At the beginning of my minimalism journey, I thought I was doing a great job at organizing my stuff. But just by organizing, I haven’t done anything important – I was just putting stuff neatly in boxes, drawers, and closets where my eyes won’t see them.
Soon after, as I delved deeper into minimalism, I learned an important lesson: Organizing is not minimizing.
In my family, we have a custom of tackling major housecleaning at the start of each new season (we have 4 where I live). We throw some things out, we clean each room, tidy it by putting all the stuff out of sight, etc.
Our goal is to make good use of the space we have and stow away our belonging so they won’t get in the way as we go about our daily lives. In the end, our home looks beautiful, tidy, clean, and uncluttered.
But as time passes and we become busy with other things, obligations, and daily life, we’re back at square one. I don’t know if this happens in your family as well, but unless we’re extremely careful, we’ll end up going through this cycle of cleaning and getting cluttered time and again.
This is because organizing is not minimizing. Instead of relying on organizational tips and techniques from popular blogs and organization coaches, we should first focus on decreasing the amount of stuff we have and need to put away.
Once we minimize and get rid of all unneeded possessions, our space will naturally become less cluttered, and the cycle will be broken.
While visiting my friend Matko in his new apartment, I noticed he intentionally doesn’t have a lot of storage space. Therefore, the amount of stuff he owns is less than most people, and his apartment looks clean and organized at all times.
Normally, we clean up by gradually reducing the clutter in our storage space, after which we’re finally able to throw away the storage containers themselves. But what if we get rid of storage space first?
“No, no, it’s not possible. My stuff will be scattered all over the place.”, I can hear you screaming.
And this is exactly the thing I want. Most of us can’t bear such a sight, therefore we’ll feel compelled to do something about it, like start throwing things away.
When our possessions no longer have a comfortable home, they’ll wind up sitting around in strange places around the home. And as we walk and see them there, we’ll start asking questions about whether we really need them. In time, the answer will be a more often No, than Yes, thus we’ll start to get rid of superfluous stuff.
So, by following the example of my friend Matko, the most effective method for cleaning up is to just get rid of storage space.
When you get rid of storage space and stuff that once was occupying it, you’ll find much more unused space in your home. Don’t fall into a rabbit hole and clutter it again. Leave it empty.
For example, leave the countertops empty, or decorate them with just one or two sentimental items where you can see them every day. (Pro tip: If they’re empty, it’s easier to clean)
Don’t put too much artwork on the wall. One or two curated pieces will add more to the esthetic of your home, than a cluttered wall full of pictures. Just remember how does the museum visit makes you feel. Everything is curated and deserves your full attention.
Naturally, we’ll try to fill the void, but resist the urge and just let it be. Open spaces, left empty, give us peace of mind. Although your brain initially thinks of them as unused spaces, these open areas are incredibly useful – they bring us a sense of freedom and keep our minds open to the more important things in life.
No matter how organized we are or how many times per week we clean, it’s important to note that we still must continue to care for the possessions we organize and clean. Once we get rid of superfluous stuff, we can free up a significant amount of our most precious resources – our time, energy, and attention.
When we regain them back, we can spend them on life’s more important aspects, we can focus on our health, relationships, passions, and stuff that truly matter. Or we can spend them reorganizing our stuff again. Get rid of the unnecessary, and focus on the important.
Remember: When you don’t have a lot of stuff, cleaning and organizing won’t be a chore anymore, but a pleasant experience that enhances your life.
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