The world seems to have turned upside down and I am heading into week 3 of being home in 600 square feet with 2 kids who are normally in school or care. Initially I intended to tackle projects I had always wished I had the time to do and instead have found myself, feeding, entertaining, crafting and peacekeeping - while simultaneously trying to put on a brave face in this confusing and scary time. I can easily let my mind wander into dread and fear over all the things out of my control in this time. I hope you are all keeping safe and sane at home despite these trying times. When I am really losing it, I try to remember that this isn’t normal to be at home at this much but that we are also very lucky to have a home to be in, and above all our health. I hope you are all keeping safe and sane at home despite these trying times. It’s ok to not be ok right now.
While this can all feel like too much, I do have dreams of re-organizing my clothes closet and even doing some more decluttering. Maybe week 3 of self-isolating will be my week! I enlisted the help of a minimalist hero of mine, Kristen of Minima Organizing. We have become friends from afar as I admired her beautiful home and approach to minimalism. Her home is not quite achievable for me with two small kids but I am constantly inspired by her purposeful, simple, yet modern space. Kristen is forever cheering me on in my efforts to declutter and organize and live small with kids. It has been so nice to find a like-minded ally across the continent. She is a true positive light. You might even notice we have some of the same key pieces in our home like the Nelson Bubble Saucer Light and Kuggis boxes. She is also a former architect which is quite clear to me when I look closely at all the details of her home. But alas this is not a home tour (maybe one day!) but an interview to get some insights into decluttering and organizing a clothing closet.
So here is Kristen, owner of @minima_organizing in Richmond, VA with her insights into minimalism and an edited clothes closet.
What does minimalism mean to you?
Minimalism is subtracting the excess and noise from our lives and creating something beautiful with what remains—both visually and experientially. Excess can be in the form of clutter in our homes, but it can also be in the form of too many unfulfilling commitments, or toxic relationships. Minima’s mission statement is “Make what is necessary beautiful.” I go back to this philosophy in every single decision I make, whether it’s about a new purchase or a business move. I ask myself, “Do I really need to have or do this thing? Will this be highly impactful?” If the answer is no, I protect my time to continue focusing on the priorities I’ve already set for myself.
What is the first step in helping someone edit their clothes closet?
I always start by asking my clients what their vision is. A vision is the “why” behind getting organized and is the motivation we can revisit if they feel stuck during the process. For a clothes closet it can be something like, “I want to get dressed quickly in the morning.” or “I want to open my closet and feel calm because everything is in its place.” or “I want to feel better about my body and only keep clothing I feel good in.” Once the vision has been established, we pull everything out and sort into piles on the bed. Clients are always surprised to see the full volume of clothing they own, which tends to amplify the motivation to pare down.
Do you have a series of questions you ask a client that you would share?
Yes! I suggest asking the following questions about each item:
Do you love it?
Does it fit?
Does it suit your current lifestyle?
Is it in good condition?
Do you wear it?
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, I recommend donating or selling the item. I’ve never had a client feel they didn’t have enough clothing after minimizing with us. This process is a chance to be bold and hit the reset button with your wardrobe. Many people wear the same things over and over, so sometimes this process is about acknowledging reality and letting go of the “someday” pieces taking up space. I wear similar items every day because it’s the style I feel most myself in and it takes the guesswork out of getting dressed each morning. A friend in fashion with a very different style than my own felt more creative with her wardrobe after she’d edited her closet (she let go of about 50%) because she only kept her favorites. Minimizing is also an opportunity to invest in higher quality items going forward—buy one really wonderful piece instead of three “okay” pieces.
How do you help people with their emotional attachment to clothing?
Minimizing can get emotional, and I work to create a comfortable space for my clients to express and process any feelings they’re having throughout our work together. Revisiting their vision for their wardrobe helps. While it might sting a little to let go of an item initially, the positive results of freeing up the space will outweigh any initial negative feelings. Minimizing and organizing is a skill that can be built over time—the more you do it, the easier (and less scary) it will get.
Can you share some of your favourite organizing products for closets?
I recommend Non-slip velvet suit hangers because they are space saving and your clothing won’t slip off of them and into your closet floor. You can even hang sweaters (except extra heavy ones) without damaging the form. In my own closet, I have so few items and didn’t need the space saving design, so I went with The Container Store’s Petite basic acrylic hangers. For drawers I recommend Dream drawer organizers to keep your rows of folded clothing separated. For a complete closet restructuring (i.e. the single hanging bar doesn’t cut it for you), I love the Elfa system from the Container Store. I have it in my own closet and in my laundry nook.
Please tell us about your folding technique? I have not committed to anything like that and am fascinated by it.
It’s called the “file fold” technique and it’s like origami for your clothing. I’ve been making origami since I was a child, so as soon as I learned about this technique about eight years ago I instantly connected with it. The idea is to fold your clothing into small rectangles and store each item vertically in rows (like a filing cabinet, hence the name). It creates more space in your drawers and you are able to see each item since nothing is underneath anything else. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but it saves time in the long run because you can find things so easily. Almost anything can be file folded, but I recommend it for undergarments, t-shirts, casual/lounge clothing, and exercise clothing. Things like blazers, dress pants, blouses and dresses prefer to hang in a closet. Jeans can go either way depending on your space. (File Fold Videos Found by Googling or here is an article from GOOP)
I understand in person organizing is impacted at this time when we are all sheltering at home. Wondering what your virtual home organizing consist of?
My virtual consults are perfect if you are self-motivated, but need a customized organizing plan to establish the best approach and solutions for your space. I’ve created virtual plans for clients all over the world and am offering them even more now while people are staying home. Here’s how it works:
STEP 1: The client sends me photos of their spaces with a description of what’s in each room and their challenges/goals (via email or a shared Google Drive folder). Everything will remain confidential. I’ll put together an initial organizing plan based on their photos and notes.
STEP 2: We’ll iron it out together during a one hour video call. They’ll get a customized organizing plan as well as full access to my expertise for the hour. After we create the plan, I offer additional one or two hour coaching and accountability video calls to help them get the actual organizing work done.
Thanks again Kristen for your insights. I get the feeling I might be asking you again for this kind of thing!
Any readers interested in a virtual consultation can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the conversation started.