Before you start declutterring

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in , ,

Note: These are my notes that I collected from the Melbourne Minimalist Meetups! This one is from The Expert Series: Organising with Tanya Lewis. The last one I shared here was on Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). 

Some of the minimalists from MMM! ( photo courtesy of Tanya Lewis)

Some of the minimalists from MMM! ( photo courtesy of Tanya Lewis)

A few weeks ago we had Tanya Lewis from EcoOrganiser, a professional organiser,  come and speak with the Melbourne Minimalists.

I met Tanya through strange circumstances at The MInimalists event in Melbourne. During the meet and greet  one of the people  who came up to me was Tanya and her previous client Barb.

Tanya was the person who took the initiative to send a press release to the Herald Sun on living with less, and because of that this article came about which I had the pleasure to be featured in alongside Tanya and Barb.

Being like minded people we  decided to meet up for coffee and juice to powwow. I was so impressed by Tanya I asked her to come  and give a few pointers in organising and decluttering without costing the earth. She obliged and us MMMers learnt some great things like the 10 environmentally friendly techniques that help with getting organised and staying organised. Oh, and they all happen to start with Rs (I have strong positive feeling towards alliteration). The 10 Rs are

1. Rethink

Think about how much stuff you really need? Do  you really need 30 pairs of shoes? Why do you think you need so much of the same thing? There's always a deeper reason why we do what we do. We need to ask th

2. Responsible

Realise that there is no throwing away. Everything has to go somewhere, and when we are declutterring that somewhere is usually the landfill. With a just little bit of effort we can donate them somewhere  where they can have another life. Other options include upcycling, repurposing, and repairing

3. Refuse

As we declutter we need to address the inflow of stuff so we can maintain in the future without our stuff from taking over our life again.

The easiest way to reduce the inflow is to start refusing things that add no value to our lives. Start saying no. This can apply to all aspect of your life- whether they are newsletters clogging up your inbox, to events and responsibilities that clutter your schedule. Prioritisation is where it is at!

4. Repurpose

Please get rid off stuff that doesn't have any use for you, but there are times where things can be repurposed into something great and useful with just a little bit of effort. For whole lot of repurposing inspiration click here

5. Reorganise

There's an efficient way to store and do things. Give your things a constant home that makes sense in a way that they are easy to find and use. The idea is to not have things but not use because it is too much of a bother to get them and use them.


Love the fabric of a shirt but it’s fraying at the edges? Turn into something else that adds value to your life. I turned one of my old 100% cashmere vests  into a hot water bottle cosy. It had several holes, so I altered it a bit and now I have super soft hot water bottle cosy. 

Giving the stuff you loved another life by repairing or restyling reduces waste and preserves our finite natural resources.

Just because something has a hole or a button has fallen off doesn’t mean you have to throw it into landfill. Learning how to sew a button can save your favourite sweater and add some more time before it really bites the dust.  If you don't have a clue on how to repair or restyle  ask a friend or a family member for help and offer to do them a favour in exchange (Ask, and you shall receive).


Often we overestimate our needs. That’s why we buy too much, order too much and have a junk drawer full useless crap.  Be honest with yourself and  get to know how much you need - you’ll even save money with this trick. 

8. Reuse/Refill

Have a jar of handwash? Just use the container again  You can get them refilled for a lot cheaper. This used to be a bit difficult but more and more places are popping up where you can take your own containers. If you are in Melbourne or Sydney try The Source and Shop Neutral at Prahran Market to get your jars refilled.

Furthermore, don't dismiss the humble library card. These days the library is not just for borrowing hard copy books but also a good place to pick up DVDs, audiobooks, and ebooks ( with the latter you don't even have to go into the library #winning!).

9. Recycle

Recycling should be the last step after going through the all the other Rs. Recycling is usually better than throwing away but it still takes energy and effort to recycle. If you follow the above tips the amount you are recycling would decrease considerably. 

N.B Make sure you know what you can recycle at home, and what materials require a different service.

