Lessons in Extreme Minimalism
As business owners, we spend quite a bit of time on our computers. There are newsletters to write, clients to email and blog posts to develop. While we don’t recommend trying to multi-task, we often will have the tv on while we work. The types of shows that are appropriate for this circumstance are ones that do not require much attention.
One day when searching for mindless programming on my cable box, I came across an image with 3 possibly naked people and the word “Stripped”. I have to admit, I was curious. After reading the brief description, “this outlandish yet emotional social experiment aims to discover how people’s lives and values change once everything they own is stripped away”, I decided to start from the beginning, watching Season 1, Episode 1.
According to Bravo, “This new series exposes people’s relationships with their personal belongings as they forego everything they own – clothing, furniture, money and all coveted possessions – for 21 days. Each day, they may retrieve one item that they cannot live without, and priorities will inevitably emerge. Expected to go about their daily lives by showing up to work, maintaining their families and keeping up with social circles – without their everyday necessities – each person jumps into survival mode in order to determine what is most essential to them. With no shortage of outrageous and uncomfortable moments along the way, this trans-formative journey has a life-changing impact as they each uncover what truly matters to them most.”
It wasn’t long before I realized that this was the perfect tv show for a professional organizer like me. We coach our clients on many of the lessons that the participants were learning on the show. Oftentimes we find that our clients are emotionally attached to their physical possessions. This inevitably turns into a conversation about priorities, being realistic, where we see ourselves in the future and what’s really important. Stripped is a straight forward look into extreme minimalism and the concepts that surround it.
Just imagine…No clothes. No toothbrush. No curtains. Everything is removed from the participants’ homes and bodies. The refrigerator, stove and microwave are even chained up. They get freeze dried meals, water and toilet paper. That’s it! The first day (Day 0) is a test. Having to sleep naked on a hard floor is just the first challenge they will face over the course of 21 days. There were many lessons learned through this experience. Here are just a few of the important ones that I took away from the program…
- YOU HAVE MORE THINGS THAN YOU THINK
Prior to the contestants being stripped of all of their worldly possessions, they were asked how many individual items they think they owned. Patty and Rai both guessed very different numbers (247 & 700) based on the space they share but both of them were far off from the actual number of 3,127. Yes, the producers counted every item in their home! We encounter this with our clients. Most people have no concept of exactly how much stuff they own. Try counting all of the things in just one of your rooms.
- IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SIMPLE THINGS
The most essential things to the folks who were stripped of everything was often not what they thought it would be. Comfort becomes priority #1. For some that meant having something besides a hardwood floor to sleep on, namely a mattress. For others (and most) the first item they retrieved was something to cover up with like a onesie, blanket or robe. The next step in finding comfort? Shoes. One pair would suffice for most of the contestants. Can you imagine having only one pair of shoes and being satisfied with that?
- PHONE ADDICTION IS REAL
Most of the folks who participated in this show had a hard time giving up their phones. They cited reasons ranging from “this is how I get clients for my business” to “I will be totally cut off from the outside world”. After being separated from his phone in Episode 8, Richie concluded that he wanted to focus less on social media and more on his personal connections. The ironic part is that he ended up changing careers, becoming a Social Media Consultant! Disconnecting from your phone, even for short periods of time, can bring you closer to yourself and those who mean the most to you.
- WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS, EMOTIONS RISE
All of things we surround ourselves with create distractions. Distractions from emotions, thinking, connecting. Silence allows your brain to think. It also encourages you to talk to each other. Unfortunately one of the couples broke up shortly after taping concluded. It is rare that we surround ourselves with silence. Try turning off the tv, phone and radio every once in a while. You might be surprised at the delicious discoveries you make when your brain is free from outside distractions.
- WE TAKE MANY THINGS FOR GRANTED
As the old saying goes, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. While being on the tv show Stripped is an extreme example of this, it did help many of the participants appreciate all of the comforts of modern life in America. There are so many little things that we take for granted like ice cubes or paper towels. I’ve learned similar lessons by traveling overseas. We have so much to be thankful for. Learn to appreciate the things that you have.
- SAVING MONEY IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK
Sisters, Autianna and Jaseena, were able to make money while bartending for the 21 days that they were participating in the show. They weren’t able to spend it during that time, however. The producers collected all of their tips and at the end of the 3 week period they were amazed by how much money they had saved as a result. It made them realize that saving money is easy when you’re not spending indiscriminately.
- LOOKS AREN’T AS IMPORTANT AS YOU THINK BUT HAVING GOOD HYGIENE IS
Some of the woman who appeared in Stripped were concerned about not having makeup. How would they leave the house or attend a business meeting without having any makeup on? As Rai discovered in Episode 5, it turns out you can walk around town in a onesie without makeup and still people will be nice and generous to you. Sisters Autianna and Jaseena started this experience with a bathroom counter covered in lotions and body sprays. When it came down to it, though, all they really need was a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant.
- YOU DON’T NEED AS MUCH AS YOU THINK YOU DO
Several of the contestants stopped retrieving items for themselves at some point and started taking things out of their storage unit to give to the homeless community. This means that with less than 21 items in their possession, they didn’t need anything else. Can you fathom that? How many things can you let go of and still be happy and satisfied?
How do you think you would survive if forced to give up everything you own? Clearly this experience is not typical of anyone, let alone minimalists. It is, however, an enlightening way to discover your relationship to your stuff. And even just watching the show gets you thinking about your own things and the priorities you assign to them. You may realize, after all, that less really is more!
This article was written by Mission 2 Organize