Life hacks for living lean among those who live large
Right now, as I type this, this is what’s in my immediate field of vision:
- A mantle full of birthday cards from my son’s fifth birthday
- A pile of new clearance bathing suits we ordered for my daughter
- A pile of toys that somehow don’t fit in one of the 100 cubbies we have set aside for “decluttering” our small home
- A stack of books that have either been read, or are going to be read
- Empty water glasses from each of the four people in my household
- Another stack of my own books that I am in the process of not reading
- Two pairs of sneakers from small people
- A bunch of old LED candles that don’t work
- Three bags – my weekend backpack with kid stuff; my work bag and my husbands work bag
This may not seem like much to you, but for a girl who considers herself a minimalist, it’s a constant visual bombardment. You see, I have two children and a husband. And despite the fact that I could easily live the life of a minimalist, I am unable to do so in a household of non-minimalist people. (That list was made while I was sitting at home.)
At Pico Design, we make jewelry. And when you’re running a business and making jewelry, there’s alot of stuff required. From tools, to inventory, to display and trade show furniture, to packaging, to marketing materials, it all has to live somewhere. Marie Kondo would probably not approve. Does my dolly bring me joy? Not usually. But when I’m moving furniture in and out of Chelsea Market for a holiday show it sure does!
So, my two primary environments involve a lot of things. It’s completely impractical for me to tell my kids to not have toys, or to expect them (dream!) that they will put them all away and leave nothing in sight. Likewise, it would not be easy for me to limit the number of tools I’m using to make jewelry. I legitimately need flat nosed, needle nosed and round nosed pliers.
So what are some of the things I do that help me feel like my environment reflects and supports my inner minimalist? Here are some minimalist life hacks that have helped me stay focused and sane at work and at home.
- Create zones. At Pico, I try to restrict certain activities to zones. My workbench obviously houses all of my tools and equipment. My inventory is in another (clean) part of the studio, along with my packaging materials. I keep trade show display materials and props in another area entirely – one that I don’t need access to often. And of course, my desk and meeting table are central to everything. It helps define the space and serve as a clear reminder of where things belong. At home, there are obvious rooms in the house that are designated for certain functions. But anyone who has kids is well aware that EVERY room is a playroom when they are young. It may not always be as successful as I want, but we keep furniture with tons of cubbies in our dining room. These store books, some display and tabletop items, and a whole bunch of bins that we throw all the toys in.
- A place for everything and everything in its place. Within my work zones at my studio, I use furniture and tricks to keep things neat, organized and sometimes out of sight. The Bisley 5-drawer unit shown here holds all of my little bits and bobs for the office. Staples, paper clips, scissors, rubber bands. The things we need but don’t really
need to see every day. I also keep my jewelry inventory in stackable containers, organized by sku (more on that later). This gets locked for security reasons, but has the added benefit of being behind closed doors and keeping that zone visually clean. Keeping things organized this way also minimizes the amount of time required to put things back. Anything that facilitates keeping things neat helps in the crusade! You may have alot of stuff, but it doesn’t look like you do! We do similar things at my home. Each of my kids has a cubby in our dining room with file folder boxes for storing their homework (organized by subject) and art projects. We also keep one cubby with a flat file that holds each child’s up to date medical records, as well as their most recent report card or school paperwork. As a side note, I was inspired by a book years ago when I was doing research for my graduate thesis. The book is Mary and Russell Wright’s Guide to Easier Living, originally published in 1950. It provides helpful advice for achieving a comfortable, well designed and organized living environment. And it still holds up to this day!
- Keep a clean desktop on both your computer and your actual desk. When I see a friend or colleague’s computer desktop and there are hundreds of files floating around with no home, I cringe inside – and sometimes outside, too. I’m not sure how you can find anything on a screen filled with documents. On my desk, I keep a plain white folder where I store all the immediate “to-do” items. I check that each morning and try to deal with as many of those as I can. My computer/server is also organized, plainly and clearly. When I have part-time help or an intern, it makes it easy for them to find documents and get quick access. I do believe that these visual “palette cleansers” help me think more clearly. We’ve created an office area at home for my daughter to do her homework. Above the desk, we mounted a pegboard with bins, so she can store various supplies she needs to do her homework. This encourages her to keep the desktop and surfaces clear, so if anyone else wants to use it, they can do so. And it looks so much better!
- Invite guests over. What better motivation to get rid of things than the fear of being judged! I’m kidding. Sort of. This week I was interviewed for a facebook live video for Pico (thanks Yeh Ideology), and I knew the video would capture the studio behind me. I spent a little time to make sure everything was in order and neat as if I was in the viewer’s shoes. We get so used to seeing the things and objects around us every day that we mentally tune them out. But if we can imagine how someone else would see it, a space may feel like it needs an update. At my home, we keep a small card/game table open and next to our dining table. It is a place for us to do puzzles and play games as a family. But when someone is coming over, I put it away – it’s a different size and color from our dining table (which does open) and just looks cluttered in the room. I would, of course, prefer to keep it put away but sometimes the ability to have fun with my kids eats away at my inner minimalist.
- Be a minimalist in your product line. This one is primarily for the work side of things. If you run a product based business, it is easy to fall into the trap of continually adding more designs. As creative people, this can feel great. But as business owners, we need to do the hard work of evaluating what is selling and what is not selling, and getting rid of the dead weight. I don’t think there is a magic number of products any one business should have, but there are some great articles written on the paradox of too much choice, including this one from Inc. Magazine. Consider regularly evaluating what is working logistically, what makes sense with regard to price points, aesthetics and sales. Then create simple choices for your customers. This also goes hand in hand with how you market your products. Keep the message simple. Don’t provide too many choices. Be a minimalist with your call to action.What are your thoughts about living minimal in a maximal world?? Comment below!