I'm not a procrastinator. I'm not saying it as a brag (though it was beneficial for school), I'm just stating the nature of my disposition. Putting things off makes me squirm. I love to multitask. I love to finish things early and move onto what's next. I love the satisfaction of getting all my chores out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of the day.
My proactive nature, however, is also a product of my anxiety disorder. I worry, I fret, I seek certainty, and there is a finality that is comforting in getting things done. I pester my boyfriend about throwing away empty amazon boxes. I seek to finish work all at once instead of taking what might be a healthy break to rest. I struggle to relax. If I go through a day without making, cleaning, or organizing something, I feel "lazy." I have to work hard to relax. It's something I'm trying to improve on, so that my daily happiness isn't tied so closely to how much I accomplish.
That being said, just as I'm working to integrate relaxation into my anxious disposition, I know many people seek to bring proactive habits into their own daily life. The opposite of procrastination, in my mind, is anticipation. By looking just a step further into the next moment, I believe you can better enjoy the present.
Put things back when you're done with them.
How often? All the time.
Prime candidates: shoes, coats, kitchen gear
Put them back where? If you're asking yourself this, hop on over to my Resting Space post to learn a little more about picking smart home bases for your belongings. Once you get used to putting things back when you're finished with them, you'll barely realize you're doing it. It'll become a natural part of using any object.
I very recently got rid of our shoe rack in the living room and stored all of our shoes in the ample border space under our bed. In this spot, they're just out of view but easy to grab. When I enter the house, I take off my shoes and tuck them in their space under the bed. I avoid leaving shoes out unless I'm putting them on or taking them off.
We now use the same technique for any kitchen gadgets that we don't use daily, but often. Our rice cooker has a spot in a cabinet where it is easy to reach and take down. When we're done with it, it gets washed and put away so we have room on the counters.
Reset your household.
How often? Every night for quick surfaces, weekends for vacuum/heavy cleaning
Prime candidates: fluff up pillow or blankets, clear documents/cups off desk
At the end of the day, I usually reset our living room area so it's fresh to be used tomorrow. This includes putting pillows back on the couch, smoothing out the blankets, throwing away any napkins or to-go bags, and returning glass cups to the kitchen/washing machine. This could also be done in the morning, so be sure to hone in on what time and spaces make the most sense for you. More involved surfaces like kitchen counters usually get wiped down once the dishes are put away and we're done preparing food.
The secret to making cleaning/tidying more manageable avoiding the need for day-long purges. Letting your mess build up to the point where you need a weekend and a hazmat suit will eventually build a negative association that cleaning = time consuming. This doesn't have to be the case. A quick vacuum every weekend, a wipe down at the end of the day, a weekly laundry routine — these things are so much more manageable when they're peppered into your daily life in small, easy amounts.
Prep to go before you go.
How often? Anytime you're going out.
Prime candidates: wallet, glasses, keys, food prep, clothes for the next day
Especially if your morning routine is involved or requires a degree of promptness, preparing your belongings for the next task at hand will lighten the load on your mind when that task rolls around. It's the same reason people avoid packing for a giant trip the morning of.
On Monday mornings, I put my planner and pencil case in my backpack, along with my lunchbox, sunglasses and key fob. With my belongings settled, I can sit down at my laptop and work until it's time to leave, and then I can get up and go.
Use a planner or to do list.
How often? Depends on the person. I recommend beginning and end of the day.
Like freeform analog? Blank dot grid journal.
Like structured analog? Daily/monthly planner.
Like freeform digital? Google docs, keep, or notion.
Like structured digital? Any.do and Google calendar.
You don't need to be an avid writer or journalist to benefit from a planner. Also, feel free to use what medium works for you. I legitimately use all of the above platforms for different purposes and for different reasons. None of these ways are the right way, as long as they allow you to ask these important questions:
Morning: What do you need to do today? What's coming up this week?
Evening: What did I do today? What will I need to do tomorrow? Did my plans change at all?
Live mindfully the rest of the day.
How often: As much as you can!
If you're actively trying to improve on the other things in this list, it will take an amount of conscious effort to change your habits. However, as you build these habits, I believe that you will begin to take more appreciation for your surroundings and your daily life. Putting things back, cleaning regularly, preparing your belongings for outings, and keeping a planner — these are all things you can do while living in the moment. They will reduce second-guessing, forgetfulness, and letting clutter pile up around you.
And once you've spent your time accomplishing these tasks, you can live in the present without worrying about what you need to accomplish. Focus on the tasks you've made, and if new ones come up, you can add them to your planner or list. Then, at the end of the day you can reset and figure out what comes next.
A resting space is the the natural location where a belonging is kept, either out of subconscious habit or intention. Chances are, many things you own already have their own resting space or "home base." Do you always leave your purse by the door? Your wallet at your nightstand? In this post I'm going to consider some tactics for building more tidy resting spaces for our belongings.
Perks of Tidier Resting Spaces
How to Choose a Tidy Home Base
In Use vs. Resting
Some items will have two homes: one for when they are out and in use, and one for when they're resting. This resting or storage spot doesn't have to be obscured (in a drawer, cupboard etc) but it can be. Many people use a key rack to keep their home and car keys, a great example of a resting place. Their "in use" place for keys is wherever their owner takes them.
Example: My Desk
A Tactic to Reduce Phone Usage
For the duration of this post, I will be referring to negative space interchangeably with "breathing room," as the latter term feels more positive (!) and applicable.
