“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
Life today can be busy, complicated and demanding, leaving little time to stay organized in the day-to-day course of our lives. It’s easier to throw the mail on the counter instead of taking the time to sort through it; add the new clothes and shoes to the closet without getting rid of the worn or out of fashion ones; and just generally piling on the stuff that we all accumulate as life goes on. The end result is that we often find ourselves swimming in a sea of stuff, surrounded by varying degrees of disorganization and clutter.
The good news is that clutter has a cure! Here are the ground rules for uncluttering and simplifying your space and your life!
Rule One: Everything you own should have value, either because it’s functional, beautiful or both.
Asked to share his philosophy on making living spaces beautiful and functional, the famous English designer, William Morris, said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” When considering whether or not to keep an object, ask yourself two questions: 1) does this object serve a valuable function that makes my life better or easier; and 2) does this object’s beauty satisfy something within me that I would miss if it were gone? If you can’t answer yes to one or both of those questions then the object is not something you need or will miss and is taking up valuable space in your apartment. If I’m still on the fence, I ask a third question … if my apartment were on fire (God forbid), would I grab it before I ran out the door? If not, set it free to take up space in somebody else’s apartment because it’s not serving an important purpose in yours!
Rule Two: Everything has a home.
To avoid or reverse clutter, everything in your apartment needs to have a place where it “lives.” Throwing things into piles on the nearest available surface only promotes clutter and confusion. Create special places to keep important mail (and dispose of junk mail); hang the things you take with you when you leave and return (purses, keys, briefcases, laptop bags, backpacks, etc.). Store the things that you need when you’re dressing where they’re used … for example: makeup organized at the dresser or bathroom vanity; shoes in a shoe rack in your closet; clothing hung properly or folded and stored in a neat dresser drawer. Books go on the bookshelf. Keepsakes go in the curio cabinet or shadow box. Movies and games go in the entertainment center. Toys go in the toy box. When everything has a logical place to go when it’s not being used you’ll always know where to find it when you need it; and anything that doesn’t have a natural, convenient place probably doesn’t belong in your apartment at all!
Rule Three: Focus on one thing at a time.
You probably got into this mess in the first place because your attention was being pulled in too many directions. Let’s face it … multitasking is supposed to help us get more things done; but often, it only lets us get more things partially done. That lack of focus creates clutter so it stands to reason that getting rid of clutter is going to take a focused effort. Give it your full attention if you want to do it well!
Start by grouping similar items, which makes it easy to see what there’s too much of and what’s broken or just taking up space. Tackle one category at a time: holiday decorations, seasonal clothing and the embarrassing number of whatever … shoes, purses, kitchen gadgets, books etc. You name it—if you have enough room, spread everything out to take stock of it all.
When everything has been sorted, edit it down! Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Would I grab it if the place caught fire and I had to run? Discard what doesn’t pass the test.
Next, containerize what’s left; but don’t buy bins until you have a pretty firm idea of what you’ll be putting into them … it doesn’t serve your purpose to come home with five tubs when what you really need is a dozen shoe boxes.
Finally, put the containers where it makes sense for them to be: extra shoes go in the closet; out of season clothing goes under the bed; sporting goods in the utility closet. You get the drift.
Rule Four: Stop the Clutter Cycle.
Once you’ve gotten the clutter under control, make it part of your daily routine and outlook to keep it that way! When you bring something new into your apartment, take the time to put it where it belongs; and when you use something, take the time to put it away. Realize that this method of “cleaning as you go” takes less time than it will take you to gather everything and return to its appropriate “home” later and will make your apartment feel consistently more comfortable and livable all the time. That’s a really great feeling!
And finally … in the end, you’ll have accomplished three goals:
- Your apartment will have less stuff.
- What’s left will be important to you (useful and/or beautiful) and in order!
- Everything will have a “home” that makes it work well within your space.
Being organized isn’t about getting rid of what you own or making yourself into a different person; it’s about living your life and enjoying the space you live in, free of clutter and complication. There are plenty of things in the world that you can’t control—but with a little added mindfulness, you can absolutely bring more order and more comfort to your apartment and your life!