A Pro Declutterer Takes Us Through Her Studio Apartment — And Spills How She Keeps It So Tidy

All photos by  Ryan Devisser

All photos by Ryan Devisser

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON MINDBODYGREEN, 2/28/19

Kyle Quilici knows a thing or two about maintaining a dreamy home. As the co-founder of New Minimalism, a decluttering and redesign company, and co-author of New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living, Quilici spends her days helping other people get organized for good. Her own apartment, a tiny San Francisco studio she shares with her boyfriend, is the ultimate test of her skills. Here, Quilici shares her top tips for keeping even the smallest of spaces looking clean and pristine.

What are three words that describe your design philosophy at home?

Simple, functional, and cozy.

What decluttering tips do you lean on living in a smaller space?

I co-founded a company called New Minimalism, so if it's not already obvious, I care deeply about intentional spaces and mindful consumption! But that's not to say that it comes 100 percent naturally to me. It takes some work to maintain a space like this, mostly in the form of keeping a high standard for what is "allowed" in and regularly removing items if they are no longer useful to me.

If I had to boil it down to just one of the 12 principles found in our book, "A home for everything" is essential and just plain necessary to maintain sanity. It's actually a blessing to have such a small space because it forces us to consider what we have around us.

What criteria does a new item (furniture, accessories, etc.) have to fit to come into your space?

I think it can sneak up on you: the ease with which items come in—the thoughtful gift from your friend, the "perfectly good" (yet insanely hideous) shirt from your company event, etc. It's a regular habit to notice these clutter sneak attacks and not let them linger

Now that we have lived with less, we actually prefer it. So this motivates us to refrain from acquiring in the first place. At this point, anything new that comes in is likely replacing something else. If I'm inspired by something out in the world—let's say a vintage, chunky wool sweater—I'll get rid of a sweater that has been loved and is ready to move on to a new owner.

What habits have helped you share a small space with your partner?

We seem to have similar personal tidy factors (PTF). Our preferred levels of order and cleanliness are aligned, so that is hugely helpful. We also have spaces that are totally one person's domain: his and her sides of the closet, his and her secretary desks, etc.

The entire point of decluttering in the first place is to spend less time managing your stuff.

How often do you declutter your space? Can you walk us through your cleaning routine?

Keeping clutter at bay requires some regular maintenance, but it shouldn't be overwhelming. The entire point of decluttering in the first place is to spend less time managing your stuff!

11 IMG_0276.jpg

I think what often gets overlooked is that your home first requires a deep, thorough purge to get to the point of maintenance. Rules like "1 in, 1 out" can only work if you've completed a thorough decluttering to begin with. If you find you are spending too much time managing your things and maintaining your home, it's a sign that a more thorough decluttering is in order.

4 IMG_3960.jpg

For cleaning, I like to turn on music or a podcast and open all the windows. After dusting I use a simple water, white vinegar, lemon, and essential oil solution to wipe down surfaces and the floor. We also don't wear shoes in the house, so that seems to help keep the floors cleaner for longer.

What's the oldest thing in your home? Newest?

The oldest is probably the wooden headboard. It used to be a drying tray on an apricot farm. After the apricots were picked, they would be placed on these wooden pallets to dry in the sun. The newest is actually a vintage lamp from an estate sale…so "new" to us.

8 IMG_4083.jpg

What noises can be heard in your home? What smells?

We are lucky to live on a quiet street. During the day we often have the windows open to listen to the birds. We make dinner at home most nights and like to listen to disco music or something fun. Sometimes you'll smell a fire or Palo Santo.

What's the most sentimental thing hanging on your walls, and what's the story behind it?

We each have one family photo hanging on the wall opposite the bed. His is with his mom and two brothers at the beach. Mine is a black-and-white photo of my mom's mom on her wedding day.

How does your home promote health and wellness?

We don't have a TV, which is nice because it doesn't become the default to watch something at night. Streaming something on the computer still feels like a treat! Cooking at home is a priority for us, and it makes us feel so much better than eating out a lot. Nontoxic, fragrance-free cleaning supplies and beauty products are the norm here. Now that I haven't used toxic, fragrant products, my nose and skin have become really sensitive to them.

What's the best compliment you've ever received on your space?

I like when friends say it doesn't feel a like a studio. We can accommodate 10 friends for drinks and hangs; they all casually lounge about the love seat, on the rug or on the bed. The layout of the apartment is super smart (we credit the architect who designed it!), so the orientation of the rooms helps it feel open and airy, despite the small footprint.

Professional's Workshop with Shira Gill is back!

Closet Makeover5.jpg

The Professionals’ Workshop with New MinimalismShira Gill is back by popular demand! ⚡️

Online, Tuesday, March 19th @7pm PST ✨


WHO IT’S FOR

Professional organizers, coaches, home decorators and stylists, zero-waste educators, minimalists or those aspiring to be any of the above. 

