Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Thanks to Simplicity, the documentary, Minimalism, was recently screened in Charlotte to a full house. And a full house, or more specifically, an overly full house is exactly what the film was about.  My husband and daughter were my sidekicks for the evening-one, enthusiastic and one a bit reluctant.  But when the lights came up, we all agreed that Minimalism was thought provoking, inspiring and a bit guilt-inducing.

Minimalism

The film documents the two Minimalists’ odyssey.  From more is more, to less is more. From keeping up with the Jones, to charting one’s own path. And from piles of unused stuff, to owning just enough. Their journeys resulted in freedom- financial, emotional and physical.  And their mission now is not to climb the corporate ladder, in the right suit with the right gadgets, but to inspire others to consciously examine what they own and why they own it.  For the movie trailer click here

Less

In the spirit of Simplicity, each of us gives our single most important lesson from the film.

From the 30 year old:

Only hold on to things that bring value to your life.

There isn’t just one template for how to deal with possessions.  Each of us has our own threshold for what is enough and what brings value to our life.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A collection of snow angels might make one person grab a trash bag but for someone else, it could be a treasured and tangible connection to a loved one. And how do you measure the value of something?  Do you use it?  Do you have space for it?  Can you afford the time or money it would take to replace it if you ever decided you needed such a thing?  No matter the value in absolute monetary terms, if the object doesn’t bring value to you, let it go.  Paradoxically, your life will be enriched by having less.

From the 60 something male:

A big change is easier than small one.

As counter-intuitive as this may seem, there is neurobiology supporting it. Often the trigger or nudge is more compelling for a big change than a small one. We evolved as horders. Stockpiling worked in times of scarcity when basic needs were hard to meet but our biology betrays us now.  Biology begets “buyology.  With small changes rather than a sweeping change, there can be a feeling of continual deprivation.  It’s like the addict who needs another hit. And this need for more precludes the feeling of contentment from having the “luxury of enough”.

From the 60 something female:

You think you own your stuff but your stuff really owns you. 

We’re hardwired to feel loss more strongly than we feel gain. Letting go of things is more painful than acquiring them is pleasurable.  We’re wired for dissatisfaction.  Advertising and social media feed that dissatisfaction. Dubious claims of ‘New and Improved’ render the existing version unsatisfactory.  Keeping up with the Jones is exhausting and expensive. We live in a junk culture where ‘more is more’. The cheaper, the better is the lifeblood of mass retailing. We can turn that around when buying fewer things, but better things becomes our habit. Remember the Chinese proverb, “Buy the best and you only weep once”.

Here’s one final thought from the film. You can never get enough of what you don’t really need because what you don’t need, no matter the quantity, will never satisfy.

And lastly, a possible mantra for those on their own minimalist odyssey-

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  Hans Hofmann, German abstract expressionist 

By Robin McCoy


Read a Book, Give a Book Celebration

Read a Book, Give a Book

 

2016 READ a Book, GIVE a Book Celebration!

Reading is a life skill and it is unfortunate that during the summer months, many students lose valuable literacy skills when they stop reading during their break from school. Summer reading loss negatively impacts our struggling readers, and ultimately our entire community. Children who do not have access to books or adults who can read to them are especially susceptible to falling behind over the summer.
As a result, by the end of fifth grade, these students are approximately 2.5 years behind their peers in terms of reading ability.

This year Simplicity hosted their annual book drive with Augustine Literacy Project and Freedom School Partners in the month of May. A huge thank you to the Charlotte community for donating gently used children’s books to our Read a Book-Give a Book celebration. This year we donated 6,465 books to Montclaire and Rama Road elementary schools so every student will take home several books to read over the summer! A special thanks to Promising Pages for collecting 2,600 books!

 


The Relatives Basement Transformation

I first started volunteering at The Relatives 8 years ago after hearing about this Safe Place house through a friend.

safeplace-logo

The Relatives is a 24-hour, 365-day a year facility that answers crisis calls and houses children ages 7-17 for up to 14-days, even walk-ins.

I wanted a place to volunteer with my children who were young teens and needed a little perspective. I immediately fell in love with the mission, the staff and the organization. I was blessed to join the staff 4 years ago in the development office as well as coordinating volunteer activities.

