You’ve probably heard of Minimalism, which is the art of living with less. But are you familiar with “Essentialism”? While Minimalism is about having fewer things, Essentialism is about having the right things and getting the right things done.
Greg McKeown, author of the popular book “Essentialism”, conveniently uses the analogy of organizing your wardrobe: in the same way that we sort our clothes based on either the joy of wearing them or the likelihood of wearing them again in the future, so we can apply this principal to what we do in life and at work by asking, “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution towards my goal?”
Essentialists know they can’t have it, or do, it all. They know that only a few activities are exceptionally valuable, so they spend time exploring their options, choosing the non-essentials they will eliminate, and then creating a system for handling the “wardrobe” of their life.
When organizing, people are often challenged by the fact that they own this ‘thing’ – that they’ve paid good money for it or have had it for some time, or received it as a gift – versus the need to de-clutter. This “endowment effect” means we overvalue something simply because we own it. What if we took the Essentialist view and instead asked ourselves “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I be willing to pay or sacrifice in order to obtain it?” or “Do I keep gifts out of habit? I’ve always assumed it’s made a big difference to the person who gave me the gift, but will they even notice if I no longer have it?”
Deciding to reduce your possessions – or your options – can be daunting, but cutting is the very essence of decision-making. When we are taught growing up that “thou shall not waste”, there is no need to make a decision… we keep it all. When we have to deal with a finite amount of physical or mental space, that’s when we need to decide what is no longer essential to our wardrobe, our living space, or our life and career goals.
I’m not saying that decision-making is easy. But once you have a good routine in place, you’ll get exponentially greater results. Here are a couple of examples:
- If you normally dump your keys somewhere and then can’t find them, hang a small key rack next to your front door and hang the keys there as soon as you walk through the door. That alone could save you 45 minutes a month in time spent searching for your keys… that’s 9 hours a year!
- If your handbag/tote bag gets heavier and heavier every day (think of what that’s doing to your back!), find a suitable basket or bowl into which you can empty your bag at the end of the day. The next day, put only those items you need back in the bag. If you swap bags often, this will also reduce the number of things you buy because “oh darn, that’s in my other bag” and you end up buying more of those items than you need. Imagine buying a new lipstick – even a cheap one is $6! – once a week … you could end up to spending $312 a year on lipstick you don’t need!! (Not to mention wondering where to put 52 tubes of lipstick!)
As your routine eventually moves onto auto-pilot, you release mental space for creating new routines. This creates an upward spiral – It gets easier and easier to create even more routines and release even more mental space, which means you reduce even more time and stress wasted on unessential activities. The result? More time to spend with your family and on achieving your life goals and legacy.
If you would like guidance on how to make Essentialism part of your daily routine, contact me for an initial conversation.