Yes, I know I left out an “r” in the title. It’s a bad pun, but that’s OK, because my father loved bad puns. On this Father’s Day, I remember my father fondly. There’s no other way to remember him. As this is an organizing blog, I want to talk about my minimalist roots that came from Dad.
Mom always referred to Dad as a “simple” man. (She meant minimalist, not stupid.) That’s basically true, but not entirely. Dad did like his stuff, especially if it was a good bargain or free. He was a child of The Great Depression. He learned to do without and he learned to hang on to things, because one never knows when something is going to come in useful. He couldn’t afford the luxury of letting go of things he didn’t need, because there was always potential value. That never left him.
Dad liked to collect lots of things. There were shelves of dusty old books and walls of antique farm tools, but nothing accumulated more than old lumber. If an old barn or house was being taken down, Dad would take the lumber and store it in the loft of our barn. It was special because “they used to make boards wider,” it had more character, and it was “weathered.”
One area, however, that Dad did not waste much headspace on was clothing. In the entire time I was lucky enough to share this life with Dad, there only four outfits I can distinctly remember Dad wearing:
1. The “classic” professor– Dad not only wore a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, he smoked a pipe and drove a Volvo to the University of Maine. It was the complete package.
2. The gentleman farmer– Dad had this heavy denim coat that he wore everywhere, including, to Mom’s displeasure, indoors. Blue jeans, bargain boots, and an army campaign hat rounded out this outfit.
3. The sun worshipper– In the summer, Dad wore cut off jeans and sandals and that was about it. When it was a sunny day, he would always encourage my brother Simon and me to take our shirts off and “get some sun on your bones!”
4. The Tan Man– Later in life, Dad embraced a different kind of tan. He would wear bland tan trousers and a nearly matching tan jacket. Mom and I would have loved to see the occasional splash of color, but Dad wasn’t having it.
So how was Dad an inspiration? There were many ways, but the point I am making here is at the heart of my approach to organizing:
“Taking the less important stuff out of the way, so that you can get to the most important stuff.”
Dad said no to spending a lot of money and time on purchasing and choosing clothes, so that he could spend more time (and money) on experiences like family outings, travel, and our education. I’m a firm believer, that you can’t work out effective organizing solutions with out first working out your priorities.
Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are all famous people who are/were known for wearing the same outfits. In each case, the reason has to do with saving time and energy from clothing decisions to focus on bigger challenges.
I am in no way comparing my accomplishments to theirs, but I can tell you that I waste no time in the morning, deciding which navy polo shirt to wear. I didn’t learn that practice from from Einstein. I learned it from Dad.
Don’t get me wrong, choosing the right clothes are important. They can say a lot about you and I get that, for some people, it’s more of a priority. All I’m saying is Dad helped me look at the whole picture and taught me to make choices that best served my top priorities.
If you are having a hard time getting everything done, start by looking at what’s most important, then focus on the things that are least important. That’s the really hard part. If everything is important, then nothing’s important. When you discover the things that could require less time, energy, space, and money, you will create the time, energy, space, and money for the things that are most important.
At this moment, what’s most important to me, as I sit out on my balcony, getting some “sun on my bones”, is getting this blog out while it’s still Father’s Day:-)