Focal Points in Design
Negative space is an essential concept in many different art forms, including graphic design, interior decorating, photography, film, and illustration. People are drawn to visuals that give them a clear sense of where to look. Visuals that demand attention over their surroundings are called focal points, and they are the center of activity and attention.
Terminology I Use
Some of my favorite focal points:
Inverse from negative space + focal points is "chatter" - information that has too many facets to be digested concisely.
Some of my least favorite forms of chatter:
"Breathing Room" Applied
The concepts of negative space, focal points, and chatter can come in handy to determine what we find most important when arranging our lives.
Try to think of your own examples for each as you read along!
note: When it comes to the home, the right combination of focal points and negative space can make you feel comfortable in each room. Breathing room can also be helpful when considering your closet. It is visually soothing to leave room for all of your belongings so they can rest without pressure.
Note: Especially for fashion, one person's focal point may be another person's chatter. Also, having comfortable clothing is a great way to minimize your sensory experience and focus on the "statement" of your outfit. Building up a wardrobe of clothes you feel both comfy and good in is the best way to minimize your time spent worrying about what you wear.
Note: Meditation is an obvious example of breathing space for your mind. However, giving yourself moments to daydream, regroup, or let your mind go blank can be a helpful form of mindful negative space. Journals and lists can help unload your mind onto paper and remove the burden of remembering everything.
Note: This one is very...abstract, but I feel like it works just as well as the other themes.
We tend to function better when we have only a few strong and clear focuses in our lives and we give them the space to breathe.
Let's use focal points to tidy up a room!
Go into a room and observe the path your idle eye makes. What does it stop on first? Where does it linger? Is there something that is a focal point that you'd rather not be? Or something that has faded into the background that you wish you could appreciate more?
Picking a focal point for a room or a wall can help you simplify your vision.
EX: My Office
Before and After!
Office Tidy 2: Electric Boogaloo
I'm not making this blog because I think I have it all figured out. Heck, my office was still a long way off from my ideal layout when I moved in about a year ago! It was still far off only a few weeks ago! Only recently have my tastes changed to prefer minimalism, so anyone reading this is along for the journey. Negative space is nothing new, but it was fun to figure out how to apply it to more abstract parts of my life.
Some people are more sentimental, some are more utilitarian. Both can have their pitfalls, but the important thing to remember is that both are ultimately human.
Minimalism, in my mind, isn't about removing your humanity, it's about honing your senses into the objects you value most and enjoying those objects to their fullest.
The Sentimentalist - Past Oriented
"X gave this to me."
"This was my first ___."
"I got this during [time period]."
The Utilitarian - Future Oriented
"I can definitely find a use for this."
"I might need this at some point."
Which kind of owner are you?
What reasons do you lean on most when considering your belongings?
Uses and Memories
When looking over a room to clean, start by taking a few items down and considering these two questions and their adjacent follow-ups.
After working through an entire container or room, you will have a better sense of the value you use most when deciding what to keep. This thought process certainly runs adjacent to Marie Kondo's genius question about an object sparking joy. An object can spark joy in both its utility and its emotional value, making it a very handy singular question for searching through your stuff.
As I've continued to tidy and organize, I began to form a mental graph for how I evaluate my belongings. It functions on two axes: Functional Value and Emotional Value. Here's an example, filled in with the help of some coworkers and critical thinking. I'm sure the placement of different items is different for every person, so pay attention as your mind automatically corrects or fills in the gaps.
Sentimental Pitfall: Time
If you're a more sentimental owner, an item can accumulate value simply by being in your life for a long time. It makes sense — there's a reason antiques are valuable, there's a reason those one pair of boots that you've had since high school feel worth keeping around. There are items that have stuck it out for you, and have seen you through a lot of your life. However, I think time itself shouldn't be the sole reason or measure by which you hold onto something.
If the main reason you find to keep something is "I've had it for a long time," examine adjacent reasons like the object's function and how often you view it in order to better decide its value. Inversely, the value of your belongings can decrease as you get older. If something doesn't bring you as much joy as it used to, or doesn't feel as important to keep, that's okay. For the time in your life that you wanted it, you had it, and that's what is most important.
Utilitarian Pitfall: Price
A common guilt point for looking at an item you haven't used is thinking, "Man, I spent X amt of dollars on this." A bike you never rode. An expensive DVD collection you haven't cracked open. That exercise machine that was going to kickstart you into fitness. Fumio Sasaki talks about a similar concept in Goodbye Things: Banish the concept of "Getting Your Money's Worth". The guilt of not getting your money's worth in the past gangs up on your practical response of using it in the future and makes it infinitely harder to discard. In my opinion, it is not worth keeping something just because it was expensive. No amount of price matters if the item isn't useful to you or it doesn't make you happy.
How have I changed?
As I've gotten older, I've noticed how my current nature as an owner has shifted. When I was around the end of high school, I used nostalgia to help cushion my transition into college by returning to my childhood roots: Disney movies, YA fiction, anything that brought me a sense of peace from an earlier time. Now that I'm living in LA and working and I'm no longer functioning as a student in a "temporary" home, I feel like I can finally break free from nostalgia as a cushion and start building new memories while keeping the things from my past that I treasure where they belong: in the past. I'm certainly not saying I'm no longer sentimental -- that is far from the truth. But my priorities have changed, and I'm enjoying documenting this transition into a new state of mind.
David was kind enough to lend me his Canon Rebel T2i and his wide-angle lens (from his real estate photography days) so I could take some decent pictures of our clean house.
A list of quick, easy, and sensible things to brighten up your home and get rid of clutter!
Do you want to tackle some spring cleaning this weekend? Here's a quick rundown of how I go about cleaning a room or area.