Did Tidying Up Change My Life?

In last week’s Friday Favorites, I shared that I was reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  I will admit, I did not enjoy this book one bit.  However, I was determined to rid my house of clutter and soldiered on to finish this book.

The life changing magic of tidying up

After a summer of what felt like neglecting my house, I set my mind to putting my living space in order.  You see, as I get older, I find more value in simple things.  I had heard a lot of chatter about this book, so I was intrigued to what all the excitement was about.

I strive for simplicity in my life–to be a no fuss, no muss kinda gal.  About a year ago, I watched a documentary on “tiny houses.”  There are a few television series about tiny houses now, and I always stop to watch when they are on.  I am fascinated by the idea of living with so little.  When you live with so little, you must truly value everything you have.

At this point, you may be wondering why I didn’t enjoy this book.  Honestly, it was nothing against Marie Kondo, her writing style, or the content of the book.  It was the process of decluttering and organizing that made reading this book feel so overwhelming.  I was absolutely dreading it.  Though I often classify myself as a procrastinator, this was a job that I just wanted to get over with as quickly as possible.

I set aside this week to focus on tidying my home, loosely following the principles laid out in Kondo’s book.  Kondo calls her system of decluttering and organizing the KonMarie Method.  To briefly summarize this method, Kondo insists that you surround yourself only with objects that bring you joy.  Clutter and excess can weigh a person down, preventing a them from filling their true purpose in life.  In simple terms, while cleaning, carefully consider each object.  If does not spark immediate joy, then throw it out.  She goes on in detail about the process of discarding items, how to tidy your spaces, and how to store items that you treasure.

Find Joy in the Journey

Kondo is from Japan and mostly describes her interactions with Japanese clients.  There are some cultural differences that can be noted while reading this book.  However, the most interesting difference I found was in Kondo’s own personality.  She encourages readers to speak to their objects, to thank them for their service, and to wish them well in their new life.  She states that each day, when she arrives home after work, she greets her home aloud and then proceeds to talk to each of the objects she puts away for the evening.  While this custom of personifying her objects may seem a bit eccentric, the overall idea is to treat your possessions with a sense of gratitude.  In other words, look upon your items with a grateful heart and acknowledge the purpose they have served in your life.

This was a valuable lesson for me when I was tidying.  I no longer felt the need to keep something that I didn’t use or wear because, according to the KonMarie Method, its purpose has already been served.  The article of clothing that I bought and didn’t wear?  It brought me joy when I purchased it, so it has served its purpose.  That gift from Christmas that I never got around to using?  It brought joy to the giver, so its purpose has been served.  This philosophy freed me of the doubt and guilt that usually nag at me when I contemplate throwing something out.  I’m sending most of my unwanted items to the thrift store, so they will live on to bring someone else joy.

How I tidied my space

Kondo has a very specific set of steps for discarding and tidying, which she recommends following to ensure success and to prevent rebound.  Being stubborn as I am, of course I didn’t follow her step by step approach exactly.  After all, we are all different.  Just as we all have different learning styles, we also have different ways in which we implement what we learn.  Kondo recommends sorting by categories, rather than room.  For example, if you are sorting clothes, you are to gather all of your clothes and put them into one large pile.  That includes coats, hats, and gloves from your entryway closet and off-season clothes stored in a spare room, rather than cleaning each space separately.  I didn’t follow this recommendation.  While I did focus just on clothing, the idea of throwing all of my clothes into one large pile would have been completely overwhelming to me.  Instead, I went drawer by drawer in my dresser, emptying each and sorting them into keep and donate piles.  When all of my drawers were organized, I moved on to my closet.  Again, I focused just on one area of my closet at a time: first jeans, then activewear, blouses, dresses, shoes, sweaters, and finally accessories.  I then moved on to our hall closet and sorted through all of my outwear.  This is the method that I felt would best work for me.

Again, she recommends sorting by category rather than by room.  However, I found that by tackling one room daily, I was able to efficiently plan and carry out my week of tidying.  On Monday, I cleaned my master bedroom and closet.  On Tuesday, I tidied my bathroom and nightstand and sorted through my jewelry.  Wednesday, I cleaned my spare room, which mainly consisted of sorting through a cedar chest full of craft materials and mementos.  Today was dedicated to my kitchen space.  I considered cleaning my kitchen earlier in the week, since that is one my main living spaces.  Realizing that I would probably have food to discard, I thought that waiting until trash day would be a better choice.  I cleaned out my pantry, spice cabinet, fridge and freezer, a buffet, and 2 junk drawers.  As I type, I’m realizing there are a few other areas that I could work on  in my kitchen, but they will still be there tomorrow.  I spent around 2 to 3 hours in each of these spaces.  This gave me time to enjoy my sense of accomplishment, but also allowed me time to run errands and do other chores around the house.

I am thrilled with my progress so far!  I feel like I have accomplished the majority of what I set out to do.  I may talk Doug and Grace into spending a few hours tidying up the basement this weekend.  The garage is another area that I would like to tackle.

What I learned from tidying

  • Find what method works best for you.  Tidying one room at a time worked for me.  You are more likely to stick to a plan if you believe in it.
  • Work at your own pace.  Determine how much you want to accomplish and create a plan to make it happen.  I found tidying to be quite addicting.  You will feel lighter and freer of your possessions.  You will want to continue.
  • Do not buy clothes from an online store or boutique that you cannot return.  Chances are there is a reason that item is still on the clearance rack.  If no one else liked it, you probably won’t either.
  • When considering new purchases, ask yourself if you truly love it.  Will it bring you joy?
  • When purging, take all items to your car immediately.  I did a pretty large purge of clothes earlier in the spring.  I had 5 kitchen sized trashbags full of clothes, shoes, and accessories to get rid of.  They sat on the floor of my closet for probably 6 weeks before Doug finally got tired of climbing over them everyday and took them to Goodwill for me.  If it is in your car, you will be much more likely to make that trip to donate them.
  • Tidying isn’t cleaning.  Tidying is decluttering and organizing.  If you come to my house, I can guarantee you that I have swept and mopped the floors for you.  I will probably have remembered to scrubbed the toilets and clean the counters.  But you will likely still find dust bunnies under my couch and crumbs in my kitchen and I’m okay with that.  I don’t strive for perfection, I strive for sanity.

Did tidying up change my life as Marie Kondo claims?

Well, in the longterm, that has yet to be determined.  But for the time being, I do feel as though my life has been changed.  I was feeling the weight of my unwanted possessions pulling me down.  It has changed the way I view my possessions.  If it isn’t bringing me joy, it is time to part ways.  Poor Doug has been on his best behavior, fearing that if he doesn’t bring me joy that I will kick him to the curb, as well.  There is no chance of that happening.  He and Grace bring me all the joy I could ever need.  I feel as though tidying has freed up that nagging sense of obligation to all of my possessions.  I own them, they no longer own me.

Tidying promotes a sense of contentment with your surroundings and with your life.  I can feel it in my life already.  So, tell me, have you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing?  Did it change your life?