Define Minimalism

Helpful Organizer BlogHow would you define minimalism? I asked this question at the beginning of a presentation I gave recently at Brown University in Providence, RI. The answers I received were varied, but most of them included the concepts of intentionally having less stuff, and living a meaningful life with less material possessions. This was consistent with what I found while doing research for this presentation, and reading how established minimalists defined minimalism. I found three definitions that I could easily relate to, one by Joshua Becker, one by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, and one by Miss Minimalist, Francine Jay.

Joshua & Ryan define minimalism

Miss Minimalist defines minimalism

After reading these definitions I was inspired to come up with my own personal definition of minimalism. This is what I came up with:

Minimalism is a lifestyle choice in which we focus on:
…minimizing consumption by shopping less, buying less, using less.
…embracing limits through reducing, reusing, recycling.
…protecting our environment and natural resources with voluntary simplicity.
…finding greater pursuits in life than material possessions.

This definition became the outline for my presentation on embracing minimalism. It also inspired me to adopt a more of a minimalist lifestyle. I’ll be sharing my ideas, tips, and experiences on aspiring to be a minimalist in future blog articles. I hope you stay tuned and get inspired as well. If you’re interested in having me share my presentation on embracing minimalism, please contact me.

Below are some resources on minimalism that I’d like to share. I hope they encourage you to make changes in your life, like they have encouraged me.

  1. Joshua Becker’s website, books, and blog
  2. Joshua Fields Millburn’s & Ryan Nicodemus’ website, books, and blog
  3. Francine Jay’s website, books, and blog
  4. Courtney Carver’s website, books, and blog
  5. Patrick Rhone’s website, books, and blog
  6. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  7. Becoming a Minimalist: Your Guide to Living a Great Life With Less Through Minimalism by Kimberly Wilson
  8. Minimalism: How Living on Less Means Living More Life by Addison Fenn
  9. The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life by Leo Bubauta
  10. You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel

©October 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All Rights Reserved

photo albums on shelf

Letting Go

Helpful Organizer BlogLetting go of things can be stressful and difficult, especially if they hold some sentimental value. We tend to hold onto things that remind us of precious people and moments from our past. A few years ago I was helping a client organize her bedroom, and we came across some dried, brittle, dusty, yellowed flowers in a vase. She explained that it was her dried wedding bouquet, and she wanted to keep it. I asked her to pause for a moment and tell me objectively what she saw. She did. I then asked to tell me about other mementos she had from her wedding day. When she was finished she understood what I was getting at and said “I think I can let the flowers go.” She understood that although her wedding flowers were an important part of her wedding day, now they were just dust collectors. Since she had other more meaningful mementos from her wedding day, as well as photos of the flowers when they were vibrant and beautiful, she could let go of the brittle, dusty, yellowed version. By taking a moment to look and think objectively we can all make better choices about letting go.

Here are 7 options for letting go that will help you keep the memories but not the stuff.

  1. Keep only the best of photographs, artwork & hand-made crafts to bring greater value to the memory.
    • Set limits (container limit or quantity limit)
    • Set criteria (most meaningful, most representative of personality)
    • Go digital with photos, memorabilia, artwork
    • Share and send photos to family/friends
  2. Keep part of a set or collection: china, glass items, collectables, furniture, nick-knacks & tchotchkes, holiday decorations & decor to bring ease to maintenance.
    • Get items appraised to understand valueplanters made from recycled goblets
    • Set limits (keep half, the best 3, most memorable)
    • Establish a specific place for display or specific use
    • Reduce what you keep (just signatures on greeting cards, every 5th year of journals)
  3. Get creative, re-purpose or reuse to bring new life to items.
    • Re-purpose dishes and stemware as planters or jewelry holders
    • Re-purpose china to make jewelry or mosaic art pieces
    • Reuse fabric from items to make quilts, pillows, teddy bears, mittens, bags, Christmas stockings or other items
    • Use paper items to make place-mats, wrapping paper, greeting cards
  4. Take photos and videos to preserve visually and digitally.
    • Create digital scrapbooks to share the memories and storiesChristmas stocking made from old quilt
    • Use as a screen saver on computer or phone
    • Consolidate images into collages
  5. Share and document story of item to preserve memory.
    • Use on-line digital options to share stories and photos
    • Share stories and memories of items verbally at family gatherings
    • Star in a video sharing stories and memories of family heirlooms
  6. Find worthy recipient to ease guilty feelings.
    • Search on line for specific worthwhile charities
    • Ask family, friends, and social media connections for willing recipients
    • Accept that we may not be able to find the perfect recipient and let it go believing the next owner will cherish it
  7. Experiment and practice letting go.

©September 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®

The Joy of Less

Helpful Organizer BlogDuring the past 10 years I’ve been in business, I’ve worked with over 1450* individuals to help them organize, downsize, and de-clutter. Although every project is different, with its own unique goals, the outcome is always achieved by getting rid of some stuff. The process of organizing includes removing what we no longer need, use, or want.3 steps to organizing process By removing stuff we free ourselves from the burden of having more than we can successfully maintain. By reducing the amount of material possessions we own, we have less to organize, clean, and stress about. Having less allows us to spend more time on what is important to us. Spending more time on what we enjoy improves the quality of our lives. The conclusion is we find the joy of less.

