New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living

New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living

by Cary Telander Fortin, Kyle Louise Quilici


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The decluttering craze meets a passion for sustainable living and interior design in this gorgeous new book for readers of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

This book promises an opportunity for self-reflection and lasting change, by getting to the bottom of why we've accumulated too much stuff in the first place, therefore allowing us to transform our lives. Professional decluttering and design team Cary and Kyle of New Minimalism will take you through every step, from assessing your emotional relationship to your stuff to decluttering your home to then turning it into a beautifully designed space that feels clean and tidy without feeling sparse or prescriptive. And all of this without filling up a landfill—you'll find resources and strategies to donate and reuse your stuff so you don't have to feel guilty about getting rid of it!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632171320
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Publication date: 01/02/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 636,695
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

CARY TELANDER FORTIN specializes in the psychology behind decision-making and attachments, as well as connecting with new organizations who can benefit from clients' donations. She graduated with honors from Dartmouth College with a degree in psychology.

KYLE LOUISE QUILICI specializes in creating beautiful spaces using the items clients already own and love. She graduated from Boston College with a degree in organizational behavior, studied interior design at Parsons School of Design in New York and earned her certificate in sustainable design from UC Berkeley's Extension.  

Together as NEW MINIMALISM, Cary and Kyle have conducted hundreds of decluttering sessions and as a result they have donated over 10,675 cubic feet of clothing, art supplies, furniture, and decor to local charities; that's the equivalent of over 427 bath tubs.

Read an Excerpt


Laying the Foundation


We met in perhaps the most California way possible: carpooling from our apartments in San Francisco to a weekend yoga retreat in the mountains of Ojai, Right away, we bonded over our matching early-'90s Ford Explorers (while Kyle's was still running, Cary reminisced about her "Exploder," which had just passed on to the scrap yard). Twenty minutes in, we laughed about how we'd both bartered and found ways to go on this retreat for free. Less than an hour into our drive south, we were knee-deep in philosophies of sustainability, living simply, and the connection between the two.

It was the spring of 2011, and without knowing one another, we'd been walking parallel, if quirky, paths on our way to distilling a desire for living kindly, simply, and mindfully into a functional lifestyle. Cary had recently stepped away from a career in corporate law and was cutting her personal consumption habits as a result. She was experimenting in all ways possible to find the boundary between what was too little and what was enough in order to reach a place of financial freedom. Kyle, on the other hand, had been studying the intersection of sustainability and interior design. She knew there was a way to improve interior spaces without the traditional approach of buy, buy, buy.

Even though we arrived at minimalism from different backgrounds, we connected most over a shared epiphany. Prior to embarking on our paths of these new lifestyles, we had each held the belief that simplicity was synonymous with sacrifice and discomfort. We thought that cutting back on the hyper-consumption of the culture surrounding us would feel restricting, limiting, and like we were missing out. But once we actually started to employ these practices, we were blown away by the litany of positive side effects. We had more time, we saved more money, we had flexibility within our schedules, we developed more meaningful relationships. What we had thought would be painful and uncomfortable was instead liberating and joyful. We were experiencing peace of mind.

After the retreat, we promised to stay in touch. After all, how often do you meet your philosophical soul mate while sitting in California highway traffic? Of course, back in the city, real life resumed, and we were each sucked back into our work and personal lives. Apparently the universe decided to give us one more shot, though: we literally ran into each other on Fillmore Street in San Francisco a few months later. Maybe it was something about our second chance encounter, about remembering that there was another person in this big city with these same weird ideas, but this time it stuck. We committed then and there to meet for coffee every other month to share ideas and inspiration. Kyle would share her favorite sustainable-design websites, mindfulness books, and vegetarian recipes. Cary would share the piles of new books she'd checked out from the library on simple living, personal growth, and decision making.

We kept wondering: Why hadn't anyone ever told us about this concept of minimalism before? Why didn't more people know about this amazing secret we'd stumbled upon? And why was our entire society geared toward supporting the opposite as being true — that material acquisition and the pursuit of money, power, and position equate to happiness? Like any great discovery, it became our mission to share this lifestyle with the world.

We boiled it down to helping others remove the excess. We began to work out our decluttering methodology by practicing on open and willing friends who either had expressed frustration with their things or lived in spaces that we saw had great potential. With each carload of donations we brought to a local church or a women's shelter or an elementary school, we felt our hearts grow. With each friend that we left with a simplified, inspiring home came deep feelings of satisfaction.

And then, as the weeks went by and these same clients told us about the big life changes they'd made — the new partners who had entered into their lives, their new passion for living with minimal waste, their newfound comfort in their homes — we knew that we had found our sweet spot. We'd created for ourselves a job that helped others and aligned with our passion for the environment, all while creating intentional and beautiful spaces. We get to make hard things easier. To lighten burdens, to lift spirits, to open space for happiness and creativity. We find it an honor to bear witness to the things that people part with, to celebrate their rediscovery of an item they deeply love, to support them through the challenges of the process, and to shepherd them into a new phase in their lives.

