Though perhaps not explicitly a book on organization, The Book of Hygge is an excellent companion to any literature on decluttering and organizing, in that it provides a sort of verbal vision board to inspire the more well-rounded and inviting space your home can become when it is not piled high with clutter. Thomsen Brits can get a bit pedantic; what is accomplished in 192 pages could likely be accomplished in 50. But the spirit of the book, a manual to creating a feeling of contentment in your space and your life, is a great reminder of what a home should be. Not a warehouse to store your accumulated clutter, but a shelter to provide warmth and comfort. Even a quick skim can inspire you to arrange the items you have elected to keep after decluttering and organizing in a way that promotes wellness and joy, and that inspiration is an excellent motivator to continue your organizing journey.
Just in time for Earth Day, take the plunge into zero- or low-waste living with Amy Korst's incredibly comprehensive guide to reducing your trash and improving your life. In The Zero-Waste Lifestyle Korst quickly dispels the initial fears one may have when approaching zero-waste living: complexity, cost, and perfectionism. Instead of focusing on those gatekeeping elements, Korst's approach to zero-waste living is all about simplifying your life, saving you money, allowing room for error, and taking care of the environment all in simple congruity.
Lifestyle quickly touches upon the issues of modern throwaway-culture; the side effects of rapidly producing and disposing of goods are almost innumerable, but not so extensively detailed that the reader becomes fatigued before arriving at solutions to these problems.
Korst does not preach. Nor does she demand immediate and perfect zero-waste living. Rather, The Zero-Waste Lifestyle serves as the ultimate beginner resource for greener living, pairing concepts with incredibly specific plans and resources for plotting out and executing a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. If the thought of composting overwhelms you, Korst provides three levels of intensity to ease you into reducing food waste. If switching from convenience foods to bulk sounds impossible, Korst has charts and lists that will take you along step-by-step.
In our journeys to organize and declutter, it's important to remember we are not only responsible for caring for the house we live in, but the planet we live on. Reducing the trash cluttering up your home is just as important as reducing the trash cluttering the planet, and the two lifestyles can go hand-in-hand when you begin living with less waste.
Decluttering must at first glance seem like the enemy of environmentalism, and zero-waste lifestyles the enemy of minimalism. How can you claim to care about the earth when you’re throwing out dozens upon dozens of bags of what once sat in your home, away from fragile wilderness? And how could a box of stainless steel straws be a smaller source of clutter than a single throwaway straw from a fast food restaurant? The key lies in your intentions and how they develop as you go through your journey of organization.
When you declutter your home, you should not just be blindly sending things off to landfills. Not only is this incredibly wasteful, it makes it far harder to part with items that you see as still being useful or valuable. How much better do you feel knowing your old desk may be going to an underprivileged teenager studying for their SATs? How much lighter do you feel when you know your clothing donations will generate revenue for good causes? Now, think a step further. Donate with the intention not only of providing goods or money to those in need, but with the intention of making the production of new goods (and therefore the associated waste of production and pollution) unnecessary. This makes your decluttering a threefold benefit, to yourself, to the future owners of your unwanted and unneeded clutter, and to the environment.
Overproduction of goods was a primary factor in the development of our consumer culture. When posed with the option of either producing less or selling more, industrialists chose to sell more. To create the increased demand for their goods, their products had to become disposable, either in function or fashion (to learn more about how overproduction led to our modern throwaway culture, pick up Stuffocation by James Wallman). This development of throwaway culture is tied intrinsically to materialism and, therefore, clutter.
But, how could a stockpile of reusable goods take up less space than an item you use and then immediately discard? Wouldn’t a set of travel utensils, a drawer of canvas bags, a box of stainless steel straws, and a cabinet of glass jars and canisters require more space (and money) than accepting and then discarding the free packaging that is already provided with almost any purchase we make? And how strange must it look to go to a fast food restaurant and provide them with a Tupperware you brought from home? What sane person whips out their own spork in a cafeteria? Let’s tackle the issue of embarrassment first, as it requires the shortest solution: would you rather be slightly uncomfortable the first few times you bring a reusable thermos to Starbucks (for which you will likely receive a small discount) or be responsible for the constant stream of trash coming into your life and back out into the environment?