You will learn some of our best practices with clients, and then we'll open it up to an extended Q and A. No topic is off limits - from budgeting to scheduling to generating new clients and programs.

 With a combined experience of over 15 years in the industry, this workshop is guaranteed to add value to your freelance, home-based business.

We are here to serve you! As such, there will be plenty of time allotted to answer your specific questions.  Get them ready!

ABOUT THE HOSTS

Shira Gill is the founder of Shira Gill Home, a lifestyle brand focused on clutter-free living, that merges minimalism, home organizing, and styling. She is the founder of the Virtual Closet Makeover Program and her work has been featured in GoopStyle Me PrettyWho What WearMy Domaine, and Rue Magazine. She is also a contributor to Real Simple Magazine,  Parents Magazine , My DomaineSunset Magazine, and other national publications.  

Kyle Quilici is co-founder of New Minimalism, a home decluttering service based in San Francisco, CA.  She co-wrote, New Minimalism, Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living.  New Minimalism has been featured in The New York TimesOprah.comS.F. ChronicleSunset Magazine, and The Huffington Post. She gets excited about creating beautiful and functional spaces by-way of removing the excess. Environmentally focused, all viable goods from her sessions are donated to organizations in need. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀



3 Common Decluttering Mistakes (And How To Get Over Each)

This article was originally posted on mindbodygreen.com

image //  via

image // via



As a minimalist and a professional declutterer, I've seen firsthand how changing your space can change your life. I've seen just how powerful the transformation from a cluttered and overwhelming home to one that is simple, beautiful, and streamlined can be.

The process of creating these spaces is actually quite simple: Step one is to go through your stuff. Then, you keep the very best of it—the items that are your favorite, that inspire and delight you, and that are useful to you right now—and donate the rest.

 But just because it's simple doesn't mean it's easy. Our relationship with stuff can be complicated!

According to one new poll by Porch, a digital network of home professionals for hire, over 61 percent of us are ashamed of the extra stuff we hold onto. Let that sink in.

So why do we do it? Why do we hold onto stuff that makes us feel so bad? 

Imagine a baseball cap. An objective observer might note that the cap is worn out, ragged, and ill-fitting. But to the owner, this is the hat they got on their first date with their first love. It's the hat they were wearing when their team finally won. It's the hat they always grab when they go to the beach. Or it's a hat that works perfectly well and doesn't need to be replaced, thank you very much.

All of those reactions to the cap are actually about much larger forces: our relationships, our sense of self, our values. So maybe you know the hat is on the fritz, but it's still hard to let it go.

Porch also detailed three "reasons" or mental blocks that we most frequently use to convince ourselves to hold onto items. Their findings aligned completely with my experience and the archetypes I detailed in the book I co-authored with my business partner, New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living.

The good news is that these blocks can be fairly easily worked through. With self-awareness and self-kindness, you can release these shame-inducing items and create the home you've always dreamed of.

Here are the three main reasons people give for holding onto clutter, and how to overcome them:

Reason No. 1: "I might need it someday."

Archetype: Practical

Practical people are mind-driven, tend to be logical, strategic and pragmatic; they see potential use in all objects.

The key for the Practical personality is to reframe what exactly makes something useful and to elevate your standards accordingly.

So rather than asking yourself if a third box of paper clips is potentially useful, ask yourself if those items are useful to you right now. Consider not just the costs of perhaps needing to replace something someday but also the costs of keeping items that you don't need. How much space do all of these items take up? How much time do you waste hunting for things you do need or wondering what you have around?

Reason No. 2: "It was expensive."

Archetype: Frugal

Frugal types tend to be very self-aware and clear on their priorities. They are intentional about where they spend their precious resources. They don't like the idea of wasting, whether that be money, time, or energy. This gets tricky when Frugal folks come up against items that aren't useful or wanted but for which they've invested precious resources.

The most important lesson for the Frugal archetype is self-forgiveness.

It can be frustrating to have made a purchasing "mistake." While you can't go back in time and undo that action, you do get to choose how you feel about it moving forward. You can keep items you regret and feel a pang of guilt and shame each time you see them. Or you can acknowledge the sunk cost, internalize the bigger reason this investment didn't pan out, and let the item—and your negative feelings—go and vow to do better next time.

Reason No. 3: "It brings back good memories."

Archetype: Connected

Connected folks are heart-led; they value relationships and shared memories above all else. In general, if objects elicit positive feelings, this is a good thing. But homes oriented toward memories can quickly become museums of the past that don't allow space for new experiences and relationships.

Allow one to stand for many.

