The Minimalist Wardrobe: How to downsize

When I first started getting interested in a minimalist lifestyle, not buying anything new wasn’t the big difficulty, but how to reduce what I already had. I somewhat followed my instinct, but looking back it could have been easier with more guidance, so I decided to create this small guide to help you downsize your wardrobe.

The Throw-out – This step is important to achieve an overview of your belongings. Go through your entire closet item by item: pants, sweaters, dresses, coats. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the past year. If you own items you consider investment pieces, but you don’t wear them – put them platforms like ebay, Vestiaire Collective or Trendsales. Getting some money back will make parting much easier. The same goes for cheaper and basic clothes that you don’t really wear anymore. Sell them on a fleamarket or ebay or donate them to local organisations.

Be Honest – Now you should be left with things that you ideally have worn within the past months making this next step significantly harder: Be honest to yourself. Do you need 6 pairs of black jeans? 8 basic shirts? 4 blazers? Pick your favorites of each type and give away the others. How many you may want to keep is up to you and depends on circumstances like your job and hobbies. I don’t need more than 2 blazers, because there’s rarely an occasion for me to wear them. On the other hand I do however need different types of shoes, because I have to go out with my dogs in any type of weather. Try to part with as much as possible, but don’t make it hard for yourself in the beginning as this may kill the the enthusiasm for minimalism.

Style & Matching – If you want to keep downsizing in the long run, you will have to own and invest in pieces that are easily combined with anything in your wardrobe. If you like wearing striped shirts and sneakers, you probably don’t need lacey skirts or colorful sweaters. Instead, basic jeans or a jeans skirt could match. Keeping a few statement pieces isn’t a problem, but I would make these the exception and try to make 85% of the wardrobe compatible. This probably means sticking to few colors – in my case it was black, grey, navy and dark green. One of my statement pieces is a bright red bag, which lightens up all my outfits. Rationally looking at your own style can be tough, so I suggest to do so over a period of a few weeks, closely watching what you wear on a daily basis.

Sort it & Watch it – Find a way to organize your clothes for a visual overview. Sort them by type and color and try to hang as many as you can (I forget about half the items that I have folded somewhere!) The clearer overview and sorting will help you keep track even better of what you’re wearing how often. If you notice an item being worn less, lay it off.

How many clothes should I own? – Some people own no more than 2 items per type, others are content with 5. Personally, I enjoy owning less and less, but this is only possible if you know your style well and have the financial resources to invest in exactly what you want – or already own it. My closet has shrunken in size and grown in quality over a long period of time. Give yourself time and let the minimal lifestyle grow on you.

As mentioned before: Becoming a minimalist is a process. You will grow more and more comfortable with less and less.

Another annoying guide telling you (how) to get rid of your shit

Decluttering is the hippest word out there at the moment, yet many find its message hard to follow: only keep the core essentials, get rid of all the rest. Decluttering can apply to pretty much any part of your life. The following post is a guide to decluttering your things. I especially recommend following this if you are planing to move in the near future. It makes things go much smoother.

Kitchen — Various mugs, glasses and cutlery? Find one style you like and give away the rest. We tend to get attached to gifts or souvenirs and mugs are popular among those. Still holding on to the Sicily mug from 8 years ago but never using it anyway? Take a deep breath and get rid of it. You own 3 pans and 6 pots of about the same size? Only keep the high quality ones. You have 5 different tools that serve basically the same function? Keep one. You own a toaster and a microwave? Unless you don’t eat toast and processed foods everyday, both functions can be taken over by your oven.

Textiles — Before my last move I was hoarding dozens of towels of all sizes and colours. High quality towels can be expensive to buy and you never know when you will need 7 at once or suddenly have 15 guests in your 40 square apartment, right? Seriously — I end up using about 4 different towels, all others just stay in the closet and take up a lot of space. Keep 2 big and 2 small towels per person and maybe one pair for guests. That’s enough. The same thing applies to bed sheets. You don’t need more than 2 per bed, as you can only use one at a time and wash the other. Pick your 2 favourites and say bye to their mates.

Beauty — Gurus, magazines and celebrities constantly feed our urge to buy beauty-enhancing products. From shower gel to mascara, we constantly feel like we can do better and keep buying additional versions of basically the same product. That doesn’t only take up space in our shelves, but also in our heads (“Which lipstick should I use today?”). Of course you can try things out, but if you end up not using them, give them away. If you find a product you like, keep it and toss its fellow products. Of course you can have some colour variations in e.g. lipsticks and nail polishes, but you really don’t need 5 blushes, 4 mascaras and 11 different foundations. Trust me, you will love the new emptiness of your beauty shelve as it will make you get-ready time much shorter.

Technology — Guys, this one is for you. Yes, you never know when you might need that specific cable or when your old phone from 2002 might suddenly be worth a million because of its rarity, but stuffing boxes full of old technology parts, cables, and out-dated devices is not worth the struggle. It’s unlikely that old technology will ever be worth more. Go through all your tech-stuff and only keep things you have used in the last 3 months. Throw away broken things and — for god’s sake — throw away things you don’t know the purpose to.

