Kurt Niziak is a software trainer and data analyst from Massachusetts.
Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?
Kurt: Yes, but not consciously. Instead, it somehow chose me!
Over a decade ago, my career and financial situation was vastly different. In fact, my own “personal paper route” (as I call it) was surprisingly easy. Financially, I was preparing myself for a life of moderate wealth. The bottom fell out, however, and I was forced to abide by a lifestyle which would be the antitheses of what I once thought I had.
In July of 2018, I had a major fire in my once well-furnished condo. I had stepped out of my home for a mere thirty-five minutes only to return and witness that almost all of what I had acquired over the years had vanished. I say the word almost because, my most important possession (my dog) was miraculously spared. (Thank God).
After the complete shock of losing almost everything had slowly worn off, I was surprised to feel an incredible sense of gratitude. I realized that as terrible as things were, at least my dog was okay. This horrific event proved to be the genesis of a priceless awakening. I began to understand that I really didn’t need many possessions in order to keep on living on a day-to-day basis. Material things somehow revealed themselves in their most generic form, serving as nothing more than distractions.
Mollie: What is your lifestyle like now?
Kurt: I suppose that I am a bit more grounded. I am cognizant about how we are all such insatiable consumers. I try instead to take better care of the things that I do have, rather than fantasizing about what I don’t have. Furthermore, before purchasing or storing anything, I think about whether I really need it.
We all are conditioned to believe that our lives can only improve via addition—as if we were painting a picture, adding more and more layers. Unfortunately, this approach seldom gets us the results we are looking for. Perhaps it’s a sculpture that we should be creating instead, our goal only arrived at via subtraction. We discard the pieces that are not necessary.
Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for cleaning, organizing and simplifying a home?
Kurt: In his wonderful book 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson is quick to point out an approach towards minimalism which (at first look) appears rather benign. However, this simple concept has saved me, time and time again, from the shackles of a personal two- or three-day funk. Peterson states that one risks feeling depressed, anxious and powerless should they fail to keep their bedroom clean, or surroundings in order. Whenever I motivate myself to use this simple tactic, it has never failed to make me feel more balanced—more in control.
Cleaning, organizing, etc. are extremely powerful minimalist tools. They help combat feelings of chaos. If things are clean and in order, I have a better chance at having a more positive experience in the outside world. Physical clutter seems to muddle my brain and often prevents me from having any semblance of harmony. It is so simple, yet it seems to always have positive results.
Minimalism (to me) is not merely the act of owning less. It also leads to appreciating things more. It proves itself, time and time again, as a powerful life approach. All I know is that when I fail to encompass minimalism, I am at risk of feeling like nothing more than the proverbial hole of a doughnut.
I will say however, that my own personal happiness has neither significantly decreased nor increased over the years. It is just less complicated. One doesn’t end up wasting time fooling themselves into thinking that acquiring more will improve one’s life.
I do what I need to do in order to survive. I often (jokingly) say that I am just as miserable now, as I’ve always been. A bigger house, better car or more stuff will not enhance my life very much. These things might be nice to have but it becomes a fool’s errand to obsessively pursue. It’s just an example of victory through surrender.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.
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