I’ve got two entire drawers of spare cords and hard drives and … random electronic detritus. I swear I’ve been through the drawers at least once a year and I’ve never been able to get it below two drawers.
At the same time, I can’t tell you the last time I was actually in them to get stuff. It’s all stuff I think I might maybe use someday if the right circumstance comes along.
Those are just the two obvious drawers that are beside my desk. Let’s not talk about the number of backpacks I have for hiking, climbing, ice climbing, running, cycling, cycling in wet weather…it’s a serious problem.
All of these things I own also mean that I have to store them. I have to manage them. I have to spend a weekend cleaning them up, instead of getting out into the mountains like I want to.
I’ve been feeling like this for a while which is what prompted me to read The More of Less by Joshua Becker. It’s the same feeling that started Becker’s journey towards minimalism.
Not only are my possessions not bringing happiness into my life; even worse, they are actually distracting me from the things that do.
Dave Ramsey often says something along the lines of We purchase things we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like. I’d like to think I’m not quite that bad because I’ve taught Dave’s material many times. I still have way too much stuff. I look at our closets and sigh inwardly looking at the shiny stuff I bought.
The More of Less is a book about how embracing Minimalism can change your life. According to Becker, there are multiple payoffs to going minimal.
Payoff’s we can expect by embracing minimalism
- More time and energy since we don’t have to organise and store stuff
- More money since we aren’t buying stuff
- More generosity because we have money to give away and are less attached to stuff
- More freedom, we don’t have to worry about moving our stuff
- Less stress because we have less stuff overwhelming us
- Less distraction because less competes for our attention
- Less environmental impact because we consume less
- Higher quality belongings because we think hard about what we purchase
- Better example for our kids, we show them that the rat race of purchasing is not what we’re into
- Less work for someone else, when we get to a point that others need to care for us
- Less comparison, since we care less about what others have
- More contentment as we break the cycle of trying to find contentment in purchasing things
If those sound like things you want in your life, then keep reading. If you’re happy with the stuff you have and don’t want to make some hard choices, then I guess stop and keep going the way you’re going now.
What is Minimalism
Becker defines minimalism as:
Minimalism: the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.
But he doesn’t leave us there. He addresses the two biggest misconceptions he sees with those thinking about adopting a minimalist life.
- Minimalism is about giving everything up. Especially the stuff we love.
- Minimalism is about getting better organised.
Neither of these assumptions is true. Minimalism is about making sure that the stuff we own is in service of the things we value.
The goal of minimalism, let’s remember, is not just to own less stuff. The goal of minimalism is to unburden our lives so we can accomplish more.
If you didn’t have that stupid garage piled with stuff that needed to be cleaned over many weekends, what else could you do? That pile ‘o’ crap in the garage mostly doesn’t even get used because it’s a pile of crap you can’t bear to dig through.
Embracing minimalism means that you identify the things you want and then cut everything else out. It’s very similar to The ONE Thing which tells us to ask ourselves, What is the ONE Thing you can do in your (life, business, relationships…) that makes everything else easy or obsolete. I’ll be looking at that book in the coming weeks. Both books ask us to identify the things we want and then cut the rest out so we can have what we want.
If you want to clarify your own life goals, my advice is to start by examining yourself. Get a strong grip on your talents, abilities, and weaknesses and on the issues that get your blood boiling.
What gets your blood boiling? For me, it’s struggling businesses. It’s men that focus so much on their career that they break relationships. I believe that if you have a successful business and break the relationships you have, you’ve failed. You’re not a success, and it’s crazy that most people celebrate those with business success and a wealth of broken relationships.
But it’s taken me years of narrowing down to that particular topic to say it so boldly.
To help us find what makes our blood boil Becker gives us some starting questions. Take some time to answer them now.
Questions the author gives us to find our blood boil
- What experiences, both good and bad, have shaped your life?
- What similarities can you recognise in your most notable achievements?
- What problems in the world are you most passionate about solving?
- If money were not an issue, what line of work would you be most drawn to?
- Which dreams in your life do you feel the most regret for not pursuing harder?
- What is the lasting legacy you want to leave?
- Whom do you most admire in life? What specific characteristics of this person do you want to emulate?
Now look at your life…does it match up with what you say gets your blood boiling? If not, it’s time to cut stuff. I’d recommend reading The ONE Thing to help you get more clarity on getting on the right path for the things that matter in your life.
Hurdles to Minimalism
I’d love to tell you that once you decide to go minimal, it’s all daisies and roses, but it’s not. Everything we see all the time is telling us that whatever we currently have is not enough. That someone else has something better, and we should try to get the next better thing.
