Meet the Minimalist is back with Liz Ferris of Organized by Liz. We were volunteers on a human resources board together and both managed to find our way to the magical world of tidying and organization.
Not only have I worked alongside her on an organizing project, but I had the chance to have her come into my own home and help me address the corners that needed an overhaul that I just didn’t have the energy to tackle on my own.
I was thrilled when she accepted my request to chat about organizing, minimalism, and why she chose this work.
Before we jump into questions, I want people to know a little bit more about you. Tell me more about your IG introduction - you eloped on your ten year anniversary!
Yes! It was a kickstart to a lot of things! Once we realized that we wanted to get married but not have a wedding where we were the center of attention and spending a ton of money, eloping seemed perfect. We had booked a trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm to celebrate our anniversary and then we thought "could we get married there?"
I had never thought about doing something like this. But it is indeed possible and there is even a website called Getting Married in Denmark that tells you how!
We decided not to tell anyone in advance, it felt like a very personal and special thing to keep to ourselves. We got cute outfits and simple wedding bands in advance then I found a photographer on IG and booked that sight unseen. The day of, we had a beautiful Danish breakfast then walked in the rain (a good luck sign!) to the courthouse to get married in a quick but beautiful 15-minute ceremony. We took pictures in the courthouse and around Copenhagen; by the end of the photos we were drenched from the rain but so happy and in a bit of disbelief over it.
We were originally going to wait until we came home but we had to tell our families to make the moment feel real! We called them over FaceTime and they were surprised, excited and really happy for us. My mom immediately said she loved it and was happy that we did this “for us”. When we returned home, friends and coworkers asked if we were having a reception but we were perfectly happy with our small ceremony and didn’t need to throw an expensive party in the name of getting gifts (also read above - we don’t like being the center of attention!) Overall, we have no regrets about it and highly recommend eloping!
I love this minimalist approach - vacation + courthouse ceremony sounds awesome! Have you always had a minimalist viewpoint and how did you first get into decluttering?
I guess I always have! From what I remember, as a kid, I never thought it was a punishment to clean my room. I recall enjoying taking out my desk drawers and categorizing like with like, then putting things away. I would clean our Tupperware cabinet periodically, finding the matching lids and putting things back in a neater way. I loved turning items around in the supermarket so their labels would be aligned and I even dreamed of working at Home Depot so I could sort things! As I got older, I would help friends with their closets, finding the things they loved, making new outfits, and making it their closets more accessible for them.
My Junior year of college, I moved away for the first time and it was my opportunity to really assess my childhood bedroom and delve into editing my material items. I knew at that time I didn't want to leave my room intact, so what I decided to keep, I boxed up accordingly (labeled of course) and snuck in a closet for my parents to store for me.
When I read Marie Kondo's book a few years ago, that was the lightbulb that went off. I realized the missing step from my years of organizing was that it was OK to get rid of things. Since then I've been reading a lot of books on organizing and minimalism like Soulful Simplicity and The Joy of Less. These have been great resources and I recommend them as a good place to start exploring these topics.
How do you practice this for yourself / how do you stay organized at home?
The first place I truly started was Konmari-ing my closet - it's an easy place for me because I'm not super attached to my clothes. With clothes, it's an immediate relief when the closet isn't so overstuffed.
I also pared down quite a bit in the bathroom (realizing how much waste there is I began finding more eco-friendly replacements). I used to buy pretty soaps on vacation and never use them until I realized I should relish in the lovely scents and memories of vacation. Now I love asking for and using eco-packaged bar soap instead of plastic body washes. When I first moved to Seattle and started a career, I was always buying new hair and beauty product; it's so easy as young women to amass all these products when you are bombarded with advertisements for them. It’s been such a relief to realize I don't need fifty products when I I only use and like five things, minimizing my beauty routine is very liberating.
For kitchens, having lived in tiny apartment ones, I just have to ask myself what I value more - do I want all the gadgets & gizmos to fit crammed in the cupboard or do I want to have more space / breathing room around and get creative? I donated many one-use knickknacks and now my friends and family laugh at how I prefer to squeeze my own lemons or mash potatoes with a fork, maybe I just like making things hard on myself, haha!
