You can probably tell from the existence of this blog that I'm a strong believer in the power of routine. When I have a routine, I feel the most centered and focused. My moods do better following the path of the day and I can anticipate and deal with challenges that come. In regular intervals in my life I've stopped to make an "Ideal Daily Routine" on binder paper or Google Docs or Notion, outlining all of the things I should do in what order in order to have a perfectly optimized and happy day.
However, life doesn't have much of a care for sticking to MY routine, no matter how well-thought-out and optimized I make it. When overtime cuts in, when I get sick, when I simply need more time to sleep — these are the times that concessions need to be made to get through the day on time. No morning yoga. No carefully-timed computer breaks. No meal prep or regular evening exercise. It's a frustrating exercise in what I consider important.
An example: I sleep in later on a weekday, so I'm obviously not going to have time to write. My priorities are: enough makeup to look alive and lunch to eat later, so I take my essential medication, put on makeup, make lunch and go. Everything else has been determined to be non-essential to me getting out the door. A tiny side note — having efficient resting spaces for my belongings and less belongings overall means I have an easier time prioritizing and finding what I need, even when I feel more rushed.
This past week has been challenging for my brain and I. My brain relies far, FAR too heavily on a sense of accomplishment in order to feel happy. Nothing especially harrowing has happened this week, just overtime at work which deters me from productive mornings. I still go to bed at 9:30 if I can, but the longer work days makes me more tired overall. I sleep in until 7 or 7:30. Since my priority is going to bed at 9:30, I missed my three workout nights this week. I didn't draft a new blog post. I didn't cook any dinners. The result is me on a Saturday feeling rather miffed and guilty because I "fell off the horse."
Since I'm expecting this dilemma to trouble me consistently in my tidy-aspiring life, I figured I'd make a post about it. Many of the youtube accounts I watch for minimal/tidy lifestyles showcase the best of the best of their lives. It is up to me to remind myself that other people fall off the horse too, and that's okay. The important thing is to avoid chastising ourselves for falling off and encouraging ourselves to get back on.
I'm taking this weekend to reset. I'm pretty sure this coming week is going to be busy too, so it's important to rest and rehabilitate both my mind and body. One of my goals in the future is to measure my daily happiness by experience rather than accomplishment. This is my reminder to whoever is reading this: Drink some water, take a break if you need it, and be proud of yourself for trucking along.
This afternoon I watched this short film by Jackie Files and it made me reflect on my own sentiment and nostalgia tying into the things I own. In the film the young woman is visiting her childhood bedroom and considering her belongings within, one by one. Memories come back to her as she moves from photos and books to her box of journals. There is a moment in the film where she takes out a black journal and her smile vanishes. She sets it aside and doesn't open it. I have been exactly in that place with that uncomfortable aversion to the memories an object brings back. I don't have to look, I know what's in that journal.
The woman decides to open it. She thinks about being alone, and how it can be so, so difficult and what it feels like to want to be loved and feel a part of a group. Many, many people can relate to that aching feeling. We all have memories we dislike looking back on, and oftentimes our belongings are the strongest connection to those memories. It can be hard to let go of those things, and sometimes we want to, and sometimes we don't. I think I'm reaching a part of my life where I can let go and live in the present far more than I'm used to.
Jackie was kind enough to give me permission to share her film on my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Some people are more sentimental, some are more utilitarian. Both can have their pitfalls, but the important thing to remember is that both are ultimately human.
Minimalism, in my mind, isn't about removing your humanity, it's about honing your senses into the objects you value most and enjoying those objects to their fullest.
The Sentimentalist - Past Oriented
"X gave this to me."
"This was my first ___."
"I got this during [time period]."
The Utilitarian - Future Oriented
"I can definitely find a use for this."
"I might need this at some point."
Which kind of owner are you?
What reasons do you lean on most when considering your belongings?
Uses and Memories
When looking over a room to clean, start by taking a few items down and considering these two questions and their adjacent follow-ups.
After working through an entire container or room, you will have a better sense of the value you use most when deciding what to keep. This thought process certainly runs adjacent to Marie Kondo's genius question about an object sparking joy. An object can spark joy in both its utility and its emotional value, making it a very handy singular question for searching through your stuff.
As I've continued to tidy and organize, I began to form a mental graph for how I evaluate my belongings. It functions on two axes: Functional Value and Emotional Value. Here's an example, filled in with the help of some coworkers and critical thinking. I'm sure the placement of different items is different for every person, so pay attention as your mind automatically corrects or fills in the gaps.
Sentimental Pitfall: Time
If you're a more sentimental owner, an item can accumulate value simply by being in your life for a long time. It makes sense — there's a reason antiques are valuable, there's a reason those one pair of boots that you've had since high school feel worth keeping around. There are items that have stuck it out for you, and have seen you through a lot of your life. However, I think time itself shouldn't be the sole reason or measure by which you hold onto something.
If the main reason you find to keep something is "I've had it for a long time," examine adjacent reasons like the object's function and how often you view it in order to better decide its value. Inversely, the value of your belongings can decrease as you get older. If something doesn't bring you as much joy as it used to, or doesn't feel as important to keep, that's okay. For the time in your life that you wanted it, you had it, and that's what is most important.
Utilitarian Pitfall: Price
A common guilt point for looking at an item you haven't used is thinking, "Man, I spent X amt of dollars on this." A bike you never rode. An expensive DVD collection you haven't cracked open. That exercise machine that was going to kickstart you into fitness. Fumio Sasaki talks about a similar concept in Goodbye Things: Banish the concept of "Getting Your Money's Worth". The guilt of not getting your money's worth in the past gangs up on your practical response of using it in the future and makes it infinitely harder to discard. In my opinion, it is not worth keeping something just because it was expensive. No amount of price matters if the item isn't useful to you or it doesn't make you happy.
How have I changed?
As I've gotten older, I've noticed how my current nature as an owner has shifted. When I was around the end of high school, I used nostalgia to help cushion my transition into college by returning to my childhood roots: Disney movies, YA fiction, anything that brought me a sense of peace from an earlier time. Now that I'm living in LA and working and I'm no longer functioning as a student in a "temporary" home, I feel like I can finally break free from nostalgia as a cushion and start building new memories while keeping the things from my past that I treasure where they belong: in the past. I'm certainly not saying I'm no longer sentimental -- that is far from the truth. But my priorities have changed, and I'm enjoying documenting this transition into a new state of mind.