Don't feel like you need to part with everything from your beloved grandmother or treasured travels. Instead, select an item or two to represent the relationship or experiences you want to recall. Rather than sticking all of these items in a closet, choose to display and interact with those couple of items and then graciously let go of the rest.

Welcome NYTimes Readers!

The New Minimalism Book, click to purchase.

The New Minimalism Book, click to purchase.

Wow, oh wow. Cary was interviewed by THE NEW YORK TIMES for an article on digital decluttering.

This was the top of our dream list (besides being interviewed in person by Oprah or meeting any member of the Obama family). It seemed impossible when we began this blog in 2011. It seemed like a million miles away, when our book was just one long Google doc. But here we are! We’re incredibly grateful to Brian Chen for the interview and to all of you who’ve been cheering us on.

If you’re new, welcome!

To learn more about creating a beautiful, simple, streamlined life, read our bookNew Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living.” (Penguin Random-House 2018), or our read more here, on the blog.

To read an excerpt of the New York Times article, continue below.

With a new year and a new Netflix show that features the Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo on the art of “Tidying Up,” many of us are experimenting with how to simplify our lives by purging our homes of unwanted possessions.

But what about the stuff we don’t see?

Think about the digital junk we hoard, like the tens of thousands of photos bloating our smartphones or the backlog of files cluttering our computer drives, such as old work presentations, expense receipts and screenshots we have not opened in years.

In addition to the digital mess, tech hardware adds to the pile of junk that sparks no joy in our lives. Everyone has a drawer full of ancient cellphones, tangled-up wires and earphones that are never touched. And the things we do use every day, like charging cables strewn around the house, are an eyesore.

Why are people so terrible about tech hoarding? Cary Fortin, a professional organizer for the company New Minimalism, summed it up: “We don’t really think about the cost of holding on to things, but we think about the cost of needing it one day and not having it.”

Food Packaging: 4 Ways to Reduce Waste in the Kitchen

At the start of the new year, it’s a perfect time to pause and take inventory. Acknowledge the ways in which you are crushing it in life, as well as examine the ways in which you are just gently squishing it…think weak hand holding a stress ball. From this quiet, retrospective place can you set bold goals for the year ahead.

Aside from my perpetual goal to “improve my Spanish and regularly meditate” (ambitions that have been on the list for years now…hmmm…), I had to think, what goal resonates with me this year? What is something that internally motivates me and I can actually put some mettle behind? The answer came easily when I looked in my trash can:

Strive for zero-waste in the kitchen.

When I examine our household “waste stream”, most of the culprits that are destined for the landfill are in the form of food packaging.

Do a quick audit for your own household waste. Yes, go to your trash can and dig around a little bit. Gross, yes, but remember, only you are to blame for just how gross your trash is.

Our itty, bitty trash bin.

Our itty, bitty trash bin.

Side note - Diligent composting of food scraps means that I can safely rummage through my trash without fear of encountering anything too disgusting. Add the fact that we don’t eat meat or dairy at home, and it’s pretty tame in that little, ol’ rubbish bin.

Our bin is the size of small planter pot. Using a strategically small bin reprograms the brain to what feels like an “appropriate” amount of trash. All of the sudden it becomes unreasonable to add one of those Barbara’s Cheese Puff bags and take up the whole bin (more on this later). In the photo, we are repurposing a plastic ice bag as the garbage bag. When we don’t have a plastic bag to repurpose, we use the compostable BioBag’s so we an send landfill-bound waste down the chute in our building.

When you add on the holiday hustle and the irregular grocery runs that accompany it, it is really easy for food packaging to creep back in and suddenly be a “thing” again. I proclaimed to my boyfriend after looking at our trash bin that we were officially re-instating the goal for zero-food-packaging-waste in the kitchen (thankfully, he hails from the mountains and adores Mother Earth and so is naturally on board).

There are the tried and true tips: buy from the bulk bins, use glass jars to store your food, and cook more at home. But, when I look at my own trash, I have some specific culprits. Below I’ve outline 4 of my personal weak spots and how I plan to fix them:

These bags instantly make our trash full. Not acceptable!

These bags instantly make our trash full. Not acceptable!

1. Where I get stuck: Snacks

We are not a huge snack household, but I definitely like to have something on-hand. Namely, Barbara’s Cheese Puffs. If you know, you know. They are painfully delicious. And today, I looked at a bag in the grocery store, took a picture of it, and WALKED AWAY. This is the #1 culprit to dashing my zero-waste dreams. So I resisted. Instead, I filled a brown paper bag with salty, crunchy plantain chips from the bulk bin. This will satisfy the snacking desire without the plastic bag. And in the meantime, I’m going to relentlessly submit anonymous comments to the makers of Barbara’s Cheese Puffs to request sustainable packaging.

Also on the snack list is finding a local restaurant where I can buy tortillas from using my own bag.