Cary's most recent move to Boise, Idaho, expanded our base of readers and clients and also brought about another level of growth in our philosophy. Her new house was significantly larger than the one-bedroom apartment she'd shared with her husband, Cam, for six years. As such, Kyle and Cary began discussing a new set of questions; How does a minimalist live well when space is no longer restricted? How do those of us who live in suburbs or more rural areas connect with donation partners? How do we view our things knowing they might actually be more challenging to replace than by just walking down a city block with a vast selection of stores? How do we keep our elevated standards for what enters our lives when there is plenty of room? This move expanded and deepened our understanding of minimalism across geographic lines.


While many aspects of our process developed over time and through practice, there is one condition that we knew from the very inception of New Minimalism; we are not home organizers. Let us repeat; this book is not about organization. In our process we first and foremost declutter, and we will tell you why this distinction matters.

A home organizer will take all your worldly possessions and perfectly organize, color-code, and alphabetize them. At New Minimalism, however, we have you question whether those items should even be there in the first place, A perfectly organized space does not automatically mean you lead an effortless, clutter-free life, In fact, the need for a complicated organizational system is usually indicative of too much stuff to begin with, A beautiful, easy-to-maintain, organized home is simply one of many positive by-products of a thoughtfully curated and decluttered life,

When in pursuit of restoring order to your home, look not to the big-box home organizing stores and magazines for answers, Their solutions beckon with promises of order and free time, But in reality, most of those multicolored stacking plastic drawers are where your things go to die, Once you finally haul those drawers home and neatly tuck away all your doodads, those items are now out of sight, out of mind, and pretty much guaranteed to never be engaged with again, How sad!

Effortful and intricate organization systems are entirely against the greater point of having your things work for you, Complicated systems require time and money to obtain, effort to install, and constant energy to keep up, Be wary of any system that requires a significant amount of your time to maintain, Do you really want to spend an hour of your precious Saturday afternoon maintaining your recipe archives or your tool shed? All for a system that is supposedly making things easier for you? We didn't think so, And as such we always default to the simplest, easiest systems possible.

If you were looking for the can opener in Cary's kitchen, it would be in the one drawer designated for kitchen tools, That's it, No labeled slot the can opener must be returned to, It's just in the drawer with the six or so other tools she uses all the time, Similarly, Kyle corrals her pajamas in a small basket in her closet, Sometimes the clothes are folded; sometimes they are floating free, But what allows this version of contained chaos to work is the fact that there are few items in the basket to begin with.


Imagine two different closets. The first is packed full with clothing. Clothes are stacked dozens high on every shelf; they spill out of drawers and share hangers with other items of clothing. Sure, there are many options of things to wear. But how accessible are those options? And how much time does it take to find exactly what you are looking for? And what emotions do you experience when you try to grab a pair of pants and nine others fall onto the floor, or when you can't remember where you hung something up, whether it's dirty, or what pile it might be in or under?

Now imagine a second closet. It looks like the inside of a curated clothing boutique. Each item is elegantly draped from its own hanger. The hangers are spaced so that every garment can be seen and each hanger can be easily grabbed. Folded clothing exists in manageable stacks three or four items tall. A couple of scarves live loose in a bin, and a week's worth of undershirts are casually placed in their own drawer.

The second closet does not have more space than the first. It does not have complicated racks installed for shoes, nor does it have pants stored on elaborate, multitiered hanger systems. There are no specialty wall-mounted bins to hold a collection of evening clutches nor airtight bags for confining voluminous sweaters. The primary difference between the two closets is the quantity of items inside.

The same exact closet that seems hopelessly overwhelming, cramped, and dark can be made to feel light, elegant, and accessible simply by reducing the number of items you attempt to store inside. We've seen it happen hundreds of times. When the number of items in an area suits the space, you will find that organization simply emerges.


Evolutionary speaking, it used to be in our best interest to hold on to things as they came into our lives: resources were rare and could be the difference between surviving or dying. This reality changed with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, when all varieties of goods became cheaper and more readily available to the masses. We had life-changing new inventions like the dishwasher, the washing machine, and cars — what more could we want? Not much. What we wanted was to enjoy and savor this newfound leisure time. And as a result, consumption of goods began to slow.

Fast-forward to World War II, and this consumer contentment was now at odds with our new economy. As economist Victor Lebow noted in his 1955 article for the Journal of Retailing, "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life." So how did we transition from content people whose needs were being met to overconsumers of things we don't need? Enter our modern-day big-budget multimedia advertising industry.

Today, to keep the wheels of consumption turning, advertising companies not only hire the brightest business minds and spend billions of dollars convincing us to buy things we don't need but also employ a sneaky technique called neuromarketing. With the help of neuroscientists, advertisers can now tap into both our conscious and unconscious brain to override our natural circuitry, which would normally tell us that we are content and that we have enough.

