Published on September 6, 2017 — Leave a comment

Declutter Your Life: New Minimalism Founders Share the Biggest Reward to Joining the Movement

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We’ve always been intrigued by minimalism. We’ve read the books (Marie Kondo, you inspire us every day), we’ve seen the documentaries (Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things), we’ve heard all the promises of a better life. But it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone, including us. We’ve come to think of minimalism as a skill. It’s not something you do once, but something you practice, finding the right balance for you and your family.

When we found out that the founders of New Minimalism lived right here in our hometown, we took the opportunity to hear more about this life-changing movement and score some super valuable decluttering tips and tricks along the way. Here, home and closet experts Cary Fortin (declutter) and Kyle Quilici (design) share their wisdom with us.

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Photo: Sarah Deragon

What’s the first thing you each notice when you enter a new client’s home?
Kyle does a pretty great job of reading the space/state of the home, e.g.: are there unfinished projects lying about, cluttered surfaces and overflowing laundry bins–and then understanding how that must reflect the number of projects a person takes on, if they’re overwhelmed, and so on. Cary reads the energy of the person as we receive a tour through their space. She looks to see if they blush or hunch their shoulders, if they quickly steer us past a crowded closet, if they use dismissive language in talking about their aesthetics or space. All of this lets us know: how much physical stuff needs to leave to make the space feel good and how prepared the client is to really commit to the decluttering process.


Photo: Ryan Devisser

What​ ​are​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​similarities​ ​and​ ​trends​ ​you​ ​see​ ​across​ ​clients’​ ​homes?
While​ ​people’s​ ​belongings,​ ​living​ ​situations,​ ​and​ ​homes​ ​are​ ​all​ ​different,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​some​ ​universal​ ​truths​ ​about clutter.​ ​​We’ve​ ​noticed​ ​certain​ ​personality​ ​types​ ​and​ ​ways​ ​of​ ​relating​ ​to​ ​stuff​ ​that​ ​exist​ ​across​ ​demographic differences.​ ​​We’ve​ ​also​ ​seen​ ​that​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​most​ ​together,​ ​successful,​ ​seemingly​ ​orderly​ ​people​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world can​ ​have​ ​totally​ ​chaotic​ ​homes.​ ​​Lastly,​ ​something​ ​almost​ ​all​ ​of​ ​our​ ​clients​ ​have​ ​in​ ​common​ ​is​ ​that​ ​they​ ​are going​ ​through​ ​some​ ​type​ ​of​ ​transformation​ ​and​ ​are​ ​thus​ ​ready​ ​for​ ​their​ ​space​ ​to​ ​transform​ ​as​ ​well.​ ​​Whether​ ​it’s a​ ​marriage​ ​or​ ​divorce,​ ​the​ ​birth​ ​of​ ​a​ ​child,​ ​a​ ​new​ ​job,​ ​a​ ​medical​ ​diagnosis,​ ​or​ ​a​ ​move,​ ​there​ ​tends​ ​to​ ​be​ ​some sort​ ​of​ ​internal​ ​or​ ​external​ ​pressure​ ​that​ ​leads​ ​to​ ​the​ ​epiphany:​ ​I’m​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​have​ ​less​ s​​tuff.

“Get clear super on your priorities and your desires for your life.”

If our readers want to start the process of decluttering, where would you suggest they start?
The first step is the most important: get clear super on your priorities and your desires for your life. Once you know this, you have a personalized filter which makes decluttering exponentially simpler and easier. If you’re unclear, you’ll struggle, have your heartstrings tugged, hem and haw over every decision. If instead you know exactly how you want to feel, the decision is self -evident. That relieves so much pressure from the process.

What are some of your best tips and tricks for cleaning out a closet?
One tip: enlist help. Cleaning out a closet (or any area of the home for that matter) can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to have a supportive, honest, objective perspective and an extra set of hands in the process. The next tip is to empty everything out. Make no assumptions and instead open-mindedly review each item. Lastly, before you start purging, make sure that you organize all your garments like with like. For example, pile all sweaters together, lay all pants in one pile, all tops in another. You do this b efore deciding what to do with each item so that you can clearly see overlap, duplicates and the sheer volume of things you own. Every time we stage the client remarks, “Wow, I had no idea I had this many (f ill in the blank ).”

“Every woman needs her go-to, everyday outfit that makes her feel amazing.”

