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Lean Minimalism – Have you got the right stuff?


Whether it’s at home or at work, having lots of stuff does not necessarily mean its the right stuff. In fact, too much stuff leads to all kinds of inefficiencies that are experienced at home and in our work processes.

In the past I regularly experienced the frustration that comes from trying to put things away neatly only to find that every place I could put things was already occupied or wasn’t particularly easy to access. Like many people, I thought that if I just had enough storage containers of the right size I would eventually find some way of controlling what was in the end, an excess of stuff.

These days, if I’m thinking that I need a storage container for something I take a long hard look at what I’m planning to store and ask some hard questions before moving forwards. Some of the questions I ask include:

  • Why do I want to store this?
  • Is this thing adding value?
  • Do I need to store it?
  • What would happen if I didn’t have this item at all?
  • Am I prepared to use up space storing this item?
  • Am I prepared to spend time maintaining this item?

Even when thinking from a minimalist perspective, there are always things that will need storage. Seasonal sports equipment or camping gear for example. Something that adds a lot of value to your life but needs snow or sun to be possible. Another good example is your seasonal capsule wardrobe that is not currently in use. By asking the above questions, you can quickly establish the difference between the ‘right stuff’ and ‘just stuff’. For example, there are still one or two items in my garage that I am stepping around because they are currently stored there. As the clutter has cleared I’m starting to realise that the only interaction I’ve had with these particular items for quite a long time has been to move them or step over them. I’m reluctant to create a more permanent storage place for them because frankly, they don’t have what it takes to remain ‘the right stuff’. To put this into perspective, if I encountered items like this in my work life that were costing me money for no return they’d be long gone.

One of the other big reasons for making sure you only have the right stuff is the time and expense that comes from caring for and maintaining stuff. Just think about the amount of maintenance in the family vehicle alone: servicing, petrol, new tyres, registration, repairs, the list goes on. Our houses and gardens are the same. Add into this our home appliances, furniture, ornaments and clothes. Each item needs some degree of storing, cleaning, maintaining, and ultimately replacing. Just thinking about all the things I own and the maintenance they require can be quite overwhelming, and that’s after some major decluttering. Now, I’m not necessarily suggesting that I’m immediately going to rush out and ditch the family car to avoid washing it but there’s no way I want to spend any more time than I have to looking after my stuff.

These two major benefits of having the right stuff: space and time, easily transfer to the workplace. How would your workplace be better with only the right stuff in it? Are there places at your work that are overflowing? Are you storing and maintaining equipment you hardly use? Do you have more stock than you need to do the job? Are you considering purchasing more floor space? Ultimately, having the right stuff at work leads to lower costs as space and labour are freed up for other value adding tasks.

If you’ve never looked at your stuff in this way, either at home or at work, you’re missing an excellent opportunity to add a bit more freedom into your life, freedom from the frustration looking for somewhere to store something and not finding it and freedom from the hassle of storing and maintaining something you probably don’t really need.

There’s no quick and easy way to determine what specifically the ‘right stuff’ is. It’s a purely individual decision based on your own personal values and beliefs. What is easy to realise are the benefits that come from working towards a reduction of non value adding stuff at home and at work. Each item removed means more space and time for your or your company and that can only ever be a good thing.

Have you got the right stuff?

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