Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Happy medium-alism: when minimalism leaves you feeling empty and too much is too much.
Nowadays, there are two extremes: blank neutrality or a visual riot.
When you search for help on how to organize, the advice is almost always the same: get rid of whatever has no sentimental value or hasn’t been used in a year.
And usually the judgement and nagging of the people around you is no help either.
The reason I say “no help” is because, if you are reading this, chances are you and I are alike on this (otherwise you would have already gotten rid of everything as per the jillion other blogs out there).
What I am proposing: having a place for all your treasures, organizing them well, holding on to things even when you can’t articulate a justification at the moment (because you just have a feeling (that you always had) that you’ll need it). Using principles of art like balance of positive (occupied) space and negative (empty) space.
Even though the term “midimalism” came to me one day, I am not the first person to think of it and, since it is pretty much “the Middle Path” regarding stuff, I definitely didn’t come up with anything new.
It seems like wherever one looks, on television, in magazines, in books, even the houses of friends, there is either the spartan austerity of an impoverished just-moved-in apartment dweller...or the carefully curated two mono-chromatic abstract paintings and a matching grey couch—and that’s it--of a minimalist...or the entropy-overload of an incurable, overwhelmed slob hoarder in desperate need of an intervention...or, in rare cases, the every-surface-artstically-festooned-in-layers-that-work-even-though-they-shouldn’t-but-still-overwhelm of the maximalist.
This is about being a Packrat with Presentation Skills and a Purpose.
Some of us are artists.
We like visual interest.
We also need blank space to stare at and think.
We believe there is a happy medium.
Some of us need a literal 3-D catalog of physical things, a supply store if you will, in our homes, at our disposal.
Just because we don’t know how we’ll use it now means nothing; time and time again we were able to fix things, create things, find solutions because we knew what we had to work with, an inventory of our own stock.
Creating, like any art, becomes intuitive. It helps to have your inspiration lying around.
We enjoy re-discovering the things we loved when purchased, that we forgot we had when we dig through our closets, cabinets, boxes, and drawers.
I just want to tell you right now: this is normal and not only normal, but healthy.
It’s healthy to love things from, and have a physical connection to, your past sometimes.
It’s healthy to have odds and ends on hand and not need to always run out to the store to try to find what you need.
It’s healthy to be able to shop in your own closet. To shop, for free, for things that you know interest you, in the most conveniently located art supply store ever.
The key is balance.
And first off I just want to clear the air, because so much of what I have read is just virtue-signaling with regards to this topic:
YOU ARE NOT MORALLY SUPERIOR FOR GETTING RID OF STUFF OR FOR ONLY OWNING 100 ITEMS OR LESS AND LIVING IN A SHOEBOX.
For a while, many people were acting like they were. So much so that even journalists started commenting on it.
So what, you can make yourself do something foolish or unpleasant? We all do some form of that at some point. We all have discipline in some form. We all channel our need for control in some arbitrary way like this.
This doesn’t make you a good person. Sometimes it seems like these people just want other people to be impressed.
I don’t fit this throw-it-all-out mold, and you are a-okay if you don’t either.
I grew up in a mostly joyless home. Since my pre-teens I escaped by imagining my dream house, and not just my dream house, but the things that I would do all day, which mostly involved building mini sets and scenes. One of my favorite picture books was the “I Spy” series by Walter Wick because I loved how you could get lost in the pictures because there was so much to look at, and it all worked together. I collected things, one-of-a-kind-things for years from garage sales and thrift shops.
Most of my things sat in storage for 15 years.
Now (I still can’t believe it) I have a house.
And a lot of it strongly resembles the rooms I spent so much of my childhood putting together in my imagination zone!
There is even a room just for all the boxes of little tiny things and equipment and *stuff* that I always wanted to turn into art.
I have stuff to work with to do the work I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten to do yet. I even have a box of oddly-shaped plastic packaging pieces I’ve saved in case I need to custom-make some weird-shaped thing.
I’m a late bloomer. And that’s okay too. Things usually take quite a bit of time before they cascade into being.
