Organizing Your Entire Home & the Peace-Giving Benefits It Has
The principles I have listed in this column are all things I have used as I reduced and organized our home in the past three years. There’s lots of advice out there on minimalism, but I only included here what I personally encountered. Also, as I think is needed; a disclosure: Though I love organization, I most definitely am still a mess maker :), there are times I let projects set all over the table for a week or more at a time and let piles grow! Perfection is not the aim here, just helpful tips. My aim, for myself and others, is to make things more functional, easier to do, easier to put away, and easier to clean, which ultimately allows us to focus on more important things! So it may be that I’m organized because I’m lazy - ha! Also - Another disclosure: Though my Dad and I have organized the garage together, I have deemed that “his space” since it has all his tools and is a workshop for him for multiple different projects. I don’t try to keep that tidy - he re-organizes it from time to time when he gets tired of it- I have no legislature over it otherwise. You just can’t win every battle. ;)
My minimalism journey started because I was a little overwhelmed with what was happening visually in our home - there was too much. It stressed me out. It was namely with decorations at the time. When I took some of those away, it made it a lot easier to clean (something I don’t especially love to do)! Then, as apart of spring-cleaning one year I went through the kitchen cupboards. I found 20-30 ugly mugs stuffed in the back of a cupboard. They were there because they weren’t used, liked, needed, or were apart of old sets of dishes. Why keep them if they are not used?? I kept a few sentimental ones (but later got rid of those too ha.. because, do mugs really hold sentimental value? Ok maybe, I won’t argue with you, you know who you are out there), and gave the rest to the thrift store. I got rid of a lot of glasses as well, as we don’t need a whole collection of kids glasses here where only adults live now, or a bunch of broken, leaky travel mugs. I got rid of “doubles” besides things like knives and few spatulas, etc. because two people should really do dishes more often than that shouldn’t they (speaking to myself). I moved appliances that were only used once or twice a year to the basement (deciding which ones were worth keeping) and reduced the gigantic amount of storage-ware we had. By the time I was done, I had extra space in every cupboard and could move things from the counter to the cupboards! I love clean counter space - also less to clean!
So it went, gradually, with every space in our house, as I had the time and the gumption ;). I got rid of unused cleaning products and tried to use more basic, effective, multi-purpose things like vinegar. I tossed things that weren’t serving their purpose and replaced them with things that did, and ultimately reduced that amount of “stuff” in our house in general.
I think that it is important to note, though it may sound intimidating, that I went through every cupboard, drawer, closet, corner and part of our house, including the garage and basement, within these three years. The reason why I think this is helpful, (unless you just moved into your home or are very organized already) is that by doing this, I could - 1. Assess what I had 2. Discover and make more room and 3. Make a place for everything. The peace that you have when you know exactly what you have and where it is, is very settling. We hauled truckloads of things to the thrift store where they could be put to use and make a profit for a good cause instead of collecting dust. I also have more perspective on what I need and what is really worth my investment and space. Space has become more valuable and I choose more useful and valuable things to fill it. As I began to grasp this concept of minimalism it grew on me and made me more thankful for what I have.
Perhaps you will connect with this as well. If so, here are some tips that might help you get started.
Pc: Dreamy White Lifestyle
⁃ The Less You Have the Less You Have To Clean - Seriously though, a clean slate is a style all in itself. You can create a wonderful effect with just one thing on your table/ shelf/ as opposed to a whole arrangement of things! We used to have a garland of nice looking faux flowers on the open ledge above our kitchen cupboards. Through the years I decided to take them down and the benefits are that I don’t have to take clean them and I really like the look of it being empty there. You can see the pretty mustard yellow paint behind and I added a basket to the corner so it is not completely empty. Though I only would’ve had to clean that once a year or so, it still meant something to me, because those things can add up. That is your perrogative though, whether or not a particular things is worth it to you.
⁃ The Appearance of Clean - Have you ever walked into a house and thought that it instantly gave the vibe of being clean?? It’s probably because of the way they styled their home. They have little, and it is neatly arranged, or there is not much to arrange. Ways that you can add design to your home are choosing beautiful pieces of furniture that make their own statement and adding color to your walls, although white is totally in style right now, adding to the minimalistic look.
⁃ Just Because You Have the Space Doesn’t Mean You Have to Fill It. - If you don’t use it, or something else can take it's place, you don’t need it. Learning the value of space is an important one. Empty space sparks creativity and productivity; a clean slate for your mind to think on. It will allow you easier access to whatever you use the space for, and make it easier for you to keep it organized and clean.
