Monday, January 26, 2015

Minimize the Mess

I've been a bit out of sorts lately. I've been behind on my school work, and on my blog posts! It took me a while to figure out it was ugly house syndrome. Have you ever experienced it? Sometimes an untidy or unorganized home can leave one feeling a bit sluggish, or even depressed. In my case, we have a tiny apartment yet we've accumulated a lot of stuff junk. So much, in fact, that some of it was just sitting in boxes, taking up our living room! What is the point in having so much stuff, if it just becomes an eyesore that doesn't even get used?


What is minimalism? The basic concept is "less is more!" We live in a consumer-driven society, and many of us (myself included) feel obligated to buy something just because it's cheap or on sale. There is a lot of confusion between needs and wants these days. For example, do we need 20 plates in a three-person family? Does my significant other need that new Nerf gun to add to his already huge collection? Does my son need that new toy he sees in the store? No, no, and no! Those are all wants.

While this journey is still ongoing, it all started when I discovered a minimalist group on Facebook. I was so inspired by everybody's posts and beautiful photos that I immediately began sorting through our "stuff" to determine what was a need and what was a want.

Make a Plan

The first thing I did was take a look at the apartment and determine the "catch-all" areas and problem spots. In my household, these included the kitchen table, the coffee table, and the kitchen counters... basically any flat surface. One of the worst spots in the house, other than those already mentioned, was my 5 year old son's room; therefore his room was the first to get "purged." Goodness, that kid has too many toys. So far it's the only room completely done, so I'll give y'all the breakdown of the plan for his room.

The Plan

  • Go through EVERYTHING!
  • Determine what needs to be purged. Has it been played with in the last 6 months? Are there multiples of the same item (3 Spiderman action figures, for example)?
  • Sort into 4 different categories: Sell, Donate, Trash, and Keep.
  • Don't get ahead of yourself and get rid of something you actually need. If there is something you're unsure about, try putting it in a "test box" that is out of sight. If you can make it a predetermined amount of time without using it, then get rid of the item. 
  • Don't expect to be done overnight. This is an ongoing journey for us, happening a little bit at a time. 


No, I wasn't out on the one night a year that all crime is legal. Purging, in the minimalist community, refers to getting rid of all of the unused, unneeded things, so you can get down to the items you really need, love, and appreciate.

Before the purge, my son's room always looked like it had just been hit by a hurricane. It didn't matter if there were toy boxes, he dumped all of the toys on the floor. To escape the mess, he often dragged toys out into the living room to play with them, and that only lead to more clutter. He still has a lot of toys put up in the closet, but he now has no more than 20 toys in his room. Cleanup time is no problem for him now, as opposed to before. Does "I need help! I can't do it by myself!" sound familiar?

These are the toys purged from my son's room. Now imagine them spread all over the floor.

Other than my son's room, I've also gotten around to the never-ending dishes. After going through all of the plates, silverware, and cups, I've gotten it down to enough for five people. That's more than enough for a family of three, considering we use paper plates and utensils when we have guests and my son has his own kid-friendly dinnerware.

My current project is reducing a stack of my son's artwork (about a foot high) by scanning most of it, and only keeping hard copies of extremely special projects. Now we'll have all of it saved digitally, without the clutter of stacks of paper or a dozen three-ring-binders taking up space! You could save them to your computer or another device, but I saved them to Dropbox (download it here!). IT's a "cloud" type service, meaning I can access them from anywhere.

Screenshot of Dropbox. Click here to download it!

Benefits of Minimalism

  • Less stuff = less mess. Let's be honest... there are only so many ways to organize. Do I really want need 10 different boxes of toys taking up space in the closet? Rotating toys works for some families, but not this one. Same with the dishes I mentioned already. The more dishes there are, the more I have to wash. I can say, without a doubt, that cleanup (in the kitchen and my son's room) has been a breeze since.
  • Discovering what's really important. How can we truly appreciate what we have, when most of it is just taking up space? Going through everything gave me a chance to judge what was really meaningful, and what was just in the way. Going through artwork especially brought back some valuable memories and allowed me to reminisce about my son's younger days. 
  • It honestly just looks nicer. Although our home is not even close to being completely done, I know it will look more open and inviting than it did packed to the gills with stuff.

I will definitely keep y'all updated as this project goes on. I'll remember to take some "before" pictures for the next post as well!

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