A life less cluttered: The minimalism of Minima

In October 2010, Kristen Ziegler received her business license. Within 24 hours, she learned she had ovarian cancer. Now her business helps people not sweat the small stuff in their homes and offices.

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Keep only what’s needed, part with the rest, and live simply. This is the guiding philosophy of Kristen Ziegler’s personal life and business, Minima, which helps individuals and businesses de-clutter.

“It’s really about paring down things [to only what] you need and love,” Ziegler said. “You’re able to focus on the important things in life.”

Simplifying can sometimes take a fair amount of creativity, something Ziegler has nearly always had. “Ever since I could pick up a pen and pencil, I’ve been drawing,” she said. But her artistic abilities didn’t draw over her analytical side. “I also have a huge love for math, and logic, and analysis.” She eventually used those talents in tandem while studying architecture at Virginia Tech.

She moved to Richmond in 2006 after graduating from Tech and began work at a local architecture firm. She loved studying architecture in school, but she didn’t love doing it. “Because I was sitting at a desk a lot, doing drawings on a computer.” Not as exciting as she had hoped.

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In 2008, she became one of many nationwide who lost their job because of the recession. Some time after that, a friend casually mentioned the National Association of Professional Organizers. Not only did the group have a local chapter, but the chapter was about to host a monthly meeting in town. It piqued Ziegler’s interest enough to attend.

It was good that she did because a local company hired her, giving her first job in the professional organizer industry. Two years later, in 2010, she created Minima.

Ziegler said that she became a minimalist while in college. “I just love for form to follow function,” she said, and she avoids buying things that serve little-to-no purpose. “I have to have a reason for owning everything.” As with architecture, Minima1 allows her to use both her artistic and analytical predilections.

In October 2010, Ziegler received her business license. But within 24 hours of receiving it, she learned she had ovarian cancer.

“I was really frustrated,” Ziegler said. She had overcome job loss and was on the verge of starting a business she was passionate about. “I felt I was finally figuring things out and getting on track.”

Luckily, the cancer was caught early enough so that surgery and chemotherapy would save her life. She vowed to work during her treatment, but only had the energy to do so for a month. “I was so sick I couldn’t eat or get out of bed.”

So she daydreamed. She envisioned her company: its brand, goals, and website. When she completed her cancer treatment in February 2011 she was ready to take it on.

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Interestingly, she believes the same recession that cost her a job in 2008 also made others reconsider how much stuff they wanted and could afford. “I think it really inspired people to pare down and simplify,” she said. “Personally, I think it makes you re-evaluate happiness and where you get your happiness from.”

For each of her clients, she begins with a detailed plan of action. She goes over priorities, things to remove and add, and creates a checklist.

She said some clients immediately want to purchase items (shelving, cabinets, etc.), but Ziegler dissuades them from adding first. “It’s going to be the best investment to de-clutter first, because the space will tell you what it wants to be.”

Some clients are ready to purge objects, while others need a little time to say goodbye. “A lot of times people are afraid of change, afraid of letting go.” Ziegler doesn’t insist that clients part with family heirlooms or sentimental objects. Just the opposite: she wants her clients to retain those items, as they help define who they are.

“I help coach clients through the keep/go decisions to determine what items have value in their current life. Sometimes that involves helping them let go of the past, other times it’s breaking away from the ‘I might need this someday’ mentality.”

The typical, but not exclusive, clients Ziegler works with are the:

  • DIY client: those that benefit from advising, but can do the grunt work themselves
  • Life event client: those that experience a major event (marriage, death, illness, moving, having children) that require more hands-on work
  • “Chronically disorganized client”: That’s the industry term (which Ziegler dislikes) that applies to those with depression, ADD, among others that need ongoing maintenance

In Summer 2012, Ziegler extended her work to commercial clients. Those she’s worked with include: Ledbury, Need Supply Co., Pink, and Big Secret. “That’s been a lot of fun and rewarding, and I’ve met a lot of really cool people.” She said business is “very profitable,” and she’d like to expand her business to work with out-of-state clients.

No matter who a client may be, Ziegler does her best to counter pervading ideas that “your space should look like this, or you should look like this,” she said. Instead she helps remove all the unnecessary things that cover up spaces, and perhaps also cover up the very people who occupy them, to let them be what and who they are. “Getting at the core of who you are and what you’re doing in life…is really beautiful,” she said.

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Footnotes

  1. The name alludes to a mathematical term that denotes the smallest value of a function. 

photos courtesy Brian McDaniel (featured) and Minima

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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