Minimizing, Organizing, and Cleaning are my triforce of Tidying.
By identifying the uniqueness of each activity,
we can better understand how to strengthen our tidying skills.
The Importance of Distinction
What matters is not thinking you're doing one when you're doing the other.
Some actions can be both!
Both Organizing and Minimizing - Going through your closet and donating old stuff.
Both Minimizing and Cleaning - Taking out the trash.
Both Organizing and Cleaning - Drying off and putting the dishes away.
How I "Tidied" For Years with No Net Change
I tidied my own room as a hobby since childhood, but my criteria for minimizing was too weak and didn't have a goal beyond "remove junk." I organized the same amount of stuff without discarding much, and I bought enough to replenish the things I threw away.
Think about the AWESOME people that commit on no-waste living. They are breaking the cycle of throwing away as much as they consume. A minimal lifestyle is a similar idea.
Minimizing works best with:
The Minimalist Step
Similar to my Spring Cleaning post, imagine you're going to tackle a room or area.
Without some consideration for minimizing, you won't increase the simplicity of your space.
Without these minimizing steps there is no net change in the simplicity of your life.
Organizing is NOT Minimizing.
Throwing things in drawers is not tidying, and it's not cleaning either.
It's hiding the problem. Putting something back to its home base (or any random obscured space) is not reducing its presence in your life. For the things you're happy to own, this is less of a problem. For things that feel heavy in your life, it can be a huge issue.
Organized junk is still junk.
Going through your pens, throwing out 2 broken ones to feel good about yourself, but keeping 40 more pens than you need is not minimizing. One person's criteria of junk may be different from the other, but be careful not to assign worth to something just because it has labels, categories, or a "dedicated collection shelf."
Minimizing is Critical Thinking
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.
This afternoon I watched this short film by Jackie Files and it made me reflect on my own sentiment and nostalgia tying into the things I own. In the film the young woman is visiting her childhood bedroom and considering her belongings within, one by one. Memories come back to her as she moves from photos and books to her box of journals. There is a moment in the film where she takes out a black journal and her smile vanishes. She sets it aside and doesn't open it. I have been exactly in that place with that uncomfortable aversion to the memories an object brings back. I don't have to look, I know what's in that journal.
The woman decides to open it. She thinks about being alone, and how it can be so, so difficult and what it feels like to want to be loved and feel a part of a group. Many, many people can relate to that aching feeling. We all have memories we dislike looking back on, and oftentimes our belongings are the strongest connection to those memories. It can be hard to let go of those things, and sometimes we want to, and sometimes we don't. I think I'm reaching a part of my life where I can let go and live in the present far more than I'm used to.
Jackie was kind enough to give me permission to share her film on my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
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.
After a really engaging chat in our #tidy_time channel at work, I was inspired for the bajillionth time to sort through my books and discard even further. I'm donating another bag full and giving 2 other bags to friends of mine after messaging them my wares. At one point in our work conversation I raised a concern I've felt for a while: If I'm giving my discarded belongings to someone else, what if I'm just perpetuating the cycle of accumulation for someone else? My coworker responded by saying, basically, nah. "One man's trash" and all that. It was a reassuring thing to hear and actually helped me see clearer that some of the books I own could be better enjoyed by good friends of mine.
At this point in the book discarding process, I notice the tugging guilt in my body is getting especially strong. It was much easier at first, when the books I threw out were no-brainers that I knew I'd never read. NOW, I'm down to the books I had convinced myself were worth keeping somehow, and with the help of appraising their worth and kindle availability on Amazon, I'm down to the lowest number of books I've owned in over 10 years, if not more. I asked myself: Am I going too far? Am I forcing myself to throw out things I treasure? After sitting with these feelings and holding these books in my hand last night, I think the discomfort is coming from somewhere else.
When I hold a book (especially an artbook) in my hands that I have bought, flipped through when it arrived, and promptly never looked at again, I feel annoyed with my past self. I feel like an idiot for chasing the high of the New Thing in the Mail, the New Thing to Post on Instagram. The Newness completely blinded me from its lack of preciousness. A new, more strict check I'll be doing for myself in the future is: Am I excited to own this because it'll be new? Hopefully this kind of check will keep me from buying things for this reason. Another rule I've developed for myself is to avoid buying artbooks if at all possible. No matter their value or beauty, I am terribly bad about reading or studying them and I don't think that will change in the future.
Another tug I noticed in the war of evaluating my books is the feeling of defeat I'd get if I decided to keep a book that I considered discarding. Perhaps this goes back to the very simple notion of sparking joy -- I was keeping this book because the utility or rareness of it overruled my gut action. Perhaps I saw a 25th anniversary edition cover, or a book that is hard to get on Amazon, and that was my justification in keeping it. As I set it in the pile, I felt like I failed my own test. And this, in itself, made my notice something more: The price and the rareness and the sentimental value mean nothing if it doesn't spark joy.