In all of those years, the basement at the Relatives has always been a project that the staff (and volunteers) would roll their eyes in frustration with any attempt to make it better for the children and teens. It was too overwhelming to even know where to begin. The basement is a space designed for the children who come to us, to get what they need in order to make them feel at home in the Dilworth shelter. I have never seen the basement any way other than unorganized and cluttered…until the wonderful ladies from Simplicity came to save the day!

Relatives Volunteers

Simplicity teamed up with College Hunks Hauling Junk to volunteer an entire day sorting, organizing and hauling off many items that were not appropriate for the Relative children and teens. The pictures in this blog tell the real story of how these two companies transformed the space from complete chaos to a beautiful (as beautiful as a Dilworth basement can be) and efficient “clothing room” where the children we serve can immediately find what they need.

RelativAction

RelativeHouse

They designed and implemented a system that is now easily maintainable.

BEFORE1

BEFORE2

We are beyond grateful for the precious time and talents that Simplicity and the College Hunks gave us in order to make a difference for the over 4,000 youth and young adults we serve each year within The Relatives organization!

By Spencer Guthery

 


From a Client’s Perspective

We take confidentiality very seriously in this company, however one of our clients, Cindy, has offered to share her experience of working with Simplicity.   We think you will benefit from her candid perspective of why she chose to contact Simplicity and why she has entrusted us to help her this year.

CindyMills

From a client’s perspective…

I am very grateful for your investment in me and my family. I was transparent and vulnerable because you created a safe place for me to be those things.

As the saying goes, “you sought to understand before being understood.”  And for that, I am thankful this morning.  This will be a journey, I know. But I trust where we are going even if I am a bit sweaty this morning at the notion of learning all of this and realizing how much I have to learn.  But as with life, it will make the destination sweeter.  I also reflected on the fact that through those lean years the Lord created a tender, empathetic heart in you so that you would not only have a thriving business but also be able to help others sort through the chaos to find a simpler life. Nothing ever wasted.

Yesterday, with your recommendation, I bought two open mesh file containers to put under the cabinet so that I can see and access them quickly.  I bought the file sorter you pointed out online as well as two paper trays to serve as my inbox and Ken’s.  I think

Ken has never been happier!!!  His mail is in one place and it is only Friday!!

I am committed to doing my tasks and believing I have to find JOY in the process and enjoy what lies ahead with life resembling a well-designed, well-maintained machine that operates efficiently producing “good works”. Then I will be prepared for what lies ahead as best I can at this stage in my life. This morning it occurred to me that it may prove helpful to journal this journey in case it will encourage someone else down the road. Getting back in the saddle this morning.

Looking forward to all that awaits this year!

Cindy

 

 

 


Coach Approach

Coach Approach

Simplicity is the very first organizing company to send their entire team through a Coach Approach program!  We underwent an intensive and comprehensive 8-week coach training program that has added tremendous value to the services we offer our clients.  Simplicity strengthened our coaching skills through education and leadership by master trainers at Coach Approach.

Week 1-Betsy House

The International Coach Fedration’s website defines coaching as, “Partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”  The Coach Approach states that “Coaching is not advising, telling, training, showing, organizing, counseling or consulting.  Coaching refers to the bundling of specific, effective communication skills and to a creative and resourceful partnership.”

We entered into the first week with hesitation as to what we were about to embark on, but quickly realized how powerful this program was going to be both personally and professionally.  We practiced new coaching skills in small groups by role playing from a neutral space with no opinions or judgements using self-management skills.

Week 2-Anne Steppe

This week we were challenged to practice our Active Listening Skills.  We made the connection as to why it is powerful to take a brain-based approach to coaching.  During our practice sessions we worked on how to co-create relationships with our clients and how to listen “to” and how to listen “for” what our clients are saying.  We also worked on the skill of endorsing.

Week 3-Shyla Hasner

This week we worked on creating a coaching metaphor to provide us with a self-image that grounds and inspires us as coaches.  Developing our personal metaphor will help us to hold a set of personal intentions to maintain when coaching.

Week 4-Deb Fletcher

We began Week 4 with a clarification of our metaphor exercise.

We deepened our understanding of the “DO” of coaching by learning to listen for self-criticism, contradictions and what is left unsaid. We also added the concept of direct communication by adding the use of powerful questions.