2. Where I get stuck: Recycling too many glass bottles (vinegars, olive oil, sauces).

It’s time to get to cut back on my consumption of vinegars, oils and sauces, even if they come in recyclable containers. The aim is to just keep stocked one primary vinegar at a time, master recipes using it, and move on to another vinegar for the next phase. Hot sauce, well it’s going to take a while to get through our now-hearty stash, but I’ll try my hardest (insert sweating emoji).

3. Where I get stuck: Caught at a store without bulk, when we “need” something like, tahini.

I think the biggest improvement here will come from creating a shopping routine. The challenge of a super flexible work schedule is that I go to a variety of stores, depending on where I am in the Bay Area and for different purposes. I need to create a routine and simplify this so that I don’t cave and buy a package of rice when I’m at a store that doesn’t sell it in bulk. By creating a routine of where/when to buy certain goods, this will remove the inevitable run-around and hopefully lead to overall feelings of sanity. We eat a lot of soba noodles, so finding that in bulk will be a top priority.


4. Where I get stuck: Recycling too many glass bottles (WINE).

Wine deserves its own category. When it comes down to it, this is what mostly fills the recycling bin. After a quick search, I found a local purveyor of wine who refills bottles: Tank 18. They have monthly BYOB refill events, and you can bring any empty wine of bottle and they will fill and re-cork it for you! Amazing! It’s on my calendar for later this month…in the meantime, dry January???

The thing about recycling

DP3+Bulk.jpg

Yes, recycling is better than not recycling. But, recycling takes up a lot of energy: water and transportation costs, mainly. In case you didn’t hear, back in Jan. of 2018, China stopped importing plastic recycling (hmm, is it any wonder why? We were sending barges upon barges of dirty recyclables, much of which were contaminated so that they couldn’t even be recycled). Before this, China previously took about 50% of the world’s recycling. Which means recycling will become more expensive, and our solutions will have to be more localized. Like, deal with your own trash, people.

But, this is progress. China refusing our barges of recycling is progress. Feeling the constraints of our ecosystem and taking action (even if it is reactive) is progress.

More good news:

  1. The European Union banned an array of single-use plastics by 2020.

  2. Taiwan also banned plastic bags, plastic straws and plastic utensils by 2030 (too far away of a deadline, but at least it’s out there)

I recently had a (somewhat heated) debate with a young, educated (white male) from New York City who was humble-bragging that his friend was pioneering a new “superfood “ mushroom dust product thingy. I said offhand that I hoped his friend’s little packets would be made of compostable materials. This New Yorker was pretty adamant that this was a pointless pursuit and would have no impact on the environment. Obviously, I disagreed and said debate ensued.

It is this PRECISE, shrug-it-off, export-it-to-China, I-can’t-make-a-difference mindset that got us into this huge mess to begin with. Even more surprising, this New Yorker is a surfer, whose partner teaches mediation for a living…seemingly intentional people who like the outdoors, right?

So why the indifference? What is the disconnect to feeling like your actions don’t collectively have the power to make a difference?

I am not leading a 100% zero-waste life, but I am trying. And I hope that I am setting an example by sharing tips to continue to decrease my own food packaging consumption. Let’s be strive to be active participants in this equation! In the words of Lauren Singer of Package Free Shop,

GIVE A SHIT.

Resources

  • http://www.grabco.co.uk/gardeners-compost-guide/

  • https://zerowastechef.com/

  • https://packagefreeshop.com

  • https://ecologfycenter.org/plastics/

  • http://www.tank18.com/byobdetails

what if you're a minimalist who loves to give (and receive) gifts?

annie-spratt-96529-unsplash.jpg

Here is the truth: I love receiving and I love giving gifts.

I've spent the better part of a decade trying to ignore the anticipation and utter joy I feel when I have the perfect gift in mind for a loved one. Or the tingly happiness I feel when someone bestows upon me something that I absolutely adore. I’ve tried to chase these feelings away because I thought that they were in direct conflict with the life I wanted to live personally and, if we’re being really honest, with the life I espouse to live in public.

I’ve tried to chase these feelings away because I thought that they were in direct conflict with the life I wanted to live personally and, if we’re being really honest, with the life I espouse to live in public.

After the thousands of words I’ve personally written and read about how mindless consumerism is causing so many ills in our society… Well how could I look myself in the mirror as I wrapped up one more gift?

Then I tried on the same advice we offer up time and again to reader and client alike: there is no right way to be a New Minimalist.

It’s about living inside my unique combination of values and priorities. And for me, that means leaning into the love I have for giving and receiving gifts in a way that is slow, intentional, and as kind as possible to the environment.

Below are my personal guidelines for giving gifts.

If they work for you, please try them out. And if not, no worries. You keep doing you:)

My family’s holiday card this year. We really do wish you a happy everything!

