Life Advice

How to streamline your life

We’re all carrying around too much baggage. Here’s how to lighten the load

Let’s face it: we all want to be more minimalist. Streamlining your life, and your possessions, is a reoccurring facet of modern life – let’s call it the Marie Kondo effect.

But, unfortunately, it turns out we’re all closet hoarders, according to a new survey by Movinga. After following 18,000 households over 20 different countries to compare individual’s perceptions of how much they own versus how much they use, they found that we’re all collectively deluded about the percentage of our clothes, food and possessions we actually need – and how much goes to waste. Hint: it’s a lot, and the UK is one of the biggest culprits for a lapse of judgement when it comes to our consumption levels.

But help is at hand. We tracked down three experts across the fields of clothing, food and organisation for their best advice on how to streamline your life – and avoid waste as much as possible.

how to streamline your life

Your wardrobe

‘We face so many decisions throughout our day that you don’t want more to think about first thing in the morning,’ says style consultant Daniel Johnson. ‘That’s why it’s important to streamline your wardrobe, and coordinate your clothes to work with each other.’

His top tip for organising your wardrobe – and your morning routine – is to focus on a smaller choice of higher quality pieces. ‘There is a suggestion about well-dressed people that they have extensive wardrobes. I’m sure that is true for a few people but I like to buy less quantity, better quality clothing that lasts and allows choice.’

He advises keeping things simple. ‘Often people try and create a personality through their clothing. I like to do the reverse. Simplify your wardrobe to allow your personality to show through. If you’ve built a great core wardrobe of well-fitted shirts, trousers, jeans and so on then you just top the wardrobe up seasonally and allow your style to evolve.’

For ensuring your wardrobe stays streamlined over the long term, he advises building a core wardrobe of basics. ‘Start with the essentials: white shirts, jeans, brogues. It can take a little time but it’s worth ordering 10 white shirts to find the perfect fit (or as close as possible). Then send the rest back and order it several different colours. This way you’ll never look in the wardrobe and see a garment that you know is going to be uncomfortable or unflattering. You’ll be surprised how little you need compared to what you thought you did.’

how to streamline your life

Your kitchen

Shockingly, we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK – around 15% of what we buy, according to the Movinga survey. We turned to chef and founder of London catering company George’s Kitchen, George Rouse, for his tips on how to reduce food waste.

‘Reducing food waste is an incredibly efficient way of saving money; if you’re throwing out ingredients unnecessarily, you’ll lose money as a direct result,’ he explains. ‘Money aside, composting, or donating unused ingredients to a food bank, are a way of giving back to the environment and your community.’

As a grassroots way to reduce waste, George advises that we ‘purchase food proportionate to the number of people you’ll be serving and use tried-and-tested recipes. This will reduce the likelihood of unnecessary waste. Similarly, don’t buy on an empty stomach – whether you care to admit it or not, we all over buy when we’re hungry. Also, freeze food which hasn’t been finished, this will make for delicious pre-prepared lunches or dinners later in the week.’

Finally, when it comes to reducing food waste, organisation is his key recommendation. ‘Plan your meals for the week. Also, work out how much your meals cost per person and in turn, how much you’ve lost by letting extra portions go to waste… this realisation alone is likely to ensure this advice is maintained moving forward.’

how to streamline your life

Your belongings

According to the Movinga survey, people in the UK doesn’t use a third of the belongings they own. There’s a spectrum of reasons why we hang onto unnecessary ‘stuff’, professional organiser Cory Cook explains. ‘For instance, we’re compelled to store things that ‘might be useful someday’, even though we have no known imminent need. But keeping hold of anything and everything can cause overwhelm ing guilt, anxiety, stress and frustration. Reducing unnecessary possessions improves not only your physical space, but also your mental space and overall well-being. Reducing the ‘visual noise’ screaming in your home promotes a state of calm and increases your ability to focus, concentrate or simply relax.’

To control the tidal wave of possessions, Cory recommends a few simple steps. Firstly, ‘get to grips with who and where you are in life today – and where you’re headed. This will help you determine which items are no longer relevant.’ Then pace yourself. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, so divide and conquer. De-cluttering is really a process of decision-making and thus mentally taxing. Working in time blocks helps ensure you won’t run out of steam.’ Next, ‘use questions to guide your decisions, to really get to the heart of whether something warrants a place in your home. Would you buy it again? Would you chase a robber down the street for it?’ Finally, ‘remove the unwanted possessions from your home as soon as humanly possible. Don’t let all that good decision-making go to waste.’

To continue this streamlined approach in the future, Cory says that it’s all down to creating a system – and then sticking to it. ‘Every item you keep should have a dedicated home. If it doesn’t, create one. Put things away logically based on where you use them, and make it equally easy to put things away. Only buy what you need, when you need it. You’ll feel good using up what you have and not waste valuable space on unnecessary surplus.’ Lastly, she advises nurturing the habit of editing: ‘carve out 15-20 minutes a day to reorganise and tidy up, ready for tomorrow.’