Minimalism “is not monks living in a cave, which is the image I had in my mind the first time my friend suggested it,” Rose Lounsbury told attendees Feb. 4 when she presented “Modern Minimalism: When Less is More” at the Batesville Memorial Public Library.
“When I think of myself as a minimalist, I think of it as being more moderate. There is not a prescribed number of things you must own or throw away .... It’s what clicks for you, not somebody else. When we take someone else’s prescription of what to do, we aren’t successful.
“When I think of my just-right click point for towels, it was two for each person in my family. Your just-right click point may be different than mine.”
The former middle school teacher added, “Minimalism is not a bunch of cute bins with crafty labels .... (but) I’m not saying there’s not a place for this.”
However, “being organized is a two-step process: First is minimalizing down to what you need and use. No. 2 is organizing that stuff. If we’re trying to organize massive amounts of things, we’re constantly re-organizing.”
“Minimalism is not ‘rotating the junk.’ This is a quote from my father. His background is a mechanic, and he collected old cars for parts. Every six months or so, he would take my brothers outside and say, ‘OK, boys, it’s time to rotate the junk.’
“Think about what we do in our own homes. There’s a pile on the kitchen counter, and it’s growing. You scoop it up and put it on the coffee table in the living room. Later you move it to the bedroom and put it on the dresser. Then you scoop it up and put it in a box of stuff you might need someday and put it in the attic .... Moving it feels purposeful.”
“Minimalism is not deprivation. Before I adopted a minimalist lifestyle, I was depriving myself of something I really needed, alone time .... when you let go of your excess stuff, you should feel good and peaceful.”
To explain what minimalism is, Lounsbury used a quote from William Morris, a British poet: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
“I love that he put know to be useful. He didn’t say potentially useful .... I have items in my home that aren’t necessarily useful – pictures my mom painted, a tapestry I purchased on my honeymoon ... but they’re beautiful. It you have items that are both useful and beautiful, it’s a bonus!”
Keeping the quote in mind “can help us see the items we really value. Minimalism is getting clear about what you want and having the guts to let go of everything else.
“When I think about my journey, I was clear about what I wanted – one hour of free time on my couch. In order to do that, I had to let go of what was getting in my way.”
The simplicity coach noted, “My parents are in their 70s and they downsized because my mom wanted a one-story house. She had to have the guts to get rid of 30-plus years of stuff, which isn’t necessarily easy .... When we’re dealing with our stuff, we’re dealing with our feelings and emotions about our stuff.”
“Minimalism is freedom from anxiety and ‘cleaning.’ I used to think cleaning was really hard. It took four hours for us to clean our house.” However, she discovered, “the first three hours were just putting things away.”
After changing to a new lifestyle, we can clean in just under an hour because we’re not putting away a lot of things. How hard is it to vacuum a floor or clean a counter that doesn’t have stuff on it?”
“What I found was once I decluttered, when people came over, I had a great feeling that my house was clean.”
She cautioned, “Minimalism is a process. Don’t go home tonight and think you can do it all.”
The first time the mother of triplets went to the kitchen after deciding to move forward, “I asked myself, ‘Why did I keep all those wooden spoons? Why do I have all those coffee cups? I found I could live with even less.
“It’s like peeling back an onion. I have applied this to my professional and financial life, too. This concept is showing up in all those different areas. It’s a mindset, the way you think about things.”
How to begin
“Start with your own stuff .... Your family is much more likely to go along with you if you model the behavior first.”
“Start somewhere easy, where you don’t have a lot of attachment .... I started with towels because I don’t have a lot of attachment to them. Eventually, you’ll want to deal with other things you are more attached to. The last things I dealt with were pictures and memorabilia.”
“I attacked the problem using the four-step LESS method”:
• Lay out your vision and purpose – “Say it’s your bathroom. The purpose is this is the place where you get ready in the morning .... Write it down and tape it on the wall.”
• Empty – “Empty the space as much as you can.”
• Sort it twice – “Place like items together, such as shampoo, nail polish ... We often don’t know how much we have until we do this. Then decide what to keep, donate, trash or sell.”
• Systemize – “This is when you can buy bins and organize. The reason people fail is they want to start with this step” before they clear out the extra items.
She offered advice on how to discuss minimalism with youngsters: “Let them know ahead of time when they get a new toy or other item, they have to get rid of something else .... My kids have a hard time letting go of stuffed animals, so it doesn’t have to be apples to apples.” For example, if a child receives a new stuffed animal, he doesn’t have to get rid of one of his favorite stuffed animals. He can choose some other toy to trade.
The same is true for adults. “If you get new shoes, you don’t have to get rid of another pair.”
An audience member wondered, “How do you deal with people who want to give you stuff?”
The speaker responded, “I know sometimes when people are downsizing, some give items to Goodwill, some donate, some sell the stuff and some need to give it to people they know .... I experienced that when I gave away my teaching stuff. I couldn’t just donate it to anyone. I had to give it to another teacher and whatever happened to it after that was OK.”
“My mom gave me a lot of stuff when she was downsizing, but this was because she couldn’t get rid of it herself .... For some people, this may be the only way they’ll let go of something.”
However, “if it bothers you, talk to them and say, ‘I’m trying to simplify my life.’”
Also, if a loved one’s stuff is impacting you, “start a conversation by saying, ‘Honey, I’d really like it ... (or) I was wondering if ... I generally find if it’s approached in a nonjudgmental way, it may work.”
Regarding pictures or heirlooms, Lounsbury said, “My rule with memorabilia is the only person you should keep it for is you. If it brings you joy, keep it. You’re not responsible for keeping someone else’s memory. Make the decision with your heart.”
Other options are to digitize the items so you can always look at them or just keep a piece of it. For example, instead of saving an entire set of china, just keep a serving platter and use it.
“I have a general rule for decor or holiday decorations: If you don’t set it out, get it out.”