My family’s holiday card this year. We really do wish you a happy everything!

1) Action and word before stuff.

The reason I feel so confident stepping into my gifting stockings this year is that I’ve taken the time to step back from and really consider the motivation behind my actions. When I was young, I gave as many gifts as my piggy bank would allow. I was so desperate to show how much I loved my family but unsure of how to express myself. So instead I decided that stuff equals love, as in: “the more stuff I give you, the more I love you and the more loved you will feel.”

My relationship to gift giving now is much more reflective, much more specific, more refined. What I hope is not to prove my love through stuff, but to echo in an object or experience what I try to embody in language and action throughout the year: “I see you. I love you. I’m paying attention.”

2) Scale matters.

Something I’ve been really careful with is not writing myself a gift-giving blank check simply because I’ve decided it’s important to me. Like what if I decided to gift Lark a gift every week because I love her and I love giving gifts? I could imagine that within the month that act of giving would feel exponentially less meaningful. And within two months I’d likely resent this unintended weekly chore I’d created for myself. Likewise, if my goal was to accurately represent how much I love Cam through stuff, I’d be overburdened (and very in debt) rushing around to acquire as many things as I could. My decade as a minimalist has taught me a beautiful lesson that often times it is the rarity of an occasion or object that makes it so special.

often times it is the rarity of an occasion or object that makes it so special.

3. Above all else, it is the thought that counts.

You know how people use the word “literally” to mean “figuratively” — it’s opposite?

Like, “There were no parking spots outside! I had to literally park a million miles away.”

To which I’d like to say, “Wow, you are a really fast walker to have circumnavigated the globe 40 times in the past 10 minutes!“ (Sorry. Done being snarky.)

But I bring this up because I think the same thing has happened over time to the expression, “It’s the thought that counts.” That phrase now means something like, “Even though I hate this object / have no use for it / have literally no idea why you got it for me because it in no way reflects my taste, needs or desires, at least you bought me something.”

I’d like to reclaim that phrase and use it as I believe it’s intended. Gift-giving is all about thought. Not about money. Not about quantity. Not at all about checking things off a list. It’s about taking the time to really consider a person’s sense of style or humor. It’s about paying attention to the little things they say over the course of a year about their crummy coffee grinder, noticing how they have to stand on their tip-toes to reach their favorite mug, remembering how they mentioned that smell of vetiver reminds them with deep pleasure of forest where they grew up. This level of thoughtfulness is what actually matters and what meaningfully connects the gift-giver and gift-received in a way that just buying stuff never could

4. Practice gratitude and grace.

My daughter is just entering a phase where nothing brings her more pleasure than to imitate my expressions or noises I make. I typically find this hilarious and precious. But on occasion I’ll look to see her grimacing at me and I panic. Is she sick? In pain? Have something caught in her throat? No, she’s showing me how poorly I’m masking my own anger at having to empty the dishwasher again.

What she’s shown me is that even words and deeds only matter so much; the spirit in which something is done is the most important of all. So sure, I could say, “Lark, be sure you savor your food and open your gifts thoughtfully!” But if I down my own dinner while standing over the sink or quickly start to clean up wrapping paper before really engaging in a gift? Well we can guess which example she’ll follow. So I want to be extra certain this year before exchanging gifts that I personally take the time to slow my mind, to be present, and to feel and express gratitude for not just the objects I receive but the abundance of health and love around me.

What about you? What are your plans for giving and receiving gifts this holiday season and in the future? What are your personal gift principles? What are gifting-strategies that you admire and would like to try out?

How to declutter when someone you love has died

cristian-newman-63291-unsplash.jpg

There is a reason that the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning made such a splash in American culture: a significant portion of us either receive or will leave a lifetime’s worth of possessions for someone else to sort out.

The main challenges of decluttering when someone you love has died are threefold. First, in the state of grief and loss, it’s really hard to untangle our desire to feel connection to that person with wanting to be surrounded by their stuff.

Second, it can be overwhelming for anyone to declutter their own lives. When you add another person’s stuff on top and it can feel impossible to know where to even begin.

Third, we know the stories of our own things and that can lead to us being attached. But with our loved one’s belongings sometimes we won’t know what things are or if our loved one valued them, so we will assign value and importance to everything.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with this now, please know we are sending you a big hug, that we are so sorry for your loss, and that we believe in your ability to both honor and cherish the memory of your loved one while living in a space that feels light, calm, and supportive to you.

I’ve been thinking over this subject a lot but it was a question that came in from a reader that inspired me to get this is all out. Below I’ve included a version of the question (removing any personal details for the sake of anonymity) we received and my letter in response.

The most important takeaways are these:

  1. Decide if you’re at a place in your mourning and grief where you are actually ready to begin decluttering. It’s ok if you aren’t. Be kind to yourself and take your time.

