#TBT Brutal Organization, aka, minimalism before I knew what that was... a 2 Part Stuff Manifesto for Defeating the Boogie Man in the Closet

Throwback to June 17th, 2009, when I propounded my two-part manifesto of Brutal Organization, designed to defeat the boogie man of organization that had been hiding in my closet.  I actually am kind of IN LOVE with this post, because six years ago I already instinctively understood so many tenants of minimalism!  *Proud of 2009 me*  On a related note, stay posted for a soon-to-come review of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Brutal Organization, aka Minimalism Before I Knew What That Was!  An Easy 2 Part "Stuff" Manifesto that Will Make Life Simpler! via Devastate Boredom


"Organization" used to feel like a Boogie Man hiding in my closet. Some days I would be brave enough to whip him out of there, beat him into shape and make him take up proper hygiene. Other days, I would pretend not to notice that he existed at all, and would just keep hoping that the piles of papers and clothes I stacked nonchalantly outside the door would trap him, and he would never again emerge. But inevitably organization would emerge, wild and out of control, shrieking and knocking things over... and again I would be forced to admit that ignoring it in the first place had just caused myself all kinds of trouble.

It was especially difficult because those tough, brave moments of hyper-organization... 

....were actually an expression of my need to structure reality when my life was chaotic, and weren't driven by any kind of discipline at all. So the instant the chaos faded, so did the organization. Plus, my home organizational system consisted of piles. A pile for the important papers, a pile for the things to be scrapbooked, a pile of books to be read, a pile of books to take back to the library, and so on. In a lot of cases the system worked fine, and it's actually typical of a lot of people with ADHD (*raises hand*), but piles are very easily knocked over... especially when the pile-maker is a klutz and owns two cats. The moment I stopped maintaining it, my "system" started to become "mess."

So for me, getting my life in order and keeping it that way requires desperate measures. It requires Brutal Organization, and nothing less.

I came to this conclusion after years of distress, lost papers, and wrinkled clothing, but it was specifically triggered after seven weeks studying abroad, living happily and even ecstatically, with only the very fewest of necessities. Clearly, most of the "stuff" filling my room at home wasn't as integral to daily life as I had thought it was. 

Shortly after I returned to the states, I took a week-long volunteer trip to post-Hurricane-Katrina New Orleans: a week spent gutting ruined, sodden houses and seeing just how easily the contents of those homes had become rubble. It was a perspective check in a big way, and I went home and completely emptied out my bathroom closet of every single forgotten half-empty bottle and expired prescription, and my closet of all the mis-sized, worn-out clothing that had been shoved to the back. It was cathartic and freeing, and as time past those experiences combined as the impetus that formed my philosophy of Brutal Organization.


The Brutal Organization Manifesto:


Part I: Many, if not most, of the possessions in the average American household are completely superfluous, and superfluous things only serve to weigh us down.Part II: There should be nothing around you that isn't ridiculously utilitarian, personally meaningful, or somehow beautiful.

After you have grappled with and accepted both parts of the manifesto, Brutal Organization then requires that you go through the things you own and reevaluate each with stark honesty. Is it ridiculously useful? Did it use to be meaningful, but now you don't really care any more? Is it beautiful? Could something lovely serve in its place while being just as utilitarian? Is the item a duplicate of something you already have, and could someone else benefit from it instead? Do you use it often enough to make keeping it worth-while?

Brutal Organization becomes a lot easier when you start to view your possessions as tenants in your house. They pay their rent with service, whether it is opening a bottle, cleaning your clothes, making you smile, or helping you remember what is important... but they either need to constantly serve you in small ways, or occasionally in huge ones. Obviously, the serving platter or heaviest coat may only be pulled out a few times a year, but they're going to more than earn their keep. On the other hand, the sweater that you haven't worn in two seasons or that CD you didn't actually like are both way behind on paying their rent. Don't be a pushover landlord! Use Brutal Organization and put some smack down, and make some worthy charitable organization glow with delight over the resulting discarded "stuff."

Brutal Organization doesn't mean getting rid of your ties to the past, by any means -- in fact if you've been reading my posts for very long you're aware of the high importance I place on continuation and physical mementos -- but sometimes values just shift. You should never hang on to something just because you're in the habit of keeping it. It must fall within Part II of the manifesto. 

Brutal Organization also doesn't necessarily mean getting rid of something just because you haven't used in it a year or two, because it's very likely that you should have been using it during that time. Exercise equipment for example, or perfectly good shoes lying forgotten in the back of your closet, or the crockpot that could save you both time and money if you ever remembered to lug it out of the cabinet... These things don't need to be eliminated, they need to be used! Make a list of the ingredients laying forgotten in the cupboard and post it on your fridge; pile the unwatched DVDs on top of the TV; move the older clothes to the front of the closet and wear them in rotation. If it still doesn't get eaten, watched, worn, or otherwise utilized, or if you remember that there was a stain down the front of that jacket anyway, that's when it's time to be rid of it.

