I just finished reading the book Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus.
My friend Susan from Austin suggested it one day sort of in passing, but it stuck in my head and usually when that happens it happens for a reason. Now you could read it in a day, easy, but I found letting the information marinate overnight was useful, as my mind is only somewhat semi-absorbent these days. The authors “keep it real” writing style made the information feel a little more doable. You see this is a book about minimalism, a direction I feel I have be heading in since my first trip to the ashram. Seeing the stark walls and non-cluttered environment, made coming home to my house somewhat uncomfortable, even though I don’t think I am much of a collector.
Organizing our mess:
I have always liked organization. I have found it distressing to be in a messy environment. Thinking back to when I was a child and how I felt when I picked up all the clothes off the floor of my room and hung them up, or cleaned off my desk so that there was actually space for me to study, (even though I hardly ever used it). And even if the collection of stuff newly organized was not mine, like when once a year I would clean the garage for a couple of dollars, an organized room gave off a different energy. I could feel that energy of chaos and wrongness being transformed into tranquility and rightness.
This feeling continued into early adulthood. You know I used to be a buyer for Neiman Marcus and as a buyer, I received what might have been hundreds of “sample” items each week. The management of those items was left up to my assistants, but on the weeks when I returned from market and we were writing orders feverously, the sample corner would (and this is being generous) get a little out of hand as all the new samples were arriving. It became apparent to me that the productivity of our office would drop when this area reached the point of “enough”. At that point we would all stop what we were doing, and organize, sort, return or just dispose of this mess. It was then back to status quo. I noticed at first this was just me, but then, I started to see the difference in my staff. They were much more productive the cleaner the office was. In fact, they themselves started noticing it. It got to be really funny when on a given day, we would almost all decide at once that the box we received that morning was the breaking point. Had we become minimalists, and just did not know it?
Is Minimalism just being better organized?
But minimalism is more than that. In fact the feeling of returning from the ashram was along the same lines, yet different than the one I had been exposed to from a well-managed room. Minimalism is only owning what you need so that you don’t spend all your time (and yes it is precious) managing your stuff. In fact, as the book suggests, you no longer own stuff, but your stuff owns you. You are a slave to your possessions. I’m not talking about the things you need, but all the things you don’t, but you bought anyway. The energy of this excess distracts you, steals your energy, and wears you out. The opposite of that works the same way, if you don’t have what you need, you get stressed out. The trick is in the balance (Ayurvedists are all applauding in the background). It is the balance we look for every day, in almost every area of our lives that you can think of. This can be accomplished by keeping those things that add value to your life.
Yesterday when I was almost at the end of the book, I felt a weird sort of sadness that the book was over. As if I had finally found a friend that understood, and was holding my hand through a transition that I had been attempting to make. The book/This friend assured me that it was okay to walk over the bridge. (You know the idea that we spend most of our lives aspiring to what is just across the bridge but when we get to the bridge, we seldom cross it). In fact after I finished the book, I went to the website www.theminimalists.com and read these guys’ blog. I later told my friend Susan that I was sure that I was feeling every cell in my body changing, shifting, adapting to this new (not really new but from a different perspective) idea. Was I crossing the bridge?
Keeping whats “Needed”:
Now again, I really don’t own that much stuff when I compare myself to others. Many friends ask when I am going to “decorate” my house, even though I think I have. I also don’t own a lot of clothes. When I left Neimans, I went from wearing Armani and Chanel suits to jeans and t-shirts, and of course gym clothes. But I would not say that I have issues with clothes. So where do I think this new-found life-changing manifestation will help me? Well let’s start in my makeup drawer and my office! Whoa Nelly! Am I sure I want to start in my office? Okay, makeup drawer.
Joshua and Ryan suggest the 31 day challenge. Thirty-one days of ridding yourself of stuff that no longer serves you. Let’s be clear that minimalism doesn’t mean deprivation. Own what you need to have a happy and productive life, but don’t own so much that you feel a slave to your stuff. So the 31 day challenge works something like this. Day one: get rid (donate, give to someone who can use it, sell it, or just recycle it) of one thing. Day two: two things and so on and so forth. The problem is it is September 22 and I don’t want to wait until October 1, so I have decided to start today. So today I will get rid of 22 things.
This should be somewhat easy as I have a thing for trying new cosmetic items, (you see I was a cosmetic buyer for Neiman Marcus so my love for trying new products is right up there) but the problem is I rarely finish and dispose of them. I will continue this challenge for 31 days right through the first of next month until October 21. Somewhere in there I hope to get to my office.
Paying with Cash:
The other challenge (and they say that these minimalism ideas will cross over to all areas of your life) was to pay cash for everything and live debt free. Not such a problem, but the challenge of living only from cash was intriguing. I believe it may give me a new perspective on what things are really worth, (I think I have gotten a little lazy in this area lately.) I know, Susie Orman. You want us to use a card and pay it off at the end of every month so that we have a paper trail, but I think I can, with a little extra focus; achieve the same with cash receipts).
Yesterday I tried the cash idea. With a little over $100 in my wallet (I never carry cash but Hayleigh, my daughter, had just given me the money for her car payment), my first challenge presented itself. I had to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. Now this could have been $7 or $70, so I had to call and find out what the cost was so I was sure to bring enough money. Okay, an extra, time consuming step, but really no big deal. Next my son Haden asked me to pick up a book for him that he had ordered from the Barnes and Nobles by my house and bring it to his soccer game (game location was between my house and his). I told him, sure, but that he needed to pay me in cash. (Normally I would have just bought it for him). Next challenge was dinner. My husband was not going to be home so I decided to go to the grocery store by our house and pick up something freshly made. Dinner and a loaf of bread was $19. Well that was a shocker. Normally I would have just inserted the debit card mindlessly. I could have bought a lot more food than I did for $19, so thewakeup call was loud and clear.
Living the “real” life:
A month from now I hope I am surrounded only by those things that give meaning to my life, I will be 496 items lighter. I also hope that the little money exercise will expose any wasteful spending and give more meaning to the things I buy. Oh, and on Joshua’s and Ryan’s suggestion, if I end up selling anything, I will donate the money to charity, and that is always good.
I know you probably read the title of this blog expecting a new fangled Ayurvedic cleanse since this is the time of year that us Pitta’s (fire and water dominant folks) usually do a light cleanse to reduce excess “fire element” in our bodies from this long, hot summer. And I am sure I will be able to find some way to include food into this challenge. But that my friends, is for another blog.
Anyone else want to play? Let me know if minimalism is what you have been looking for. Please share this blog with your friends, and thanks as always for reading.