Selling ‘Less is More’ to the Family – Part 1 of 2

A couple of weeks ago I posted a sneak peek into my life as a minimalist and I highlighted the advantages of this lifestyle. Since then I’ve been thinking, “What would it be like to begin having that conversation in a family situation?”

Here in the sub-division where I’m temporarily living in Boise, ID, there are plenty of families at home due to COVID 19. This means lots of open garages with Boise’s beautiful springtime weather. Some garages house cars, some workout equipment, and some look like there full of a lot of random things. Some people are taking advantage of this time of sheltering in place and cleaning out those full garages. I’ve seen a few couples doing this and it really made me think, “How long did it take them to come to an agreement on purging?” (If that’s what they are doing. Maybe they’re just organizing or looking for something.)

If I were in a situation where I lived with a family I might broach the topic of living with less in a couple ways:

  1. You first and it doesn’t have to start with tangible things.
  2. You first and your actions over time speak volumes to what you believe in.

Today we’ll focus on the first point…

I think you all know by now that ownership is the biggest key to personal growth in my opinion. I have a theory on why it’s easy to see faults in others and not see the same patterns in ourselves: We’re emotionally attached to, and we partially (if not totally) carry our identity in our own behaviors. This can make change daunting which makes it harder to look at ourselves.

I’m going to assume a few things. If you’re married then presumably you knew that this person had a certain amount of material possessions before you shacked up with them, and you still agreed to move forward. So lets not be too critical of the material existence that seems to fit for the people in our lives and, at one point, seemed to fit for us as well. Let’s focus on ourselves and the things that we can control.

One thing to meditate upon is the fact that clutter impacts lots of things. Not just tangible things: digital clutter, a phone with too many apps, an email subscribed to a million newsletters that never get read (except this one of course 😉 ), a workout routine that involves way too many exercises, a business that’s focused on too many products, or an employee that’s trying to do too many projects etc. Simplicity can be a very elegant and beautiful thing when practiced in multiple ways. Remember, part of the value for me is that by simplifying things down to those things that give me value, I can reclaim energy from things that don’t give me value. Anything can be streamlined. When sharing a space, the challenge of minimalism is the fact that in many scenarios, your things aren’t just your things… there everybody’s things. So, what do we do?

Well, how many pictures do you have on your phone? How well organized is your google drive (or whatever you use)? How many social media accounts do you have and how much time are you giving to them? Do you have a bunch of retirement accounts spread across past employers? What about rolling them over into one place? (It’s a money thing but it’s an organization and de-cluttering thing as well.) The point being, there are probably all sorts of opportunities for you to begin minimizing and de-cluttering without you having to get rid of a single physical item. Follow through on any or all of these places and I bet you feel lighter and the people in your home may feel that lightness after 18 months or so, if you stay with it…

Now I’m guessing you have some personal things like clothes, shoes, maybe jewelry, media of some sort (cd’s, dvd’s, magazines, books, etc.). Also, you may have some personal sentimental items – old photos, plaques, degrees etc. At a minimum, with these physical items, you can begin thinking about prioritizing, consolidating, and organizing. What’s least important to you and can you let it go?

I think this is particularly powerful with sentimental items. For instance, I am contemplating getting rid of my college degree. I know… blood sweat and tears for that damn thing. It represents a lot to me but it literally just sits in a folder in a back pack. I never look at it. No employer ever asks to see my degree. They ask me to have my school forward them official transcripts. Why am I keeping this piece of paper in pristine condition that I don’t even display anywhere? I’m not sure… I guess I’m supposed to be proud of it, right? I don’t know, but like I said in the last post on this topic, I’m already considerably pared down to things that give me the most joy. My degree may no longer be one of them (for years I didn’t even have it in my possession, it was at my parents house… why should our parents have to store our stuff? whole other conversation).

Letting go of sentimental items challenges our stories about life and what’s important. This is another reason I mention the intangibles first. All those pictures you have on your phone represent a bunch of small exercises you can engage in order to begin this process.

A friend once told me that she had a little ceremony when she was getting rid of some old photo albums. Saying goodbye is okay. Try a little experiment in your digital space first. Process how it feels. Find the courage to move on to the next thing.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Part 2 next week.

-Travis

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