I used to be a big fan of organizational items. Although I wasn’t much of a shopper, a trip to The Container Store or Organized Living never failed to excite me.
The idea of corralling hundreds of loose bits and bobs into sleek, perfectly-matched containers had great appeal. I truly thought that by putting all my stuff into various bins, I could maintain a sense of order in my life.
But while the containers made my house look shelter magazine-tidy, they didn’t bring me the serenity I’d hoped for. Even though everything was arranged neatly in pretty boxes (cloth-covered, wooden, wicker, plastic, etc.), it was still there.
In reality, all those lovely boxes, bins, and drawers served no higher purpose than to hide my junk. At some point I realized that I wasn’t organizing my life; I was organizing my clutter.
That’s when I changed strategies: I went from world-class organizer to world-class declutterer. Instead of arranging and containing things, I got rid of them. I decluttered on the weekends; I decluttered in the evening; I decluttered in the morning; I decluttered in my dreams (really!). When I wasn’t actually decluttering, I was thinking about what I could declutter next.
And it worked. As my house became emptier, I became happier. With the weight of my stuff lifted from my shoulders, I felt more spontaneous, energetic, and carefree.
The big payoff came when I was able to declutter the containers themselves. There’s something very satisfying about not needing any more storage! Even so, when we completed our ultimate decluttering to move to the UK (see My Minimalist Story, Part 2: The Great Unraveling), I’m embarrassed about how many containers we left on the curb. (Don’t worry, they didn’t go to a landfill; they were snapped up within minutes!)
My advice to anyone who feels they need to get organized: declutter first. If you have to, declutter for a year before you start buying fancy boxes and squirreling things away.
Then think long and hard before you put something into a container (especially if it’s not something you use regularly). Because once you give something a warm, cozy abode, it can be hard to get it to leave.