I mention sentiment because I found a poem book I bought while I was still with an ex. The book itself is beautiful, but I'd had a connection with the Kindle version long before I met this person. The signed physical book, however, instantly makes me think of the poetry reading where I bought it, which makes me think of that ex. Even though nothing bad happened at the reading or at that point in the relationship, it brought back a memory that didn't bring me joy. The extent of my distress amazed me as I was reluctant even to hold the book for too long. A belonging can bind itself to a memory. If you don't like that memory, you don't have to keep it. Seriously, I mean it. "Ah, this brings back memories" is not always a positive exclamation. I find I even get this discomfort with some of my older clothing. If you don't like that memory, discard that item.
It's easy to look back at my past self and be annoyed that I purchased carelessly. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. Somewhere in the I really should have read this by now is a deeper voice saying You bought this on a whim, and it hasn't interested you enough to give it any time. And somewhere in there is a voice saying, You're keeping this because you bought it, not because you love it.
I'm going to try to elaborate on this idea of sentiment and usefulness much more in a future post. I think books are especially hard because of how equally each side can pull. Until next time!
Good morning! It's 7am and I'm sitting at our dining room table, enjoying the sunrise through the accordion blinds. It makes our plant Amelia look really pretty. This morning I set two alarms for 6:00 and 6:05. I woke up on the first alarm and got out of bed on the second.
Last week I bought a Google Home Mini per the suggestion of a coworker and set it up on my nightstand by my water bottle and humidifier. The thing I struggle with the most is looking at my phone when I wake up in the morning instead of getting out of bed. I turned down moving my phone away from my pillow before because I use it to listen to audio books and so I need it close, either in speaker or headphone form. I was against bluetooth speakers since they YELL at you when they're low on battery during the night. In a discussion in our #tidy_time channel at work, my friend Jumanah suggested the Google Home -- I could play my audio book on it in the evening (Audible has a sleep timer that fades out the audio and stops it) and it could ring my alarm in the morning. Meanwhile, my phone could sit across the room and charge, so I wouldn't be tempted to look at it instead of starting my day.
David and I got used to it during the weekend. I set up a Routine function that tells me the weather and traffic on my commute before playing some chill music to get ready to. This morning I woke up, got dressed (I'm an evening shower person), packed my lunch and set up my laptop/journals in the lovely light of the dining room table. Right now David is working on unreal tutorials in the office and Chrispy is modeling a car from scratch. It's quiet, so I can hear the Sim City soundtrack playing softly from Chrispy's room, and the muffled droll of Tutorial Man from the office.
My plan for this morning is to write this post, and then outline a new post about evaluating possessions. Future mornings this week, I might try a few different things. My neck is always stiff in the morning so I could try some yoga/stretches. I could go for a walk or drive to the coffee place near our house. I'm going to try as much as possible to leave that open for myself. What Jumanah said really inspired me: "5-7am is Jumanah time." I want 7-8:15 to be Taylor time, whatever that means for that day.
I'm publishing this post now, but I will edit it with Days 2-5 (maybe thru 7?) as the week goes on.
Happy Tuesday! Today I'm writing from my sitting desk in the office. Once the sun is up I can open the window and it's not too gloomy in here, even if the sun is breaking on the other side. Just this weekend I realized the arms of my office chair are detachable, which means I can fully scoot forward in my seat without the arms bumping the front of the desk. It also makes the chair slimmer to store since I can push it all the way in when I leave for the day. I've owned this chair for about four years and only now discovered this!
Waking up was slightly harder this morning. David got up before me and I was still feeling groggy, so I croaked "Good morning" at my Google Mini and it told me the weather, my commute, and started playing a morning music playlist. As I stood up and made the bed, I noticed how much I loved the silvery light of the room. The music helped me perk up, so I decided to do a yoga routine for neck and shoulder pain.
I found the routine a little while back on Youtube, so I set up my phone and my mat at the foot of the bed and followed the 17 minute routine. Doing the routine, I enjoyed the feeling of paying more attention and care to my body, with the cool light of the morning and the soft moving air around me from our filter and David's fan. As I stood up, I noticed my shoulders and neck were definitely looser, and I'm glad I decided to do this first thing. I may try to repeat the routine for the rest of the week and see if I can get extended results.
As far as sitting down in the morning today, my only plan was to write an update here. I started working on a future post last night, so I may touch that up today as well. Right now, David is working on an Unreal tutorial behind me and as usual I'm envying his ability to focus on video tutorials -- especially this early in the morning! At 7:50, David and I are going to go to Simply Coffee to pick up a drink and then we'll head straight from there to work.
It is a rather foggy Wednesday morning. I didn't sleep well last night due to some bad dreams, so I'm a bit bummed that the sunlight isn't coming through to brighten my mood a bit. I'm set up at my writing desk and I turned David's LEDs to full blast orange, so I'm adding a bit of warm color at least.
