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The GRIPD System: An organisation system that helps you declutter better

I obsess about organizing, one day, I obsessed about going minimal and I struck gold.

When I was growing up, my parents bought a new house that was still being built. In the span of a few years, until the house was ready to move in, my mom bought beautiful cutlery and decor that she was saving for the new house.

They stayed in boxes for years, unused, until we moved.

Studying industrial design for four years made me appreciate the thought behind products- their function, CMF, aesthetics, technicalities, the affordances and the signifiers. Every curve and part exists for a specific use whether it’s functional or emotional, I realized when I used them.

The true joy of products is in discovering more about the products every time you use them.

I moved away from keeping pretty things to using them.

These past two years, I moved around a lot. An eventful month of 2019, saw a truck full of my things move 3 houses. I had to move from my previous home, had to leave the second house and live at a friend’s place for a month till I could find a new apartment.

The PTSD of moving so much made me feel tied to possessions as I felt the weight of the truck on my shoulders.

With most of my possessions packed away in boxes, I didn’t know where most paraphernalia were. So I survived a month with things that fit into two backpacks.

That month, I spent more time outdoors by myself or with people. I managed to get more things done. I felt creative and productive because I wasn’t obsessing about organizing objects anymore. I felt weightless.

Surprised at how comfortably the two months went by, I realized I owned too many things I didn’t need.

I had duplicates of the same product but from different brands. Some I’d bought, some I was gifted but having duplicates seemed unnecessary, I wanted to minimize.

I didn’t want to throw away the ones I didn’t get to because it felt wasteful and wouldn’t be sustainable on a larger scale.

After all, I had acquired those products because I wanted to use them at some point.

I wanted to own things I was going to use regularly so I systematically went about minimizing with the following steps:

GRIPD: Giveaway; Repair & recycle; Image & imagine; Purge; Digitize

(Pronounced as Gripped)

G: Give away

If you have items that are unused or in good usable condition but you don’t have any use for it anymore; give it away to someone who needs it- family, friends, orphanages, etc.

R: Repair & Recycle

Repair items that can serve the purpose once repaired.

If it’s beyond repair, recycle the materials or upcycle to give them a new purpose.

I: Image & Imagine

For items that are harder to let go, take a picture to remember it & the associated memories by and keep it in a 'let go' box (not the trash).

Revisiting the box after a few days, try to remember if you felt the need for it or thought of it in the last couple of days.

If you did, keep it back. If you didn’t save the image and let it go.

P: Purge

Get rid of products that are: expired, unusable, cannot be upcycled or recycled.

Make sure you segregate the wet and dry waste and dispose off responsibly. Electronics, batteries should be given to recyclers separately.

D: Digitize

Digitize notes & pictures.

Organize them for accessibility & transparency and make sure you only keep what you need.

I listed all the things I own on a google sheet to categorize all the objects, know how many duplicates I owned and what I wanted to give away, repair & recycle, image & imagine, purge and digitize, so I can keep going back to the sheet to remember. I also color code to indicate GRIPD and essentials I’ll always need.

The process is the goal and consumption is at the core of it.

1. Stationery:

Keep one of everything you need. For consumables, keep a spare if you have many and give away stationary you don’t need to kids, offices, schools or orphanages like art supplies, writing supplies, unused papers, etc.

I have also digitized all the notes I want to revisit and let go of physical copies. Used diaries and papers should go into recycling.

I had many unused diaries I’d collected over time which I handed over to people who, I knew, would use them for its purpose much sooner than I would have.

I’ve also been consciously trying to use less paper so I don’t plan on buying new diaries to write in until next year.

2. Consumables:

Find out how many products you have in the same category: 5 moisturizers, 4 perfumes. These include food, beauty products, toiletries, etc.

Make the products a part of your daily routine. Consume regularly till it’s over. Pick one moisturizer you want to consume out of the five and use it every day.

Moderation is key. Don’t consume more just because you want to get rid of it, use it like you normally would and enjoy the process.

