Minimalism vs. Essentialism for 2021

What do you think when you hear the word “minimalism”? A way of life only for hipsters traveling the world with their laptops and backpacks? People living in tiny homes? It may surprise you to learn that, for one to be a minimalist, it doesn’t require you to be a cool-hat-wearing twenty-something, own less than 200 items or make YouTube videos about minimizing your closet.

Perhaps you can relate. If your twenties were all about trying new hobbies, identities, styles and outfits, there’s a good chance that you’ve accumulated *things* to go along with those. What happens in your 30s and 40s? If you’ve chosen a mate, had kids, have a steady job, and have settled into who and where you are right now, there is a good chance you’re surrounded by annoying or aspirational reminders of who you once were. Ten years ago you may have been dating a rock climber and, at the time, you needed the gear. Same goes for things you once loved but don’t anymore – rollerblading, embroidery patterns, cookbooks with laborious recipes, the guitar sitting in the corner – and make you feel guilty. That size 2 little black dress looked great on you during your dancing days, but now that you’ve gained 20 lbs, it hangs around waiting for you to be able to wear it again. One day.

Part of the problem which our possessions is that we have become inured to their presence. We don’t *see* the rollerblades we’ve passed in the garage over a thousand times. It’s like we have blinders on and so, in a way, minimalism is about bringing awareness back to what we own and why. It also encourages us not to delay and procrastinate in making decisions for some designated time ‘in the future.’

The average household is said to have over 300,000 items; does that seem accurate to you? Do you feel it is a bit excessive? Maybe it’s time to put your house on a diet.

While we’ve stopped short of counting everything we own, over the past 6 years or so, we’ve counted and cataloged our way through purges of household items (with questions such as: “do two people in a household really need 45 glasses/cups/mugs?”). For this year, one of our goals was to remove 2020 items from our household – roughly 168 items each month. Every single item was written down to help keep track and to see if we actually regretted removing it from the household.

Surprise! Most of it is not missed at all – not our third spatula, the ill-fitting shirt, knick-knacks, expired supplements or makeup. The beauty is that each room is easier to keep tidy and clean. The clothes in the closet have space to breathe and don’t fall on top of the person looking to get dressed.

Minimalism and essentialism are both related to intentional living. Where they differ is operating in the physical versus mental realms of life improvement.

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Spring Cleaning: Konmari Method

It’s difficult to label recent Midwestern weather as “spring” but so it is. Time to switch out the flannel sheets and warm, comfy throws for t-shirts and flip-flops. This is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of spring cleaning. We’ve chosen to utilize the Marie Kondo, also known as Konmari, method to see how using the metric of ‘sparking joy’ helps to decide what stay and what goes. As per her recommendation, we started with creating a pile of all clothing:

clothes pile obw

It’s always a bit shocking to see the sheer volume of one’s garments…and this is the second round since last year!

 

Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, describes how she helps her clients sort through categories of household items. If an item brings joy, they keep it; if not, it is removed from the residence. She says the focus is not so much on decluttering as much as it is creating a curated closet and home environment wherein everything there brings a sense of lightness and peace. It’s a simple but transformative idea. For those who’ve struggled, wanting to use pure data (i.e. “how many pairs of jeans does the average person have?”), in their decluttering attempts, this is a different style and it just may work for you too.

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Notice the employment of two techniques – Marie Kondo’s and the forward-facing hanger technique to see which clothes are not worn during the next 6 months.

Keeping items “just because” or out of guilt hampers your ability to enjoy your possessions. The gifts, family heirlooms, the pants you spent way too much money on (but still have the store tag)….consider letting them go if they aren’t bringing a smile to your face.

The main points in Kondo’s book are:

1. Declutter and then organize (no need to buy more “smart storage” strategies)
2. Tidying is meant to be a one-and-done marathon – go through everything in your house once and then maintain (you’re not meant to be tidying for the rest of your life)
3. The question to ask as you encounter each object: “does this spark joy?”
4. Tidy by category, not location (i.e. go through all the clothes in your house at once, not waiting to get to the downstairs hall closet to remove unwanted coats, etc)
5. Store your items in an appealing way (she has a method of folding designed for this)

As for order of categories to tidy, Kondo suggests starting with clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and sentimental items. The reason for this is clothes have relatively low sentimental value and you can exercise your decision-making muscle before getting to the harder categories. See what it can do for you!

Fridge Refresher – Clean in 4 Easy Steps!

How often we forget the feeling of freshness and inspiration a clean fridge brings. Take advantage of a rainy day where the first impulse is to curl up on the couch and waste a bunch of time on Facebook. In a short period of time, you can transform the fridge from a dingy graveyard for rotting vegetables to one where the white interior and the splash of colors from all your fresh produce invigorates you.

It seems like an arduous task, but we assure you that it can be completed in about 30 minutes. In the spirit of walking you through this, we’re about to get up-close and personal with this nutritionist’s fridge.

Step 1: Determine the ‘when’
When do we think the best time to do this mini-project is? Well, if we’re on top of our game before a trip, this is when we use up all our produce (or freeze it) and get dirty cleaning the fridge out. It’s always nice to come back home, pick up some groceries, and fit everything neatly into your fridge. *Contented sigh*. Otherwise, wait until you have returned from your travels or are running empty on groceries. Rainy days help with staying inside and focused.

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Our ‘before’ photo. We agree, it’s a bit horrifying and very motivating. Let’s get on to the good stuff!

Step 2: Throw it out!
Remove all items from the fridge and take a look at each one for the expiration date. Old deli meat? Hard-boiled eggs from last week? The little bit of mayo left in an expiring bottle? Bin it. If you can’t remember when you opened the salsa jar or hummus dip, it’s best to throw it away.

Keep food safety in mind. This whole project should take about 20-30 minutes; it may be helpful to have a cooler handy for your perishable items, especially for raw chicken and meat.

Step 3: Interior Wipe-down
This is where one can get a bit obsessive over little rust marks and ensuring every little crevice looks the way it did when the refrigerator came off the assembly line. Set a timer for 20 minutes and get busy with a bit of dishwasher soap, hot water, and elbow grease.

Energizing dance music doesn’t hurt.  20150702_130030

Step 4: Exterior Overhaul
Take down carry-out menus, out-dated mementos or announcements, and thank you notes. Then give the outside surfaces and door handles a nice wipe-down. Pop on a few magnets and keep your favorite items on the fridge.

Congratulations! Wipe your brow, do a little dance, and bask in the glory of your clean fridge. You deserve it.

clean fridge obw