In general, everything should have a home when you are organized. It's not like my home is perfect all the time - life happens, you run out the door without putting things away sometimes but if you know where the thing goes, you can put it back quickly when you have a spare moment. Even when life feels hectic, it's so easy to put things away neatly in your bathroom cabinet and feel like something is in order, it will also de-stress your morning routine!
What's your advice to people who want to declutter or overhaul a space in their home? (where do you suggest they begin)
If somebody is interested in it, I try to suggest being in tune with what your goals are, like "when I come home, all my surfaces clear" or "I don't want to be stressed out searching for clothes."
If you want to start, just start, don’t wait for the perfect method. If you want inspiration, there are a lot of great Instagram accounts to follow for challenges or books to get some guidelines. If the thought of doing it on your own doesn’t excite you, hire someone to help guide you and cheer you on. That’s how I knew I should be an organizer, clutter doesn’t feel overwhelming to me, it’s makes me excited to tackle it!
Lastly, like everyone will tell you, don't start with the hard sentimental stuff first (like a high school memory box). You’ll go down a wormhole and get frustrated you aren’t making progress. You get better at decuttering as you practice and it's really a muscle that you build up. So start with something you don’t have much attachment to, whether it’s your kitchen, clothes, or books.
What's your advice to people who share a space with someone (kids / partners) that aren't as tidy?
Don't throw any of their things away! That’s a quick way to turn them off from decluttering. My dad to this day remembers when my well-intentioned teenage self tossing a jar opener he loved (still looking for one to replace that with, Dad!)
Also, practice what you preach. Don't harp on anybody until your own stuff is in order. You may inspire others with the work you are doing with your own stuff. Be patient. It will come with time. And try not to talk their ear off about minimalism! As exciting as it will feel when you get started others may not be ready to jump on the train, but trust me, when they get bit by the decluttering bug, you’ll have a great network!
Who are your favorite type of clients to work with and why?
Good question! I’d say when people are committed to a change. They’re fed up and ready to transform their life! Also having a big life change - switching careers, starting over after a relationship - these are the people that I’m really excited to work with because it’s like turning over a new leaf.
When people see the impact of their downsizing, you can see that they feel the weight off of their shoulders and that energizes me to continue.
What else do you want people to know about organizing / decluttering / the process, the work you do?
Definitely that I’m not perfect, no one is! I struggled with wanting to share only the pretty things on my social media but life isn’t always pretty. I have organizing challenges too! I also strongly believe anyone can be organized. You are not born “organized” or “disorganized”. I personally think in a very organized way but have to buckle down to do the work sometimes, and it calms me down. Organizing can truly be a form of self-care.
I approach organizing from a minimalist mindset. The organizing community understands that editing is the first step. However, what I hear from minimalists often is that if you are thinking of organizing it means you have too much stuff. I try to strike a balance between the two. Yes, you need to edit, but I also sing the praises of the perfect bin or basket to keep you tidy. You don’t have to life in a square white apartment to be a minimalist.
Lastly, on the subject of organizing supplies, something I’m deeply considering is the impact on our environment. I struggle with encouraging people to get lighter and then introduce brand new products into their space. That’s why I’m exploring a more eco-friendly solution of sourcing organizing projects second-hand when possible. You won’t believe how many like-new products are donated (maybe even from a decluttering session!) that can be the missing piece to your organizing journey. I’m excited to explore the principles of less waste and eco-friendly sustainability into my business.
What else do you want people to know about you - where they can follow you, how to get in touch?
My website is Organized by Liz and Seattle clients can reach me by email at email@example.com to schedule a complimentary consult. This is a 20-30 minute walk through of your home or trouble spot where I’ll assess the space, determine what your goals are, and we’ll schedule your first session.
For the day-to-day, before and after pics of projects, and a glimpse into my own home, you can follow along on Instagram - I like to share challenges that I’m doing and tidying tips via stories and I love connecting with people through that platform, so please say hi!