MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Habits of the Minimalist Lifestyle
Once you've gone through a major decluttering event, you may think you're done. You've achieved minimalism! But minimalism is not the process of decluttering; it's a lifestyle. You need to change your habits in order to retain your newfound lightness and freedom.
We're real people. We work, we socialize, we have hobbies and husbands and kids. Stuff enters our homes every day, and if we have no system for dealing with it, clutter will reappear. So part of the minimalist lifestyle is learning to be a gatekeeper, to keep stuff from once again overwhelming our lives.
How can we do this?
4 Simple Maintenance Tips
1. Don't just put it down – put it away.
Use the old adage "A place for everything and everything in its place." As you declutter, you need to make a home for each item you need, use, and love.
Although the two are often confused, organizing, by itself, isn't the same as decluttering. If we simply organize stuff in boxes and bins, we might be hiding the fact that we still have too much clutter. But we can use containers such as drawers, cupboards, closets, spice racks, book cases, and shoe bags to place limits on what we store. Rather than running out and buying more containers, we need to put our favorite items in the containers we have and declutter the lesser-loved items that don't fit.
Items often end up "homeless" because we simply have too much stuff. If your bathroom counter is covered with bottles and potions, for example, you probably have too many. Get rid of the duplicates, the things you used once and didn't like, and the outdated creams and remedies. Consider streamlining your beauty regimen. Use the medicine cabinet and vanity drawers to store the things you need and use regularly, and try to keep the counter clear of everything except hand soap. It's not only more soothing and spa-like, it's far more sanitary.
Don't waste another minute searching for your misplaced phone or checkbook, or shuffling through drawers looking for your most comfortable and supportive bra. Find a specific home for these items. Even when you're tired, or in a rush, take the minute or two to put things away when you've finished using them. It will soon become a habit to put things where they belong.
2. Practice one in, one out.
When you purchase something new, discard something comparable. That way, your containers don't overflow and everything still has a home. For example, if you replace a worn pair of sandals, discard the old ones. New laptop? Recycle the old one. Don't waste all the time and effort you spent decluttering. Drop your habit of hanging on to old stuff you don't need.
3. Curb the impulse.
Shopping for the sake of entertainment, novelty, or on a whim is another habit that needs to stop. Nothing derails your decluttering efforts (and your budget) more quickly than impulse buys.
Be aware of your weaknesses. Are there certain stores you "can't resist?" Certain items you tend to collect? Have yard sales or internet shopping become a favorite form of entertainment? Awareness is an important part of changing habits. Several strategies may help: carry only cash, remove credit card information and disable one-click purchasing online, change your route so you don't drive by the tempting store, wait three (or seven, or thirty) days. Find more helpful strategies here.
Remember it takes a while to change a habit. I still have to avoid certain stores unless I have a specific reason to shop there, and then I bring only so much cash and no credit cards. I can browse and enjoy all of the pretty merchandise as long as I remind myself that I already have plenty and I don't need to own everything that catches my eye (Yep, I sound like I'm 3 years old).
4. Remember it's a lot easier to keep up than to catch up.
Develop routines for doing household chores, since piles grow when chores are neglected. It really takes just a couple of minutes to sort through the mail every day. The longer you wait, the bigger the pile gets and the more you dread the job. The same goes for doing dishes or laundry.
Do you put off a chore because you hate doing it? Try timing it. It may not take as long as you think, and once you realize that, it will be easier to make yourself do it. Or trade a chore you dislike with another household member's least favorite chore. My husband vacuums and empties the dishwasher for me, and I never ask him to dust or fold the laundry.
Create daily habits for yourself and your kids. Be specific about what you want them to do, such as "Make your bed (at least pull up bedclothes neatly and put the pillow at the head)," "Put clean clothes away and dirty ones in the hamper," "Hang up your towel," and "Put toys where they belong." These habits should become just as routine as "Brush your teeth" and "Wash your hands."
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Outer Order, Inner Calm (paid links), reminds us that "what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while." It's the daily events, habits, routines, and attitudes that make up our lives. But I like Anthony Trollope's more humorous take on the same idea:
A small daily task – if it be really daily – is worth more than the labor of a spasmodic Hercules.
Getting your home decluttered might have been a Herculean task. But when you make minimalism your daily lifestyle, you'll never have to do a huge declutter again.
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash