I had the pleasure of having two dozen clients over for a gathering on Sunday and a couple of them cracked me up. To paraphrase - "We were talking in the car on our way here and, well, we just expected your place to be a lot different. It seems so....normal."
Ah yes. Normal. So how does the crazy organizer live? She must have OCD! She claims to be a minimalist! So...like...she must only have 49 items in her home right? And they're perfectly alphabetized, right?
Short answer? Nope.
Long answer...I felt so exposed and scared to have clients in my home. I mean, come on. I come into your home and tell you how to do things...so crap, my place better live up to your expectations. In the end, the fear subsided and it was great connecting over mimosas. I can only hope that a few organizing "how to's" sunk in once clients saw them in action, rather than just having me explain them. But more importantly, to borrow a phrase from The Minimalists, I hope the "why to's" sunk in.
So here's where I'm at with minimalism. It's a handy phrase that has more social cred than "simplified". When people hear minimalist, they think "wow, that person got rid of all of their stuff". They might think of The Minimalists, Colin Wright, or Leo Babauta. It's a baseline...but it's meaning is so personal. I have no desire to give up my Waterford crystal champagne flutes (or pack them in a backpack and carry them around the globe). I have no desire to own only 100 items, but maybe that will be a goal in the future. Regardless, minimalism gets people talking. It opens up a conversation about why 90% of what the average American sees in a day is designed to remove money from their wallet and replace it with crap they don't need. It starts the conversation of "if not stuff, then what?".
I simply desire to not feel owned (and overwhelmed) by my belongings. I only want what brings me joy and those Waterford crystal champagne flutes bring me joy when I fill one with a mimosa and hand it off to a new friend, watching her take a sip and fall back into conversation. Maybe its my hospitality industry roots, maybe it's just my human roots, but I love the power of a good gathering to form connections and strengthen bonds. If the drudgery of cleaning up after a party ever outweighs the joy of hosting the party, I'll stop hosting. But minimalism lets me have room in my small apartment for things to facilitate a 30+ person gathering. Minimalism allows me to save money on buying crap, and instead, invest that money on champagne and food for friends.
So in my "normal" home, I've kept a large number of items for entertaining, but let go of a lot of clothes. I've kept thousands of photos, but let go of most of my office supplies. The craft supplies were donated to a neighbor, but the painting supplies weren't. What do I love? That's what's staying. But it's definitely a process. I'm halfway to cloud based with my photos...20% there with my DVDs. But why? Why is that important? The how is, indeed, easy. Time consuming, but easy. The why is the important part. Why do I want to spend 14 hours on digitizing old photos? So they are preserved and fire-proof. Looking at them and reminiscing brings me joy. If they stop doing that, my photo project will stop.
So. Simplified. Minimized. Doesn't matter what you call it. Just figure out why. Why you're uneasy in your home. Why you feel overwhelmed. And why you don't want to live like that anymore. I can help you with the how, but only you know your "whys".