Many times beautiful things can also serve utilitarian purposes, or vice versa. Brutal Organization prompted me to get rid of the ugly green desk organizer I had been using, and substitute a thrift store vase and mug to hold my desk supplies in its place. In their former lives those two objects had been merely decorative, since the mug was cracked and the vase was too short and wide to hold flowers easily; in their new lives they were valued and productive. I was able to use old things in a new way that eliminated a superfluous object and made something lovely also utilitarian. I like my desk a great deal more for the change, and I've doubled my benefit from those items.

We live in a culture of advertising and materialism, and it's easy to forget what's important. Brutal Organization can allow you to appreciate and value what you have that much more, while making life a little simpler. In my experience, it makes for a worthwhile pursuit, and a happier individual. Brutal Organization works for me! And maybe it will work for you too. :)

If you haven't already, be sure to read my recent post about how I choose to organize my clothing!  (spoiler alert- I hang ALL TEH THINGS!) 



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16 comments

  1. We are in the process of doing something similar to this. We've gotten rid of tons of stuff that was just that...stuff. It's exhilarating too.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Way to go!! It is SO exhilarating, I agree!

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  2. Blam! POW! ZONK! Take THAT Boogie Man!!
    Sarah Eliza is the winner by knock out!!
    Melinda

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    1. Ahahaha love the sound effects! I'm one tough cookie... ;P

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  3. You're preaching to the choir! I really don't care to organize but I hate wasting time looking for something and get overwhelmed by clutter! I use the exact same "Manifesto!" Great post!

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    1. Yay, we're in the choir together!! :D Thanks for coming by! Poppin' over to check out your blog now. :)

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  4. I absolutely love your idea of Brutal Organization! And this: "Brutal Organization becomes a lot easier when you start to view your possessions as tenants in your house. They pay their rent with service" -- what a great perspective. Of all the organization mantras I've heard, I think this one makes the most sense to me. I really appreciate, also, that you don't adhere to the "if I haven't used it in two years, get rid of it" rule. Honestly, that is the one that kicks me off the organization train every time I try to get from point A to point B, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I am working at paring down the possessions, and I feel like you just gave me "permission" to work outside the box in a way that makes sense to me. :)

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    1. Oh yay! It makes me so happy that this post was helpful to you! I wholeheartedly believe in thinking outside the box, and adapting ideas to what actually WORKS in your own personal life... SO glad you're feeling empowered now! Come back soon and tell me how it all goes! *hugs*

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  5. Sarah Eliza, I like your analogy about our possessions being tenants in our house. Today I was taking some pictures and looked all over the house to try and make vignettes with some things I hadn't touched in years. Do you see my dilemma here? I really want to get rid of stuff but right now I'm in the process of re-evaluating everything. What if I can repurpose them... and so it goes. But I will keep in mind this analogy because it forces us to rethink everythng..

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    1. I completely understand how hard this would be for you, Mary! You're AMAZING at repurposing things, and honestly if I had the talent for it that you did I probably would have a hard time getting rid of anything either. ;P I'm glad you still found the analogy intriguing! It's definitely been a helpful one for me. :)

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  6. What an awesome post, the best I have read on this subject. I love thinking that is logical yet outside the box. Not a rule for a rules sake. Thanks for bringing this post that helps us appreciate the things that we do keep.
    Kathleen
    Fridays Blog Booster Party #31

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    1. Thanks so much Kathleen! :) I really appreciate the kind words... yea, I'm not really a rule for rules sake kind of girl... too much of a rebel I guess ahahaha. (laughing because I'm the most rule-following rebel ever... I guess I follow the rules I can respect, and make up on my own that make more sense to me when needed. ;P)

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing with us at Merry Monday. We hope to see you at the new party Sunday night.

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  8. These are all very important points. I have to agree. I need to really go through my stuff and see what I need and don't need. Thank you for sharing your important thoughts on this topic.

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  9. This is such a great post, especially as I am on my way to an entire home brutal organisation. I am similar - whenever things get a bit much, I move all my furniture around, clean behind it and organise everything. Then the piles start to creep back I'm hoping that after I have done the whole house, it will be longer lasting. Thank you for linking with #featurefridays

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  10. Clutter, clutter, everywhere! This is how I feel most of the time. While my residence is clean, and everything seems to (almost always) have a home...it still feels cluttered. The art of minimalism is amazing and one that I'd love to master. Because really.. what does all the STUFF matter anyway?! Thanks for sharing :)

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