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Minimalism: What is it? Why it matters now. A deeper look at clutter

May 28, 2021

Last week my local chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) had a guest speaker who was going to talk to us about minimalism. His name is Joshua Becker, a published author and minimalist. I was intrigued, as over the last year I have noticed more and more commentary on minimalism. I wanted to learn more about this movement and what its core principles are. Of course, as a professional organizer, it is pretty much what I help people with every day. However, normally when someone reaches out to me it is because they have reached an impasse – they either can’t manage in their home/office the way it is, or they are moving, career transitioning, or have been through a trauma and need help putting their lives back together and back on track. Minimalism is a philosophy, a way of thinking and living. You do not have to have hit a wall to become a minimalist – it’s a lifestyle choice that centres around creating a healthy, meaningful, simpler life with less stuff.

Joshua spoke about the moment he realised he needed to change “The juxtaposition was striking. My possessions piled up in the driveway… my son in the backyard… my day slipping away… I immediately recognized something needed to change. My belongings were not adding value to my life. Instead, they were subtracting from it.”

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When our “stuff” becomes more important than the people in our lives.

A few years ago, my partner John, myself, and our cat Tadhg moved temporarily to Ireland so that I could take care of my ailing father who could no longer manage living in the large family home in Dublin. My parents were avid collectors of art, books, antiques, furniture, and plants. If they found it interesting, they kept it. They didn’t hoard, what they had was curated in a whimsical fashion. The family home always looked amazing but, as they aged, they never reduced what they had so their later years in life were about trying to maintain everything they had and loved. They spent less and less time with friends and family. Joshua’s story resonated with me. I always felt blessed and honoured to have the extraordinary parents I had. They were kind, engaging, funny, creative, smart people who cared about the world they lived in. But they were always busy. Busy with work, busy adding to their collections, and busy talking about their collections.

I know my resistance to having too much stuff is born out of my parents having too much stuff and the importance they placed on it all.

After Joshua’s virtual talk to the POC Toronto Chapter, John (my partner) and I went for a walk. It was a beautiful warm spring evening in Toronto. The sky was a mixture of vivid pink, blue and white. The trees were full of beautiful blooms and below, tulips and colourful spring flowers sparkled on the ground beneath us. It was a Saturday evening and there was no traffic. All we heard were the birds and small groups of people sitting on their porches talking and laughing. In the distance, you could hear children playing in back gardens or playgrounds. It was such a perfect, peaceful, and beautiful moment in time – in the middle of a city. None of this would have happened had we not been in a lockdown.

It got me thinking. As a professional organizer, I go into people’s homes and businesses and help them create environments that work, that flow, and make sense. Getting rid of clutter is core to this process. When the work is finished my clients don’t just have an environment that looks great and is easy to maintain, they also feel amazing, they feel energized and motivated.

My focus during Covid19 has been to support and help my clients through this devastating pandemic. I have helped clients create homes that can now accommodate living and working environments. I have helped entrepreneurs keep their business on track and efficient. I also run a service through my blog for free professional organizing for those who need help but can’t afford it. It has been and continues to be, incredibly fulfilling.

When having too many choices is the same as too many things – it all becomes clutter on one level or another.

One of the more frustrating aspects during this time has been the lack of choices we have had. In the supermarket, there is less variety, thus fewer choices. Dining out? Very few choices. Socializing? Very little choice.

But that Saturday night something shifted for me. I could also see what we had all gained from this experience, the pandemic. Minimalism is not just about living with less stuff; it is about living a less cluttered life mentally and environmentally so that what is important is front and centre.

We live in a culture where the ability to choose, to have choices, is crucial to our sense of happiness, it fills our need for self-determination and self-expression. The more choices we have, the fewer compromises we need to make, the better we feel. Or so we think. In Barry Schwartz’s book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” he suggests that having more choices benefits us only to a certain point. As the options increase, negative aspects appear, decisions become more difficult to make until we become overloaded or overwhelmed by choice. Journalist and critic Kyle Chayka, in his book “The longing for less; living with Minimalism” concludes that true minimalism is “not about consuming the right things or throwing out the wrong; it’s about challenging your deepest beliefs in an attempt to engage with things as they are, to not shy away from reality or its lack of answers.”
The pandemic has forced me to declutter the busyness of my life, the choices I make, and the clutter in my mind. The close friendships I have, have become closer. My ability to just “be” present has increased. Setting aside the devastating impact it has had on me financially, and the loved ones I have lost, I can now look at the journey I have been on for the last year and a half and truly feel gratitude for what I have gained.

A Rare Moment in History

In a few months hopefully, all this will be behind us, and we will start picking up the pieces of our lives and careers and putting them back in order. Take the time now, while you can, to stop and listen to the stillness. It is a rare moment in history. It really is what we are all looking for; being fully present in our lives, our work, and all the millions of moments that make a life.

“Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.”
― George Bernard Shaw


And in the meantime, if you are looking for help with decluttering or home organization, or even getting ready for a new pet, please check out my blogs.

My Pinterest Boards also have some great tips and resources for getting and staying organized and generally keeping life a lot simpler.

Free Professional Organizing Advice for you!

Free Professional Organizing

We could all use something to look forward to right now.  I want to do something that will add value to your life, that would help you during these confusing and challenging times of lockdowns and working from home. When you are organized there is less chaos, less overwhelm. An organized home and work environment can bring you a sense of calm, ground you, and help you feel more in control. It is one of the things that we can influence and control despite what’s happening in other areas of our lives or communities.
I am offering a “mini organizing consult” for free, share it with your co-workers, family, or friends. Let everyone know because I want to give back and help you. Now is when people really need it.
All you need to do is complete this FORM, attach a photo of 1 area in your home or office that you need organizing help with. Every month I am going to choose at least one person to work with. Here are a couple of readers I have helped already:


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