⁃ Chuck “One-Purpose” Gadgets - Kitchen gadgets and stuff like strawberry dicers that are supposed to save you time just end up filling up your cupboards and drawers and causing messes. Ask yourself this question, does it actually save you time after you have to wash it and rummage past it to find your other things?
⁃ Have A Place For Everything and Only One Place - My mom was an organized person, she kept her house tidy, but she often had multiple places for things and the cupboards and drawers ended up being stuffed with randoms. The problem you cause when you don’t have a place for everything is that you let things set on the counter or in a pile somewhere because you’re not sure where to put them. Being organized encourages putting things away. I know this because I'm guilty of it! Before we went through our basement, the canning shelves were full and the plastic freezer containers were being kept in a big tub that you had to move stuff to get to. So, I hardly ever felt like putting jars and containers away after they were used. Instead we let them pile on the basement steps for weeks and months at a time.Then, other things besides jars and containers started being piled there. Yuck! Now I have the canning shelf cleared, and an accessible place for my containers. I always run downstairs to put things away now, at least within a day or two of the need and I breathe a breath of fresh air on my way seeing how organized everything is down there! Whoo!
⁃ Decide What Is “Your Thing” and Make an Allowance There - Everyone has an interest; a hobby; a “thing” that is important to them, that they spend a lot of time on; use a lot of, etc. You can make an allowance for yourself there. I am a flower girl, I love gardening, growing my own flowers and making arrangements to give away, so I have a lot of vases. I stock up when I see really special ones that I like at the thrift store. I also love dishes and setting a beautiful table as I host events often. So, I collect dishes that I love. However, I still don’t let them overflow the china hutch, once it’s full its full, either substitute or be done. :) So decide what it is for you and make an allowance, but don’t do it with everything! Deciding what this is might help you also decide what isn’t important to you and what you don’t care to not have much of.
⁃ When You Add Something, Take Something Away - This is an especially good rule for a wardrobe, which is a whole other conversation! Here’s a post that I think is wonderful if you want to organize yours: http://camillestyles.com/living/life-lessons/how-to-streamline-your-wardrobe?slide=1 I’ve heard a lot of moms stick to this rule when it comes to toys as well. My good friend Jeanne rotates her kids toys, taking some away and bringing them back periodically. This way the toys seem new to the kids and there are not so many out at the same time. Another mom I know helps her children decide which old toy they would like to donate to another child for every new toy they receive, namely at Christmas time. This is a wonderful way to help you children realize what they need as well and have a thankful and giving spirit.
⁃ Go Through Things Periodically - Things you thought you might use in the future will be very apparent to you in five years from now as to whether or not you really will ever use them again or not. Letting them sit in storage for longer than that without sorting through them will lead to your home becoming like your grandmothers basement that gives you nightmares when you think of going through it after she goes to heaven. It’s a stockpile of “stuff” that you have no idea what is in it. Besides, if you stored it so you can use it again, how are you going to use it if you never go through it to remember its there. This is where a table of contents for your storage would come in handy. I haven’t done this yet, but would love to at some point!
⁃ If You Have Something You Only Use Once A Year or Less and Can Borrow It, Do That
⁃ Buy Things That Are Valuable, Serve their Purpose Fully, and Will Last - Instead of buying multiple things because they all only fill part of a purpose or aren’t good quality and need supplemented, invest into things that will do the job and last! If you’re keeping 10 of something because you don’t like any of them, get rid of them and get one you really like! This goes for clothes, appliances, pajama pants, decorations, blankets, whatever!
⁃ Use Up What You Have Before Buying New - Once you get a hook on this mindset of minimalism it will trickle into all ways of living; shampoo, greeting cards, food!, and I’m guessing you’ll love it! I bet that you can skip grocery shopping (besides milk, bread, eggs, you know..) for a month and have enough in your pantry and freezer to keep you going. (I am not discouraging stocking your freezer by any means, I am all about that! - Just pointing out that it is easy to forget about). Buying like this will feel really good and I bet it will help you make better choices too, like buying smaller amounts!
Fun Tip: Going through your things can make them feel new, almost like a shopping trip. If you’re bored with your wardrobe consider inviting a stylish friend over and ask her to put together some new outfits for you. I bet she’ll come up with stuff that you wouldn’t have thought of!
WARNING - Don’t try to do this all at once. Learning to have a minimalistic mindset is a process and comes gradually. It took me three years on my spare time, and definitely not as a top priority. I did it, like I said, as I had the time and the gumption. I learned the value of minimalism as I went. If organizing is especially not your thing, consider having someone accompany you and help you with the process.
Here’s to a more clean, simple, thankful new year!
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