My journey to a simple, minimalist, and organized home was a long one. Just the other day I walked a labyrinth; at the beginning I found myself so close to the center, only to walk further and further away. I did, of course, reach the center of the labyrinth. Progress wasn’t linear — and nor was the process of simplifying my home. Just like walking the labyrinth, I often felt close to my goal but then moved farther away. By continuing along my path I got where I wanted to be in the end, and I enjoyed the journey there.
Undeniably, keeping space organized and tidy is difficult at the best of times — messes seem to appear out of thin air and it feels like there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done. Overall, I wanted to decrease clutter and increase my sense of peace at home. This meant an overhaul of my entire home and the routine I followed to create the space I wanted.
→ It’s not about storage
Through the ups and downs in my journey, there was a key lesson to be learned and applied to every room of my home: having a tidy and minimalist space isn’t about storage. You can have a million drawer separators, file folders, boxes, and shelves; you can rearrange and stack items all you want, but stuff has a way of coming out of its designated storage and cluttering up the home in a matter of days (or hours, if I’m being completely honest). Before embarking on an overhaul of my home, I was constantly re-organizing without clearing out excess belongings, achieving a fleeting sense of accomplishment, as the tidiness within my home was only temporary. There is certainly great value in having a well laid out storage system (I’m a sucker for cute office organizers of all sorts), but the most important step was for me to drastically reduce the number of my belongings. From kitchen utensils and gadgets I didn’t use and clothes I didn’t wear anymore (but always told myself I would) to old documents that needed shredding and office supplies for an army, it was about getting down to the basics. I kept the things I used and the things I loved, digitized any important documents, and got rid of the rest. By getting down to the necessities (and keeping items that I treasured, of course — you shouldn’t have to sacrifice happiness for a tidy home) and essential spares, I was able to create a consistently organized home.
→ Cleaning bursts
Once my home had reached its desired state of tidiness and organization, there came the matter of keeping it that way. Less stuff means less upkeep, but messes still occur and my life still got busy enough that I couldn’t do a full home tidy every day. I adopted the method which I like to call “cleaning blasts”, and I apply it to most of the chores I do, even when I’m not busy. I set a timer — depending on your schedule, you can do it all at once or break it down into segments (like ten minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening) — and work as fast as I can while still doing a good job. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in just fifteen minutes, especially when everyone in the household is involved, and spread out throughout the day it feels like no time at all. Depending on the size of your family and your home, you may need more or less time to get everything done, but it’s definitely easier to do short, daily cleaning blasts and tidying than it is to allow messes to build up and have to spend an entire day cleaning.
→ Keeping spaces ‘set’
One of my guilty pleasures is spending (too much) time browsing through pictures of perfectly styled minimalist homes. And homes in general. I’m certainly no interior decorator, but I greatly appreciate the talents many people have in making beautiful homes. Part of the satisfaction I get in this is seeing how well set up a home can be. This led me to keep certain spaces around my home “set up” — largely the dining room, living room, and office. After I use a certain space, I like to leave it as I found it before. For me, this makes space more inviting when I return and creates a sense of calm even when I’m not in the room. For example, I like to reset my table soon after the meal is finished (placemats, new cutlery, cups, napkins, and candles). I found it easy to get into the habit of clearing everything away after meals and resetting the table soon after, as I was already having to set the table at some point during the day. Keeping spaces set up takes very little, if any, additional time, and works wonders to keep a home organized and feeling calm.
Living with other people means living with different levels of organization. My husband isn’t anywhere near as tidy as I am. Messes don’t bother him the way they do me. If anything, cleaning seems to stress him out. This meant meeting in the middle to avoid any serious arguments. There are areas of our home which I am willing to have a degree of mess accumulate — namely the spaces which are his. Regardless of where we’ve lived, we’ve always shared a home office. It’s clear whose side is whose, but I try to only focus on my portion of the space. I’ve also set up some small, relatively out of sight baskets in key areas of the house, like the living room, bedroom, and office, where I store clutter that neither of us have time to put away throughout the day. Clutter tends to start with a few items, and those few items tend to grow into a full-blown mess. I put those items into the boxes to sort once we have more time. On occasion, we forget about the items in the boxes or find we don’t want them anymore, and we donate those items. I also use tiny baskets, which can be tucked away out of sight, to store essentials that tend to get scattered throughout our space, like chargers for our electronics and little office accessories, like paperclips and rubber bands.
→ Abandoning Perfection
I once idolized the idea of having a perfectly and constantly organized home. I wanted everything to be meticulously clean and in its place, essentially a picture perfect home. This idea of perfection led to stress and frustration whenever anything was out of place or messy. My hopes of having a pristine home inadvertently backfired, as I spent more time feeling unhappy about my space rather than enjoying the peaceful environment I had created. Things get out of place despite our best efforts, sometimes dirty dishes stack up, the living room goes unvacuumed for longer than it should, and the laundry overflows. A home is meant to be lived in, not just admired. I’ve learned to accept that a bit of disorder is to be expected at times; it’s simply a sign of a well-loved home. I take time to remind myself that if I can’t organize the space now, I can always make the time to tidy and organize when my schedule allows. The important thing is to enjoy your time at home, in the space you have worked hard to create, regardless of how organized or tidy it may be in a given moment.