Control: Less Really is More

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Last November, Brian and I started a series of posts on gratitude, then moved onto optimism and now the loose thread that ties or current series together is the concept of control. Through years of applying (and many learning moments), we are getting clear on attitudes, beliefs and skills can help support our first principle:

Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.

Gratitude, optimism and “control of self” definitely help us show up in a way that we can be our best selves and enable others. Having a theme for a series of posts also helps us be more mindful of how we can build these skills.

This post is a little different though. Instead of talking about control in the sense of controlling myself – being emotionally proactive (instead of reactive), I have learned about how taking control of your physical space frees up mental space. The trick: minimalism. Minimalism is not an all or nothing, “live in a hut without electricity or running water” mindset. It is the application of a couple of Agile Best Self concepts. First, surround yourself with things that make the room better, not just trinkets and gadgets. I think of this as the physical manifestation of our simplicity principle – focus on that which energizes you. Over the last 10 months, many of us have spent a significant amount of time at home. Closets have been cleaned, junk drawers have been emptied. I started off in what I thought was the right direction.

To help myself get better organized, I revamped my organizing system in the basement. I ordered a ridiculous number of large Sterilite tubs. I organized my cassette tapes. Then I realized, I don’t even have a cassette player! All of my music is digital now. It was tough to part with the cassette tapes until I realized the tape is not the music. I still have the music.

However, I realized after making Amazon purchase after Amazon purchase that I just needed to get rid of some stuff – not buy more boxes, bookshelves and organizing systems to contain old, duplicative and unusable stuff. I was already thinking of getting rid of stuff when I heard of The Minimalists. I watched both of their movies on Netflix. That was enough to jump start me on the 30 day minimalism game. Rules are simple – Day 1, you purge 1 item. Day 2, purge 2 items. Day 3, purge 3. I’m on day 10, and got rid of 15 items, and have no doubt that day 30 will be a breeze. You can check out other tips and read the long list of benefits of being a minimalist on their website. Their stories are compelling.

Agile Best Self Principle #12: At regular intervals, reflect on how to become your best self, then tune and adjust.

The minimalist community has quite a bit in common with the Agile Best Self. Two people who just want to share their experiences with others; a grass roots start; a simple (but not easy) approach. Being intentional is never simple, but the payoff is huge.

Agile Best Self Principle #6: The most effective way to be your best self is to be mindful and intentional.

I’d highly suggest watching either of the films (I watched both) and considering taking on the challenge of getting control over your stuff, not letting your stuff control you. In the past week, I have reduced the amount of clutter in my life and it feels great. I’ve donated over 100 items (mostly clothing, but also dishes, household goods and warm clothing). I’m sure that I can continue this purging trend. Given that I’ll be working from home until at least June, I’m also simplifying my wardrobe to 15 items. Much less to manage, much less to wash. My daily Amazon orders have stopped. I haven’t ordered anything off of Amazon in a week.

Less stuff is more space – physically and cognitively. I’ve been without a dining room table since I gave mine to my niece in September. She was furnishing her first college house, and I had been looking for a new table for about 3 years. My new table and chair set has been on order for 4 months. Cleaning the dining room has been a breeze and the dogs love having the space indoors. I don’t miss having a dining room, but once I can start entertaining again, I’m sure the table will be put to good use.

Although I like keeping track of how many items I have recycled, re-homed or just gotten rid of, the big impact is that I feel in control of my stuff, instead of feeling like my stuff controls me. This was an unanticipated aspect of control, and I highly recommend that you look at whatever is cluttering up your desk/kitchen/bathroom/living room and asking:

  • Do I need it?
  • Have I used it?
  • Do I have more than one?
  • What is this about – Is it about the cassette tape or the music?
  • Does someone else need it more?

The last two questions help me break emotional attachments to things that are essentially just things. I can’t do justice on this topic in a quick blog post, so I’ll wrap with a powerful and simple quote from The Minimalists: “Love people, use things.”

Copyright © 2018 – 2023 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Published by MichaeleBestSelf

Connector, Catalyst.

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