  2. Start with your own belongings. This really serves as a warm up. A chance to experience decluttering in a less emotionally challenging area.

  3. Choose a few of your favorite, most treasured items of your loved one. Give these items places of honor in your home and display them in a way that brings you joy and helps you feel connected to your loved one and their memory.

  4. Move into an easier category of your loved one’s belongings. This will ideally be quite small and not emotionally burdensome, like: athletic shoes, tupperware, or office supplies.

  5. Go at a pace and scale that feels right to you. It’s important to stay within the bounds of what feels safe and good to you, and to give yourself a break if you stumble upon something emotionally complicated when you’re not expecting it.

  6. Select an organization (or several) that were meaningful to your loved one or to you and donate their items there. Trying to sell belongings usually extends an already trying process and can feel invalidating when the financial value does not match our emotional experience of the object.

  7. Offer up a few belongings to any interested family members but don’t transfer the burden of decluttering to them or a future generation. This is one of the kindest things you can do for others.

 
onur-bahcivancilar-140823-unsplash.jpg

My aunt lived with me for 15 years and she passed away last year. I haven't been able to go through her closet and donate her things because it makes me cry. I also have china, crystal, and silver plate things that my aunt had and also inherited more from her mother and aunt. I also have a lot of craft items, fabric, and various other collections my parents bought me (they’re gone, too). My problem is I don't want to just give away some of these things because they are valuable, but in speaking with an antique dealer, those items aren't wanted. I have no other family so I can't give anything to relatives. I feel so overwhelmed with all my stuff I don't know what to do or where to start. I would follow your directions and start with wardrobe, but I can't do my aunt's clothes yet. Any advice? Thank you in advance for your time and expertise.

Hi there,

First of all, I am so sorry for loss. It makes so much sense that sorting through your aunt’s belongings would be hard. So I guess I would start there, and just encourage you to be kind and gentle with yourself. What you're going through is incredibly challenging and unfortunately very common. We've worked with a lot of clients who've lost parents, spouses, and other family members and it is hands down one of the most challenging projects to undertake.

I'd love to offer up a few pieces of advice or thoughts to mull over. The first would be: do you feel ready to tackle your aunt’s belongings now? It's ok to take your time and to process your grief and return to this later. If, however, you're feeling like you're really ready to make a change and just overwhelmed trying to determine where to begin, read on.

To begin, I'd encourage you to start with your own possessions in a category that will be easy for you. This will be a place where you can get a few big wins, start to make a dent in the amount of stuff you have, and familiarize yourself with the process of letting go. For some people, this could be books (which could then be donated to the local library), while for others it might be kitchenware (which could be donated to an organization that helps to resettle refugees, houses those experiencing homelessness, or helps domestic abuse survivors). Feel free to start really small, like just with athletic shoes or scarves. 

Once you're feeling confident and starting to experience some benefits of letting go you can then make moves into more emotionally complex zones. Before touching any of your aunt's goods, I'd go through and select a few really prized items that you love and remind you of aunt in a happy way. Maybe you'll display a small collection of her necklaces, or a frame a beautiful scarf of hers, or bring four of her best china teacups into your cabinets to use each morning. This will help ensure that your aunt's presence is felt in your home and will give you space to release more items.

You could then move to a tiny category of your aunt's, like bracelets or slacks. Depending on how she liked to dress, those items could be donated to Dress for Success or a local Senior Center or Salvation Army. From there, you can expand into larger or more complex categories, always going at a pace and scale that feels safe and good to you. Usually decluttering gets easier and easier as you go along, but know that grief comes in waves and that you might stumble upon a really tender item when you’re not expecting it. Take the time to process your feelings and honor yourself if and when you need to take a break.

In terms of the items that the antique dealer told you there wasn't a market for, I'm afraid my advice might not be what you are hoping for: let them go. It can be so hard when we've invested money into belongings to simply donate them, but the energy and time and emotional space we take up by trying to sell things at a fraction of their perceived value is ultimately far harder and less rewarding. Instead, I'd select an recipient organization that is important to you or to your aunt and know that these items will be utterly treasured and beloved by people who've not been fortunate enough to have such beautiful things in their life before. Again, I'd suggest one of several organizations that work on housing and helping to create stable, meaningful lives for the vulnerable among us. It might feel really hard as you prepare yourself to let these items go, but once they're gone I think you might be surprised by how much lighter (physically, emotionally, spiritually) you feel in your home. 

We’re here if you have any other questions or would like to work with us directly; many hands can indeed make light work.

Wishing you the best,

Cary

Can You Be a Minimalist in a Large Space?

Image // Dwell. Design // Jessica Helgerson.

Hi friends, Cary here!

The question — can you live simply in a large home? — is something I've been mulling over since we moved into our first home two years ago.

