Essentialism arrived for me in the strangest of
ways during the time of Covid-19.
Covid-19 has played a big part in making my life rather topsy-turvy most of last year and a good part of this year.
My Business got a shock.
And this year, Covid-19 infected both my wife and me. It was not life threatening eventually. But I felt on the edge at times.
But in many ways, Covid was also a gift – even though it was wrapped in pain.
Covid-19 forced me to pause.
Life on the slow lane, in full throttle
Gone were the days when I used to be occupied with work at least 12 hours every day, from 8.30 am to 8.30 pm almost on all days except Sundays.
Sadly, I did not achieve anything much by over indulging on work.
On the other hand, I spent time on trivial stuff which anyone else could have easily done.
I used to be stressed almost all the time.
And relationships with my near ones were not always dear to me.
I was in a frenzy trying to move the world and people in my life came only after that – if they came into my radar at all.
Despite all the work, business did not improve. And I was always scraping the bottom of the barrel.
I pretty much had my hand on almost all activities at office.
Till the time Covid hit me personally.
Then I had no option other than to retreat and quarantine.
That was when the staff at office stepped up and took charge.
And proved that I was not indispensable.
And I clearly understood that motion and activities on full throttle do not signify progress.
Most often, they represent a chaotic system and state of mind.
Welcome, Decluttering, Minimalism and Essentialism into my world!
Soon after the entire country shut down towards March end, in 2020, I embarked on learning the nitty-gritties of online marketing from marketing wizard, Neeraj Shah.
It was while identifying a Niche for my business that he remarked – it was almost a chance remark – that decluttering could be an important pivot in my business.
It is counter-intuitive, but without decluttering, all the cleaning we do in our homes, doesn’t achieve anything substantial.
From then on, decluttering has been doing the rounds in my mind.
And I even designed a 5-step Formula involving Decluttering, Space optimization, Minimalist designs, Organizing and Cleaning.
Here is the video which marked the culmination of the course where I outline the various components of the service.
At the end of the course, once Chennai started limping back to normalcy, we redesigned our interior design website – with its niche as minimalist designs.
The books I ordered and read during this period also cemented the feeling that decluttering and minimalism was the right ideal to be in pursuit of.
All these books happen to speak the same language about living an intentional life, after discarding non-essential things in life.
The life-changing magic of tidying up – Marie Kondo
Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown
These books are a broadening of Pareto principle which states the simple truth – 80% of results come from just 20% of the action.
The message is to focus on the most important things in life and remove inconsequential things if you want to find peace, tranquillity and productivity in life.
But the problem with our modern life is that we do not see the obvious. And we mistake the trivial for the essential.
As Peter Drucker said, “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time—literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.
”Saint Exupery’s quote “It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye,” sums up why we are not able to see the essential.”
Perhaps we operate very much in the realms of the mind and very little from the heart.
Because, to understand and focus on the essential one has to be in a space of quiet and calm.
The reason for non-essentialism in our world
We are spoiled and confused because of the imponderable number of choices we have before us.
Marketers keep reminding us that there is something else they can give us that will make our lives more complete. We believe them and unwittingly become the backbone of the consumerist society, acquiring and hoarding more and more of the good things of life, thinking that they will buy us satisfaction and contentment.
We end up hoarding beyond what is really good for us. Instead of giving us the peace and contentment we always yearn for, we end up being more stressed on account of the surfeit of things we own.
All these forces join together to keep us from pursuing the path of less but better and end up on the frequently travelled misdirected path of the nonessentialist.
The difference between the undisciplined
non-essentialist and disciplined essentialist.
Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less lists the pitfalls of getting caught up in the rat race of the consumerist society. He also suggests ways to scurry to safety.
His brilliant, straight forward analysis of the difference between the Non-essentialist and the Essentialist will make us pause and take note, because the dangers of being a non-essentialist is life sapping and closer home than we think.
|The undisciplined Non-Essentialist||The disciplined Essentialist|
|All things to all people||Less but Better|
|“I have to.”||“I choose to”|
|“It’s all important||Only a few things really matter|
|The undisciplined pursuit of more||The disciplined pursuit of less|
|Reacts to What’s most pressing||Pauses to discern what really matters|
|Says yes to people without thinking||Says “no” to everything except the essential|
|Tries to force execution at the last moment||Removes obstacles to make execution easy|
|Lives a life that does not satisfy||Lives a life that really matters|
|Takes on too much and work suffers||Chooses carefully in order to do great work|
|Feels out of control||Feels in control|
|Feels unsure if the right thing got done||Gets the right things done|
|Feels overwhelmed and exhausted||Experiences joy in the journey|
Life invites all of us to chart and control our journey, according to the independent choices we make. When we are not overwhelmed and confused by the many paths before us, but on the other hand, choose those paths that resonate with us, we end up enjoying the journey, in addition to reaching the destination. Traveling on this path gives us a sense of meaning and success.
Finding the oasis of Minimalist lifestyle or Essentialism through Decluttering
According to Greg McKeown, Essentialism is about creating a system for handling the closet of our lives.
