Whenever I pack for a trip, I organize my stuff into modules: for example, I have a toiletry module, a clothing module, a first aid module, and a “long flight” module (earplugs, eye mask, iPod Touch). This system helps me keep everything organized, and prevents me from overpacking.
When I moved overseas with a single duffle bag, I used a similar strategy. I arranged all my possessions in packing cubes: one for pants, one for shirts, one for underwear, one for paperwork, one for kitchen supplies, one for toiletries, etc. It made six weeks of hotel living significantly more pleasant and manageable.
In fact, I loved using modules so much, I made them an integral part of my everyday minimalist life. They’re the sixth step of the STREAMLINE strategy that I outline in my book.
There’s no great mystery to the concept: a module is simply a set of related items that perform a particular task. To make one, all you need to do is:
- Gather like items together
- Cull the excess (like duplicates!)
- Contain them for storage and/or portability
The container can be a drawer, shelf, box, storage bin, or ziplock bag—whatever’s handy and appropriate for the contents.
Modules are particularly beneficial for the following household items:
Craft supplies – dedicate one storage bin to each hobby, like knitting, scrapbooking, or beading
Office supplies – gather together all those pens, paperclips, sticky notes, and rubberbands
Spices, condiments, and baking supplies
Clothing – assign certain drawers, shelves, and containers to particular items
Sports equipment – use boxes, bins, or hanging bags to corral balls, helmets, pads, and more
Electronics – consolidate those cables, chargers, and headphones
Accessories – like jewelry, scarves, belts, wallets, and bags
Seasonal stuff – like winter hats and gloves, or summer flipflops and beach towels
Cosmetics and toiletries
Why are modules so conducive to a minimalist lifestyle? Because they help you pare down in three ways:
1. When you consolidate like items into modules, you see exactly how much you have. Owning sixty-three pens seems more absurd when you see them all together, than when they’re scattered throughout the house. Ditto for twenty white t-shirts, three staplers, or a lifetime supply of yarn.
2. Modules put physical limits on your possessions. For example, once you fill up your box dedicated to video games, you have to toss something old before adding something new. It’s a super-effective way to put a lid on further accumulation.
3. Modules provide a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. The result: you’re much less likely to acquire an extra screwdriver, measuring tape, or bottle of vanilla when you can easily find the one you already have.
(Just a note: be sure to declutter, declutter, and declutter some more, before you put anything in a container–otherwise, you’re just organizing your clutter.)
Modules help you organize your stuff, eliminate the excess, and refrain from accumulating more. They’re one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your stuff under control—and keep it that way!
Let me know what you’re putting into modules in the Comments…