Minimalism has been splashed across more magazine covers than reality TV starlets as of late. Top 10 items to toss today. Five things no one needs in their kitchens. Three reasons to live with less. Turn to the full text of any of these articles, and you’ll get a lot more than the benefits of decluttering. You will also get a thinly veiled sales pitch. Containers, organizers, cubbies, bins, trays, dividers. The photographs look so beautiful, so streamlined, so simple that anyone who has ever contemplated clutter would be tempted.
While I would not claim to be a minimalist by any stretch, I am in the midst of a massive purge of my excess. I’m not an expert. I still have too much stuff. I can’t fold my shirts into little origami envelopes* to make them happy or radiate joy. In the past few months, a few things have become clear to me when it comes to cutting the cord with clutter. Here are two tips to getting started without doing any unnecessary spending.
Start With Less
If you have too much stuff, no organizer in the world is going to reduce your possessions. Sure, you can make the piles look tidier for a while, but they are still going to be there. Case in point? My dear friend who painstakingly selected a closet organizer for her apartment from the Container Store. After dropping a pretty penny on the system, she set it up. Only to fill it up with so much stuff that it collapsed. Twice. Pretty piles are still piles.
Instead of trying to organize everything you own, figure out what you can live without. After you start identifying items to be sold, donated, or tossed, go through your items again. The first few times through, if you’re like me, you will find all sorts of reasons to hold onto things. Sentimental value. What-ifs. The more times you pass through your things, the more discerning and critical you can be. Just this past weekend, I finished with my bathroom cabinets and was able to toss three storage baskets, in addition to a bunch of unneeded items. The less items you have, the less there is to organize.
One In, More Out
For every organizer you are tempted to bring into your home, commit to parting with at least two other things. The “one-in, one-out” philosophy is an excellent rule of thumb. However, to keep myself honest, I find myself frequently upping the ante. When I first started living with less, I was enchanted by the glossy magazines filled with $19 acrylic bins, $49 storage racks, and $159 closet dividers. To resist the urge to buy all the things, I started telling myself if I was going to shell out for an organizational system, I had to double the amount of things I would remove from that same room.
Not only has this methodology helped me drown out the siren song of Container Store and Bed, Bath & Beyond, but it has also ensured that every organizer I add to my home has purpose. Before Mr. P went to work creating extra storage space in the false drawer in our bathroom vanity, I made it a point to get rid of many items that were stored under the cabinet. That way, when we had the extra space, I could ensure that it would not be cluttered. Instead, it holds only my hair dryer and curling iron. Now, that space serves as a purposeful tool to streamline my morning routine.
I still have a remarkably long way to go when it comes to decluttering our house. However, by keeping these two simple strategies in mind, the process has become much more effective, and I have been able to downsize without spending extra.
*I struggled with fortune teller, origami birds, and even notes folded out of loose-leaf paper. It’s not you, Marie Kondo, it’s me.
So Tell Me…What works for you when it comes to combating clutter?