Happy Herbivore Blog

This Week's Q&A: Minimalist Challenge Special! How to Organize, Finding Time To Declutter, Using the 1-In 1-Out Rule & More!

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: MinimalistFAQ

In celebration of today's virtual minimalist declutter party challenge, this week's Q&A is dedicated to all things minimalism!

You've got questions...

Can you have a minimalist mindset and still plan ahead? Is the key just having an organized system and sticking to it? I have two kids, and try and find deals when I can, which means I often find out of season clothes and store them away. I try and keep boxes with labels and rotate them in and out of our dressers. Is that still being a minimalist?

There is no one-size-fits-all definition of minimalism; but yes a minimalist can plan ahead IF you actually end up using those things. I talk a lot about this in my new minimalist book (available in all electronic forms (PDF, Kindle, Nook) February 3!) -- how I used to buy out of season clothes on sale, thinking I was saving money, but then I never really wore them, so I wasted money and stockpiled. Similarly, I would often stock up on sale items, thinking I'd save money in the long run, and I would have, if I would have used those items, but one look at my pantry told a very different story. I find for me, it's better to just stick to what I need, but other people may have a different experience. Minimalism is about utility more than anything.

What is the best way to start cleaning out the clutter for someone striving to return to minimalism? I used to live in a tiny apartment and my fiance and I moved into a larger house and our "stuff" has grown along with the house. I feel like I'm becoming a slave to the stuff - always cleaning, organizing, rearranging it. But I don't know where to start and how to progress throughout the house to start decluttering in an organized way.

Start with a small project -- like a drawer, and build up from there. Take it a project and a task at a time.

I am not a pack rat but I live in a small cottage with no storage or garage. I hate drudgery, and just wish the mail would stop coming. How do you keep a small place uncluttered?

By having less stuff and not bringing anything in, unless something else goes out. See my post about the 1-in, 1-out rule. I also talk more about this rule and practice in my new book. I even tackle the mail issue in the book too! Get those papers organized!

Once you declutter what is a good plan for keeping it up? I execute well but don't maintain it.

The 1-in, 1-out rule! and making an appointment, a real appointment on your calendar, setting aside a few minutes or an hour every other week to go through, purge, and make sure you're not losing progress. It's all about creating a long-term system, and developing new habits and practices. A new mindset is key. I talk a lot about this in my new book.

How do you let go of sentimental items - like the dolls/stuffed animals you had growing up? I can part with things I've gotten as an adult but the gifts from my grandfather from when I was a kid or other toys that have emotions attached are harder.

I spend a lot of time talking about this in the new book. You can also check out this blog post: What to do with sentimental items (how to honor your memories without stuff)

I would like to know how to stay decluttered. I am always looking for something I need and end up buying another one because I can't find it in the time frame that I need it. For example, a note pad, pens, screwdriver...

You have to organize and reduce overall possessions, so you can find things you need. Every item needs a designated "home". If you don't know exactly where it is, it will be a stressor. (and yes! I talk about this in my book too!)

How do you figure out what furniture and textiles to keep (curtains, rugs, bath mats, etc) when you move often? My husband is active duty military and we move a lot. I've gotten rid of a ton of stuff in the last six months, but can't bring myself to donate the extra shelves, dressers, and curtains we have, because, what if our next house doesn't have good closets or more windows or an extra bathroom than we have now? (I know you have a lot of experience with moving often, too!)

1. Only keep what you actually use.

2. Don't hold on to something because of "what if" -- you'll make it work in the next situation. I'm amazed at how creative we get with our solutions. (We lived mobile for a long time). Live in today.

How do I handle a husband with numerous collections and general stuff that he won't part with?

See my post about living with a packrat.

In the last year both of my parents have been diagnosed with Alzheimers. They have been moved into assisted living and I have cleaned and sold their home. Now what is left is stored in my home. How do you make decisions for other peoples possessions? I have sold, donated and shredded more then I can keep track of. There are still 30 boxes/totes of personal items, antiques and personal records that I can't seem to let go of! It would be easier if they we no longer alive, but they are!

I think at this point it's safe to say that they don't need what you're holding on to. Anything they need or was very sentimental to them, I'm betting went to their new assisted living home. They aren't ever going to need those things again, why not donate them to someone who can use them?

How do I declutter with a baby in the house?

Contain baby things to a baby area, try not to led it sprawl all over the home, to the extent possible. Undertake smaller minimalist projects while the baby naps or plays. There's a lot you can do, even with a toddler around.

What are your essential kitchen appliances, pots, utensils, etc? I'm about to move in my first house on my own and need everything but don't want to over do it.

See my post on kitchen essentials.

What's the best way to keep the spice rack/cupboard organized, clean, fresh. How long do you keep dried spices around?

This is covered (in detail!) in my new minimalist book!

Do you have any advice for crafters (knitters/quilters)?

I cover hobbies in my new book. Here's a blog post, too: Minimalist Hobbies (and How To Organize Them!)

How do you keep minimalist with pets? I feel like I have dog and cat stuff everywhere.

Practice the 1-in, 1-out rule with their stuff too. If they get a new toy, an old one goes out. Get rid of whatever pet stuff you're not using. My dogs tire of toys after a week, so those toys go to the shelter rather than hang all over my house. Pets need very little -- food, a bed, bowls for food and water, a few toys, a few grooming and health things.

What's a good guideline for important papers? How long to keep documents? Where/how to store them?

Covered in detail in the new book!

I have a hard time just finding time. I get basic housecleaning done but still have piles of junk everywhere. How do you plan the time?

Build it into your schedule, create an appointment, set aside time -- like a day off or weekend, or do a little every day. Even five minutes a day will add up. I work 80 hours a week, but still spend about 5-10 minutes a day doing something. Even if it's as small as cleaning out a drawer. It makes a difference.

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