Are you ready to feel inspired, motivated, and ready to tackle the clutter in your home for good? Today, we’re interviewing our very own Whitney English—founder of Day Designer, wife, mom, business coach, and soon-to-be-author!
Read on to discover Whitney’s own personal motivation for tackling the clutter in her life, the planning strategies that work best for her and her family, her top tips for living a decluttered life—and the #1 way to get started!
You once said that we all crave a life full of beautiful relationships, meaningful moments, and purposeful projects. Essentially, a well-designed life. How does living a decluttered life tie into this?
There is nothing well-designed about clutter. One time, right after college and during a year I spent working a few interior design jobs down in Dallas, I remember my mom coming to stay with my in my apartment. I’ve always loved beautiful things, so at that point in my life I was operating with a “more is better” philosophy, and I had “decorations” EVERYWHERE. She left to drive back home to Oklahoma while I was at work, and I came home to a bunch of folded place cards on every counter and surface in my apartment that said, “EDIT.” Literally, three in the bathroom, two in the kitchen, and probably six between the bedroom and living room.
I got a laugh out of it, and learned an important lesson at the same time: it’s better to enjoy one beautiful thing than wrestle with the mess of many beautiful things.
What is your own personal why for eliminating clutter in your life—and how does this tie into your word for the year?
My personal word for the year is “beautiful.” I’m talking about it all the time, lately. It’s become a mantra, a sole focus, and might even end up being my word for next year, too!
My desire to chase beauty as a lifestyle started a couple of years back. I was at a live event, listening to a town designer speak about how modern neighborhoods were designed for cars, not people. He was a guy named Andres Duany, the forefront leader of a concept called “new urbanism.” One of the core tenants of New Urbanism is sustainability. In his talk, Duany posed that sustainability can be initiated when things are cared for, because they’ll last longer. And one of the ways the desire to care for things can be ignited, is to make them beautiful.
If this doesn’t make a ton of sense, he then added this layer on top of his argument: when neighborhoods are beautiful, they’re more walkable. (He cited Rome vs. New York as an example.) When neighborhoods are walkable, they’re safer, because people will be outside more often. After hearing this, the argument and justification for incorporating beauty into my family’s life became even stronger: if beauty can make neighborhoods safer and more sustainable, what other function is it serving in our lives?
I’ve been on a journey to learn more about beauty ever since then, and that has included decluttering—and appreciating—our family’s physical spaces more.
How do you get in the right mindset and make the decision process easier for yourself?
I feel like this is one of my “broken record” speeches. In today’s day and age, we’re at a greater deficit for time and white space and margin in our lives than ever before. Our attention span has been shortened, no thanks to technology and smart phones and all those gadgets that, very truthfully, we cannot live without. These devices are consuming so much of our mental space.
When I started working on creating more space in our family’s life, I approached it from two directions: first, from a mental standpoint, and then secondly, from a physical standpoint. But I found that the two approaches leaned heavily on each other, and spurred deeper dives into each arena. When I decluttered my physical space, I found more mental energy. When I worked on my mental energy, I found it easier to move forward with physical decluttering. And an effort toward mental decluttering will lead to a “declutter mindset.”
For example, someone just starting in the mental decluttering category might want to start by small exercises in letting go. That letting go could be something physical, as small as a paper clip, or something emotional, like a bad feeling. Learning to thank physical items for serving their purpose and life experiences for teaching us things is a healthy way to let go of things, with respect and gratitude. It’s a willingness to adopt these perspectives that leads to a “declutter mindset”, and even for those who have a hard time decluttering, with enough practice, you’ll find that it will be easier and easier to let go of more and more—both mentally and physically.
How does your planner help you stay on track with living a decluttered life?
Around here, we live by the philosophy that if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t happening. That’s not to say that my husband and I schedule every second of our days. But if it needs to happen, and it isn’t on the calendar, and we’re not both committed to making that thing happen, it’s just not going to happen. With three kids, there’s just too much going on.
Blocking out time helps us stay on track: our budget meeting is 30 minutes a week, no more. Our dinner prep starts at 5 and ends at 7. Workouts are in the morning after the kids are at school. These, among others, are the “big rocks” in our lives, and by putting those on our planners first, we are less likely to clutter up our schedules with activities that don’t “move the needle” toward our goals. It’s easy to confuse busy with productive when you don’t have big rocks in your planner.
What is the #1 tip you would give someone who is feeling inspired to get started right now?
Pick something small! In fact, compiling these answers to these questions has been so inspiring that I think I’ll go tackle something right now! Junk drawers are a great place to start. Anything that needs a drawer divider will feel totally refreshed after about 30 minutes. And once you get that feeling of fresh and clean and organized and easy to find, it’s addictive, I tell you. Kids clothes and shoes are another easy area to start. Or, my favorite tip, declutter the clothes while you are folding laundry!
My #1 tip though, is to start small. If you’ve never decluttered an entire house before, don’t try to do that all in the next two weeks. Schedule time in your planner to tackle different areas; practice getting rid of small things first if parting with things is hard for you. Little by little, you’ll find that it’s easier to do on the go and without thinking, until voila! You’ll find yourself living a well-designed life!
We are so grateful to Whitney for inspiring us all to live a well-designed life. What did you love hearing about most? Let us know in the comments below!