Lately I’ve been so inspired by other minimalists.
I’ve been watching Youtube videos of live decluttering.
I’ve been so inspired that even though I thought my home was already fully decluttered, I’ve taken it a step farther.
For instance, I go through my wardrobe fairly often. But I still wasn’t satisfied with how stuffed the drawers and closet were.
In spite of my passion for a minimal wardrobe, I still had trouble getting my drawers to open and close smoothly.
The answer wasn’t more storage. The answer wasn’t more organization. The answer was fewer items.
With this in mind, I was able to cut my wardrobe down by about a third.
I asked myself these questions:
- Would I buy it again?
- Do I actually wear it?
- Do I love it?
- Is it practical?
- Do I have a better one that I always grab instead?
- Is this something I keep because I think I should like it even though I don’t?
- If I only wear jeans a few times a year, why do I have 5 pairs of them?
And I had to be realistic and let go of my idea of a “good minimalist capsule wardrobe.”
Even if black slacks and white button down looks super minimalist and professional, the fact is that I’m a stay at home mom who already “minimized” her iron and ironing board.
I can let go of that idea of what a minimaist “should” wear and allow myself to just be me.
I happen to love leggings and athleticwear and breezy dresses.
So even if it isn’t completely monochrome and “trendy minimal,” I’m happy.
Ironically, that image of minimalsim that I was chasing was cluttering my wardrobe with things I never wore!
Minimalism should fit your real life.
Not just your fantasy, magazine life.
Not just your Pinterest board #goals.
Your real life.
It just goes to show that it’s always good to take a step back and look for areas to improve.
I’m sharing this realization because it’s the bottom line of the book New Minimalism by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici.
Cary and Kyle are decluttering experts (and I feel like we’d get along great if we ever met in person!) who help their clients find that perfect balance.
They share the Swedish word Lagom, which means “just the right amount.”
That “just right” feeling is the end goal of this decluttering duo.
Not “extreme” or cold. But that perfect balance that is uncluttered and leaves just enough white space to set off and feature your favorite things. (Think – art gallery, not hospital.)
Cary and Kyle’s mantra is: Your external space reflects your internal state. What does your home say about you?
And if your home is misaligned with your vision of a calm, clean, comfy, relaxing oasis, then there are plenty of practical tips and stories from real life clients to help you start the journey.
Kyle and Cary use Peter Walsh’s definition of the word clutter: “anything that stands between you and the vision you have for your best life.”
That means tools for hobbies that you no longer love. Memorabilia that stirs up bad memories. Clothes that are no longer your size.
If you want to be able to travel and rent out your home while you’re gone, then to you clutter is anything erroneous that gets in the way of that vision.
Did you know that the average American brings a new item into their home almost daily?
What was the last thing you brought home? (Other than groceries, of course!)
A new thrift store treasure?
New shoes that were on sale?
Some trinket that called your name in the Target dollar section?
Whatever it was, did you think about the fact that new items enter our homes at a much higher rate than they leave our homes?
If you were to go back and look at your receipts or online statements from last month, what would they show entering your home?
On the flipside, what did you declutter in the last month? How many items actually left your home verses entering it?
For most of us, the equation is going to be waaay out of balance. The cool thing is that once you’re aware that this equation even exists, you’re able to be more cognizant of it.
This is why I like the One In, One Out Rule. I allow myself to replace items that are worn out, but I must get rid of the old one. That way the balance is still there.
The thing about decluttering is that it has to be maintained by a change in buying habits. Otherwise, we’ll all end up in the same situation we started in.
I’ll leave you with some excellent design principals from the book, that I hope to apply in my own home as well:
- Redefine your definition of full.
This simply means that “full” shouldn’t mean “stuffed.” If you think stuffed is full, then redefine that word in a more minimalistic way, that leaves breathing room.
- Put your dresser in your closet.