Week 5-Jen Borda

Success (or success in failure) and seeing the value of our learning that leads to meaningful change. AEC – Awareness, Engagement, Completion.  It is important to use “curious accountability,” by checking back with clients on their solution and then brainstorming. We learned how to try to help the client shift their perspective from negative to positive and focusing on how the client brings value (and opportunity).

Week 6-Robin Leonard

In  week 6, we looked at the strategy piece of the coaching puzzle.  The three parts to this segment are Request, Challenge and Champion.  The request aspect is asking the client to complete an action with specific parameters.  The challenge aspect is a super power request.  The champion aspect  is when we are speaking to our client’s future capability.  Each of these components are important to the success of our clients because we are giving them ownership.

Week 7-Katie Puckett

This week we learned about accountability during a coaching session. According to The Coach Approach definition of terms: “Accountability describes the work of the client and coach to support client actions beyond simply identifying and choosing them. As partners, the client and coach agree to learn from the experience of agreeing to, attempting and/or completing these actions”. There are many kinds of accountability. Action (or inaction) is an opportunity for deeper learning coming from a supportive, curious, and neutral environment within the coaching partnership. Accountability should come from the client. Coaching helps the client create accountability within themselves.

Week 8-Betsy Blair

With the completion of 8 weeks of training in Coaching Essentials, in the words of Cam Gott, our instructor, “We are now organizers with coaching skills”.  It’s been a life-changing course.  As a Team, the skills we have learned taking this class will equip us to offer so much more to our clients who are looking to break-free from their stuff and live a more productive life.  Our clients call us for the organizing, but we hope they will stay for the coaching.

Coach Approach Training

 


Good Intentioned Resolutions

The beginning of each new year dawns with good intentions that are much easier to make than to keep. Holiday excesses are fresh in people’s minds. Couple that with a yearning to live more healthy and productive lives, and getting organized becomes tops on many people’s list of resolutions.

So what can you do to enhance your chances of success this year?

1. Be realistic: Remember, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

2. Celebrate small accomplishments: Since “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

3. Ask for help: Because “many hands make light the work.”

Simplicity-New Year

The clutter, chaos and disorganization that you want to conquer wasn’t created overnight and won’t be banished overnight. Your goals should be realistic. Start by making a list of projects you want to tackle. What will be your definition of success? If you have a busy family and work responsibilities outside the home, your success might look very different from that of the retired, empty-nester. Prioritize the organization tasks and projects. Estimate how long each will take. Be sure you have the necessary tools and supplies to do a good job. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing well. A household that hums is surely a worthy goal.

The hardest part of getting organized is simply getting started. The enormity of the project can sandbag you from the outset. Now that you’ve identified and prioritized your problem areas, try this simple trick. Spend ten minutes filling two trash bags – one with actual trash and one with items for donation. Set a timer and spend only the allotted 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, you’re through until the next day when the exercise is replayed. At the end of a week, deliver the donation bags to your preferred charity and congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made. The good news is that success breeds success.

When getting organized becomes a family affair, the rate of progress increases exponentially. If everyone played a part in creating the clutter, it seems only fair that everyone should help with the de-cluttering. If your organizational dilemma is overwhelming, outside help makes sense. A professional can provide whatever level of support you desire. Maybe all you need is the road map and a bit of assistance with the start. Maybe you want regular sessions with your organizer to tackle specific projects. Or maybe you want to have the organizational “swat team” descend on your home and not leave until there’s “a place for everything and everything’s in its place.”

Just remember, your home is the center of your family’s universe. With a bit of time and attention, it can be the sanctuary you all crave. If you’ve resolved to really get organized, Simplicity would love to help.

In addition to our tried and true services, we offer a Year of Simplicity program. It incorporates the three steps outlined above. By committing to work on a specific project or problem area each month, you’re setting an achievable goal. Having scheduled a monthly block of time with your Simplicity team member, you’ve already taken that first step – the hardest one – toward an organized household. And finally, an experienced organizer will lighten your load enormously. Working side-by-side, you’ll learn the tricks of the trade so you can maintain the organization you’ve labored so hard to achieve. 


The Clutter Cure

“I recently discovered the secret to livening up even the dullest conversation: Introduce the topic of clutter. Everyone I meet seems to be waging a passionate, private battle against their own stuff, and they perk up as soon as you mention it.” So begins Pamela Druckerman’s NY Times column.

