Downsizing and going tiny isn’t for everyone, but purging your closets and countertops of unwanted and unnecessary stacks of stuff is not only good for your household but great for your soul. Many articles support that clutter encourages anxiety. So, let’s partner together on this organizational journey.
While my planner may be color-coded, sometimes my house isn’t. So, here are some simple ways even the messiest can become a minimalist.
START SMALL: ONE ROOM AT A TIME
Right after Christmas, even though we live in a 36-foot camper, I felt like I couldn’t look somewhere that there wasn’t a stack of something about to attack me. I felt like I was about to be on an episode of Hoarders. So, I started with my pantry. No, it didn’t help with the piles of Christmas gifts and the graveyard of wrapping paper, but it was a small area that I could control. Once I finished that, the feeling of accomplishment was motivation to move on to something bigger.
FIND JOY: IF YOU DON’T LOVE IT, IT HAS TO GO
This was the mantra in our house before downsizing from over 2000 square feet to less than 300. Some studies suggest holding each item of clothing or trinket from your bookshelf in your had and if it doesn’t bring joy or trigger a positive memory, it has to go. So we are now left with only the things that have deep meaning for us or clothes and shoes that sincerely make us feel good.
MAKE PILES: KEEP, DONATE, GIVE AWAY, TRASH
This gets easier the more you do it, trust me. Once you start throwing things into boxes, you get on a roll and it is so freeing to let things go. It feels great to donate to those who need the clothes you haven’t fit into since high school and then you have space in your closet for things you actually feel comfortable wearing. make sure not to let the boxes sit around cluttering up your space. Take them where they were designated and wash your hands of what you let go.
MAKE A SCHEDULE: ROTATE WHICH ROOMS YOU TIDY UP
Once you’ve cleaned out and decluttered, make yourself an easy-to-follow schedule that rotates rooms in your house. Beyond your typical doing laundry and cleaning up leftovers, it will keep you from becoming overwhelmed to know that on Mondays you clean the bathrooms and on Wednesdays, you straighten the living room, and so on. We also get our kids involved. Our six-year-old is an expert at taking out the trash and vacuuming and our almost two-year-old loves to unload the dirty and clean laundry baskets. It teaches them responsibility and helps them feel like they are contributing to the family chores.
COUNTERS AREN’T FOR STORAGE
This the main culprit of cleanliness-related mom anxiety. Why must we have piles of hair ties, a collection of Legos, and a mountain of bills and junk mail covering our countertops? For the love of organization, throw. It. Out!
A clean counter in your kitchen will provide endless happiness for mom and send all of the unwanted treasures usually found there to their rightful locations. Then, if Suzy can’t wear a ponytail Monday or Johnny’s Lego truck only has three wheels, they will learn to pick up after themselves.
IF YOU HAVEN’T WORN IT/USED IT IN THE LAST YEAR, SAY BYE-BYE
As a woman of pretty solid size, this one is hard. But what if I lose weight? Or But what if I gain some back? I like to be prepared.
However, some of us are hanging on to our pre-teen N*SYNC concert t-shirt and, sister, that reunion tour ain’t happening! We need to move on.
So, go through your closet, dresser drawers, shoe racks, and handbag holders, and throw out or donate everything you haven’t worn in the last year (six months is actually preferable). I promise you will be shocked at how many items this eliminates if we are truly honest with ourselves.
RID YOURSELF OF EXPIRED ITEMS
I have no explanation as to why many of us shop and hold onto pantry items like we are living through the Great Depression, but honey, this isn’t 1930! Even folks like me who know the struggle of Ramen noodles and paycheck-to-paycheck living can usually afford to replace the ranch dressing they’ve had open in their fridge since New Kids on The Block were actually new.
Many women have makeup that used to line the shelves of our 8th-grade Caboodle case and hair accessories we haven’t worn since our headbands were hand-decorated with puffy paint. WHY!? Friends, can we have a collective trash bag frenzy, please!?
BUY QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Okay, admittedly, this one might hurt a little at first but you have to trust me on this. When you cut your closet contents in half (or, in our case, by 80%), you want to sincerely love the things that remain. This means that when you buy a new item, you not only remove an old one, but you should also be buying things that will last.
I was just able to replace three mediocre sweaters with one from Patagonia that I honestly love and is versatile enough to wear traveling or to the office. The initial cost of these items seems higher, but when you can get 10+ years of wear out of them, your investment was well worth it!
INVEST IN THINGS THAT HAVE MORE THAN ONE USE
This is a tiny living mantra. If it only has one use, I don’t need it. We need a coffee pot that doubles as a hot water maker, a can opener that opens bottles of wine and beer, and a table that is also a prep space and desk.
If you look at buying items, especially the larger purchases for your home, as needing to be multi-functional, you will spend less money and have less ‘stuff’.
FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A PLACE
Whether you live in a tiny house or a mansion, there should be some sort of order. Our kids know that they each have two toy bins. If new toys won’t fit, they have to rid themselves of enough old ones to make room or they have a choice to make.
My husband and I know that our wall-mounted mail holder will only hold so much so eventually we will have to go through it, separate it, and pay bills or respond to mail. In our old, larger home, mail would pile up, collect dust, and remain unopened.
This same rule should apply to kitchen items, pantry food, tools and gardening, and everything else one might keep in or around their home.
SOME THINGS ARE MORE WORTH YOUR MONEY THAN YOUR TIME
This is an important step and one I am continuing to learn from. Whether you are a traveling single or a settled family, a retiree or a divorcee starting over, you have responsibilities. Sometimes our money is worth more than our time.
This means, instead of stressing over the heart-wrenching fact that I honestly cannot keep up with my family’s laundry on top of writing, a full-time job, motherhood, wifing, and every day of running a household, it is a worthwhile investment to pay a dry cleaner to launder our clothes or a housekeeper to clean the toilets. There is no shame in that sister! It isn’t defeat. It is working smarter, not harder.
Brynn Burger lives tiny, loves big, and laughs always. Writing with honest hilarity and violent vulnerability about parenting, adulting, downsizing, living tiny, and raising an extreme child is her attempt to escape the painful isolation that comes from a life of hiding to instead connect with people who are raw and real. Check her out at www.themamaontherocks.com.