Cam and I had lived, quite happily, in a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco for 6.5 years before our move to Boise. Our intention for purchasing a larger home was to have space to grow our own family –– babies both fur and human (see below) –– and for family and close friends to visit often and for as long as they’d like.

Truly, I love our home. I love our neighborhood: our kind and active neighbors, the dozens of miles of hiking trails right across the street and our fabulous public school down the block. I love our land: the fruit trees, the garden, the hillside and the bike path running past our backyard. But it was a really strange feeling going from an apartment with three closets (which felt down right luxurious at the time) to a home who seemed to invite us to have too much with a basement, a garage, a guest room, and nearly a dozen closets.

I'm not going to lie, I had a lot of anxiety about moving into a larger space.

I was worried that the clarity a smaller space enabled me to have would be lost and that I'd become the type of person who just fills up space in order to fill it. Backsliding into consumerism and mindlessly holding onto unwanted and unloved things seemed unavoidable.

And yet here we are, two years later, in a large and simple home.

How did this happen? By deciding before we moved, before we shopped, before we filled our space exactly how we wanted to feel in our home. It’s been our internal boundaries and clarity, rather than external forces, that have allowed us to create a home we love. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you stay the course of your version of minimalism.

 

5 Tips for Simple Living, No Matter the Size of Your House


My side of the closet in our S.F. apartment.

My side of the closet in our S.F. apartment.

1. Don't add storage.

When you have plenty of closets and other built-in storage space, don't bring in additional dressers or cabinets, drawers or shelves. Allow the built in storage to be enough. We, for example, have the same coffee table that we used in SF (a glorious Japanese tansu that was handed down to me). In San Francisco we used the spacious drawers to hold board games and candles and things we used when entertaining friends. Here in Boise, we ignore the drawers all together. The drawers are not the easiest to open, nor is opening them conducive to the layout of the space. So we treat the tansu like a solid cube and enjoy it’s surfaces without utilizing it’s storage.

2) Remove storage where you don't need it.

For us, this looked like removing an entire wall of upper and lower cabinets from our garage. While the millions of drawers and shelves might have been “organized” and labeled to each hold one item – camping sporks in this drawer, headlamps and lanterns on this shelf - we didn’t want a complicated system and didn’t need nearly the amount of storage provided. Instead we have two large open shelving units that hold a bin with all our small camping gear on a shelf alongside our tents, camping chairs and sleeping bags. This makes packing and unpacking for car camping a breeze (Step 1: place bin in car; Step 2: camp; Step 3: remove bin from car and place back on shelf). This smaller, open storage also prevents us from hoarding unwanted and unneeded items out of sight.

 
Our old pantry in our S.F. apartment.

Our old pantry in our S.F. apartment.

3) Redefine “full”.

We have a laundry room. Yes, a whole entire room dedicated to the act of laundry. It's a small space but it nonetheless has a couple of cabinets and drawers. One cabinet houses our large bag of dog food. Another holds the laundry detergent and white vinegar we use for cleaning. Thats it. Each cabinet could easily hold 10x what it has, but there isn't anything else that belongs in there, so we just let them be.

Adapting to a different version of "full."  When we work with clients we are constantly helping them adjust their mindset to what “full” looks and feels like. For many of us, after years of overflowing drawers and cabinets that jussssst baaaarely close, it can feel strange to acknowledge that full is actually much less than capacity — it’s an amount that allows for ease and optimal functionality. In a large house we’ve taken this a step further even. “Full” in a linen closet might just be a spare pillow and seasonal throw or two. The idea is not to be austere, but to let my internal compass rather than my external storage tell me what is the right amount.

 

4) Go slowly.

When we moved we had neither the finances nor the desire to rush to fill-up our home with stuff. For example, in a bright extra bedroom that we hoped one day would become a nursery, we placed just one comfortable chair. A single chair was really all we needed to take work calls or sip coffee in this room’s morning sunlight. Now that it is a nursery I’m so glad we didn’t rush to furnish the room unnecessarily

The same goes for walls. We'd spent six years slowly decorating the three small rooms of our old San Francisco apartment. Here in Boise, I wanted to be just as thoughtful about adding decor rather than trying to rush around and appear “done” without getting to know the space and how we hope to feel in it. Two years in, we’re continuing to slowly add layers and textures and colors to our home as it feels right. I know some people won't be able to stand the feeling of being "incomplete" but I suggest moving forward with decorating as intentionally and mindfully as you can.

 

5) When in doubt, add plants and lighting.

For architectural or feng shui reasons, there are a couple of spaces in our home that feel awkward or unpleasant when empty. I cannot tell you how many times I thought about how if I'd built this house I would have removed a bizarre nook here or an extra few feet there. But instead of turning my back on these off-putting areas, we embraced them by slowly filling each with lovely greenery and lighting (luckily for me, Cam has quite the green thumb). Plants and light sources give purpose and interest to these spaces without adding the weight or expense of furnishings.