Through the years, I’ve witnessed how my clients’ lives improve with less stuff, and I’ve also seen first-hand how having less stuff has improved my life. My husband and I have participated in the Minimalist Game twice, May 2016 and June 2017. Each time we were successful in completing the game and getting rid of 930 things. We decided not the play the game this year, but we are continuing our efforts to have less, buy less, and reduce often. To us, having less means we have enough and aren’t overstuffed or overwhelmed by our things. Having less means we appreciate what we do have and really see the value in it. Instead of being overabundant with material possessions, we are working on being abundant in love, friendship, happiness, kindness, and gratitude. We are continuing to work on finding the joy of less.

Has this motivated you to see what having less will look like to you? What it will feel like? Will it bring you joy? One way to find out is to let go of all that you no longer need, use, or want, and experience the outcome. Keep me posted, I’d really enjoy hearing your story.

* This number includes hands-on paying clients as well as organizing students and presentation attendees.

©July 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

gate

Gatekeeper Questions

Helpful Organizer BlogDo you love to shop, hunt for bargains, and practice retail therapy? If so, you are not alone. For many, shopping is their favorite pastime. It’s easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy with friends. It’s thrilling to find great deals, and see how much we’ve saved. It’s fun to purchase gifts, and surprise loved ones. It’s so convenient to shop online and have things delivered right to our door. But how often do we stop and think before buying something? Do we really need a life-time-supply of dog chews? How much extra are we spending each year to get the “free shipping”? Is it worth getting two free if we can’t even use up one before it goes bad? How much of what we buy is extra, surplus, or wasted?

I’ve found a successful way to help me stop and think before I buy. I’ve compiled a list of gatekeeper questions that allow me to pause and ask myself, “Why buy this?”. These questions are called gatekeeper questions because we control the gates to our properties. We all have the power to prevent a purchase from entering our homes. When shopping ask these questions (to the item) before committing to buy.

  • iron gateWhy are we buying you? Need? Want? Impulse? Obligation? Fundraiser?
  • What value will you add to our household?
  • Are you a practical, useful item or are you just for show?
  • Do we already own something just like you? If so, why do we need another?
  • Are you a replacement purchase? If so, what will we do with the old item?
  • Will you make life easier or are you going to be more trouble than you’re worth?
  • Where do we have a place for you?
  • Are you well made and worth your price tag?
  • Will you make our space feel crowded, cluttered, or overstuffed?
  • Will we want to keep you forever or at least a very long time? If not, how hard will it be to get rid of you?
  • Are you a gift for someone? Will you be a pleasure to them or a burden to them?
  • What will happen if we don’t buy you today?
  • How will we feel if we don’t buy you?
  • How often will we think about you, if we don’t buy you today?

This gatekeeper system requires some practice and discipline, but it helps me feel more prepared to make a mindful purchasing decision. Hopefully you will find it helpful as well. Try it and let me know what you think?

©June 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

clutter

What is Clutter?

Helpful Organizer BlogI was very fortunate to have the opportunity to give a presentation on Conquering Clutter with Confidence at the 2018 Conference for NERSC (New England Resident Service Coordinators). I was excited to share my knowledge and expertise with this group. I started my presentation with the question, What is clutter? I shared the dictionary definition and my definition.

  • Dictionary definition: To litter or pile in a disordered manner; A confused or disordered state or collection; A disorderly heap or assemblageclutter
  • My definition: Clutter is a jumbled mess of miscellaneous stuff that has accumulated as a result of indecision and inaction.

After explaining my definition I was ready to move on, but was stopped with a few questions. One was, “What is the difference between hoarding and clutter and when is the line crossed?” I explained about the clutter-hoarding scale which is a tool used specifically for this purpose, and there is an image rating that is helpful to view. I also mentioned that I do not have the skill set to work with level 4 or 5 hoarders because the situation calls for more intervention and support than I can provide.

A second question was, “I have 3 sets of Christmas dishes, and my husband calls them clutter; are they?” To answer this I had to ask a few clarifying questions. Are the dishes scattered about in a jumbled mess? Her answer was no. Are they being used and serving a specific purpose? Her answer was yes. Are they causing you stress or frustration? Her answer was no for me, but yes for my husband. I told her that in my opinion, based on her answers to my questions, her Christmas dishes were not clutter. She gave an excited yelp and said she couldn’t wait to tell her husband. However, I was compelled to add that 3 sets of Christmas dishes may be a bit excessive, and if her answers to any of the 3 questions changes in the future, then their label would in fact be changed to clutter. I also pointed out that each individual views their own personal possessions differently than another person’s possessions. It is easy to misunderstand the value someone places on their own things. So think twice before tossing out someone’s stuff (“clutter”).

book caseA third question was asked, “What is the difference between a collection and clutter?” The dictionary definition of a collection is a group of objects or works to be seen, studied, or kept together. A collection is a group of items that someone is proud to share and display. Would you be proud to share and display your clutter? A collection holds monetary and sentimental value where as clutter is usually unimportant, random stuff. A collection is intentionally collected, but clutter is a mess that has accumulated as a result of not deciding what to do with things and not taking action with those things.

After thoroughly answering the question, what is clutter we discussed several clutter conquering solutions. Would you like some solutions? They can be found in the following articles.

Keep Clutter at Bay

Reaching the Finish Line

Organizing Small Spaces

©May 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®   All Rights Reserved