Okay y’all, this is it — my most persuasive push to bring you over to the world of Minimalism is…organizational porn! While you look through the photos of my home that have only been lightly fussed into submission for their internet debut, allow me to explain.
Here is where I am more KonMari than strict Minimalist. I don’t think you should get rid of things you like. I don’t think the goal should be to live with as little as possible. And, as I am frequently reminded by my husband, Minimalism is not for everyone and you are (still) not allowed to throw away other people’s things, or decide what they should own. However, the Marie Kondo philosophy of highlighting the things you love so you can fully enjoy them speaks to me in my house full of kids and chaos.
For example, you are hurrying to get dressed for school drop-off, and searching for a pair of leggings (obviously), and you push aside that one pair you always grab by mistake but you’re pretty sure they aren’t squat proof and/or they sag at the knee. The solution is to get rid of that pair of leggings you are hanging on to unless all your other pants catch on fire and you just have to wear something to cover your butt. Think of all the seconds you spend grabbing that pair and putting it back every time you dig through your clothes each morning. Remove that obstacle so you can more easily find the pair you love and get on with your day.
That goes for every item in your home. If you never want the spatula you accidentally stained with food coloring, then toss it so the others aren’t cluttered. If you kids is growing out of their clothes and there are items that don’t really fit getting pushed around their drawers, donate them. Is your email inbox full of marketing stuff you automatically delete? Unsubscribe from all of that junk so you can clearly see the forty-seven emails coming in from your kids’ school each day.
You don’t have to live in an empty monochromatic sanctuary to be a minimalist. Just get rid of the stuff that doesn’t serve you so you can find the stuff that does. But, I do find that for me personally, limiting visual clutter is soothing. Realtors advise their clients to have only one style of hanger in their closets so that even if their racks are full, the hangers don’t create extra clutter in your eyeline. I decided on one type of hanger and then switched out all the rest, and it actually made a big difference in the look of my closet, which isn’t really very minimal. Mine are from Amazon, so I don’t necessarily mean you need to upgrade your hangers, just pick all one style and color.
Organizers like The Home Edit and Marie Kondo now have their own line of products at The Container Store, but that is not at all a necessary step in making your home more functional. Marie Kondo herself talked about using shoe boxes and boxes from jewelry purchases to organize drawers just a couple years ago, and now she has a store selling bamboo laundry hampers and linen robes, which I find a little strange. But, once you have decided what you love, you’ll know what kind of storage you require. Try to think outside the acrylic box, though, because you may already have plenty of storage solutions in your home that weren’t born at The Container Store. And for the love of lucite, don’t add things you don’t need just to fill out a rainbow color scheme. I had a pretty jewelry box that was absolutely terrible at storing jewelry, so for now I store my belts inside. Will that always be functional? Maybe not, but it didn’t cost me a penny to repurpose something from the donation pile for the time being. Don’t let brands tell you how to store things, either. Big LEGO bins aren’t functional for my kids who want to be able to find characters and specific accessories easily and build based on size, not color.
If you find yourself with some nice items to donate, I recommend offering them to your neighbors if you’ve got a neighborhood social media platform or Facebook group. You never know which of your neighbors has lost their job or lost hours to the pandemic and could benefit from something you no longer need. We connected with some nearby families to help get their nursery set up for a new baby in the middle of the lockdown by reaching out online and leaving the items on our porch for no-contact pickup. Or, if you know of a local organization that helps people in need like the Catholic Church, you can check what items they are accepting and drop off things they can use. The pandemic is a good time to streamline your life and clear out physical and mental clutter, but it’s a great time to try and help those around you.
Along with my gentle suggestions for cleaning and clearing, here are my slightly judgmental demands:
Throw away those wire hangers! They are meant to be returned to your dry cleaner and recycled, not remain a permanent tangled and sagging mess in your closet.
Chapstick expires and separates. So do face creams and some makeup. Say goodbye and make room for the products you actually use. Yes, even if it was expensive. The $100 face cream that is separated and full of bacteria is worth $0.
Go through everything in one category at once, so you can see how much you actually have. If you do one drawer at a time and have a face cream in each drawer, you won’t notice you have four face creams and only one face.
Have a probation station. I have a hard time with items that you must have to do a specific thing. Like, we rarely make waffles, but if we don’t have a waffle maker we can’t make waffles. If you have a lot of products in this category, clear some space in a closet or the garage and put the items there. If you never once go out to retrieve them during the time period you dictate, they go straight from probation to donation.
Before you organize, do all your laundry/dishes. There’s nothing worse than working all day to cram your neatly stacked socks in the perfectly sized drawer organizer only to turn around and see a laundry basket full of dirty socks that will need a home once they are washed. Don’t revamp your silverware drawer without emptying the dishwasher first. Also, know your patterns. If you do the laundry once a week like clockwork, that will help you decide how many of each item you require. If you have forty-seven pairs of athletic socks and you do the laundry every three days, that is probably more than you need. If you do the laundry every two weeks, you might need to keep fourteen pairs of socks.
Honor your season. Last year was unlike any other, so tossing out items you haven’t used in a year might not be totally practical (goodbye, bras). If you just had a baby, don’t go throw out any item that doesn’t fit you today. If you aren’t sure if you’ll have more babies, hang on to your favorite maternity items. If your gym has been closed for months, don’t discard your weight lifting gloves, and so on. We were just getting comfortable hiring a sitter for our kids so we could go on actual dates before the pandemic shut everything down, so I have hope I may wear cool shoes and dry-clean only tops sometime in the future, even though they weren’t worn very often even before the pandemic.