Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Simplicity is revolutionary

One of the highest profile and most helpful organizing-related blogs around is Unclutterer. The editor is Erin Rooney Doland, and lately Unclutterer has been taking its web presence to the next level with the launch of Unclutterer Forums, an awesome resource for starting a discussion about a specific organizing problem, as well as the publication of an old-fashioned book: Unclutter Your Life In One Week. I haven’t yet read the book, but I have heard only good things about it. Yesterday, Unclutterer announced the opening of an Unclutterer store, to sell PDF worksheets to go with UYLIOW as well as t-shirts. Though my initial thought was why should a blog that encourages simplicity and less clutter offer stuff, particularly t-shirts, which the world has plenty of already, I realized that people like to support causes with money, and often by showing solidarity with graphic tees. And if you don’t want one, you don’t have to buy one.

The shirts come in two styles, each with a different phrase. One says "less is more," which is pretty self explanatory and meshes well with the Unclutterer philosophy. The other says "simplicity is revolutionary," which is a bolder statement, but after reflecting a little on what that means, I have to agree.

 In the contemporary United States, even in the wake of the great recession and the so-called “new frugality,” simplicity is still something that is foreign to many people. Our lives are overflowing with commitments, obligations, drains on our time, energy and resources. Many people feel that they are living their lives to the fullest by packing them with things to do, places to go and people to see. To take a stance on the side of simplicity, which can mean choosing to do without, with less or with fewer, is revolutionary. Our country is founded in part on the pursuit of happiness, on the American dream of rising above whatever station we were born to, which has come to mean an aspiration to owning things, to living a life complicated with stuff to a point where that which we thought would make us happy is instead weighing us down and causing us problems.

Simplicity, to me, just means that instead of an endless search for more, we take a step back, decide that not doing something or having something can be more valuable that doing it or having it. There must be a balance. Choosing simplicity implies we have enough, we aren’t needy, we have shelter and food and love, but we recognize that having enough means activity avoiding having more. Simplicity rejects dealing with excess which, perhaps fun to indulge every great once in a while, is a tiring way to live one’s entire life.

Simplicity is revolutionary because people don’t understand it at first. They think you’re missing out or unambitious or perhaps stingy. There’s nothing wrong with being careful how you spend your time. It’s the one thing you can’t get back. In this season where excess is all around, and people decry it every year even as every year they participate in it, think about being revolutionary. Think about simplicity and how it can be applied to your life. But don’t think about it too much. You have better things to do, like spending time with your significant other, reading a book for pleasure or just taking a walk around your neighborhood.

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Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email


  1. Thanks for this great information. My brain is a little mush from "uncluttering" today, so I'll check most of your link suggestions out tomorrow when I'm fresh. I'm LOVING clearing and cleansing and it seems that's all I want to do these days!

  2. Clearing away clutter can be addictive. The lightness you get when you get rid of stuff feel so good! Thanks for stopping by, Shannon.

  3. I never considered T-shirts as clutter, until I remembered all the T-shirts I see at places like Value Village, which were apparently given out to volunteers at charitable events and the like and never worn again. T-shirts which are sold are in a different category, since presumably people won't buy them unless they intend to wear them.