Start With the Closet

I’m reading the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. It’s excellent. As most of you know I’ve been on a bit of a minimalism kick for the past few years. Hell, the first word in the Duce Enterprises tag line is “simplify”.


Because we’ve all gone a little crazy with everything. Technology, stuff, work, houses, cars, etc. Too much of EVERYTHING.

Starting with the closet

The title of this post comes both from the book and from personal experience. Early in “Essentialism”, McKeown writes about the process of cleaning out your closet.

Every so often it gets so out of control you try and purge the closet. But unless you have a disciplined system you’ll either end up with as many clothes as you started with because you can’t decide which to give away; end up with regrets because you accidentally gave away clothes you do wear and did want to keep; or end up with a pile of clothes you don’t want to keep but never actually get rid of because you’re not quite sure where to take them or what to do with them.
(p. 17)

I laughed out loud when I read this because this was exactly my situation a year ago. I would attempt to clean out my closet – to whittle down my t-shirt collection mostly – and end up with two piles. One was for donation, and the other was the “I’m not sure” pile. It was ridiculous. I’d spend an hour sorting through clothes only to end up with more work to do.

Finally, I reduced the number of decisions I had to make by immediately eliminating anything that I hadn’t worn in the last month or so. I also gave myself permission to give up the old shirts that had some kind of story, and took a photo and saved it in Evernote in case I ever wanted to reminisce. This helped, but I was still not satisfied. Today, I committed to reducing my closet to the absolute essentials so I can focus on other, more important decisions. Extra watches: gone; sock drawer: simplified; belts: one reversible. This is fun!

And now back to this post. If you’re hesitant to go full on minimalist, start with something simple in your life. This may not be your closet – maybe it’s your cubicle or your garage or even your car. Give yourself permission to be a hard core essentialist on this one thing. Keep only that which is actually valuable to you. Clean out the rest for donation or trash. Learn from this experience and then move on to the next thing.

Priority vs. priorities

By focusing on the essential, we enable ourselves to prioritize effectively. We can’t make everything a priority. This goes for your work life and your personal life. Everything is a trade-off. But if we have a single clear priority, the process of making decisions becomes easier.

My priority is time. One of my goals earlier this year was to write every day. It became one of my many priorities. The problem is with that word “many”. I now know “many priorities” is impossible. I have eliminated the false priorities and cleared the path for more space and time that I can dedicate to reading and writing. I could not have done that without focusing on the essential.

For me, that started with my closet.

Links from this post

“Essentialism: The Dedicated Pursuit of Less”
Fast Company: “Always Wear the Same Suit”

2 thoughts on “Start With the Closet”

  1. Local organic store did a ‘technology recycle’ week a few weeks ago; you bring them your old tech equipment, they’d wipe them down and dispose of of them. I spent an entire weekend sorting through my ‘technology closet.’ It turned into an agonizing archaeological dig site until I realized that i hadn’t actually committed to what I guess you would call the essential goal. I mean, I thought that I had, but I hadn’t. Soon after, the closet was cleaned and things carted off to their final organic resting place. Did I accidentally give away some cords that I needed not 3 days later? Yes, but I also got rid of the non-functioning Toshiba notebook from the beginning of this century that I had been hanging onto ‘because of reasons.’

    • Exactly, Craig.

      While there may be a cost associated with disposing of something you “need”, almost everything is replaceable and the value you get in return of having cleared out the space, both physically and mentally, is worth it.


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