Clutter. It has been my weakness for years now. To be honest, forever, really. The constant overbearing knowledge that all the stuff I own that have been separated from their usual space and that are now floating around on any available surface in my flat should be dealt with. Preferably yesterday. Especially my clothes.
…each time I removed one or two pieces of clothing from my closet, it was like the gap got filled immediately and there was never room to put it back.
I have always been puzzled and quite envious to be honest, of my neat-freak (and I say this in the most loving way possible, of course) boyfriend with all his clothes perfectly folded and tucked away in his closet. I just wasn’t there. Even though his closets were almost as full of clothes as mine, each time I removed one or two pieces of clothing from my closet, it was like the gap got filled immediately and there was never room to put it back. Unless I set forth a massive decluttering and organizing session. Then and only then I might find room for all the items in my wardrobe. Usually, they would just pile up on a stool next to my closet, especially the “not clean but not dirty” clothing. And it was incredibly frustrating.
My boyfriend Chris and I live in a rather tiny apartment in the city. It is a 580 sq. one bedroom flat, with a moderate kitchen, a moderate bedroom and a cozy living room. Not very much room for storage, and no clever way of putting up a large wardrobe system in the bedroom. At least not one that stood clearly to us in our minds when we were wondering how to upgrade and maximize our wardrobe closet storage in the bedroom.
It seemed like the only way to get control of everything would be to move into a bigger flat, preferably with a walk-in closet of sorts.
We imagined swapping out our cheap IKEA cabinets with ‘floor-to-celling’ cabinets, or we pictured hanging massive wall-mounted cabinets framing the bed on both sides and across. I mean, how else could we make room for all our stuff??? It was quite daunting to be honest. It seemed like the only way to get control of everything would be to move into a bigger flat, preferably with a walk-in closet of sorts.
Then, before even considering redecorating and refurbishing our bedroom, we decided to tackle the hallway. Always having been fascinated by interior programs, we were suddenly inspired to transform the hallway of our home into a room instead of merely a messy, overlooked space for our shoes, coats and jackets. Having a small and narrow hallway meant that there were only so much we could do with it. Big wardrobe cabinets were out of the question, even though we longed to put our stuff away to reduce visible clutter.
We ended up with painting the hallway in dark grey, having learnt from our interior series binge watching that dark colors often enhance roominess and create better spaces. The shoe racks got tossed and instead we bought tree wall-mounted shoe cabinets from IKEA, now that the black TRONES cabinets again were available (Yay!). One for my shoes, one for Chris’ shoes and one for scarves, hats and gloves etc. This of course meant that there had to be some downsizing in how many shoes were available in the hallway at the same time, motivating us to throw out (or donate) shoes that weren’t in use and put away shoes that weren’t in season. We also bought two wall hooks for our jackets and coats, one for each of us, enabling us to store more jackets on less space as the jacket hangers would hang with the front towards us, instead of the regular sideways method.
Completing the hallway, we were immensely satisfied. The hallway now looked stylish and well put together, everything having a designated place and lifted from the floor, making the space look bigger and more spacious.
Chris had played with the idea before, to throw out the wardrobe closets in the bedroom and replace them with an open wardrobe solution. Having too much clothes that I were unable to get on top of organizing, I never caught on to the idea – but now it was different. After having seen what we accomplished with the hallway, I was very eager to do something similar to the bedroom.
Earlier this year we had adopted our first pets together as a couple, two free range (alas no cage) bunnies, Kira and Petrus, that now shared the apartment with us. This prompted the wish to free up floor space for them in the bedroom, so that they would have more space to roam, jump and run. As we had already been so thrilled with the wall-mounted TRONES shoe cabinets in our hallway, suddenly we started imagining new possibilities; what if we removed our current cabinets and our chest of drawers and replaced them with a section of TRONES cabinets on each side of the bed? And then, for hanging clothes, we’d use a pipe hanger? And that’s what happened.