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Photo: Sarah Deragon

Tell us a bit about your partnerships with charitable organizations:
These relationships are some of the most rewarding parts of our work. Some relationships are formal: we go into an organization, explain what we do, let them know that we have items donated on a regular basis that we believe could serve them, and ask what specific needs they have and what their storage capacities are. Other relationships are far more casual and are more the result of us having items we want to go to a good home and then connecting with people in our community.

What brought the two of you together to start this company?
We first met when we carpooled together to a yoga retreat in Ojai, CA. We inevitably started talking about sustainable living concepts and realized we had this particular interest in common. We shared inspiration and ideas over coffee dates for months following the retreat. After about a year and a half we both had the time, space, and burning desire to create our own careers. Having experienced so many benefits from our lifestyle changes toward minimalism, we thought, hey, why don’t we try to teach others what we’ve taught ourselves?

“If it’s not a “hell yes!”, it’s a no.”

What questions do you ask yourself and your clients when deciding whether to get rid of something?
For clothing in particular, the same questions apply to when we’re looking at our own wardrobes or helping clients with theirs. Asking the popular question, “Does this T-shirt give me joy?” is one that many will have heard. Sure, that filter can work for some people, but we’ve found that an item can give a person joy and yet their unique lives still render it totally excessive. Questions we prefer are far more tailored.

We will ask our client how they want to feel day-to-day, what the sensations and desired emotions are (like: at ease, femininity, fluid, powerful, joyful, etc.). We then use those exact words to ask, “Does this sweater make you feel joyful/feminine/powerful? Is this item easy to wear? Do you feel great in it?” We also encourage clients to be ruthless on fit and style; any garment in your closet should fit you and work well in a variety of situations. Basically if it’s not a “hell yes!”, it’s a no.


Photo: Ryan Devisser

What’s​ ​the​ ​biggest​ ​reward​ ​in​ ​living​ ​a​ ​minimalist​ ​lifestyle?
Hands​ ​down​ ​it’s​ ​freedom​ ​and​ ​flexibility​ ​that​ ​comes​ ​with​ ​a​ ​minimalist​ ​lifestyle!​ ​​For​ ​each​ ​person,​ ​how​ ​they​ ​chose to​ ​use​ ​their​ ​new​ ​found​ ​space,​ ​money​ ​and​ ​time​ ​will​ ​be​ ​different.​ ​​​We​ ​both​ ​read​ ​more,​ ​cook​ ​more,​ ​get​ ​outside more​ ​and​ ​have​ ​more​ ​quality​ ​time​ ​to​ ​enjoy​ ​our​ ​family​ ​and​ ​friends.

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Photo: Anna-Alexia Bastille

What’s the biggest challenge in living a minimalist lifestyle?
Minimalism can be a divisive topic, and it’s important that we aim for a compassionate tone, rather than a preachy one. We remind ourselves constantly that everyone is on their own journey. We are enthusiastic about sharing this lifestyle with others because we’ve experienced s o many benefits. But it can be hard when, for example, you have a family member who is accustomed to “showing their love” with physical gifts. We have to reinforce the people around us that we are minimalists who are so grateful to have what we need, and don’t need more physical gifts.

“Secondhand clothes are our secret style weapon!”

What is your philosophy on style and fashion?
You can be a minimalist and have style at the same time! We get into a certain look and rock it for a while, and after a couple years, when we are thoroughly “over it”, we donate and move onto to something else that inspires us. We also believe in automating certain parts of our wardrobe and embrace the capsule wardrobe.

Kyle for example has a work uniform she wears every day to clients sessions which includes: a button-down sleeveless denim shirt, black jeans and surprise, surprise, Converse high-tops. Cary’s work uniform is her favorite pair or two of high rise jeans (high rise being in style is such a boon to our professional life —so much bending down:), a knit tank layered with one of her favorite secondhand cashmere sweaters, and designer shoes from eBay.


Photo: Sarah Deragon

“thredUP empowers women to let go of garments that they no longer need or love, in turn helping them to create more spacious and functional closets.”

What are your thoughts on thredUP?
We love thredUP for three main reasons. One, any item in a minimalist wardrobe gets a lot of wear, so purchasing objects of high quality (which thredUP has an abundance of) is crucial. Secondly, by creating a marketplace for secondhand items, thredUP empowers women to let go of garments that they no longer need or love, in turn helping them to create more spacious and functional closets. Third, thredUP reduces waste by giving a viable second life to objects that are still good instead of having them end up in the landfill. Also, Cary (who is entering her third trimester with her first child) is so grateful to find a place where women can buy affordable but quality maternity garments!

What are your thoughts on minimalism? Have you given it a try? Order a Clean Out Bag today and tell us all about it! Let us know in the comments!