I mentioned last week that chef Vivian Howard always wanted to be a writer. Cooking gave her a subject, and her two cookbooks, indeed, make for entertaining reading. Similarly, Dana K. White, a decluttering blogger and YouTuber, hoped someday to write a book. She never expected that cleaning up her house would serve as her muse.
I met Dana K. White during the pandemic, when I started watching minimalist YouTube videos on our new TV. The Minimal Mom, my entry drug, led me to Ms. White. Inspired by both women’s videos, I occasionally got off the couch and filled up a box with stuff we didn’t need. My house is nowhere near minimal-ized nor even actually decluttered, but I have adopted Ms. White’s slogan, one of many, that says, “Better is good.”
Just think how helpful that advice is. How often do we avoid starting something because we won’t have time (or think we won’t have time) to finish? I’m going to clean out that extra bedroom when I get some time off from work or when my back stops hurting or when I retire. Why do we wait? Because it’s going to feel emotionally draining and take hours and hours and hours. Au contraire! says Ms. White. If you stand just inside the door with a trash bag and throw away old receipts, junk mail, broken appliances, and socks with holes, you can make things better in, say, ten minutes. You may even feel inspired to work another ten minutes, but, if not, you have already made things better, and better is good.
Such common-sense ideas made Ms. White’s website and blog and her funny YouTube videos successful. This success gave her the opportunity to write books, because she had developed a platform, i.e., some thousands of subscribers who would be likely to buy her books. She’s now written three: How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind, Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff, and Organizing for the Rest of Us.
In her books, she’s able to further explain her process. The Container Concept is one fundamental component. Instead of asking herself if an item is useful or whether it gives her joy (a la Marie Kondo), she asks if it fits comfortably in the space allotted. The size of the container—a medicine cabinet or sock drawer or book shelf—determines how much of something you can keep. In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, for example, she imagines having too many scarves (a made-up scenario) before understanding the Container Concept.
Ugh. My closet floor is covered in scarves. I know it’s not possible to have too many scarves, because scarves are useful and having choices is essential to fashionable dressing, but I’m really tired of my closet floor being covered in scarves.
I know what I’ll do! I’ll use one of those five different scarf-organizing systems I’ve purchased over the past few years! I need to get organized. . .
Here’s exactly what I’d have done before I understood the Container Concept: bought more wall-hanging-organizing thingies and more scarf hangers until the floor was clear but there was no more wall space because it was covered in wall-hanging-organizing thingies and no more room for my clothes because the closet rods were full of scarf hangers.
The Container Concept simplifies the process. Here’s how it works. Designate your wall-hanging-organizing-thingie, a basket, or a drawer for your scarves. Then, she says,
- Fill the container with your favorite scarves first.
- Once the container is full, you know how may scarves you can keep.
- Donate the rest of the scarves.
She’s not Shakespeare, but she’s clever, empathetic, and realistic. Most importantly, helpful. Aside from the content, it interests me that Ms. White turned her success as a decluttering guru into her real dream, writing books, which she’s good at.
If you always wanted to write a book, maybe there’s something you know about or something you’ve always thought about that could become a book. Write about what you know, they say. Dana K. White knows about being a slob (her word) and and then deslobifying (also her word). These experiences helped her fulfill a lifelong dream.
In addition to decluttering wisdom, Ms. White, a Texan, has taught me still another new word: doolally, a charming synonym for thingamajig or what-do-you-call-it. All these, by the way, are common synonyms for clutter.
What would you write a book about?