When you hear the word “minimalism”, what comes to mind?  Do you see a bare, sterile environment that seems boring?  Do you envision Tibetan monks with just a cot to sleep on and one pair of sandals to wear on their feet?  Do you think of people who don’t make a lot of money and who need to be frugal by necessity?

When it comes to the idea of minimalism, especially for working accountant moms, it can seem like an okay idea for other people who have no children, or those with a job that doesn’t require a lot of tools like paper, pencils and flash drives.  But with everything you have going on in your hectic working mom life, the idea of minimalism might seem impossible or even laughable.

For accountants the idea of minimalism is especially challenging because we tend to place importance and value on everything we touch.  As a profession, we’re told to keep things like the financial and tax return backup for minimum periods of time, making it challenging to let go of things not only professionally, but personally as well.

Since we’re educated and trained to fear making a mistake, we often have a false sense of comfort in holding on to things even when we’re not instructed to.  Even those accountants that have adopted a mostly paperless office still feel the need to hold on to things “just in case”, just adding more space to their cloud based storage when their “just in case” items are reaching the current max.

The interesting thing is that this need to be practical as an accountant can often translate to how you manage things in your personal life as well.  This “just in case” mentality can often make it challenging to let go of things and remove the excess from your life so that the only things you have are of high quality and high value to you.

It’s not just tangible things either when it comes to minimalism; it’s also the things you think about that are taking up space in your brain creating stress and overwhelm.   Things like that running to-do list, that hurtful conversation you had with your sister-in-law 5 years ago, and that unmet goal that’s been weighing on you, are all part of the clutter that can make your accountant mom life challenging.

If the idea of a simplified life sounds amazing to you, then this episode is going to help you shine a light on a new type of minimalism for accountant moms.  It’s going to actually allow you to have more free time, save more money, reduce your overwhelm, and have fewer things on your to-do list, to name just a few of the many benefits.

By applying this new minimalist approach, you’ll be able to address those moments where your logical, accountant brain often wants to jump to, as soon as the idea of letting something go is addressed; you know, those moments where you think “I could probably use that to (fill in the blank)”.  When you apply the approach I’m going to share, you’ll be able to increase your standards for what’s allowed to stay in your office, in your home, and in your mind.

You’ll also address the issue that a lot of moms have with letting go of their children’s things, often making them question whether a good mom is supposed to hold onto all those sentimental things.  Those boxes in the basement or the attic that hold the finger painting from preschool, the report cards with kind comments and the graduation pamphlets, will all be gently addressed as well.

This week I’m going to explain what new minimalism for accountant moms is and how to achieve a more simplistic, peaceful life when it comes to the practical side of being an accountant and the sentimental side of being a mom.

New minimalism for accountant moms

If you love the idea of having more space to work and live in, to not need to pay monthly storage fees to the many storage facilities popping up all over, to walk into your closet and feel uplifted rather than weighed down, or to walk into any room and know where everything is, then this episode is going to be really helpful.  I have always loved the IDEA of minimalism, but just couldn’t make any of the decluttering and organizing ideas stick.

I would have these moments, usually in December just before tax season and in May after tax season was over, where it was as if the weight of all the things I had been surrounded with, was just too much.  I would happily fill up garbage bags of things to throw away and bags of things to donate, but still have to go through the same thing the next time December and May rolled around.

But recently I borrowed a book from the library that helped me to understand why I had been so challenged by the implementation of a more minimalist lifestyle.  What really piqued my interest was specifically, how being an accountant and being a mom was making my decluttering efforts challenging and my desire for simplicity like a roller coaster ride of momentary success and then eventually falling back into bad habits.

In the book “New Minimalism” by Cary Fortin and Kyle Quilici, they describe new minimalism as a call to a mindful, intentional way of living.  It’s a way of prioritizing relationships and experiences above material things.

The way they approach new minimalism is that it’s a way of life that celebrates the idea that you can’t buy your own happiness; that your time is better spent experiencing life than it is spent looking for, maintaining, organizing, cleaning, purchasing and subsequently returning things.

While traditional minimalism is all about less being better and can be constricting and limiting, new minimalism exists as a middle path between traditional minimalism and over-the-top consumerism.  The authors explain that new minimalism seeks what the Swedish call “lagom”, which translates to “enough” or “just the right amount”.