Decor doesn't have to be all furniture and artwork. If you don't need another place to sit, don't just stick a loveseat somewhere. Instead, use greenery and task lighting to make a space feel alive without filling it up for the sake of filling it. 








New Minimalism Events

1 Book Cover Possibility BedsideTable.JPG

We are super excited to announce these upcoming events!!!


Professional’s Workshop

Tues. 10/23, 7pm Pacific time

$95.00

Virtual! Anyone can join!

Kyle Quilici of New Minimalism and Shira Gill of Shira Gill Home will co-host a live, 1-hour workshop where we dig into the details of a creating your own successful decluttering and home organization business.  

WHO IT'S FOR

Professional organizers, home decorators and stylists, zero-waste educators, minimalists or those aspiring to be any of the above. 

SIGN UP HERE!

 


in-home Design Consultations

Brooklyn, NY


UPDATE: 1 spot LEFT on Fri 10/26

$195.00 for 1-hr consultation, plus PDF Design Recommendations

New Minimalism comes to Brooklyn! Kyle is booking design consultations for Brooklyn-based residents! The NM Design consultations have a focus on decluttering and utilize the simple updates that can make a huge impact on a space. Think: a change of a paint color, the replacement of a key piece of furniture, or investing in better lighting.

WHO IT'S FOR

The person who is overwhelmed by their stuff or uninspired with their space. These consults will prioritize your to-do list and jumpstart your motivation to revamp your space!

Email Kyle directly at kyle [at] newminimalism.com to secure your spot!

Moving In Together? These 6 Decluttering Tips Will Make It Painless

Image: Studio Firma

Image: Studio Firma

This article first appeared on mindbodygreen

Deciding to move in together is an exciting step in any romantic relationship. But if I've learned one thing through my work as a professional declutterer, it's that when merging spaces, it's crucial to intentionally change the way you look at your home or apartment from a "me" to a "we" mentality. Here are six tips to help make your transition a little more seamless:

1. If one partner is moving into the other person's space, clear the slate first.

The person already living in the space should consider removing all personal items that adorn the home. Remove all the photos on the mantel, the mementos on the fridge, the family photos on the walls. Then, you can reassess those pieces with a more critical eye with your partner—does that wedding invite from seven years ago still need to be displayed on your fridge? In my studio apartment, I had hung one family portrait, and when my boyfriend KG moved in, he brought along his favorite family snapshot so that we could both have one cherished photo hanging on the tiny gallery wall.

2. Enact the "Bedside Equality Act."

Have you ever walked into a couple's bedroom to see that one side of the bed is pushed up against the wall? That position subtly says that one person gets priority access to all the luxuries: the bedside table, the lamp, the reading material, the mug of tea. Meanwhile, their bedmate is bereft on the far side of the bed, stuck between their lover and a wall!

Equal access to both sides of the bed instills fairness at a very basic level. No matter how small your bedroom is, I would argue that the most important thing is making it possible for both people to have walk-up access to their side of the bed, along with a light and bedside table.

If you have an extra-small room like ours, you can save space by wall-mounting a light and using the world's smallest bedside tables. What's even more freeing about this scenario: As the months pass, you have the flexibility to (gasp!) sleep on different sides of the bed.

3. Carve out solo spaces where possible.

In our apartment, we each have our own side of the closet and a small secretary desk for when we work from home. While this seems like no big deal, designating spaces (or even surfaces!) that are solely your own can help keep the peace, especially in smaller spaces.

4. Remember that teamwork makes the dream work.

Working on a fun project together can make a space feel like it belongs to both of you. Right when you move in, decide on a DIY so there's a design element in your home that you both had a part in creating. For us, it was as simple as printing a large image and attaching it to a piece of foam core to hang on the wall.

5. Talk, talk, and then talk some more.

After several discussions, KG and I came to understand what we both liked about our studio apartment, what we would change, and how we would implement these tweaks together. From these discussions, we prioritized what needed to happen: repaint accent walls, find a photo for the focal wall, find a desk solution, decide where to hang the surfboard, etc. Get these conversations out of the way early, so you're on the same page about the plan of action moving forward.

6. On move-in day, don't pressure your partner to declutter their stuff.

Set the example by leading your own decluttered lifestyle, and you may be surprised by how your partner responds. Giving them the space to pause, reflect, and come to decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of on their own is the only way that lasting change will happen.

Oh and here's one last fun idea: When all the hard decisions are made, celebrate with an emotionally cleansing bonfire (or metaphorical bonfire!) using those sentimental papers you're getting rid of as fodder. Best of luck in your pursuit of cohabitation bliss!