Consumerism surrounds us like the air we breathe, and like air, it’s invisible. We hardly even know how much we are influenced by the philosophy that we must buy, buy, buy if we are to be happy.
Facebook, Twitter, TV ads, billboards…so much around us is a multi-billion dollar industry designed to steal our attention and get us to spend time on things that might maybe have some value. Most of that value is to Facebook, Twitter…not for ourselves.
Advertisers have been so successful at playing on our selfish desires for ownership that today buying and being happy are considered synonymous. It’s as if the purpose of life is self-gratification and buying things is the only way to get there.
This is where that Dave Ramsey quote is perfect. We get stuff we don’t even care about to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.
Success and excess are not the same.
Purchasing more better stuff is seen as a sign of success. We laud the large house because it’s big. We almost never stop to ask if we need it. We don’t question that bigger is better. We hardly realise that generations before us had families of 12 in a house 1/4 of the size.
We simply lament how hard it is to live with 5 in a 1500 square foot town home. As if we have a tough life and almost everyone around commiserates with us in our oh so tough row to hoe.
Becker makes a promise though if we can embrace minimalism.
Liberation from the need to possess. And liberation from conforming to a society built on consumerism. This is the promise of minimalism: to rejoice at the sight of all the things we do not need.
One of the final things that Becker highlights is that most people jump to the hardest things to purge when they think about being minimal. They think of grandma’s china that was passed down. They think of the piano that was a favourite during childhood and never gets played now.
Don’t start with the hardest stuff. Find the easiest space to purge and start there. Tackle the more difficult things when you have more practice under your belt.
Where to Start
Does the thought of handling every item in your home sound daunting? I hate to say it, but if it does, that’s an indication in itself that you own too much.
We have told our kids many times that if they can’t clean up their toys and it’s a fight then clearly they have way too many toys. We even boxed up all the kitchen toys and all the Barbies and put them in a toy library to be drawn out and played with then put away.
It’s easy to do for our kids, so why do adults let themselves ‘out’ on the same ideas.
If your stupid garage pile ‘o’ crap is too much to clean up, then you must purge it. Don’t let yourself off.
Becker recommends you use three piles as you start in a single room.
- Things to keep
- Things to relocate in the house – as in put away
- Things to remove then split them up and deal with them
- throw away
- don’t let the piles sit around or you won’t deal with them
Also, you must pick up every single item in the space you’re cleaning.
When tackling any space, it is important to physically touch every item. Almost every professional organizer will give you the same advice because handling an item forces you make decisions about it. It is too easy to leave items alone if you are only quickly scanning them.
As you head on your journey towards minimalism, it’s not just the stuff in your house that matters. You need to take a hard look at any technology you use.
Do you need the latest iDevice? Does whatever purchase you’re contemplating solve a problem in your life or is it simply shiny and new?
Technology should make our lives easier by solving problems both at home and at work quickly and more efficiently. But if our technology is not solving specific problems for us, it is only adding to them.
When my clients talk to me about changing billing software or writing software or moving the first thing we always do is to build a list of problems that must be solved for the change to be successful. If the new option doesn’t solve the problem, then we don’t even look at it.
Almost every time we find that all the other options don’t solve the problems any better or they bring up other problems. That means we stay where we are using the tools we know. We’ve successfully avoided shiny object syndrome.
One of the biggest hurdles in my house with embracing minimalism is that we don’t all see eye to eye on what is needed or not needed. A few years ago I got rid of almost all of my books. I kept a few hard back books that were collector’s items (and I liked) and one paperback that you can’t purchase digitally.
Everything else went.
Getting my wife to do a similar purge has been hard. She has an iPad but not a Kindle, and the reading experience is much nicer on a Kindle. She also looks at her hundreds of books and thinks of the expense purchasing them again.
To bring minimalism to your home, Becker has many suggestions. One big one is to make sure that you’re not just going after “other people’s stuff”. That’s only going to get their back up about the changes you want to make.
Focus on your stuff and slowly work through it. Often others in your house will come aboard as they see the changes around them. Once they get a glimpse of the peace that can be had, they’ll be on board.
Before I officially give you my verdict on The More of Less, I’ll leave you with one more quote.
Certainly there are seasons in life that require focused time and commitment. And we should never discourage working hard on things that matter. Unfortunately, however, most of us have become busy over all the wrong things and we have allowed false assumptions to drive our schedules.
If you’ve liked the ideas presented in this book then you must read The ONE Thing. It looks at the same ideas presented here from a productivity stand point.
As for whether you should read The More of Less, yes you should. I know you want to do more work that matters and that’s going to take a change in many areas of your life, not just at work.