6 Decluttering Strategies Minimalists Swear By
It’s time to tackle that junk drawer.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:23 AM
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If you asked someone to sum up their style in just a few words, “modern-bohemian” or “contemporary-organic” sound like suitable answers. But “minimalist”?
Of all the design aesthetics one might choose to adhere to, professing yourself as a minimalist has become dangerous territory. To longtime maximalists and commitment-phobes alike, a declaration as bold as this is the decorative equivalent of joining a cult.
Like any other style, minimalism is a scale. On one end of the spectrum, you have your Marie Kondos of the world—sticking solely to the essentials that spark joy—and, on the other end, you have low-key neat freaks who like collecting but hate clutter. No matter where you land on that line, being more conscious and considerate about the items that we own is an admirable pursuit. Not to mention that embracing a more organized way of life makes for a hell of a New Year’s resolution.
To learn how to keep a happier and cleaner home in 2019, we turned to self-professed minimalists and superbly tidy homeowners for their advice.
Commit to timeless materials
Part of the trick to perfecting minimalism is getting it right the first time. While most of us already tend to think of our furniture as a monetary investment, it’s also important to view big-ticket items as an aesthetic investment.
“I’ve found that natural furnishings and materials are timeless,” says Gosia Piatek, New Zealand–based fashion designer and founder of sustainable clothing brand Kowtow. In her 700-square-foot family home, for instance, you’ll find a sofa made from local wool and a pine-and-steel dining table. “You’ll rarely have to update those pieces because they wear beautifully over time.”
Before you buy more, ask: “Does this inspire me?”
If a once-a-year walk-through isn’t enough, catch yourself regularly while you’re shopping. “I think it is important to check in with your space often and make sure that there are not things that have accumulated that are not functional or bring you supreme inspiration,” says self-professed minimalist and clothing designer Jesse Kamm.
Kamm’s streamlined L.A. office only makes room for accessories and objects that fuel her creative energy. “In the modern era, we’re sold the idea of constant consumption. I think this phenomenon can lead to the overwhelming, suffocating feeling that buying and storing a lot of things can make us feel good.”
Lesson learned? Before you walk to the checkout line, ask yourself, Is this cheap Ikea coffee table really worth it? When I look at it, does it feel like me? If it’s not something you’d brag about to friends at a dinner party, wait for the real deal.
Not everything in your home has to be clean, crisp, and new. Incorporating aged pieces sourced from local vintage and antique shops is a great way to tell a story within your space. Without veering from her pared-down aesthetic, photographer Amy Harrity’s zen San Francisco home is the perfect blend of flea market finds and modern pieces. Her word of advice? “Wait to find the pieces you love!” shares Harrity.
Fewer items with character will always beat out a ton of clutter that bores. “If there’s something I need, I look for it secondhand or I make it if it’s possible. For instance, if I need a new light in a corner of a room, I might look on Craigslist for three months before I find the right thing,” says Kamm. “This process is slow, but when I finally find the thing I am looking for, it often feels much more meaningful.”
Schedule an annual purge
On January 1, whip out your agenda and mark down a day (or an entire weekend) to dedicate to clutter. We’re not talking spring-cleaning or tossing a few throwaway items in a donation bin: We’re talking a thorough purge. “It’ll help you stay organized and [ensure] everything in your home has a home,” adds Harrity.
Do a nightly sweep through
“It is easy to keep a neat space when there is very little to clutter it up,” suggests Kamm. Her hot tip? “Spend about 10 minutes each day putting things back in their place. When you do a bit each day, you’re more likely to stay on top of the organization. Plus, the OCD helps.”
It’s easy to forget what you own when you don’t see or touch it on a daily basis. Going around to each room—even if you’re just looking—will help you out when it’s time for your annual purge and you’re trying to prioritize what needs to go and what can stay.
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