing up before getting another thing out. They float from one toy to the other. They don’t appreciate or take care of their toys.

Should we really be teaching our kids to superficially use something, then toss it aside? I now concretely believe that’s what we unintentionally do when we overload our kids with stuff.

After reading Soukup’s article, I wasted no time in clearing the girls’ rooms out.

Toys

All of the Toys

Sorting

I pulled all of the girls’ toys from every corner of the house together and sorted them into three categories:

  • Keepers: These are the classic toys that they come back to again and again. Great books, legos, markers, and our play kitchen toys all fall into this category.
  • Maybe: These are the toys that I wasn’t sure about; toys the kids occasionally played with and really seemed to like. I decided to keep them out of sight for a while and if the girls asked for them, I would bring them back into the rotation. Stuffed animals that are rarely played with and games that occasionally bring us joy, but are barely touched filled this category.
  • No Way: These are the toys that they never play with or that I hate. Loud toys, cheap happy meal toys, toys that are too big and never used. These went directly into a garbage bag.

For those in the Keeper category, I then placed them on the top shelves of their closets and put three items within reach in the toy box, brought down two stuffed animals and filled a small shelf with books. Everything else in this category, I put in a storage bin to rotate in. The new rule is that when one item comes out, another item goes back on the shelf.

What We Kept

The toys we kept were very simple, classic toys that I know my kids love. Art supplies and the easel, legos, blocks, the Lottie dolls, favorite stuffed animals, play kitchen supplies, and a sub-set of puzzles, board games, and books.

My Kids’ Reaction

 I braced myself for a screaming fit and a lot of tough questions, but to my surprise, this was a non-event. I did this while they played outside with their dad. I split the toys up and put them away before they had a chance to ask what I was doing. When they came inside, I told them that I put their favorite toys on their shelf. I told them about the new rule of having one toy out at a time and I told them that if they missed a toy that was not on the shelf that I would rotate it in.

Their response? “OK.”

“To my surprise, this was almost a non-event.”

How It’s Going

It’s amazing how much unfounded anxiety the anticipation of an unknown reaction can cause. This was one of the best things I’ve done since starting my minimalist project. My living room is cleaner. The basement is cleaner. It’s easier to clean almost every space in the house.

In the kids’ rooms I need to do a better job of reinforcing the new rule. Their rooms still get messy and old things are not put away before new ones come out. We just need to work on that. I will say that the time necessary to clean the rooms is much shorter.

This nuclear option seems to have worked for us!

I’m dying to know – how do you keep you kids’ stuff under control?

Saying No

Saying NoA few months ago I was promoted into a new job and I became the manager of the team on which I’d worked.

I won’t lie or sugarcoat this: the last few months have been rough. Instead of being an individual contributor on one team, I’m now expected to continue the duties I had (because our team didn’t grow in a way that allowed me to give up my responsibilities), be part of a leadership team, and acquire still more tasks related to that team. Two teams make it feel like I have two full-time jobs.

I haven’t been handling it well (or, at least, not the way I’d wanted). I used to love solving problems for people (even if it meant performing boring admin work), but now there’s so much on my plate that I need to force myself to block time to get the big career-moving stuff done. I’ve never been this overwhelmed in my life and it is imperative that I get better at saying no. I wrote this blog partially to brainstorm ways to do that better.

When to Say No

Seth Godin, Marketer Extraordinaire and writer of one of my favorite daily blogs, read my mind and published this insightful post about when to say No. Read it! I’ve printed it out and put it on my desk as a daily reminder not of what I should say no to, but what I MUST say no to.

How to Say No

That brings me to another tough problem. How, when you love to help people, can you politely say no? I’ve found the key is to keep it short and simple. Don’t try to explain yourself because that just gives the requester some room to try to change your mind. Here is my own list of ways to say no, which I’m happy to report I have been using a lot more lately.

  • Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I don’t have enough time to do this right now.
  • No thank you, I’m doing x instead and I loooove x. (This works well as a serious comment or a sarcastic one.)
  • I’m sorry, I know I won’t be able to focus on this and do a good job. I have to decline.
  • I can’t do this for you, but check with <insert someone’s name who can help>. (Don’t rely on this method too often or you’ll just overwhelm someone else.)
  • Why does this need to be done?
  • Here are the other things I’m working on, can you help me prioritize all these tasks? (This one is most appropriate when talking to your manager.)
  • <pause, as if you’re actually considering the task> No, I can’t.
  • No thank you, I can’t justify adding this to my plate right now.
  • Great idea! Why don’t you do that?
  • Come back later. (If you really want to help, but can’t at the moment.)

Are you saying no often enough? How are you saying it?

Spark Joy: KonMari & Organizing My Wardrobe

Marie Kondo has a new book out, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, that serves as a deep dive into the KonMari Method and aims to explain all of the questions left by her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m only a few chapters into it, but I’ve happily discovered that she does explain many of the confusing aspects that I’d wondered about after Life-Changing Magic.

 

On the Necessary Stuff that Doesn’t Spark Joy

For example, “What do we do with the stuff that doesn’t spark joy, but that we NEED (like a funeral suit or a screwdriver)?” The answer is keep the item, but thank it often for the service it provides. Appreciation helps you get over the fact that you dislike it — at least until you can replace it with something you love.

On Starting Over

I still haven’t finished discarding my sentimental items, but I’m starting to see new things creeping into the other categories (like that new T-shirt I got from work that I’m pretty sure doesn’t spark joy). I was starting to wonder if I had to start over. Kondo answers that question too and the answer is no. Keep going and when you organize you’ll naturally cull the new items that don’t spark joy. (Although, since I know that T-shirt doesn’t spark joy, I should probably walk right into my bedroom and throw it out right now.)

On Organizing Clothes

I liked how most of my shirts were organized in my closet, but I think Kondo is right about folding them. I was so inspired by her illustrations of how to fold clothes that I was dying to try it. So I did!

Spark Joy - KonMari Drawers

KonMari Drawers

Spark Joy

Folding my clothes DOES take longer and I’ve often found myself annoyed when I have a pile of them waiting for me. That feeling disappears when I get the clothes in the drawer. It is easier to pick them out because you can see each and every one. It is also a nice way to know when you’re accumulating too many clothes again. When the drawer feels stuffed, it’s probably time to consider whether everything in there sparks joy.

I thought this method might fall apart in a couple of weeks, but it’s been 1.5 months and I’m still using it. My underwear looks really nice all folded and lined up from light to dark. I actually have matching pairs more often than not because I can see all the options. (My husband likes that. Could that be one extra benefit to the KonMari Method that Kondo doesn’t mention in either book: improved marriages?!)

Have you organized your clothes KonMari style? How’s it going?

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