Minimalism―The most powerful word in the era of distraction. What does it mean to you? What term comes to mind when you consider minimalism?
It’s elimination, right?
From Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to Greg McKeown’s Essentialism to Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, the liberating power of elimination reappears from time to time.
Still, we live a life full of clutter including but not limited to a cluttered workplace, a cluttered home, a cluttered to-do list, and a cluttered closet.
Elimination is hard to practice to most of us, partly due to its connotation. It’s a simple antonym for addition, which is how we live our lives day by day. We always want to add more stuff to our already filled plates. We want more icing on the cake. We want to please people and say yes to every request.
In this post, I want to report how I ensure that elimination takes place in my life on a regular basis so as to leave place to the more important stuff. I’ll refer to minimalism in a broader sense, be it analog or digital; physical or mental.
So, how do you ensure that you eliminate clutter from your life?
The weekly review revisited
Recently, I updated my weekly review checklist with one powerful item: elimination. It drives me to eliminate one small thing each and every week. Be it a habit, a small task, an app on my iPhone, or just a piece of clothing, I’m hundred percent committed to killing one item per week. And I really want to be a serial killer in that sense.
The hard thing is to realize and acknowledge that there’s way too much clutter in our lives.
I would check Facebook multiple times per day. But why? Do I really need the Facebook app on my iPhone? Do I really need that piece of clothing? Do I really need that task done?
The challenge begins by addressing such tough questions and filtering them through a magic lens.
Below, I provide a case study of how cleaning up my closet knocked my first domino in a big row.
Case study – Emptying my closet
I heard multiple times Michael Sliwinski and Radek Pietruszewski talking about minimalism on the Podcast. Over the last years, I’ve made several attempts to clean up my closet, but I always failed to make real progress.
What helped me was the brand-new elimination item on my weekly review checklist. So I scheduled that I’ll empty my closet at the weekend. To my biggest surprise, it worked like charm. At the very same weekend, I got rid of some 60-70% of my clothes!
My shelves are now half-empty and I can say that it’s a liberating experience.
How do you decide what items to keep and what to dispose?
The Pareto principle otherwise known as the 80/20 rule could be of help. Vilfredo Pareto was a 19th-century economist who introduced this concept by recognizing that 80% of wealth comes from 20% of people. The rule named after the Italian economist can be applied to virtually anything from economy to productivity to learning. In our case, we can assume that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.
So, all you need to do is to identify that 20% of garment that you like to wear. That’s it.
There’s one more question to help you guide your decision: How much would you pay for that piece of clothing if you were to buy it again?
It feels, of course, a bit awkward for the first time to eliminate some 80% of your closet, but if you think about it, it’s a decent decision:
- Your garment goes to a charity
- It’s a sense of accomplishment even from a distant perspective
- You’ll have plenty room to play
- You really want to wear only those pieces of clothing that you like
- You’ll get a cognitive benefit from decluttering
An extreme form of minimalism
When it comes to fashion, there’re no limits to our imagination.
There’re some very smart people, though, who only wear all-black clothes for the whole week―well, not the same piece of course―to avoid cognitive overload or decision fatigue. By doing so, they don’t have to make a decision on what to wear on a given day or occasion. They just put on their black shirts and don’t give a damn about what people say.
This is an extreme form of minimalism of which Albert Einstein was a big advocate, too. You really don’t have to go that way; I just wanted to shed light on minimalism from another angle.
This is the right time that we figure out what QB rapper Blaq Poet can teach us about minimalism…
Poet’s lyrics include a powerful mantra saying that
I don’t discriminate, I just eliminate.
Although Poet himself didn’t refer to productivity, his words really hit the nail on the head. I really couldn’t phrase it a better way. So, next time when you’re hesitant about eliminating something, just say out that quote.
If you want something more formal, I would briefly refer to leadership mentor Michael Hyatt. In his brand-new book, Hyatt introduces the term Desire Zone, in which you work on tasks that you’re passionate about and skilled at. Productivity gives you the freedom, Hyatt argues, to spend most of your time in your Desire Zone:
Everything that is outside your Desire Zone is a possible candidate for elimination.
So, it’s time that you take an intentional step toward minimalism by identifying potential candidates for elimination. Good luck!