NY Times declutter

It’s an interesting piece (click here).

Here’s her conclusion.

“But the more stuff I shed, the more I realize that we de-clutterers feel besieged by more than just our possessions. We’re also overwhelmed by the intangible detritus of 21st-century life: unreturned emails; unprinted family photos; the ceaseless ticker of other people’s lives on Facebook; the heightened demands of parenting; and the suspicion that we’ll be checking our phones every 15 minutes, forever. I can sit in an empty room, and still get nothing done.

It’s consoling to think that, beneath all these distractions, we’ll discover our shining, authentic selves, or even achieve a state of “mindfulness.” But I doubt it. I’m starting to suspect that the joy of ditching all of our stuff is just as illusory as the joy of acquiring it all was. Less may be more, but it’s still not enough.”

This rather bleak assessment begs the question:  In the humans v. stuff struggle, who is the consumer and who or what is consumed?  And how much worse does “digital clutter” joining our “carbon clutter” make us feel?

Druckerman’s hypothesis that our stuff is consuming us is born out by the proliferation of storage warehouses, organizing services, and garages with nary a car in sight.  With the proliferation of cheap imports and discount retailers, being awash in clutter is no longer just an affliction of the well-heeled.

We think of ourselves as rational beings and in truth, we’re often not so rational.  Dan Arieley,  behavioral economist and author of Predictably Irrational has conducted experiments to prove just how irrational we really are. The take-away message is that we are more pained, psychologically and emotionally in letting go of something (even if it’s something we neither love nor use) than we were pleased to have acquired it in the first place.  Our things have a strangle-hold on us.

So what’s a person to do?

Embrace Will Roger’s First Rule of Holes- “When you’re in one, quit digging.  Consider a “spending de-tox.  Follow the advice of Sarah Lazarovic from, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.  Learn to wait.  “Don’t buy anything the first time you see it unless it’s the thing you’ve been searching for all your life and it is flying by on a speeding train, never to be seen again.  Even then, don’t buy it.”  Practice waiting.  What starts out as a hope, will become a habit.   Saying no to impulse purchases will eventually become second nature.  Exercise your will power and it will get stronger.

Stop hiding behind “conscious consumerism”. The goal of consumption used to be to buy and use things to satisfy (mostly) legitimate, practical needs.  Somewhere along the way, consumption morphed into consumerism. The goal of shopping became to kill time, drown our sorrows, keep up “The Jones” or even surpass them!

Again from Lazarovic, “Conscious consumerism is not an excuse to shop.  It may be a fair-trade, organic leg warmer, but if your legs aren’t cold, it’s still a frivolous purchases.”

Remember that just because it’s free doesn’t mean it isn’t without cost.  The kiddy meal prize, the thank you gift for the charity donation, the swag bag from a conference- leave them all behind.  If they never come into your home, you’ll never miss them.  Especially with the holidays approaching, be ruthless about what you let in your door.

By Robin Mcoy


Simplicity for Young Adults

You’ve heard the phrase “Start ‘em young!” Well that definitely applies to organizing.  Growing up, did anyone help teach you how to create and maintain organizational systems? Maybe it was your mother who showed you her meticulous methods or a teacher who demonstrated how to be tidy. Whatever the source, it is ideal for the origins of organization to begin in childhood when individuals are thrust into new responsibility and routines.  Since organizing does not come naturally to everyone, many need to be taught these important life skills, especially young adults who are venturing off on their own.

Here are some basic pointers for those just starting to structure their organizational success as an adult:

  • Create a paper or electronic system: Stacks of paper or rows of emails can accumulate quickly.  It is important to establish a folder or file system for all of your documents.

Simplicity for Young Adults

 

  • Carve out time to de-clutter: Set aside a day per week, either after work or on a weekend to maintain your systems. Put away dishes or hang your clothes.  Sort your mail and file papers.  Donate, toss, shred, or recycle what you no longer need.   Update your weekly calendar.  Remember it is much easier to keep up than start over. Maintenance is key to organizational success.

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  • Make lists and use calendars: DO NOT RELY on your young brain to remember everything!  Use one calendar to record all of your appointments. Write down your to do lists and plan your week accordingly.