One of the things that really resonated with me is that idea that we, especially in the United States, have made our stuff into a placeholder for the type of people we think we should be.  For example, a loving mom should bake cookies for her family, a successful career woman should wear this type of clothing, a well-educated woman should read and own these books.

In the book, Cary and Kyle explain that one of the biggest parts of decluttering is releasing who we think we should be and embracing the fullest, truest, most loving version of who we actually are.  They go on to share that when you separate your identity from your things, you are no longer defined by them.

Basically with new minimalism, you don’t need elaborate organization systems or a charge account at The Container Store, you just need less stuff to be organized.  You can learn all the tips and tricks for how to fold things or purchase shelves to make use of the height of your closet, but until you address all the stuff you have, none of your efforts will make you feel any more peaceful, calm, or in control.

I believe that the key to new minimalism for accountant moms is the fact that you get to determine how you want to feel in any space.  You get to choose your own lifestyle needs and desires with a fresh set of eyes, and then know that anything that doesn’t support that vision is clutter.

The most intriguing thing that I found when reading the book was that the authors had discovered that there are four distinct archetypes when it comes to the patterns of behavior people have, not only with their stuff, but also with their life in general.   The four categories are Connected, Practical, Energetic, and Frugal, but they explain that many people can be a combination of these categories, depending on the type of stuff being addressed.

The thing that made these archetypes so powerful when I read the book is that they provide a self-awareness tool to make the act of decluttering simpler, more meaningful, and longer lasting.  By understanding how both the accountant side and the mom side of my behavior affects the decisions I make with the physical things I have, I could approach the spaces I work and live in, in a completely new way.

In reading the chapter on each of the four archetypes, I could see that in general, accountants fall under the Practical archetype, and that moms normally fall under the Connected archetype.  By having this awareness and understanding, it was incredibly helpful in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of these archetypes and how to catch yourself when the weaknesses may sabotage your efforts.

So now that you know a little bit about the concept of new minimalism for accountant moms, I’m going to share what I learned about the practical side of being an accountant and the sentimental side of being a mom, as well as how you can apply this to your own space.

The practical side of being an accountant

Before I explain how the Practical archetype of an accountant can affect why you hold onto things, I first want you to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why do you want to declutter or minimalize your stuff?
  • Why did the title of this episode speak to you?
  • Why is this important to you?

In order to make what I’m going to share with you matter, you first have to get clear on why the idea of minimalism resonates with you.  For me, I’ve always been drawn to photos of rooms that weren’t overly decorated, that had space to breathe, that were warm and welcoming, and that made me immediately feel peaceful.

Whenever my husband and I go away, we stay in a Wyndham suite that always includes a living room and a full kitchen.  Every single time I stay in one, at least once a year, I notice how I feel when I sit in the minimally decorated living room and how I feel when I cook and maneuver around the perfectly stocked kitchen which contains only one of everything I need.

Of course part of the feeling of peace is the fact that I’m away on vacation, but I also know that a large part of that feeling of peace is because of how much stuff there is in the living space.  So when I asked myself for the reason why I want to declutter and minimize my stuff at home and at work, the answer was because I know how much better I feel, how much more energy I have, and how much easier it is to make decisions and be productive.

Although I obviously have many more things in my living spaces at home and at work, the desire to feel the way I feel in more minimalist settings, more often, is why I wanted to learn a new approach that could help me find a middle ground.  I wanted a way to bring the energy and ease I felt when I was away, to my everyday experience.

So once you’ve asked yourself those questions and have addressed why this is important to you, now it’s time to talk about the Practical archetype, why it can be challenging for accountants to let go of things, and how to handle the resistance that comes up.  While the logical, data-driven part of your accountant’s brain makes it possible for you to do your work well, it can also be getting in the way of your efforts to have a more peaceful, balanced life.

The issue for the Practical archetype is that we aren’t always aware of the effect or impact of how our things and our space affects us and others.  We have a narrow understanding of the word “use”, and more often than not consider only the absolute usefulness of an item, not taking into account an item's actual usefulness to us, in our present life.

