Words by Charlotte Jansen
She’s the UK’s answer to Marie Kondo: 30-year-old Anna Newton wants to revolutionise the way we organise. Newton is currently on tour in the UK with her organisation manual, An Edited Life, tackling Millennial mess with practical tips to help find that elusive work-life balance.
While we are continually self-editing our lives online, in reality, we are over-consuming, and overspending, and it’s leaving us feeling paradoxically empty. The constant need to buy and experience means that we are a generation who don’t save, spending more on coffee than on our pensions, research shows, an alarming fact that suggests few of us think of think of our long-term wellbeing.
Newton’s path to being a guru of planning and organisation seems vocational, looking back now “I’ve always loved organisation. Back when I was in Junior school, cleaning up the teacher’s desk was the reward for my best mate and I when we’d completed our work!”
She explains in an email. “That always makes me chuckle now – look where I’ve ended up!”
Newton started a blog back in 2010, while she was still a student. Her focus at first was bi-weekly make-up reviews — “I found this online beauty community, while I was procrastinating from revising for my exams, and I thought I’d give it a go.” It is starting blowing up when Newton began making videos YouTube, where her videos regularly rack up more than 150k views. The Anna Edit is also the home for her equally popular podcasts “At Home With…”
“Nine years later, and although I still love beauty and write about it often, my blog has evolved to include a range of topics from style to recipes and travel to organisation,” Newton told Fold. The Anna Edit is ranked number 5 in the world in the lifestyle category by Bloglovin, and her online clout has lead to collaborating with major brands, including Space NK and Selfridges. Recent posts about the joys of a winter capsule wardrobe (and her particular fondness of Equipment cashmere jumpers) and how to take time off if you are freelance give an idea of her appeal; she is down-to-earth and practical.
An Edited Life is Newton’s first book, published by Quadrille and released in January this year. She tells me it evolved naturally, as “a direct result of my friends and family asking for advice on how to sort out their kitchen cupboards, their to-do lists, their calendars, their wardrobes. Here you go guys – everything you need to know is in this book.” An Edited Life is indeed a concise yet comprehensive take on organising everything, from your weekly exercise to your weekly budget, your workspace to your wardrobe.
The need for getting our lives in order can come from a darker place — studies link messiness and depression. At the other end of the spectrum, obsessive tidiness can be a mask for more profound anxiety and fear of losing control. Newton’s book, with its readable, personal tone tries to encourage good habits without taking itself too seriously. “The stance of ‘An Edited Life’ is always to take the approach that feels right for you – there’s no right or wrong here.” Newton emphasises, and while there are “certainly psychological benefits to feeling stress-free and relaxed in a decluttered home environment,” and An Edited Life offers advice on how to achieve it.
As a newish mother and self-confessed neat freak myself, I wondered whether realistically any of this could apply to my life, as Newton acknowledges in her introduction, her life living with her partner and working from home is a different scenario too. With a toddler with her own growing mountain of belongings and a seemingly shrinking flat, it can often feel overwhelming. Reading Newton’s book, I identify with the feeling that putting things in their place gives you a sense of control — even if it doesn’t always work out.
I put the question to Newton: can An Edited Life be of any use to families? Or people living in house shares?
“Yes definitely!” Newton responds. She lets on that her audience online counts more readers in the 65+ bracket than teenagers, although the bulk of her readership is her fellow Millennials.
The tips in her book not only came from her own trials and errors but were shaped by streamlining methods she crowdsourced from trusted members of her family, including friends with children and her grandma “- so there’s definitely something for everyone in there.”
From the start, Newton holds back on being didactic, despite the fact this is a self-help book of sorts: she suggests skipping to the parts that feel urgent or most relevant to you, and working through it that way. There is plenty of standout advice, but at the very beginning, she goes back to basics, naming Moleskine as among her favourite journals if you decide to do your planning on paper.
“We can all do with editing and streamlining our lives in some way or another, we are our own editors, and so it’s about what makes us happy and editing and tweaking the processes as we go.”