Instead, advertisements trigger our reptilian brain and make us feel that we are lacking something. And then, once we are in this vulnerable place, we are conveniently presented with the item that will solve this "problem." Oh dear, you eat food? You probably suffer from bad breath. It's likely the reason you never seem to find a relationship. Here, try this mouthwash to attract your soul mate!

With New Minimalism, we ask you to pause and reevaluate your previously reactive buying habits. Now every thoughtful purchase — and nonpurchase — is an act of rebellion, a declaration to businesses and advertisers that you are not merely a passive consumer purchasing according to their advertising calendar and quarterly financial forecasts. Your purchasing power is one part of this wild and unpredictable life that you can control. We encourage you to exercise this right.


* Work until you are sixty-five.

* Upgrade your phone, computer, and TV as soon as you have space on your credit card.

* Save 5 percent of your annual income.

* Buy as big a house as your mortgage lender says you can afford.

* Treat yourself to luxury goods and services — you've worked so hard, you deserve it.

* Buy your kids the newest toys for each birthday and holiday — that's how you show love.

* Constantly revamp your wardrobe — you need to keep up with the newest trends.

The above messages are sent to us constantly via advertising, but they're also taught to us in school and pervade most news sources. When we're continually fed these opinions, they gain the weight of fact; they seem unavoidable, inalterable.

By living simple lives, we learn that these messages just aren't true. You get to choose your life, and you get to decide how you spend your time and your money.

And while the assumptions above may seem reasonable enough, there is something maleficent lurking below the surface. When enough people begin to say something is impossible (saving 71 percent of your income, not producing any trash, retiring at thirty), it begins to seem true. And when things seem impossible, we begin to give away our power, believing we cannot control what we own, how we spend our time or money, or how we use our space.

The first thing we do with our clients is get an understanding of how they want to feel in their space and the values they would like their home to support. We cannot walk in and say, "Get rid of this plate" or "You must keep that painting," because we know that every person, family, and home is unique.

After this introductory fact-finding, we assess each and every item with fresh eyes, determining whether it should stay or be donated based on how well it serves those values and desires.

The first step is always the same: question everything. By this we mean start from a place of compassionate curiosity and question everything that you've brought into your life so far. Ask yourself a new type of question, like "Can I live without this?" or "Does this really bring me happiness?" or "Is this something that I am actively choosing for myself or just something that I've always had?" This helps you to start from scratch without any limitations or beliefs about what you should have or want. Instead, you dream up your own ideal future and then reconstruct your space with that vision in mind.


In order to declutter, it's probably best to have a clear understanding of what clutter is. defines clutter as "a disorderly heap or assemblage." Based on this definition, one might presume that an organized heap or assemblage is no longer considered clutter. We have seen dozens of organized and orderly spaces that are still full of clutter. Others might tell you that it's not clutter if it gives you extreme happiness or joy. But we've found that subjective definitions of joy can be a slippery slope and can be used to justify keeping your fifteenth supercute swimsuit. Others believe that clutter begins only after you hit "x" number of items. The prescriptive definitions of clutter are wide and varied, and we don't agree with any of them.

Now, Peter Walsh, Oprah's organization guru, defines clutter as "anything that stands between you and the vision you have for your best life," OK, this definition is getting warmer. We believe that clutter is best defined individually and situationally, Through questioning everything, people get to determine how they want to feel in a space (for example, joyful, calm, or inspired) and their own lifestyle needs and desires, The material items that don't support this vision are clutter,


When was the last time you brought a new possession into your home? Maybe it was an article of clothing, a piece of decor, or something small like a new mug or a set of pens, Today, possibly, Maybe yesterday. Almost certainly this week, For the typical American, a new item enters the home almost dally, An Amazon package arriving at your doorstep with a new book or a quick dash into a store for a pair of shoes has shockingly turned into a part of everyday life for a lot of people, Add to this the half-dozen life events when we are showered with gifts, and is it any surprise that the average American household contains three hundred thousand items?


Excerpted from "New Minimalism"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici.
Excerpted by permission of Sasquatch Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, vii,
Chapter 1: Laying the Foundation, 03,
Chapter 2: The Deeluttering Mind-Set, 21,
Chapter 3: The Archetypes, 35,
Chapter 4: Deeluttering + Design, 59,
Chapter 5: The Process, 73,
Chapter 6: Category by Category, 91,
Wardrobe + Accessories, 91,
Kitchen + Entertaining, 96,
Household Supplies + Toiletries, 106,
Paperwork + Home Office, 116,
Hobbies, Sports + Toys, 124,
Sentimental Items + Keepsakes, 131,
Decor + Furniture, 139,
Chapter 7: The Design Principles, 147,
Afterword, 179,
Resources, 185,
Acknowledgments, 188,
Chapter Notes, 189,
Index, 192,

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