Now on to the topic of space. There is almost no home in America that is without a bag full of other plastic bags. Replace that with a collapsible set of canvas totes and your bursting drawer of flimsy, torn up plastic bags is gone. And what about the reusable containers, the jars, the canisters, the Tupperware? Chances are, whether or not you bring containers to salad bars and bulk aisles, you already have food storage. These may be matching glass sets from a high-end store, ceramic hand-me-downs from your grandparents, or plastic containers leftover from nights of takeout past. Why not use these, save money by buying your pastas, nuts, grains, etc. from the bulk aisle, and save yourself the pain of redundant packaging, why have the box of pasta in one cabinet and a container of the same size in another cabinet? And think of the beautiful shampoo bars and solid deodorants that take up less space as you use them, and whose packaging is not constantly urging you to purchase more (by virtue of having no packaging at all). Imagine never having to buy a pack of plastic straws before a party because you have the only pack you’ll ever need. Imagine buying one set of wool dryer balls and walking past the boxes and boxes of dryer sheets you used to restock every month. Imagine the mental clutter you’ll erase from your life and the money you’ll save.
This is the beauty of a low-waste lifestyle (I say low-waste rather than zero waste because no human can truly produce no waste). You erase so much waste from the earth and from your life, things can be more beautiful and less time consuming. The house you live in and the planet you live on are healthier and happier, all by making changes that positively affect your health and your wallet. For these reasons, and for many others, this blog will feature articles not only on minimalism, organizing, decluttering, and interior decorating, but low-waste living solutions. So for this first exploration, just begin looking at the areas of your life where you can reduce your consumption and waste. Think about the ways you can improve your standard of living by cutting back on disposables. And prepare for a new way to explore the organized life.
Kitchens present a unique organizing challenge because of its function in the home-- cleaning supplies, cooking supplies, appliances, and food all serve a purpose in a kitchen, but the combination of perishable items and long-term investments make for a confusing and often cluttered space.
I've never been much of a chef, and I have a bad habit of letting my fridge and pantry dwindle down to ketchup packets and a single bag of flour, so for me, kitchen organization has always been an afterthought. But my boyfriend and his family have an almost completely opposite approach to food-- the house is always full to the brim with snacks, leftover meals, spices, and raw ingredients, and they cook so often that even those wedding registry waffle makers and impulse-buy novelty popcorn makers get used on a regular basis. Working as a professional organizer means encountering every kind of living space, from the barren to the overflowing, and cutting my teeth on an overstuffed kitchen allowed me to develop organizing systems and tricks that I can now pass on to you!
Let's start with food: in any organizing project you always need to clear out every cabinet, shelf, box, and closet and pile everything together. This is the only surefire way to know exactly what you have and how much of it there is. Duplicates can sneak into your house during the months or years of disorganization, and if you don't see them for yourself, they'll just continue to multiply. Normally, I would then suggest making a keep pile, a donate pile, a trash pile, and a recycling pile. And while some food will be donated or disposed of, the majority will be kept, and therefore needs to be broken down into more categories right away. So pull out those paper grocery bags you've been hoarding and put them to use! As you notice common themes in your food (spices, pastas, crackers, cereals, desserts) label the bags accordingly and pile in the corresponding foods. Then you can group your like categories-- cereals and granola bars might make sense together, and chips and crackers can be paired up as snack foods.
Once you've got your overarching categories, food can be returned to its home-- drawers of snack foods, shelves for breakfast foods, cabinets for soups and sauces, think about where you are throughout the day and what food you will be reaching for at that point. Quick breakfasts should be easily accessible to grab in the morning, candies and sweets may be better somewhere hard to access to avoid late night snacking temptation.
While the majority of organizing in the kitchen can be done without buying any extra storage, there are a few products that can make a huge difference in how much you get out of your space, especially when it comes to heavy, bulky items like pots and pans and appliances.
Spices can be stored laying down in a drawer or in a spice rack, but you can also opt for a tiered set of shelves like this one, which will give you access to all of your spices at once, without having to pull everything out of the cabinet.
Pots and pans can be stacked vertically, but you are once again left to pull everything out of the cabinet and replace it if you need something from the bottom of the stack. Try an expandable organizer for pots, pans, and lids that can be customized to your needs, like this one to save space and make it easier to access everything you need.
Finally, stack your awkward appliances by getting shelf dividers like these to avoid tumbling mixers and blenders.
Now to tackle the junk drawers-- everyone has a collection of something, whether it be batteries, spare keys, receipts, take-out menus, or coupons. While it's likely you can get rid of a lot of this accumulated junk, you'll always need batteries and coupons, and it's better to create a system to organize them than to keep throwing them back into the same crumpled piles. Try separate folders for different papers, and lay these flat in a drawer. Bag or box up your batteries, spare keys, and pens so that you can pull them out whenever you need them, and know exactly where to put them when you're done. Pill bottles, vitamins, and supplements can be put into a separate drawer or stacked on tiered shelves like your spices. Keeping the junk drawer mentality out of your life will keep clutter from coming back into your kitchen and overwhelming the space again.