My house doesn’t look like a thrift shop, nor does it qualify for professional help from a hoarder-intervention squad.
When you walk in, it isn’t overwhelming, it’s interesting. I’m not claiming it’s everyone’s style (as if that were even possible), but I am saying it is my style and it works. As much a museum, as four walls and a toilet and a bed.
I still sleep with stuffed animals from my childhood. I still love my dolls, action figures, and animal figurines. A library is still my idea of Heaven.
I surround myself with things that make me happy, that make me feel at home.
Here’s the moral of the story:
* Minimalism isn’t for everyone (nor does minimalism make you righteous)
* You don’t have to get rid of your earthly possessions nor should you feel guilty for not doing so
* It is entirely possible to need things that you own that you haven’t used in the past year, and
*It is also entirely possible to have a place for everything and everything in its place.
If the thought of getting rid of stuff makes you feel sad/depressed/sick/unhappy/wrong, here are some alternatives:
1.) The absolute best advice I can possibly give is to put your things in a way that is easy-to-see and easy-to-use.
Make it easy to tell yourself "Yes" to using them to do things!
If you can’t do that now, for whatever reason, at least organize things into bins so that when you one day can have a place of your own, everything is already mostly organized and ready to go. If you are like I was, and everything is EVERYWHERE, to the point that walking through the house is carefully stepping along a tiny path between mountains, this is what I had to do:
2.) If I looked at the whole mess, it was too much. But I knew I could put away *1* thing. So I would. And then 1 more. And soon I had put away 20 things.
3.) I saw each of those things getting put in the right spot/box as a victory because that was one thing that had gotten better. If/when you DO get space, unpack the same way that you packed: each thing attractively set in a easy to see and use place is a victory. You have to do it a little at a time, consistently.
4.) It’s getting started that’s the hardest part, so just...START. When you start to feel burned out, stop, rest, come back later. Work while you listen to something to occupy your mind. Your body doesn't mind working if your brain isn't bored.
5.) Being able to see what you have and ENJOY it makes living in your home a rewarding and enriching EXPERIENCE.
6.) Think of creative uses and SOLUTIONS for things. For example, stuff a Moroccan pouf with your old stuffed animals, or tie them to a papsan chair instead of buying one of the expensive cushions, and cover them with a big blanket (excess or seasonal throw pillows also work!). You still have your beloved childhood playthings nearby, hidden in your furnishing.
Things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, in fact, they shouldn’t be.
7.) A sign that you’re on the right track is when you can synthesize the parts of yourself. You shouldn’t throw parts of yourself away, especially in creativity or in life.
8.) Balance positive (occupied) and negative (empty) space. You should have the harmony of lots to look at and eyeball "breathing space" too.
This is true in art and true in interior decorating and styling.
A gallery wall full of pictures is great! But if every wall is like that, it might feel like a bit much…
I love a cluttered office (it makes me feel productive and free to be messy; I need and like lots of stuff around me to do my best work), but I need a clean, open entryway and uncluttered kitchen countertops to be able to relax.
9.) Add layers, but stop when it starts becoming too much or doesn’t feel/look “right”. Start with the big, main things, add some medium things, then fill in with a few small things.
**Small things can feel cluttery and overwhelming, so it can help to contain them in a display case of some kind, a museum case of you, as it were.
It can be a full-size trophy case or small shadowboxes a la Joseph Cornell.
It’s also fun to “shop” here too, and swap out decorative stuff every now and then because we all need to switch things up.
Sometimes less is more and sometimes more is more.
Finding what feels right takes experimenting and playing around with it. That's the fun!
If you have an idea, try it until something works.
Most of the time, you can fit anything if you try. If you need inspiration, or to start your midimalist education, I suggest searching bohemian interiors. Bohemians mix positive and negative space really well with a variety of styles of furnishings.
I also have a 14 day e-mail course where we can focus our mindsets, get excited, and explore new ideas! Check out SACRED SPACES!
Be you 😊
All My Love,
Public Domain, 2019