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Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Difference Between an Organized Minimalist & a Disorganized One

I think that it's time I described what an organized minimalist really is. It's not some title that I made up to give a name to some ego-happy part of my personality. Rather, it's something that I wish for all who want it to become. If you're on this journey, start thinking of yourself as an organized minimalist. It's amazing what the names we give ourselves can do to our psyches, once they stick. So you'd better pick some good desciptions of yourself to live by!

Some people might think that by me advocating carrying around an Office in a Bag, buying emergency or survival supplies or having a wardrobe big enough for ten days of wear, I'm preaching the opposite of minimalism. No one has said so, but I'm going to clarify right up front that I may be vastly different from the average minimalist. Minimalism doesn't mean that you go without, not in a way that hurts you or your family, that is. It doesn't mean you automatically pick what may look minimalist- you do your research first. Yes, you certainly start dropping things from your life that you're spending unnecessary time, money and/or energy on. You look for ways to cut back on hours spent doing chores, things that have to be done by all of us, but which shouldn't be running your life. It doesn't mean that you only live for today, give up all of your material possessions & go begging in the streets for sustenance for the remainder of your days. That's a common misperception. Another is that minimalists are boring, want to suck the fun out of every event, despise shopping & want to judge the world for their materialism all of the time. And maybe there are minimalists like that out there, but I'm not one of them. If life is boring, lacking passion, lacking love, lacking pleasure, who the heck would want to be involved with it? No, no, no. I'm not here to tell you how to take away from life, but how to get rid of the junk in the way of life itself! I'm also here to advise you how not to have those moments in life that we all dread (and have experienced) where we just aren't prepared for an event that arises.

We're all given twenty-four hours in a day. It's been said that death is the great equalizer, but I believe that time is actually that equalizer. While some of us die younger than others, while we're here on earth, the hours click by on the clock the same way for each of us. Where you choose to put your time, thought & money defines your legacy. If you spend it on trivial, self-centered, temporal things only, then chances are your legacy will be both forgettable & negative. If you spend your life wisely, your legacy will live in on positively for many generations to come. My great-grandfather lived such a life, one full of wisdom, open-hearted kindness, and prepared simplicity. His spirit still lives on with every person who ever met him. He's still greatly missed by everyone in our family. Not one day goes by where I don't think, "What would Granddad have thought about this? Would he be saddened by this choice? Would he have made this decision to buy such-and-such? How would Granddad have responded to this person?" He never made negative examples of people. Whenever a person needed his help, he was there for them every time. He never kept tabs in his head of who owed whom for anything, not when it came to friendship. He always carefully researched any product he bought, or any service he had done. When he made purchases, quality, not quantity, came first. He was not afraid to spend time trying to figure out a solution to a problem from multiple angles before he responded. He wouldn't be rushed into things. He wouldn't let religions, other people's mstaken opinions or anything but facts & reason drive his political beliefs. He spent plenty of time outdoors in nature. He knew the benefits of solitude, and respected others' privacy. He treated his wife, children, co-workers & anyone else he ever met with respect & kindness. Everyone was an equal. He gave no importance to titles or positions- he'd have treated a CEO the same way as he'd treat a homeless person. He was about as close to perfect a human being as one could ever get, in many ways. To have him as a role model is the biggest gift I've ever been given in my life, and it would be dishonorable if I forgot his legacy in the choices I make about my own life. I'm very different from him, and I'll tell you right now, I'm no saint. I don't possess his natural sense of wisdom & organization. But I have spent my adult life trying to learn from his ways, and I'm who I am today for taking that path.

An organized minimalist carefully considers what their needs are in life, including what they would have to use in the case of various emergencies, and then prepares for those needs. You provide for charity whenever you can, and do so with a glad heart, not seeking worldly praise. You don't buy more than you need, you don't buy what isn't appropriate to your lifestyle, region or situation, and you don't spend more time on it than necessary. You do not neglect aspects of the here & now for a possible future- you simply use some of your spare time to prepare for events that have a fair-to-good possibility of occurring. You remember to keep things in perspective. For example, if you drive or ride around in a car, a reasonable possibility exists that you could get into a car accident. So having a first-aid kit, a copy of medical & surgical history for those that ride all the time in that vehicle, and a copy of your advance directive is important & reasonable. Buying $20,000.00 worth of antibiotics in the event of a flu epidemic, when no such epidemic presently exists, when you make $60,000 a year, are up to your ears in debt, have no more storage space, and the antibiotics will expire in only a year- that is a big example of NOT being realistic. And, yes, I have indeed see a person do exactly what I described (and plenty of others do things akin to it), so I'm not exaggerating. Ruining the present for people with talk of, excessive money spent & time used for preparations that are for a very-unlikely future event is going to do more harm than good. Your kids only get one childhood. You can fill them with fear about the world around them, or you can teach them to use their brain wisely & yet still have faith. Fill them with fears, especially ungrounded ones, and you're likely to get children who won't be superb contributors to society as adults. Fill them with wise knowledge, balanced with a healthy sense of faith in that which is good, and you're probably going to end up as one of those parents who won the best children in the land. Even if you're not a parent, the message still stands. Everyone you encounter should see that you're a person of balance.

A disorganized minimalist just tosses stuff, people & opportunities away without real thought. Preparation is the furthest thing from their mind. They may crave simplicity, but usually have no skills for creating it while maintaining beauty & functionality in their lives. They cut out items, friendships, love, travel, purchases & much more, usually out of fear. Fear is kept at bay to an extent by illusions of having control over every single aspect of your life. If anyone threatens that delusion of complete control, they are considered "the enemy". But when you own nothing, have no relationships, and take nothing on of any complexity in life, you'll have little left to organize. A person can be a minimalist, in that they don't shop much, don't prepare for any eventualities & don't let others touch their world, but what they do have can still be a disorganized mess. There are hoarders who haven't shopped for years, but have held on to every single thing given to them in life, after all. Should an accident occur, they'd have no way to take care of the situation. They're not emotionally or mentally prepared for life. They're out-of-shape physically. They have no clue what's in their bank account, if they even own one. They don't have food in the pantry for a rainy day. They live moment-to-moment, with no direction, and little feeling for others. They have no savings or retirement account, no plans for the future, no routines in place for their days. They don't participate in their communities, in politics or in places of worship. Isolation can be disguised as minimalism. It's a tempting path sometimes, especially if you've been hurt a lot by life & by people. But it never, ever works to fill the emptiness, it never resolves the pain of the past & it never increases wisdom to live in a bubble like this.

Watch out for using organizing, simplfying & minimalism as a way to avoid pain, rather than face it. A faux sense of control is just that- false. We're looking to flood the dark corners with sunlight, clean out the cobwebs & open the prison doors forever.

-Liz 

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