I got this book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in the mail late in the afternoon one day last week, and dropped everything so I could read it in the bathtub.
I finished it later that night, and was immediately more amped than I have ever been to declutter my house, from top to bottom.
I will briefly back up to preface the rest of my story with the following: I know I have too much stuff in my house. I love, love, LOVE reading (and talking and thinking) about decluttering, because if I know anything, I know that my balance of self to stuff is out of whack. What I have not managed to achieve, thus far, is a return to the sweet spot that I know exists. Where I don’t feel like my stuff is a burden. It’s the ever-present journey toward only having what is beautiful, loved and useful.
But of course, it is not easy. (If it was easy, I would not have three years and counting of writing about it, now would I?) Especially when you are starting, as I did, amid a collection of possessions that are a mish-mash mess of hand-me-downs, habitual purchases, well-intentioned gifts, aspirational objects, splurges and other items that can only be properly viewed through a certain amount of emotional baggage and complicated feelings. I could talk for an hour about wedding registries, and how ours was the impetus of clutter problems times ten. But I digress.
All this is to say, it has been on my list—for years, now—to purge and organize the entire house, top to bottom. It is on my list of goals, annually, as The Great Purge, but I haven’t been able to actually do it.
What started as a brief preface has turned into a sub-plot to this blog post.
What I want to illustrate is that the time is ripe for a task I’ve been wanting to tackle—but for the first time, I have the time, motivation and energy to see it through. And this book was the perfect
kick in the pants match to ignite my fire.
The strategy for tackling clutter, or “tidying”, takes a once-and-for-all tack known as the KonMari method (named after the author and organization expert, Marie Kondo). Essentially, she advocates going through everything your home—by handling each and every item—and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If it sparks joy, it gets to stay. If it does not, it gets discarded. There is a specific order to going through your items to be sure you cover entire categories at once, and nothing is left untouched.
Last weekend I did the first three categories—clothes, books (again!) and papers. I will offer my thoughts below.
Long story short: I got rid of more than half of my clothes. There are three kitchen garbage bags full of clothes by the back door, and what remains in my closet is three and a half drawers of neatly-folded gems that remain, plus less than a dozen hanging items on the rod. (All of this used to take up one and a half closet rods, plus three dresser drawers and a six-cubby storage shelf.)
I still sort of can’t believe it. But I have no regrets—the things I ditched were ill-suited, in one way or another. Immediately the room felt completely different. Much more spacious and airy, less weighed down. Changing clothes feels more like a ritual than before, because I have a place for each item and it looks so perfect when I return a neatly folded item to its place.
I was obviously well-primed for this KonMari Method, since weeks before reading it, I had the itch to sort my books by category. Even though I just purged my books three weeks ago, I still found another 15 to put in the “discard” pile.
This category was the most fulfilling (and easiest) so far. The book basically says papers simply do not spark joy, so it’s best to keep as few as possible. Not to be confused with momentos—that category comes later.
I had already been trying to simplify my paperwork system this year. I had a blog post planned to tell you that I stopped categorizing receipts by month, and paid bills by category, and it was saving me so much time. But after reading the book, I realized I don’t want to keep receipts and statements at all.
I had more than 20 file folders before; now I have four. I got rid of three mostly-filled paper bags of paper. What is left is tidy. And it’s going to be easy to keep it that way, I just know it.
Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
- In case you can’t tell: this book is, apparently, my jam. I’ve only done three categories, but I’m itching to continue as soon as I have a block of a few hours to spare. (Unfortunately, I’m getting ready for two week-long trips, back to back, so my progress is a little slower than I’d like.) If you’re looking for motivation and a framework for decluttering, like I was, this book will hand it to you on a silver platter.
- One thing I wish had been covered more thoroughly was what to do with the discard pile. The author repeatedly mentions “discarding” all your unwanted stuff, but doesn’t go into much detail about exactly how to do that. I’m thinking of having a garage sale next month (but it will be a “make an offer” sale, because tagging everything is way too much work). If it were my book, this would be a much bigger topic—because the amount of stuff in the world is a problem, so to me, it’s an important step of the process to help ensure the stuff that’s no longer useful to you has a chance to get into the hands of someone who will love it, rather than ending up in a dump.
- I’m surprised how on-board I am with the “once and for all” method, as opposed to doing the thing in pieces or stages, over time. We shall see how I feel when it is over.
- One of the things I love about the book is that it points out the (now) obvious truth that we do have relationships with our stuff. Not necessarily healthy relationships, but whether you acknowledge it or not, you are in a relationship with your belongings. (Similar to how you meet some people and they aren’t meant to stay with you or be a permanent fixture of your life—possessions are the same way.) That being said, you have the power to affect the relationships with your belongings, for better or for worse.
- In the book, Marie says that whenever you decide to let something go, thank it for its service. I love the concept of “communicating” with your stuff; I actually believe there is an energetic transfer that goes on. Think about it: don’t you feel drained in a cluttered, chaotic room, compared to one that was just recently cleaned and tidyed? When you keep something out of guilt, or something reminds you of a relationship, don’t you feel it dragging you down? (I can’t tell you how good it felt to get rid of the student loan statements I’d had for a decade; the last tangible reminder of the time I cried at the bank.)
My house is going to be so fucking zen, you guys.
Now, my question is…
Was this post interesting to you? Are you interested in hearing more about my de-cluttering journey? I’m happy to share pictures, insights and tips along the way if this sounds interesting to you…or would you rather just read the book yourself? Leave a note in the comments!