10. Reward

Lastly when you have finished doing any of these Rs reward yourself  for finishing the task. Simplifying and organising is not an exercise in self hating and punishment. It's about creating a better life and future  by getting rid of some useless crap and instilling good habits for a better tomorrow. So, do something that's fun and rewarding when you finish an organising task. My favourite reward is dancing like a loon for solid amount of time.

What would you do to reward yourself after getting organised?

With love and simplicity,



How to Start De-Clutterring

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


When I realised I had too much stuff that I didn't need or love I decided to get rid of it. In the beginning I started a without a plan and de-clutterred my way through a lot of stuff. I was overwhelmed most of the time. I was tired, both physically and mentally. Through trial and error I have a system that works better now. If you have decided to and simplify, here is a simple and mindful way to start.

1. Start slow. Don't rush the process

Section off a small area like a tabletop, or a single drawer and start there. While it may seem small compared to the mountains of stuff you may need to get through, don't worry. It's better to start small. if you start big it is easy to get overwhelmed halfway though and never finish. By starting slow it makes it easier to start, and finish.

When I started to de-clutter, I started like a maniac. I would spend hours and hours sorting things out. I did this because I wanted to get rid of all the junk as soon as possible, because looking at the stuff made me sick and if I got rid of it quick enough I wouldn't have to deal with the reasons behind the accumulation of stuff. It is better to go through it mindfully and asking yourself through the process what are the reasons for hanging on these things. Knowing why the things accumulated in the first place helps us understand the reasons behind our actions. This way it's easier formulate a strategy to reduce clutter coming in so we don't end up in the same situation. Helpful questions to ask yourself during this step are 'Why did I buy this?' and 'Why am I keeping this?'.

2. Sort your stuff into three categories; yes, no, and maybe

Sort out everything into categories of yes, no, and maybe. The items you definitely want to keep goes to the yes pile. These are the things that add value to your life. The no items are the stuff that have no use anymore. If you haven't used an item for a year, it should go into the no pile. Decide what to do with the no items before you start. Mine either got binned or donated, depending on the qualities of the items.

I noticed I had lots of 'just in case' items that haven't been used for years. For example, a big puffy coat was kept just in case if I went skiing. I had to remind myself this is not the depression era. If I did go skiing I could rent a coat. Plus, that coat was doing no good in the closet by not being used, when there are homeless people with no coats. 

The stuff in the maybe pile are things that are not used or appreciated, but are difficult to part with. Most of the maybe items were items I once loved, or things that brought good memories.  But why were they neglected and stored away if I like them so much? There was no point in having things if they are hidden away. So I took photos of the items I wanted to look at, and scanned the cards and letters that I wanted to read.  They are now seen and  appreciated  as a slideshow when my computer goes to sleep. Some items I placed in prime viewing areas, where they got the appreciation they deserved. The rest of it, eventually, went to the no pile.

If that seems a bit drastic, not to worry. Some people box and tape up their maybe stuff for six months, and if they need anything from it within the six months they can keep those items. If at the end of the six months you can't remember what is in it, then you can get rid of it. This way you don't have to deal with getting rid of things immediately.

P.S. Don't throw away those financial statements and other important documents, you need to keep those. 

3. Congratulate  yourself

Take pride in how clean and neat the area looks. Take a deep breath or two. Note how it makes you feel. Celebrate your accomplishment, of sticking to your word. You said you would do something, and you did it!  When I de-cluttered an area I couldn't help myself from looking at the clean shelf or that clutter free table and smile. Having only things you love and use feels good, so enjoy that feeling a little longer. Have a little dance party. It's important to acknowledge your accomplishments, before you move on to the next task.

4. Rinse and repeat

Schedule a different area to de-clutter on a different day, and repeat the steps above. Slowly but surely you will have conquered the overwhelming mountain of stuff in small and manageable steps. Celebrate again.

The next phase is maintaining those newly clutter free areas.  Maintenance is important to keep your life from becoming cluttered again, so you enjoy a clutter free lifestyle most of the time, rather than a brief period after a spring clean. I'll address maintenance in another blogpost, so stay tuned.

Now you know how to start de-cluttering, what is one area that you would like to tackle today? 

With love, and simplicity,