Less is always more

Words by Lindsey M. Roberts, The Washington Post

 

There is a method, but no madness, to the type of minimalism espoused by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. The organizing experts and authors of “New Minimalism” argue for something a little more practical than a strict 37-piece clothing wardrobe or a monastic-looking house.

 

“It’s not extreme, not hyper-industrial, not only for single men, but for everyone and looks however you want it to look,” Fortin says. She and Quilici started developing this more practical take on the less-is-more lifestyle when they met at a 2011 yoga retreat in San Francisco. They discovered they were seeking a slower, calmer life; Fortin wanted to leave her corporate job and learn to live within new means, and Quilici was trying to put sustainability into better practice. Their mutual passion turned into a blog, the book and, in 2013, a business, also called New Minimalism, that helps clients find their own decluttering way.

 

An image from the book New Minimalism. Image: Kelly Ishikawa

 

So how does this kinder, gentler method work? The two have some tips on decluttering.

 

Identify your why

Before you dig in and sort your shoes, ask yourself why you are doing it. “Why is now the right time? What are you hoping to get from this? What do you want your space to feel like?” says Fortin. “If you start decluttering before you know the answers, you’ll get lost along the way.”

 

Have someone with you

“It’s great if you can have a friend with you, rather than a partner who is invested,” Fortin advises. “Find someone who can bag up the stuff, donate, mend . . . and someone who can say, ‘I know you love that, but there’s a hole in the armpit.’ You want someone honest and kind.”

 

Start with your closet

The best part about beginning with your clothes is that “you don’t have to get buy-in from partners or kids,” Fortin says. “You can lead by example, and it’s a great, clarifying, universal place to start.”

 

Then go category by category

Quilici recommends the deep-dive approach. “You do one category of things so that you’re done. Get back to zero. If you don’t have time to go through all of your clothes in one day, pick one subcategory that you can go through all at once: all jackets and tops. Then you can see the volume of what you have.”

 

Define what full is

Start with your boundary before you pare down. Tell yourself, “This house is big enough for my family,” and then make your stuff fit in it comfortably.

Boho, funky, cool or uncool, minimalism doesn’t have to look any one way. Image: Kelly Ishikawa

 

Let one stand for many

Clearing out the sentimental items is usually the hardest part of simplifying, so Fortin and Quilici suggest letting one special item stand for a memory or person.

 

Fewer things can mean better things

“You have to have durable, well-made things if you want to rely on two pairs of jeans and you wear them every day. There’s a little bit of an investment there,” Quilici says. In the long run, though, she and Fortin say they hope for a philosophical shift in thankfulness and appreciating what we have.

 

Be a grateful gift receiver

Once you’ve simplified your possessions, it’s OK to tell people about your preferences for gifts for you or your kids, but it’s still important to be gracious. Allow gift receiving to be a “beautiful exchange of energy.”

 

It won’t all look the same

After reducing your possessions and schedules to a comfortable place, it’s time to redecorate, move furniture around, position mementos as art, etc. “Let your freak flag fly.” This is your minimalism, and it can look boho, funky, uncool or very cool.

 

Minimalism is really about time

Think about what you would rather spend your time on than hunting for something in a drawer or organizing on the weekends. This motivation will help you get started, do the deep dive and then commit to the maintenance.

Featured Image: Unsplash