Minimalism vs. Organizing vs. Decluttering

Minimalism. Organizing. Decluttering. One of these things is not like the other.

Two of these words have to do with your things. Either moving them around or moving them out. The other is a lifestyle. Often I will be talking to a friend about minimalism and the conversation always makes its way to either organization or decluttering. “I am pursuing minimalism.” “Oh I LOVE organizing.” Or, “I am a minimalist.” “I just took a bunch of stuff to Goodwill.” I understand that my friends are doing their best to connect with me and I appreciate that greatly. I do find it interesting that these are the two things most associated with this lifestyle since I think minimalism has much more to offer. I have a confession to make. I do not like organizing or decluttering. I love organization. I love a decluttered space. Having said that, I do not take pleasure in either of these tasks. I surprised my wife the other day when I told her that I did not like to do either of these — mainly because I spend a lot of time doing one or the other.

Organizing. I have been doing this my entire adult life. I cannot tell you how many times I have organized my things. I must have done this hundreds of times. There are organizational boards on Pinterest, entire stores dedicated to organizational storage, and books and videos on how to organize so well you can fit truckloads of stuff into tiny spaces. I have an “organized” room in my house that is bursting at the seams. Joshua Becker calls this space the “leveling room.” For me it’s my guest bedroom and there is a nice path from the door to the bed (Sorry.) This is where I keep the things I am having trouble parting with. This is a good example of why organization is not minimalism. My space is organized — I know where everything is, all in neat piles — but it’s not at all minimized. Organizing is moving your stuff around. I have found that when my life is properly minimized there is a plenty of room for everything and my things tend to organize themselves.

Decluttering. I have been steadily decluttering for about a year. I declutter and then I rest. Once I get rid of stuff, I take a break in order to see how I feel. Did I overdo it? Do I still have too many of something? Do I really need 20 tee shirts? Do I need 12? There are only seven days in a week. This is the process that really puts into perspective the attachment I have to my things. There are some things that I have had in donate piles many times but always return them to their place. There are things that I can’t seem to get rid of fast enough. I have considered just renting a dumpster and starting over in life. I know that this is not the point though. Decluttering is a spiritual process. The act of letting something go is something that has handed me a new perspective on life. It has reminded me that things are just things. Once a space is properly decluttered, the organization of my remaining things is usually very simple.

Minimalism. Many people define this different ways. I tend to think of it as spending time in the absence of things and in the presence of family or friends. It can mean giving up everything. It can mean giving up a few things. It can mean a refocusing of priorities. I still collect things. I have a comic book subscription. Two in fact. The point for me is not to be defined my the things that I have — to not let the things I own — own me. I have goals in this process. I want to be debt free again (and stay there), I want strive for essentialism, I want to inspire my family and my friends, I want to de-own the majority of my things. Instead of buying more things I want to sponsor more children. I want to give more of what I have been blessed with to those who are less fortunate. I want to consume less. I want to waste less. Minimalism has helped me be more calm. It has helped me to be focused. It has helped me gain a perspective on a life that I never had before.

Organizing and decluttering are to minimalism like advertising and statistics are to marketing. They are important parts — but not the thing itself. I have found that by becoming a minimalist, decluttering comes easier and the things that remain practically organize themselves.

Minimalism has been very beneficial in many areas in my life and I think it could be in yours too.

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