All the clothes that were “maybe I’ll want to wear this later, but not now”-clothes got tossed or donated.
We already had a BRIMNES bed from IKEA with two big drawers on each side, and together with the shoe cabinets and pipe hanger, we decided this should be enough storage for all our clothes. Wait, what? ALL our clothes? We hadn’t even room for our current stack of clothes… Of course, we had realized even before refurbishing the bedroom that we didn’t need as much clothes, which in turn led us to a place of decluttering and purging. All the clothes that were “maybe I’ll want to wear this later, but not now”-clothes got tossed or donated. All the “I’m so tired of this print”-t-shirts as well. To say it in its simplest form, we got rid of all the clothes that were clothes we kept “just-in-case”, the non-matching clothes and the no purpose clothes.
When the walls were painted, the TRONES cabinets were mounted and the shelves and pipe hanger were up, we suddenly realized the shoe cabinets didn’t take as much clothes as we had thought initially. This in turn lead us to purge and jettison even harder. I mean, we didn’t literally need so much clothes? Our basement storages were filled beyond its bearings, constantly being filled up with more stuff as we bought new stuff to fill the apartment.
“Wow, you’ve got so much stuff!”
I don’t think it was before a friend of ours were borrowing something from our storage and said: “Wow, you’ve got so much stuff!” that we fully realized how bad it was. Of course, it’s apparently completely normal when having lived together for many years that couples and families collect and collect stuff constantly needing to increase their storage capacity, but we quickly realized if we continued this now, where would we end up?
The summer then, got filled with days of purging and tossing things out of our basement storage. For each load we threw out or donated there was instant gratification. Decluttering was now hitting us as something we should have started years ago, and I began Googling to read more about this. For surely, someone else must have understood how liberating freeing yourself of stuff was? And it was! I found blogs and blogs and blogs about decluttering and jettisoning, and was even more inspired than ever to continue this quest to reduce my belongings to the “bare necessities” as it were. Ok, not completely as much, but you get the idea.
The more I read, the more it dawned to me that this way of life, to stop mindless consuming and to free yourself from all the unnecessary stuff you own, was the cornerstones in a minimalist way of life. Minimalism, huh? Weren’t these the people that only wanted white, cold and sterile rooms, with no visible stuff, ornaments or otherwise, out in the open? People that only accepted other people as minimalist if they owned less than a certain amount of stuff, like seven or fifty or something? As it turns out, no they weren’t!
At first I was skeptical. I found blogs such as becomingminimalist.com, bemorewithless.com and theminimalists.com and I absolutely could relate to everything they wrote. But did I dare tell Chris about my discovery of the minimalist community? We were both caught up in our new decluttering way of life, but calling it something and labeling it, would that be too much, perhaps making us run the other way? I eased into it, letting Chris know about some of the articles I found and how others also knew about how getting rid of excess stuff was a liberating, life-generating and profound feeling, just like we had learnt ourselves.
And now we both agree. We lead a lifestyle based on minimalist principles. Not that we believe that one should not own stuff or never buy anything ever again. That’s maybe a tad unrealistic. But we do believe in consuming mindfully, only what we need and only owning things that add value to our lives, things that we use and that aren’t just sitting around “because maybe someday it’ll come in handy”.
As I wrote initially, the number of clothes and the process of organizing them was one of my biggest liabilities when it came to clutter in the home. The number of clothes I had made it so that organizing my wardrobe closets and drawers always was on my (least favorite) to-do-list. Now, on the other hand, I have reduced my number of clothing to the clothes I love, use and need. All the clothes have their own space in my sparse wardrobe solution, consisting of six wall-mounted shoe cabinets, pipe hanger and shelf. And one big drawer under the bed. Mind you, I’m still in the process of streamlining my ultimate capsule wardrobe, so the under-the-bed drawer is my for the time being “allowed messy-place”. Still, nowadays there are never clothes laying around on the floor, the stool or the bed like there was before. And it is extremely liberating.