The Minimalist’s Guide to Spring Cleaning

April 13 2014

Spring is officially here, seemingly in earnest, with no pending snow storms on the horizon (at least where we’re sitting.) It’s one of our favorite seasons, heralding all sorts of fresh starts and newness: new blooms, new shoes, new opportunities. We couldn’t think of a better time to talk to our favorite professional organizer, Kristen Ziegler of Minima, who views minimalism as a “holistic approach to life,” and not simply an aesthetic decision. So throw open your windows, let the fresh spring air in, and get in touch with your inner minimalist.

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If you’re not naturally a minimalist, what are some small steps you can take to pare down?

Don’t feel pressure to convert to extreme minimalism overnight (or ever). Instead, take steps that you’re comfortable with and pare down in phases. Start by getting rid of things you know you won’t miss. I didn’t have the 25 item closet that I have today five years ago—it’s taken a lot of editing over time.
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Getting started is the hardest part – do you have any tips for getting over that hurdle?

Make a plan that focuses on the results you want to see—this is how I start with all of my clients. Maybe you want a less stressful routine, more free time, or to save more money. Organizing is a means to an end, so looking at the big picture and figuring out your motivations will help you get inspired.

If you only have 30 minutes to organize, what should you tackle?

It depends. If you’re already pretty organized, it could be a maintenance task like addressing paperwork or putting away laundry. If you have bigger projects in front of you, start with a small drawer or your purse or backpack. The success of the smaller project will give you the motivation to dive into the bigger ones later.

Wardrobe tips

Start by making space. Imagine how easy getting dressed would be if you only owned items you loved. Consign or donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year—there’s a reason you haven’t. Try turning all of your hangers backwards, then re-hang items as you wear them facing forward. At the end of the season, it will be clear which pieces aren’t getting used.

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Group like items together. If you’re feeling inspired, arrange in color order: white / tan / gray / black / blue / purple / pink / red / orange / yellow / green. Seeing all tops / bottoms / outerwear / etc. grouped by type will not only help you find things, but it will show you where the redundancies (and gaps) are in your wardrobe.

Streamline your hangers. Removing the visual distraction of mismatched hangers will allow you to focus on the clothing itself and make finding what you want so much easier. I like wooden hangers if you have plenty of space, or velvet slimline hangers for small closets.

“File” your folded clothing. Instead of stacking, “file” your folded clothes to maximize drawer space and easily see what you have. Fold into thirds for most items and roll bulky pieces like sweaters and jeans. Use drawer dividers to separate different categories within the same drawer (i.e. socks and underwear). Read more about filing here.

Create a “time out” bin. Consolidate items you know you haven’t worn, but struggle to part with. Tuck the bin away for six months, then look at things again with fresh eyes. One of two things will happen with each piece—either you won’t have missed it at all, or it will be like shopping from home. Donate or consign the stuff you didn’t miss.

Curate a solid foundation of quality basics. My essentials include a pair of dark rinse high-rise jeans, a pleated black chiffon skirt, a classic black blazer, a few neutral tops that I can mix and match, black leather ankle boots, one small and one large leather bag in a muted color. Focus on quality rather than price. You will spend less money over the course of a few years if you invest in a high-quality classics rather than lower-quality trend items.

You can be a minimalist and still love to shop. Shopping and buying are not the same. I browse all the time, but rarely come home with anything new. Instead, I view shopping as creative research. Create a list of pieces you want and/or need and refer back to that list when you’re out shopping. This will also help you stick to a budget and steer away from impulse buys.

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Look for versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. Go for clean lines, minimal detailing, and a neutral palette. When pieces are simple, it’s less likely that they will clash with other items. Less detailing also keeps styles more timeless. Don’t be afraid to wear the same piece over and over, especially for staples like denim, shoes and jackets. You can use accessories to create different looks.

Photos c/o Brian McDaniel and Kip Dawkins Photography.

For more organization tips, follow Kristen on Instagram and Facebook.