 

Simplicity for Young Adults

  •  REMEMBER: There isn’t one right way to be organized. Systems can change and be altered with time and necessity. What matters is that they work for you –bringing order, structure, and simplicity to your life.

Move Loot

Move Loot

Simplicity is loving this new business concept!  Move Loot is the first curated, full-service online marketplace for buying and selling previously-owned furniture and decor. Unlike peer-to-peer services or classified ads, Move Loot takes the burden off sellers by picking up their goods and selling them on their behalf.

Move Loot

SellersWin

BuyersWin

Their service includes professional photography, storage and next-day delivery to the buyer. The company aims to not only make buying high-quality, stylish used goods easier, but also to reduce the amount of furniture that goes into U.S. landfills — currently, 10.8M tons annually.

Selling Furnit

BuyingF

 

Headquartered in San Francisco, Move Loot operates in Los Angeles, New York City, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, and Atlanta. Learn more on Move Loot’s website or follow them on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

Move Loot is a wonderful resource for letting go of furniture that no longer serves a purpose in your home and life.  Consider letting other people in the community enjoy what you no longer need and you can be rewarded by the cash!


Principles of Simplicity: The 80-20 Rule & Less is More

The Pareto Principle  (aka The 80-20 Rule)

This principle was first conceived in over 100 years ago by an Italian who observed that 80% of the land in his country was owned by 20% of the people.  We’ve all heard in the classroom how 80% of the trouble is caused by 20% of the students.  So what does this have to do with Simplicity?  Actually, quite a bit:

We are all looking for efficiency and efficacy in our over busy, over stuffed worlds.  Figuring out what 20% matters- in what we own and what we do, would be huge.  Even if it’s not 80% wasted time or unused possessions, most of us have a great deal of fat in our schedules and bloat in our stuff.

Less is more

How you say?  For example-
How much of the contents of your closet never see the light of day?
How many of your children’s toys never come out of the toy box (if you were lucky enough to have them corralled to begin with)?

How much of the backlog of magazines, journals and papers will never be read?

How much of the stockpile of staples in your pantry will expire before being consumed?

How much of what’s on your calendar or agenda is productive, necessary and meaningful?

Maybe eliminating the 80% that isn’t used, enjoyed, productive and meaningful, could take you a long way toward accomplishing more of your goals.  Activities and commitments that are “low value” or “no value” may need to go.  The same is true of the unused, unloved, outdated clothes, toys, foodstuffs, and paper piles.

If you haven’t used something for a while, ask yourself why you are keeping it?  Because I might need it one day, or it’s too much trouble to make the cull are not good excuses.  If you’re saying yes to commitments out of fear or embarrassment, reconsider your motives. Before the onslaught of new stuff from the holidays and new obligations with the new year, get the old stuff under control.  Remember, better the right 20% than the wrong 100%!


Parkinson’s Law

(aka Nature abhors a vacuum)

A 20th century British naval historian made the observation that-

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

The “stuff “ corollary is that things expand to fill the space available.   It seems that empty or unfilled spaces and time are unnatural and begged to be filled.

How you say?  For example-

A closet you just purged or the desktop you just cleared is soon in need of attention again.

A bigger home doesn’t mean more breathing space but more opportunity to shop and fill.

A leanly stocked pantry or supply closet isn’t a sign that you’re managing your home inventory efficiently, but a signal that it’s time to whip out the credit card.

You feel not a sense of calm and relief when you see lots of open spaces in your calendar, but a sense of panic that you’re missing out on something or that you’re not considered a valuable contributor.

We are generally big on procrastination and not so bullish on actually getting things done.   In this 24/7 world where work can be anytime, anywhere, we’ve forgotten that it’s healthy and reasonable to limit how much time we spend on any task.  Be realistic about how long a task or project should take and limit yourself.  Maybe even give yourself a bit less time than you think you’ll need to really light a fire!  (This works well for children’s homework too.) Check to see how quickly you actually finished the task.  If you eliminate the dithering and handwringing, you’ll be surprised by how quickly things can be accomplished.

As to your material world, appreciate that less is more.  That needs and wants are not the same and that sometimes better is the enemy of good.

Either of these two principles can be helpful but there are synergies if you apply them in tandem.  When your friends, family and co-workers ask the secret of your new successes, just say Pareto and Parkinson!
Good luck!