This will be a personal post. Fellow virtual lawyers might find my recent experience with minimalism and moving interesting. It touches on the main reason many of us are attracted to online delivery and the use of technology in law practice – more freedom and efficiency.
When I first designed my virtual law office and launched it back in 2006, a large part of my motivation was my daughter who had just been born. I needed the flexibility to care for her and was not interested in racking up the traditional lawyer hours in an office. I also loved working with my clients and thought there was a more convenient way to deliver services to them. I could also use the efficiency to lower my fees to be more affordable. I have a transactions-based practice so unbundling and online delivery made sense.
Over the last seven years, although I was almost completely paperless and virtual, I accumulated “stuff” in my home office and my house. The simplicity of being able to work online and not get lost in the office environment was replaced with recreating an office environment in my own home. Not good.
So I decided to research minimalism. This is a renewed trend that has emerged since the recession hit. It’s a more positive way to embrace being faced with unemployment, foreclosure, debt and other situations that threaten to remove us from our tangible possessions. If you can’t afford to purchase things or are forced to sell or give up your possessions, that involves loss, but if you willingly choose to give up those things there is a greater sense of control over your life and it can be empowering rather than depressing. I like this approach to life in general. I thought I would adopt some of these principles while also doing some reading on mindfulness (a post for another day and very applicable to legal professionals).
On Friday, the last of what was left of the possessions of myself and my two kids moved to a new home. We downsized from 3600 to 1300 sq ft. This was no small feat and took many months. We made games out of the process to ease our transition. It hit the tipping point when I asked my kids to make a pile of toys they would like to give away to another child who maybe had less than them. That was a difficult lesson and took some prompting (especially with the 4yo). I took almost ten van loads of clothes, books and other items to Goodwill. I have one more to go and the Salvation Army will be called to take the rest of the large furniture.
Emotionally it was difficult to sort through and give away so much. It’s amazing the emotional attachment we affix to tangible objects. Do I really need ten coffee mugs when I only use one a day? Do I need to keep all of my law school books when they are so outdated? Do I need my degrees and plaques adoring my walls? No. I had started this process a little last November and found that I had to stop and start every couple of weeks, but it gets easier and faster to let it go. And the more you let go,
the freer you feel.
I have a report to finish writing, two legal games to develop, a couple courses to design and teach and several other exciting things on the horizon. Drowning in clutter and having to maintain it all was not a priority in my life. Now when I have time with my kids, I can focus on being with them rather than spending so much time on “stuff”. Without spending money accumulating more, we can afford more life experiences like traveling and volunteering locally.
This will also greatly increase my productivity. I am lighter. I have less clutter, and I can focus again. When I work, it’s just me and my mobile devices, and that’s all I need to serve my clients and share with colleagues. Back to the simple, square one virtual law practice.
Susan Cartier Liebel
Stephanie, I applaud you! We are almost there because the truth is, you don’t own things, they own you. And if you truly don’t want to be a slave to your possessions and their maintenance, you have to let go. I can imagine the size of the gorilla you got off your shoulders. Fly free!
Thanks, Susan! This was not easy but I’m starting to feel more free.
Truly, these are words of wisdom. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your less cluttered life.
Thanks for sharing! I too am slowly embracing minimalism and it is making my practice and life more enjoyable.