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Last week we talked about getting everything out of our heads and down on paper, and just starting with one task.  For me that task was dishes.  By both working on keeping up with the dishes myself, and having my kids chip in, we’ve had a week of (mostly) clean counters and having lots of clean dishes available.

This week we’ll be starting to work through that never-ending list by looking at one way to handle all of the things in your home.

Francine Jay, aka Miss Minimalist, writes about minimalist living on her blog,  I recently finished reading her book The Joy of Less and learned about her “STREAMLINE” method of paring things down.  For many of us, the biggest obstacle we have to face to get and keep our homes in order is that we just have too much stuff.  I am definitely someone with this problem.  While I have made periodic attempts to cut back, I’ve never made any real and lasting progress.

The philosophy of minimalism

The Joy of Less is divided into four parts.  First is the philosophy behind Miss Minimalist’s plan.  Why we should cut back, learning to see our things as just what they are – stuff – and learning how to not just live with less, but enjoy it more by seeing the space you gain as a reward in and of itself.

The STREAMLINE process

Part two is all about the STREAMLINE process.  Miss Minimalist explains step by step how her plan works.  The steps in the plan are as follows:

Start Over
Trash, treasure or transfer
Reason for each item
Everything in its place
All surfaces clear
If one comes in, one goes out
Narrow down
Everyday maintenance

Start over

We get so used to seeing the whole mess of our house as background noise that it’s hard to see it all, and we don’t know where to start.  Jay recommends that, wherever you start, you remove everything from that room (or area if doing a whole room isn’t possible) and making it earn its way back in.  It gives you the chance to look at each item and decide if it is worth keeping.  By starting over, we are able to see our stuff more clearly.  It’s also easier to see what we actually want to move back into a space, and what we were keeping just because it was there.

Trash, treasure or transfer

Once we’ve moved everything out of a space, we decide if it is trash and should actually be thrown out or recycled, a treasure we will keep (only if it’s something we will actually use or enjoy) or something to transfer to someone else or to a thrift shop.


Before putting anything back in the space, have a reason for keeping the item.  Do you use it semi-frequently?  Keep.  Is it something you love to look at every day, something that gives you joy?  Keep.  Is it neither of those?  Consider whether it’s something you really need at all.  Jay cautions us not to keep things because someone gave them to us and we feel obligated to do so.  It is a very rare person who really wants you to be inconvenienced by their gifts and keep them no matter what.  Most people want to make you happy with gift-giving, so if what they have given you isn’t adding to your life, it’s ok to get rid of it.  Would you force someone to keep something they didn’t want and couldn’t use just because you gave it to them?  Probably not.  Shouldn’t you think as highly of your friends and relatives?

Everything in its place

Everything in its place is pretty self-explanatory.   All of the things you keep should have a place.  Nothing should be left sitting on the floor or on a table, it should all have a home of its own.  Which brings us to keeping all flat surfaces clear.  If your home is like mine, if there is a flat surface it will quickly fill up with papers, books, toys and anything else that you can imagine.  Keep surfaces clear of everything because if you let one thing land, it will bring friends.


As for modules, many of you will have already heard this advice.  Just like a school classroom, divide your rooms into modules based on what you do in each area.  In your kitchen have an area to store all of your baking stuff, for example.


Limit what you hold on to in other ways too.  For example, you may have a collection that you love, but you could limit it to your 5 or 10 favorite items.  That way you can still collect, but instead of just gathering more and more items, you are working more to perfect your collection.  If you find something that fits in, decide if it will replace something you already have, or if you should pass on it.

If one comes in, one goes out

The one in – one out rule is a great one.  Once you have paired things down, don’t start buying more and filling up all the space you just cleared.  Once you have the right amount of clothing for your needs, don’t bring in something new unless you are getting rid of something old.  The same goes for everything else – books, furniture, etc.

Narrow down

Narrow down your possessions as much as you can.  Keep only what is necessary, needed or loved.   Keep working at this on an ongoing basis.  Keep in mind, as Jay says in her book, that what you consider a necessary amount of stuff may differ from her idea or my idea.  Everyone has different needs, and different comfort levels with getting rid of things.  Just don’t keep things for no reason.

Everyday maintnenance

Once you have completed all of the other steps, the only thing left to do is maintain your newly found space.  A small amount of work on a daily basis, and being somewhat vigilant to be sure things don’t start creeping in when you’re not looking, and you’ll be able to keep things organized.

Putting it together

The third part of the book is a room by room guide to help you declutter each room.  You can do them in the order in the book, or start where you want and jump around as you see fit.  Jay recommends starting wherever you feel is the most important place for you to start, whichever room bothers you the most in my recommendation.

Moving forward

The final section is on the minimalist lifestyle, introducing it to your family by setting the example for them, and especially how minimalism benefits the planet.

I really liked this book.  While I don’t see myself becoming a minimalist in the traditional sense any time soon, I did like the way she explained minimalism as something that isn’t cut and dried.  It’s not one specific way of doing things.  It’s more about not having unnecessary things in our lives which keep us from actually enjoying our homes as much as we could.