1 year ago by
Organization. It’s a word that can strike fear or joy en masse, depending on where you lie on the organization spectrum. I would call myself moderately organized. Being well organized is something I strive to be, but more often than not my cabinets are filled with a mix of clear bins, labeled boxes and my latest Target purchases shoved into empty corners. I’m also someone who likes stuff. I collect trinkets, knick knacks, doo dads, whatever you want to call small items purchased while traveling or perusing pretty shops. The only time I’ve ever gotten rid of a book was when it was truly trash. Writing this all out is making me wonder if I’m a borderline hoarder. But I do disperse of things. I have regular clean outs of closets. I’m constantly throwing my children’s plethora of accumulated items away (there is actually a limit to how many rocks or shells one can keep in a house) and I only let the daily paper linger a few days before I recycle it. So I can’t be a hoarder! But maybe I have more stuff than I actually need? And I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone there.
The pandemic pushed us even further into the world of online shopping. The regularity with which boxes arrived became a point of embarrassment once I knew the UPS, USPS and Fedex delivery driver’s names (fine, DHL too). And then of course there is Amazon. I live in Seattle and have the luxury of space and storage in my home, which probably only makes things worse as I’m not forced to purge as much as someone living in a more compact home. I’ve always avoided the minimalism aesthetic and movement because I genuinely love books pilled high, shelves stuffed with items that tell stories of adventures abroad, and gallery walls of family photos and art.
So how can you strike that balance of being someone who likes stuff, but also someone who needs some help sorting out things that aren’t either a necessity or joy inducing? To answer those questions I spoke with Shira Gill, a self-described stuff and life editor and author of Minimalista. She recommends you start by with clarifying what your intentions are, “that first step is to get laser focused on your current values, priorities and goals”. Shira believes in order to determine what you don’t want, it’s important to clarify what you want most. What do you care deeply about? Once you’ve answered those questions, she says to start with one room, or even a closet at a time. I know for myself, when I do a big clean out, I end up bouncing around every room in the house. Maybe I’ll get rid of some things, but mostly I’m just moving items from one place to another. To avoid that, she says setting those intentions will help, as will staying focused on your overall vision and remembering that the less you keep, the more valuable the things you do have become.
That struck a particular note for me. Part of my collecting problem (again, it’s not hoarding) is that I can be pretty sentimental about my stuff. I have a collection of history books about WWII that belonged to my Grandfather. They aren’t particularly beautiful books, and while I do love history, 15+ books on the subject is probably more than I need. Shira says to keep one or two that I like best and donate the rest. The books I do keep will become more valuable to me, and less of a burden.
Mass consumption is a huge problem in our society. Our desire – but also anxiety – around organization goes hand in hand with consumption. A friend of mine once posed the question, what if for a year you couldn’t have your trash picked up? You literally had to keep everything that came into your home. How would that change what it was you were buying? When I mentioned this to Shira she said a great way to answer that question in the real world was to take a purchase pause. She recommends starting with one month where you only buy things that are of utter necessity. When you find yourself wanting to purchase something that isn’t, she says to write down the items on a list. At the end of the month, are the items still something you want, or has the impulse passed?
Another rule of thumb for keeping our purchases under control, is ‘one in, one out’, or even, ‘one in, two out’. This is especially helpful if you have young children whose toys seem to be capable of breeding. My daughters seem to have inherited my sentimentality towards inanimate objects, and somehow donating a baby toy that hasn’t been played with in years spurs on a state of hysterics usually only reserved for Bravo House Wives. So for items I know they will never play with again, I begun purging when they aren’t home. For items I’m less sure of, I’ve started giving them the ultimatum: if you want new things for Birthdays and Christmas, older items have to go. I’m hoping over time the theatrics wane. For adults needing boundaries on what items to hold onto, Shira says to come up with a number for the bins you feel comfortable storing. To avoid keeping all my children’s baby clothes, I’ve limited myself to one bin. As they get older and I want to save more items I treasure, they have to fit in that bin, otherwise something needs to come out. I started doing the same with the seasonal clothes I store. I have two bins for the clothes I rotate, if things aren’t fitting in those bins, they must go. I’ve only cried twice in this process.
One of my nagging questions for Shira is about those clear jars every celebrity and influencer has their food stored in, are they really worth it? She laughs and enthusiastically says yes! While they do look nice and tidy, what they really achieve is 1) they keep food fresher longer, thus avoiding waste, and 2) they let you know how much of something you have so you know when you’re running out and avoid buying too much or too little of something. “I think it’s not about having more space for more stuff. It’s about having the right stuff contained well so that it won’t go bad. Our airtight jars will literally keep chips fresh for six months.” Given the amount of Annie’s cheddar bunnies I throw out monthly, I’m sold. Shira likes to put on music or a podcast when she gets back from the grocery store and goes through and decants everything right away. It’s a habit she says is easy to form and helps your pantry stay organized continuously.
Something I really appreciated about Shira, was that she wasn’t telling me, or anyone, that everything must go. She’s simply asking us to really take stock of what it is we have in our homes, what value do our items bring us, what feels like a burden, and to pause and think more about what we are bringing in. She says, “I have an analogy in the book like you’re the bouncer at the door deciding who makes the cut. The biggest thing is making deliberate choices about what is coming into your house; it’s stopping the problem before it starts. So you develop an awareness of when you shop and what your shopping triggers are. Do you say yes to things that you don’t really want because you feel bad saying no? That can be free gifts, conference swag, hand me downs from your neighbor, who’s well intentioned, but now you have three bags of hand me downs. So stopping things before they come in is the best maintenance.” Doing those sweeps a few times a year, before holidays and birthdays will also help you keep stock of what is in your home. For Shira, it really comes down to developing organizational habits.
Being more organized will ultimately look different for everyone. My desk is piled with Penguin books, Japanese pottery, collected matchbooks, framed photos and plants. This might be too much for some, but I quite enjoy it all. What I don’t enjoy is the clutter hiding behind many of my cabinets, so cleaning those out will clear up both physical and mental space for me, so I’m not annoyed every time I open them up. The ten year old Vogue’s are sticking around though.
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Avant je rangeais une pièce après l’autre effectivement. J’ai trouvé par la suite beaucoup plus efficace de m’occuper de tous les objets de la même famille en même temps. Cela aide à réaliser que certains produits sont disséminés dans l’appartement et personnellement, cela me permet de trier davantage.