A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Prioritize, Don’t Organize

“Action expresses priorities.” –  Mahatma Gandhi

Are you tired of living in a crowded house surrounded by cluttered rooms? Do you feel like all you ever do is clean up the messes over and over again and run around town with a hectic schedule? It’s time to get organized, right? Wrong. Although your first instinct is to start with getting organized, that’s actually not your first step.

Your first step is to prioritize. That’s right; you need to prioritize your life. Once you sit down and decide what your priorities are, it makes it so much easier to decide what needs to be taken away. Ask yourself what’s really important to you. The principle of prioritizing first can be applied to everything from your clutter to your time.

Minimalism is a tangible way of prioritizing your life. Some would refer to minimalism as a social movement while others define it as a lifestyle choice. While it means different things to different people, most would agree that minimalism is purposely focusing on the things that matter and letting go of the rest.

Prioritize, Don’t Organize Your Clutter

When you get ready to declutter your first closet, drawer, or toy box remember to prioritize first. Take a moment to really look at the items in front of you. Then start by pulling out the most important items.

Toys. If it’s a toy box, start by pulling out the toys you know your children really love. Pick out the ones they play with a lot. As you start pulling out the best toys to save you’ll naturally be left with the toys that aren’t a priority to them anymore. They might be broken or they might even be brand new. The bottom line is if they aren’t being played with, then they aren’t worth keeping.

Clothes. The same principle applies to your closets and your clothes. First, pull out the items you wear the most. If you have two or more of something and you naturally choose one over the other, then the first choice is your priority. If you’re like me you find that you wear the same clothes over and over again because those are the clothes you feel good in, that are comfortable, and you feel like you look your best when you’re wearing them. While it may not be practical for most of us to go down to a limited wardrobe of five shirts and two pairs of jeans, there is almost certainly a large number of clothes that we’re hanging onto that almost never see the light of day.

Clutter. When you’re ready to attack the junk drawers, your books, your kitchen gadgets, and the rest of your clutter remember to prioritize first. Don’t keep something just because it cost a lot of money. Don’t keep something just because you got it as a gift. Don’t keep something just because you might need it someday. If you aren’t using it now, then chances are you don’t really need it. Hanging onto things for the “maybe some days” will simply choke out the enjoyment of your today.

Prioritize, Don’t Organize Your Time

Don’t kid yourself that by trying to organize and coordinate your family’s schedule that you are making more time for things. Giant wall calendars, Day Timers, and even iCal on your iPhone won’t help you gain more time to spend with your family. Only by first prioritizing your time, will you be able to see what can be cut out of your overly scheduled life.

Be honest with yourself, I’m sure there are things that you can eliminate because it’s true for all of us. There’s always something we agreed to that we knew wasn’t a good idea. We knew we were sacrificing time spent with our family because of it and we kicked ourselves as soon as we signed up for that extra “something.” We always seem to be in search of more time. Time is our most important form of currency. It’s all about how we choose to spend it. Make your priorities now and make conscious decisions about how to remove the other distractions.

A Place for Organization

There is a place for organization. I’m not advocating that you abandon all sense of order and keeping everything in its place. I just like to drive home the point that you shouldn’t start with organizing things before you prioritize them. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you put your clutter into cute color coordinated boxes that you’re organizing your life. If something isn’t a priority then it isn’t worth keeping. If something isn’t worth keeping, then it’s simply not worth organizing.


photo by Smicko