M is for MinimalismMmm. Our look at the serious and lighter sides of organising with The A to Z of Organising, we’re already up to the letter M.

Mail – Open the mail. Deal with the mail. It’s as simple as that. Here are some dos and don’ts for the mail.


  • leave mail unopened
  • guess at mail contents, you could be wrong
  • leave mail scattered throughout the office or home
  • allow piles, stacks, heaps or mountains to build up


  • take charge of mail
  • limit incoming mail, where possible
  • discard envelopes
  • have a place for mail to “land”
  • have everyone in the household do the same
  • deal with mail daily

Maintenance – Just as in dental care, the maintenance of any good system is the key to long term success. Looking after assets around the home or office, as well as the most important asset of all – yourself – with regular maintenance saves money, time and effort in the long run, and it reduces stress. Once good systems are in place, scheduled regular maintenance really steps up to the plate to keep those systems ticking along. That maintenance schedule could include

  • clearing off the desk at the end of each day
  • discarding expired medications quarterly
  • an annual review of the filing cabinet

What else could you add to a regular maintenance schedule?

Meal Planning – Planning ahead for meals takes the stress out of eating well. Just 30 minutes spent planning meals at the start of the week will save at least 3 times that amount, in most cases more. Simply by sitting down once a week to check your commitments for the week ahead will give you an idea of how many meals to plan for, and the style of food you can prepare. A busy schedule will mean a quick and easy meal is the order of the day. A day at home could mean a chance to cook up a stockpile to keep you going for a long time. Once you’ve checked your schedule, it’s time to check what’s already on hand. Check the fridge, the freezer and the pantry. That food is already paid for. With any luck you won’t need to go shopping at all. But if you do need to shop for groceries, you can go with a list compiled directly from your meal plan. A great place to start is to think of a handful of meals that you and the family like to eat, which are easy to prepare.

Memorabilia – I recommend everyone in the household is allocated one container to house memorabilia. Typically, I see people keep things like ultrasound images, first birthday cards, examples of children’s first handwriting and drawings, school reports, school yearbooks, wedding invitations and funeral notices. My recommendation that each person keep one container comes with permission to choose whatever size container they like, as long as it fits comfortably in the home and that “the past” doesn’t detract from “the here and now”. Over time, as the container fills, choices must be made about what deserves its place in the memorabilia container and what can move aside to make way for something more special.

But what about when people want the memorabilia out on display? Travel mementoes, sports trophies, framed football jerseys make a home very personal to the individual. But what happens when you find your dream life partner and it’s time to merge two homes into one? Whose memorabilia wins? That’s a scenario that Sophie Kost from My Beautiful Abode wrote about here.

Minimalism – The origins of the growing Minimalism trend lie in art, architecture and design. Minimalism can be found in music, literature, film and fashion. And now Minimalism is often a personal choice for all aspects of life. Anthony Ongaro from Break the Twitch says Minimalism is, “a lifestyle practice focused on minimizing distractions that keep you from doing what matters to you.” Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist says, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that bring you joy and the removal of those that do not.” It’s often referred to as intentional living or conscious living. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists say, “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.” Could you practice a minimalist lifestyle?

Motivation – The single biggest success factor in making any change is motivation. Without a desire to make a change, whether it’s to become organised, or stop over shopping, or creating a new habit of any kind, there’s little chance to successfully making a change. Sometimes changes are necessary. Hoarding interventions are necessary when someone is putting themselves or family or neighbours at risk. But motivation to participate in that intervention may be non-existent. Having said that, I believe there is a way to “tune in” to someone’s motivation by asking the right questions. Motivation may not be obvious, such as “I can’t wait to invite my friends over” or “When the clutter’s gone I’ll feel so relieved”. It may just be, “I can’t wait till you all leave me alone” or “I don’t want to be evicted”. But what are the “right questions”? A good place to start is with the Institute for Challenging Disorganization’s Clutter Quality of Life Scale. You can find it here.

Muscles – Let’s talk about muscles. Yes, sometimes you need to employ a good strong set of muscles to move furniture, lift boxes or carry things up and down stairs. But that’s not the kind of muscles I want to mention now. It’s the “decluttering muscle”. When you’re first starting out with decluttering, it may be difficult, confronting, exhausting. Making all those unfamiliar decisions can be an emotional drain. But even the most musclebound weightlifter didn’t start bench pressing 100kg on the first day of training. They started small, practiced often and worked up to pressing those heavy weights, until it became easy.

Music – Music is a fabulous tool when decluttering. I first learned of the power of music while I worked as a child. My mother worked full time, so Saturdays were designated housework day and I was put to work to help out. But somehow it never felt like work. Mum would put a record on the turntable and hand me the duster/broom/vacuum cleaner, while she would wash clothes, clean the kitchen or bathroom. We worked in different parts of the house but sang out loud to the music together. The time went quickly, and the jobs were done. I use the power of music now when working with certain clients for the same reason. It can be uplifting, bring energy levels up and make the time go faster when doing an unpleasant task. I even created a Pinterest board called Music to Declutter By.


If you’d like to catch up on past A to Z of Organising posts, here you go…


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