3. Electronics:

Sell the ones you don’t use or give it to a recycler.

Keep the boxes you got the electronics in.

It can be hard to recycle electronic items and extremely detrimental for them to end up in landfills. Be responsible.

4. Sentimental items:

Many of them are things you don’t need to hold on to- broken seashells from the trip to the beach five years ago. Bands from gigs, etc

When I find it too hard to get rid of some of them, I practice Image & imagine by taking a picture and keeping them away in a ‘let go’ cardboard box.

More often than not, I don’t revisit them so I let them go. The ones I miss, I keep them back.

Many of the sentimental items end up going on my walls. I like to look at them as often as possible- these are usually posters, sketches, music concert bands, etc.

If you open my storage, you’ll know how less I own but looking at my walls, I look like a maximalist.

If you decide to keep some of the smaller sentimental items that can easily get lost, think of upcycling them to things you actually need or have use for.

5. Books

Read them! Growing up, I would consume at least 3 books a week but over time, I read less. I started consciously reading regularly again in September ’19 and have completed 14 books as of February ’20.

I don’t buy books anymore because the ones I have amassed so far are already extremely interesting and relevant to my interests so I focus on reading the ones I already have.

If you are an avid reader don’t fear missing out. If you don’t go out and buy books, books will find you. Over the last couple of months, my friends have given me books they recommend because they know my interests.

I pass on books that are good enough for one read to someone who I know will enjoy reading or I give it to any library, even the ones in cafes.

Just keep reading the books you have and many more will find you!

6. Bags, wallets; Footwear

Giveaway, repair & recycle, image & imagine or purge.

7. Furniture

Give away or sell. There are many apps to sell your furniture on easily. The second apartment I rented was unfurnished so I bought some important pieces off of friends who were moving. Buying second-hand is a great way to go because furniture lasts long.

In the future if you have visibility on how long you plan to stay in the city or live on rent, you can rent furniture off websites or buy from online furniture platforms that give great buyback offers on their own products because they upcycle and sell again.

Ideally, I would prefer to stay on rent in a house that has at least the basic (read bulkiest) furniture that is necessary to live in the house.

8. Clothes

Repair, recycle, upcycle or give away clothes that are in great shape to those in need.

Get your best friend or sibling’s opinion on what you should keep and what you’re probably better off without.

Keep pieces that you use and before you buy something similar, use what you have.

There are a lot of clothes swapping events in most urban cities that you can visit to replace some of the items in your wardrobe that are in good condition. It’s ideal to go with a mindset of being happy just giving away those clothes instead of always expecting something in return.

If you really like those threads, keep them!

Before I go shopping, I look back at my excel sheet to know which basic pieces of clothing I need to replace.

If you have your eye on something you want to buy, Ask: Do you already have something similar? Does it go with your style? How many outfit combinations can you make with that item? Do you really need it?

9. Medicines

Purge expired medicines. Keep an accessible list of all the medicines you have along with their expiry dates so you can check the list and ask your doctor before you buy medicines.

10. Kitchen utensils & cutlery

It’s hard to minimize kitchen utensils.

Make sure you store all the boxes that your cutlery and kitchen machines came in.

Giveaway the extra baking equipment you know you’re never getting to, repair & recycle what you can, purge items that are beyond repair, digitize all the items you own for easy accessibility.

I spent all of February figuring out a system that worked for me- GRIPD is that system. Through this process I learnt that building a habit doesn’t come from purging and starting off on a new note, it comes from consistently working towards clearing the slate.

By the time you get to the clean slate- you will have already inculcated the habit and have better awareness and appreciation for future consumption.

Own less, be more.

When you stop worrying about what you have, you can focus on experiences to create and enjoy.




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Vaishnavi Kumar

Vaishnavi Kumar

Design researcher, strategic designer, and an avid bird watcher on a quest to find connections between human and bird societies. twitter/@vaishnavikumarr

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