I set my alarms for 7 last night instead of 6, so David woke me up around 6:30. I'm glad he still woke up! The biggest drag about getting up and getting ready today wasn't physical tiredness, it was really just emotional tiredness from the dreams and dragging my gloomy mood through the motions. Since I need to drive David to the mechanic to pick up his car, I decided not to do neck and shoulder yoga today. Instead I warmed up my heat pack and I'm using it to warm my shoulders (and weigh them down) while I work.
David has definitely been getting tired earlier in the day, and while I remain just as alert during the day, I start to get sleepy around 9:30pm, which is good. It's pretty impressive that I'm in bed with the phone away before my mom even sends me a good night message!
I'm honestly, strangely, kind of glad that I've had at least one "off morning" so far this week. It proves to me that, even if everything isn't feeling super great, I can still pull myself together to get up at the same time and get a little something accomplished early in the day. This whole routine would lose a bit of its value if I could only fit it in when things are going Really Good.
THE GLOOM CONTINUES. David got back from work around 11:30 last night, and I usually don't sleep as great when I'm waiting for him to come home. Since he's sleeping in a bit, I stayed in bed a while longer and indulged myself by looking at my phone in bed. Honestly? Didn't enjoy it that much. I think there are much better (and less distracting) times to enjoy social media.
I made my lunch and ate a granola bar. Unfortunately I'll be going to work slightly later today because I have to get my allergy shots at 9am. I just realized the productive thing I should do with this extra home time, which is putting away the dishes on the drying rack. I really don't want to, but I'm writing it here to hold myself accountable.
Also, I am TIRED today. I don't have any coffee at home, so I'm considering going and picking some up. I'll see if David wants to join. Even though I'm wide awake now, if I got back into bed I think I'd fall asleep no problem. I'm going to avoid doing that. I'm not sure what in particular is making me more tired -- between my varied sleep quality and my body adjusting to this earlier time I think that's reason enough. Hopefully I can perk up later in the day!
Friday is here! What an interesting week it has been. Last night my eyes were pretty strained, so I went to bed feeling quite tired. This morning, I woke up at 6am and got out of bed 3 times to snooze the alarm on my phone. At least each time I became a little more alert, but I think I needed the extra time laying down today. Sometimes when I wake up but I'm not ready to get up, I look around the room and stretch my neck and shoulders and let myself space out. It's probably not quite meditation, but its a meditative moment at least.
I got out of bed at 7am and got ready for the day. I'm really enjoying how easy it is to pick something out to wear from my wardrobe. I'm ALSO very grateful to work somewhere where leggings, high tops, a giant paint-covered black t shirt, and a tent-like denim jacket with 60 pockets is an acceptable work outfit. I think if I worked somewhere requiring pencil skirts and heels or button ups and ties I would go insane.
I'm really hoping for sunnier weather soon. It makes getting up early a lot easier. I think lighting is very important to me -- I've only mentioned "natural light" a billion times on here and on twitter but I really do value soft, diffused, warm light. I'm really not a fan of overhead lights or any cool lights. I think they remind me of classrooms. Luckily the lighting at work is pretty multi-directional and mostly warm, and I have my monitor brightness turned down so I don't get too much blue light. I'm really going to try to focus on my eye strain exercises during work today.
Yesterday I discovered a few cool minimalist menswear accounts that post pictures called "flat lays" or #flatlays, which is basically just showing folded outfits on a white or minimalist background to appreciate the simplicity of the outfit. Probably my favorite account I've found so far is Andrew Hong. I feel like finding the compromise between minimalism and fashion will be an interesting aspect to figure out for myself in the future.
Will grab coffee on the way to work! Looking forward to a relaxing weekend -- will probably write a conclusion on Saturday.
Happy Saturday! It is almost 2pm and....I slept in today. I know. I still set an alarm for 6am, and I considered it, and 7am too. I ended up waking up for real around 8am and got out of bed at 9am. Considering "sleeping in" used to mean noon to 2pm, this is still a big improvement and leaves me so much of my day to enjoy. I'll probably give myself that same freedom tomorrow and then continue with 6am mornings on Monday. Hopefully in the future I can close that gap between weekday and weekend wake times, but I'm okay with it for now.
My mornings this past week have been so enjoyable. I think Monday and Tuesday were still the strongest days as far as my energy and my quickness to get out of bed, and then the weather got gloomy and I was more tired on Wednesday through Friday. It didn't discourage me, though. I found myself looking forward to that early morning time during the week even moreso than my evening time. That's pretty impressive for a part of my day that used to be nonexistent.
Top Things I've Learned This Week:
I will do an update later on in the year (?) to let you guys know how my morning routine has evolved! I wish you all the best with your early day endeavors.
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.