I've always been a very neat and organised person. I live for headings and sub-headings, lists, schedules, folders and dividers. So naturally, my environment is quite orderly and clean. But I recently made the decision to completely declutter my life and become a minimalist, and I was surprised at how much more there was to get rid of! But minimalist lifestyles aren't all about getting rid of things. It simply means that you become a conscious shopper, making considered decisions about the items you purchase and the way in which you organise your life. I've broken my process down into nine simple steps.
Set aside a day to declutter your room/work desk/home/environment. I'd recommend using two bags: one for items you want to sell or donate, and one for items you want to throw away. Try to be as environmentally and economically conscious as you can, and only throw away items that are too ruined for anyone else to get any use out of. Don't forget, a lot of retailers recycle old textiles, so it's worthwhile doing your research!
2. Don't be sentimental
My personal philosophy is that if something means enough to you, you will always have the memory of that event or person. I used to keep a lot of nostalgic trinkets around, but I soon realised that I didn't need those material possessions to remind myself of the great experiences I'd had. The experiences that really matter will always stay in your mind, so don't be afraid to get rid of sentimental items!
3. Keep your surfaces clear
The problem with having decorations or knick knacks on display is that they collect dust very quickly and clutter the surface, making your environment look smaller and messier than it actually is. I like to keep my surfaces as bare as possible, emphasising one centrepiece (usually plants or a lamp) rather than displaying lots of little items.
4. Invest in folders and storage solutions
Speaking of packing things away, there are some incredible storage solutions available at the moment (especially now that small-space homes and offices are becoming more popular). Places like Ikea, Kmart, Target, Big W, Officeworks and even Coles are your go-to retailers for this task. Stick to basic colours and designs, and look for function over style. Use folders to organise your important papers, and put those folders in cupboards with closed doors. I even stack my spices, oils, rice, and tins in separate boxes in my pantry!
5. Invest in basics
Basics are your best friend. Whether that's clothing, stationary, or furniture. Instead of purchasing some wild design or statement couch etc., stick to very subtle and basic styles. Try to avoid excessive decorations (like rhinestones, buttons, feathers, carvings, etc.,) and stick to empty surface areas and block colours. There's a reason places like Ikea and kikki.K are so popular--Swiss design is renowned for being clean, minimal, and practical. Shop wisely and frugally, so you can be certain that these staple essentials will match anything and everything else you own.
6. Don't shop according to trends
There was a time when galaxy clothes were the hottest item available. A couple of months ago adult colouring books were all the rage. String chokers are already starting to lose their hype. It's very easy to get swept up in what's trendy, because that's the precise aim of marketing: creating hype in order to get audiences to buy a product. Instead of buying according to the latest trends, go for basic, practical, and lasting items. If there's something on trend that you really want, give yourself a couple of weeks or months and come back to it, before you consider purchasing it.
7. Go digital
I'm a huge advocate for the digital movement--and not just because I'm a graphic designer! Moving things to the digital realm makes life so much more efficient and neat, and best of all, it's much more environmentally friendly. Instead of printing off forms, receipts, and folders, save everything on your computer, and back it up on a hard drive or the Cloud for extra security. The trick here is to name all of your folders, and even include sub-folders in order to keep everything neat. Create bookmarks in your browser to save and separate recipes, instructions, videos, music, and documents. This way you can minimise the amount of paper and discs in your home or office.
8. Stick to a colour palette
I personally love the elegance of monochrome and neutral palettes, but of course, everyone will have their own preference. The key thing is to keep your palettes small (ie. don't pick twenty colours) and consistent. I'm particularly adamant about the consistency factor, as I have removed as much colour from my home, wardrobe, and social media as I can. Now, you don't have to be as extreme as me, but try as much as possible to stick to one colour scheme. It not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but also gives the illusion of coordination. Even the messiest of office desks can look more put-together if they are colour co-ordinated!
9. Shop small
Essentially, 'shopping small' is another way of saying 'buy local'. Although buying items from local/small businesses can often seem more expensive than buying a mass-produced item from a big retailer, it's important to know exactly where your money is going and who will value it more. In the long run, if you've made the decision to limit your expenses to just the essentials, then you can afford the luxury of spending just a little bit extra, knowing that your money will go towards supporting small businesses instead of a billion-dollar corporation. Take it from a freelancer - we appreciate all the support we get. In any case, hand crafted goods are often so much more durable and unique than mass-manufactured products.
Embracing the minimalist lifestyle was one of the best decisions I ever made. It's amazing how much your environment affects your mental state. Surrounding myself in a clean, considered, and spacious environment makes me feel like I have a lot of breathing room to focus on other things. What do you think? Have I missed anything? Let me know if you have any other space-saving, decluttering, or minimalist ideas!