I interviewed Shelley Coon from The Goodness Margin about how we can declutter and organize at any time, but especially during this time with COVID19.
Shelley writes blogs and produces Youtube videos about minimalism, decluttering, and organizing. I was also interested in how these things affect our finances. You'll want to read this for some excellent tips!
Adrian: Hi, Shelley! Thank you so much for your time and expertise. Please provide some background information and why you started writing at The Goodness Margin.
Shelley: Throughout my married life (17 years now), we moved many times and lived in very small spaces. I have always hated clutter and thrived in order. So I spent almost every Saturday (my only day off) reorganizing my closets and spaces and trying to fit all of the "what if" and "maybe later" things into our tiny closets.
Fast-forward to many years later: We are in our first house, a nice-sized house, and one we feel that we will live in for a really long time. I had my second child (10 years after the first), and all of a sudden, it all started crashing down on me.
Because I thrive in order and hate clutter, I was ALWAYS cleaning up and picking up. ALWAYS. I had heard of minimalism but only thought of cold, hard places, and I really enjoy a warm and inviting home. Once I realized that you can have these things and be free of clutter, a beautiful thing was born.
I have learned to develop habits and routines that make my life so much easier. I am passionate about how doing one load of laundry a day can help alleviate stress for a mom of two, and how minimalism has transformed my life and reduced my anxiety. Of course, if you're passionate about something, you tell others.
I was telling my friends, and they were pointing their friends to me, and thus, The Goodness Margin was born.
When someone responds to a blog post or Instagram story with how something I have shared has helped them, it fills me with incredible joy! I am so thankful for the opportunity to share the things that help me so much with others!
Adrian: I know that you and I share the "minimalist" and "minimizing" philosophy, but can you explain how that is different from typical decluttering/organizing? In what ways is it the same?
Shelley: Organizing is taking the things you own and putting them in order -- placing those things in a way that makes them easy to access, and neat.
However, no amount of organizing can overcome having too much stuff. It doesn't matter how organized your closet looks. If it is bulging with clothes, it will never stay organized.
When you have minimized your spaces, the organizing part is EASY! It is so easy to put things neatly on a shelf if there are only a few items.
I have helped many people over the years organize, but until we are ready to part with quite a few of our belongings, to become really truthful with who we are and why we hold on to things, we will never actually stay organized.
Adrian: Why is now (during COVID19) a good time to minimize/declutter your home?
Shelley: Many of us have been gifted time.
I am not downplaying this terrible situation at all. I have had friends that have been really sick or have had to work longer shifts because they are an essential worker. However, most of us are at home.
And while we are homeschooling and cooking 12 times a day and doing all the things, most of us no longer have a commute or carpool line.
This is a wonderful opportunity to take a few minutes each day and really look at the spaces we live with. We can ignore a lot, but now we are home with it every day, all day, and it's hard to ignore.
If we can minimize and organize our home while we are in this time and create those daily habits to keep it that way, we can go back into "normal" life lighter and ready to take on the world!
Adrian: What's a good place to start when someone is first minimizing?
Shelley: I feel that this is really up to your personality. I am an all-or-nothing girl. I tend to get an idea in my head, and by the afternoon, my husband has come home (more than once) to a completely rearranged living space.
For me, I jumped in and started with my kitchen. It's a space I use every day, and I was brutally honest with whether or not I used these things that had lived in my cabinets for so long.
I was able to see an immediate difference that spurred me to take on the rest of my house.
If you are hesitant, take on an easier task. The bathroom is a great place to start. If it's been a while since you've cleaned it out, you will usually find a lot of expired and unused items. The linen closet and bedroom are other good areas.
Adrian: How can someone stay on task and stay motivated to minimize? Is there a way to combat the overwhelm that comes with it?
Shelley: Know that the first time you do this, it will take some time. So start with the space that you have the time for.
It took an entire day for my kitchen. I piled my (very large) kitchen table high by the afternoon. I took some photos to ask a few people if they wanted some things and asked them to pick them up that night! Before I went to bed, I loaded my car up and dropped what I didn't give away at a local donation center the next morning.
GET IT OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!
I didn't sell much from that first purge. It needed to be gone as fast as possible. Nothing is more overwhelming than starting with too much stuff and then creating a giant mess. So give yourself time to clean it back up, put things back in your cabinets, and have a plan to get rid of it the same day, if it at all possible.
Another way to stay motivated is to join an Instagram or Facebook community that focuses on minimizing. I have consistent messages thanking me for inspiring someone to continue.
We become what we focus on. So surround yourself with what you want to become.
Adrian: In what ways does minimizing affect our finances?
Shelley: I have been passionate about saving money and being debt-free for a long time. To make a very long story short, my husband and I were living on credit and not making a lot of money, and I was losing a lot of sleep. We finally got on the same page with our finances (thank you, Dave Ramsey!), and while making less money than we had ever made in our marriage, we were debt-free in around 2 years.
I know the Lord had a lot to do with this, but we had to make a lot of sacrifices, and we determined we would never live that way again. Being debt-free has allowed us to live out our lifelong dream. We are now planting a church in Metro Atlanta, and I truly believe we would not be where we are if we had not first been debt-free.
I didn't see the connection in saving money and minimalism until I was deep into this minimalism journey.
There is something about donating a pile of clothes you paid too much for that makes you think twice about buying a sweater "just because it's on sale."
Minimalism has made me think long and hard about each item I bring into my house. I buy way less clothing than I did before. It has to be really great quality, fit me perfectly, and be a piece I plan to wear weekly to make the cut.
I still have a closet full of clothes. I have plenty to choose from! But they are each things I really like. That's what happens when you take out all of the things that don't fit well or that you rarely wear: you are left with the things you really enjoy.
It has bled into what I buy for my kids. I have adopted capsule wardrobes for my kids: 2-3 pairs of shoes and a few outfits to match for each season, and I'm done. No more shopping.
We buy fewer gifts and instead focus on what matters: time.
There have been zero complaints from our children over this transition. This Christmas we went on a trip instead of exchanging gifts. My kids have never mentioned that they didn't get presents, but they talk about the trip all the time!
I wish I would have kept track of exactly what I spent on clothing and home decor three years ago versus the last year. I imagine it is less than 10%.
Minimalism has made a massive impact on our finances.