Files — 20 letters every week, some important, some more or less important, some totally unnecessary. You pile them in a corner on your desk or in your kitchen and usually never look at them again. This is a tough one. I recommend to get one specific drawer for papers and follow these steps: Open all letters as soon as you can and throw away unimportant ones (ads, surveys etc.). Everything else you can put into the drawer and go through it once at the end of every week (or at least every 2 weeks). Sort the ones you want to keep into a folder and get rid of the rest. If you are unsure about keeping one, take a picture and save it on your computer, but throw the actual copy away.

Packaging — Bags at the end of every shopping spree, cartons around almost everything you buy. You end up collecting them for future purposes as garbage bags or shipping parcels. But how many of those bags and packages actually end up serving that purpose? Only a few. Try to be smarter about it. Bring canvas bags shopping if you can (good for the environment too!) and only keep especially big or sturdy plastic bags. The same applies to cartons, which I generally also recommend storing in the basement.

Clothes — As clothing is probably the biggest problem for most people when it comes to decluttering, I will write an extra post about them. But even without that, you can easily declutter your closet. Choose one type of hangers (I recommend thin metal ones, not the thick wooden ones) to save space and get a cleaner view on everything. Hang as many clothes as you can so you can actually see them. Clothes I store in drawers, I easily forget about and end up never wearing them. Try to only use drawers and boxes for underwear or basics. Speaking of, do you really need those 5-year-old slips and socks? Decluttering is (literally) about the small things, so even though it may sound unnecessary to sort out your underwear, it will have its effect.

Decoration — I am a strong believer in not getting attached to materialistic things. It starts with my unwillingness to buy souvenirs on trips and ends at finding a way to store flowers, as I don’t like buying decorative things like vases. Yet, without decoration, your home may seem a little empty. Choose some of your favourite pieces (I recommend not more than 5 per rooms) that compliment your style and the style of the interior and give away everything else. Also, try to use practical appliances and tools as decoration. This can be as simple as displaying a pretty pair of vintage scissors or using a retro figurine from the flea-market as a doorstop.

Embrace the void, folks!

How to find housing in Stockholm

When it comes to housing, Stockholm is probably one of the hardest markets. I keep getting questions about how I found housing, so I decided to write this post as a little helper for the lost.

Firsthand Housing — Firsthand is (besides actually buying an apartment) the most valuable contract to get. It means you are renting directly from the owner. The only way to get this type of housing is by signing up for the housing queue here. However, to get a place in the city center you must be on this list for around 15 years. To get a decent place in the outer parts of Stockholm 8 years can be enough — if combined with luck. Firsthand housing is usually cheaper than secondhand housing, but most of all it’s safer, as it is legal by all matters.

Student Housing — Student housing can be obtained by queuing in the same list as mentioned above or by queuing here. On the 2nd list you may be lucky to get a place within 1–1,5 years. However, you are only allowed to keep the place as long as you are studying full-time.

Secondhand Housing — Secondhand housing is when people who have a firsthand contract from the official housing list, rent the apartment out to yet another person (or sometimes even that person to another and so on). This can be legal or illegal, depending on contract details and circumstances. Secondhand contracts are usually more expensive than firsthand ones. A studio apartment, which is around 6000kr rented firsthand, can easily cost over 10000kr when rented secondhand. Yet as a foreigner this is almost the only way to get a place in Stockholm. The best place to search is here.

Flatsharing — Flatsharing is becoming more and more popular in Stockholm. Room prices can highly vary. The average lies at around 5000kr for a (more or less) well-located room. With a lot of patience, you may be lucky to find something cheaper. Many rooms are already furnished which can save you additional costs. However, contracts are usually short-term and you have little to no rights, meaning that if you get kicked out, you literally get kicked out. Therefore it’s vital to find someone to live with that you can trust. It’s also worth mentioning that most apartments in Stockholm tend to have small rooms, so a room most likely wont be bigger than around 12sqm.

Buying — Amongst young Stockholm people it is becoming more and more popular to buy an apartment right after finishing school or during the first years of study. This is mainly due to the fact that housing keeps increasing in value and the banks have very low interest rates, making it actually cheaper to buy than to rent longterm. As a foreigner this might not be your first choice, but something you should consider if you decide to stay in the Capital of Scandinavia for longer.

General Tips — The best source to search for housing when you are not in Stockholm is blocket. Hundreds of rooms and studios get listed every day and the activity rate is high (which of course can also be a disadvantage). When I was searching for housing from abroad, I also used airbnb. I wrote to some hosts asking for long-term contracts and got several positive answers. Besides Airbnb, facebook is a good source for housing search as well. There are many groups to find housing in Stockholm, yet the risk to be scammed is high, so never pay in advance before getting a key and seeing the place.

In general I have to admit that yes, it is hard to find housing in Stockholm. But with some preparation and good social skills it shouldn’t be a problem. Just be patient and smart about it.