In other words, as accountants we tend to believe that if an object has a perceived use, for any person in any situation, the practical side of us will hold onto it even if it’s not useful to us, right now or in the immediate future.  We tend to see things as useful in general, and use that as the criteria to keep things.

If you’re clear on why you want to have a clutter-free home, and you like your reasons, then you’re going to have to drastically increase your standards for what is allowed to stay.  The key for the Practical archetype is to remove hypothetical situations from your reasoning to keep an item.

For this archetype, the authors of “New Minimalism” suggest that you notice when you say “I might” or “I could” when thinking about an tiem.  They suggest focusing on the present moment and your current needs in order to determine the usefulness of something.

Even if an item is in theory useful, do you need it right NOW?  Of course the Christmas decorations may not be useful right now and don’t need to be thrown away, but as you go through your things, one category at a time, notice how your accountant brain wants to argue that someday, you or someone else might need that item so you better keep it “just in case”.

Addressing the “just in case” things, and learning how to let them go, is going to make such a huge difference for your space and how you feel.  By using this new criteria of usefulness, I was able to much more easily throw away and donate bags and bags of things that were either no longer useful to me or could be useful to someone else.

For example, the 6-column paper in the bottom of my desk drawer, the “just in case” school binders from my 28-year olds high school years, and the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner stashed in the linen closet, were all let go.  While the process will definitely take some time, what I’ve gotten in return is some space to breathe and momentum to start tackling one area in my home and office at a time.

The sentimental side of being a mom

Now that I’ve covered the practical side of being an accountant and how that can affect the clutter in your spaces at home and at work, it’s also important to discuss the sentimental side of being a mom.  For Connected archetypes, they treasure family, friendships, and partnerships above all else.

For the Connected archetype, the biggest thing blocking them from releasing items is sentimentality.  The authors explain that if an object is in any way linked to a relationship, such as a gift, note, photograph or souvenir from a shared experience, Connected archetypes will hold on to it even if they do not use or enjoy it.

I believe this is definitely an issue for moms, especially when it comes to the memorabilia of our children’s lives.  Since our children grow up so fast, we tend to want to hold onto the past in order to mark the passage of time, to remember what’s important, and for a lot of us, it’s because holding on to things is what we believe good moms do.

I don’t know about you, but I know exactly where I got the notion that good moms hold onto their children’s things – from going through my grandmother’s things after she passed away.  My children were young at the time, and when I saw how my incredibly loving grandmother still had my kindergarten “Special Person’s Day” invitation, the invitation to my wedding shower, and the first card I sent her after my daughter was born, among many, many other things, it was then that I began to use her as my definition of what good moms do.

Unfortunately, that has translated into an attic of childhood “treasures” from my 25 and 28 year-olds as well as plastic bins of school items and countless loose photos that have been taking up space in the basement.   The tool that is helping me to address my definition of what good moms do is the mantra the authors offered, “Collect memories, not things”.

They suggest that you start by first freeing yourself of the obligation to memorialize every event from your children’s past with a physical memento.   They recommend trusting that you will naturally recall specific memories or experiences as you continue to live out your days, and to focus on making new memories in the future instead.

So choose a few items that mean the most to you, consider digitizing those photos, if appropriate ask your children if there’s anything specific they want to keep, and then let the rest go.  As Cary and Kyle advise, not every part of your past is worth holding on to; the most important part of your life is currently unfolding so look forward to the future you’d like to create and appreciate the past without needing to keep things to prove that the past happened or that those moments mattered.

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of how new minimalism for accountant moms can help you transform your space and your relationship with the stuff that you have.  Just remember that you get to determine how you want to feel in any space, and anything that doesn’t support that vision is just clutter that doesn’t need to be there.

Summary 

  • For accountants the idea of minimalism is especially challenging because we tend to place importance and value on everything we touch.
  • This “just in case” mentality can often make it challenging to let go of things and remove the excess from your life so that the only things you have are of high quality and high value to you.
  • The issue for the Practical archetype is that we aren’t always aware of the effect or impact of how our things and our space affects us and others.
  • For the Connected archetype, the biggest thing blocking them from releasing items is sentimentality.
  • Look forward to the future you’d like to create and appreciate the past without needing to keep things to prove that the past happened or that these moments mattered.