He almost follows the same process of declutteering laid down by Marie Kondo in her path-breaking book, The life-changing magic of tidying up.
The beginning of decluttering for Marie Kondo is clearly understanding deep down the reason for decluttering. Without grappling with the why of decluttering, this activity will probably end up being meaningless. Her overriding reason for retaining things is the simple but profound question – does this item spark joy? To really feel the emotion, Marie Kondo suggests that we touch and feel the clothes to understand the emotions which they emote. Clothes that are not worn often or do not resonate with people are better discarded, according to her.
Similarly, in order to be traveling on the path of essentialism, in our personal or professional lives, we should ask ourselves the question – “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goal?” If it does, we embrace the activity. Else, we find something more important to do.
In the second step, Marie Kondo bets big on the process of decluttering. Her method is to declutter by category. Once all items in each category are piled up, she advices her clients to place the items in boxes labelled, 1) Keep, 2) Discard and 3) Donate /Sell.
The process towards essentialism is very similar, but a little bit more intentional. Both in the case of materials and activities with question marks about their value, there is this emotional “sunk cost bias.” In such cases, it is helpful to ask the question, “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” Greg McKeown strongly advises that we actively and intentionally eliminate activities and efforts that makes only minimal contribution. Discarding or eliminating should be a mindful, deliberate activity.
For Marie Kondo, the third step involves organizing the things that we have chosen to keep with us. She has an elaborate ritual for arranging the items in cupboards. She recommends particular way of folding clothes, because, according to her, they are so much part of us and we should respect them for the joy they bring to us. And, there has to be a regular routine for organizing and arranging items in a closet.
Minimalist wardrobe avoids decision fatigue, and make it elegant to look at.
The route to essentialism also follows a similar mindful path. A system has to be created to ensure that all the effort taken to travel on the path of essentialism are not wasted because of lack of persistence or system. Once we are clear about the activities that create maximum impact, we should mindfully create a system around doing those activities on a regular basis without any stress.
One major difference between Marie Kondo’s clearly laid out system of organizing and McKeown’s path to essentialism is a little trickier because, as he says in the book, “In the closet of our lives, new clothes—new demands on our time—are coming at us constantly. Imagine if every time you opened the doors to your closet you found that people had been shoving their clothes in there—if every day you cleaned it out in the morning and then by afternoon found it already stuffed to the brim.”
The author suggests enabling ways of staying clear of other people’s agendas overwhelming our lives. Unlike managing a minimalist wardrobe, it is possible to rest in peace thinking that the system we have put in place will come to our aid. In the business of running our lives, we need to be conscious of every decision that we take so that they are in alignment with our deepest values.
Finally, essentialism teaches us to be more efficient, productive and effective in our personal and professional realms. And it teaches us what is really important and what is not.
In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins suggests that several dominant companies, considered the favourites by Wall Street at one point of time, collapsed during the first decade of this century because they fell prey to “undisciplined pursuit of more.”
Just as we as individuals fall prey to unbridled consumerism, large corporations too flirt with danger in their quest to be and do more, without any method.
I run a company called Service Square, which help people to live in a zone of essentialism by decluttering and minimalism
What is ‘Decluttering’ meaning?
Decluttering is the process of removing or discarding all unnecessary or unused things from your home so that it looks and feels elegant.
Why is decluttering important important to keep my home clean?
Without decluttering, all the cleaning you do in your home does not create any impact. When we have less stuff at home, we end up cleaning way less, and it remains clean for a longer period.
What is the negative effect of clutter?
Cluttered homes induce stress, particularly in women. Secondly, it takes more effort to clean. Clutter costs a lot of money because of the extra shopping implied.
What are the steps in decluttering?
Before beginning the decluttering process, you have to be clear about the reason for decluttering. The next step is to arrange all items by category and sort them into boxes labeled 1) Keep, 2) Discard and 3) Donate/Sell
What is the reason for clutter or nonessentialism in our world?
Clutter or nonessentialism is caused by the array of choices before us. Marketers lead us to believe that the more things we possess, the happier and more complete we would become. So, we keep on hoarding.
What is a key difference between the thinking of a nonessentialist and essentialist?
A nonessentialist believes in being everything everyone. An essentialist on the other hand believes in Less, but better. He or she also thinks about the most essential things.
What according to Greg McKeown is the best way of managing the closet of our lives?
Just as a minimalist wardrobe is elegant and orderly, by managing the closet of our lives, we walk on the path of essentialism creating more impact in our and others’ lives.
What is the danger when large organisations do not follow the tenets of essentialism?
When large corporate empires forget the principles of essentialism, they try to bite off more than they can chew. They try to expand and do more in an unwieldy manner, bringing them down.
What is the principle recommended by Marie Kondo for deciding what to keep.
Marie Kondo recommends keeping those items bring joy or spark in the minds of people. They should also be useful to us in our daily lives.
What is the difference between the life of a non essentialist and essentialist.
An nonessentialist feels a meandering and dissatisfied life. An essentialist on the other hand, lives a life of contribution and satisfaction.