Just because a closet is large doesn’t mean it must be packed end-to-end with clothing. Rather than buy into an expensive California Closet organizing system, why not clear some space and put a dresser in there? Marie Kondo mentions that she loves putting shelves in closets too. I’ve done this in one of my guest rooms and I love it.
- Use existing storage before adding more.
Don’t waste your money on a new organizing system before you’ve decluttered. You might be able to get by without it. And even if you do need to buy some storage containers, waiting till after the declutter means you’ll know exactly what you need.
- Sometimes the best use of space is to leave it empty.
This is one of my favorite minimal sayings. There’s no need to have art on every wall. There’s no need to have stuff in every closet. If you can’t reach a shelf in your kitchen, who says it needs to have anything in it? Margins give you room to breathe and room to grow.
- Find a home for everything.
This can be a challenge at first, but it pays of dividends once you’ve invested the time. If your home feels like it’s always messy it’s either because you have a lot of items without homes, or you’re failing to consistently return items to their homes. Either way, it’s a pretty easy fix: find homes, return things there.
- Use boundaries to indicate when a category is full.
I did this with my clothes. While I wish I had a bigger closet, I consider the closet I have my boundary for how many clothes I should have. This means I don’t need a remodel. I simply need a declutter and I can get that airy feeling of a larger closet. Same goes for kitchen drawers, for the pantry, and for the bookshelves in your home. Give yourself a limit and when you’ve reached that limit, purge to the point that it fits in it’s home.
- Remove electronics from the bedroom.
I keep my phone by my bed, but I love that there’s no TV in our bedroom – or anywhere in our home, really. It makes our room more of a quiet oasis. No chatter, noise, commercials or bright lights. It makes for better sleep and the entire room looks softer and cozier.
- Allow one thing to stand for many.
This means that you don’t need to hold onto every single piece of artwork that your kid makes. You can keep the best ones and make a binder. Same with wedding photos, same with vacation trinkets (although stopping to buy them altogether might be a good idea.) It’s okay to have one favorite thing represent a whole group of memories. And give that one, special thing a spot of honor in your home where you see it often and smile.
- Use blank space to elevate objects.
I love this one. Like an art gallery has white, minimal walls to set off the artwork, our homes can have some blank space in them intentionally to set off those things we love enough to keep and showcase. This one is purely design, but I think it functions as a way to calm the mind and make a space feel bigger too. (And think of all that money you could save on decor!)
- Buy secondhand for a unique home.
When you do need to buy something, looking on Craigslist, Facebook, or Goodwill is your best bet. Not only will you save money, but your home will feel unique, funky, and lovingly curated.
- Use task lighting for immediate ambiance.
Overhead lights have a way of being too harsh, so a couple good lamps or sconces might be a nice alternative. Another simple thing I’ve done in my own home is swap high wattage lightbulbs for warm, low-wattage bulbs. This accomplishes the same look and (again!) saves money and energy!
- Let your freak flag fly (while leaving space for others.)
Your home is your space. You’re allowed to break the rules. Like with my wardrobe, you don’t have to love black and white “minimal” style to have a great minimalist space. You shouldn’t have to buy much, if anything, to uplift and reconfigure your home. Removing things is often more affective than buying things. Use things you love as decor, even if it’s unconventional. Mount your bike on the ceiling. Frame that watercolor you made when you were young. Display your beloved collection of rolling pins. Chase after authenticity, not an image in a catalogue. Do keep in mind what others like if you have roommates. Collaborate on the design process to create a shared space that feels inviting to everyone who lives there.
Well, those were my favorite take-aways from the book. I hope you’re inspired and ready to tackle a new level of minimalism in your home and in your life – just like I was!
What are your favorite minimal design principles? How do you handle the incoming items in your home verses the outgoing items? Do you prefer to do a big purge or a lot of mini-purges? Let me know your favorite Youtubers and bloggers, as I’m really into this right now.
Breather, Pricilla DuPreez, and John-Mark Arnold