In my family, we have certain skills that are undeniable. We speak well in front of large groups, create our own versions of art (my sis is a photographer and I prefer poetry), and we can throw a pretty fun neighborhood BBQ, but no one would ever accuse us of being neat and orderly. It doesn’t seem to be in our genetic make-up. The exception would have to be my parents. By nature, they are very clean and neat people. I’m hoping it skips a generation and my children get the skills of their grandparents, but their rooms tell me otherwise. My favorite fridge magnet of all time says, “Excuse the mess, but we live here.” While I believe I have gotten better at this part of life, I have so much room for improvement, it’s scary. That’s why on a girls’ getaway weekend last summer, I picked up a book that has shifted my thinking about tidying. It’s called, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of De-cluttering and Organizing. This book changes a chore, into a psychological journey.
While I did pick this book up in my most optimistic state (with my girls, on a weekend trip, where anything seems possible), it has carried over into my life pretty well. I do have a few caveats to the information gained from Marie Kondo. 1. She has no kids in her scenarios. 2. Some of the author’s activities require a weekend of uninterrupted time. 3. She has no kids in her scenarios. Oops, did I say that twice? Anyway, just know these things before taking my suggestion and reading this book. Here are the major tips she recommends.
Clean by Category
I don’t know about you, but when I de-clutter or spring clean, I do it by room. I start in each room and clean it until it shines (well, my kind of shine), and then I move on. She recommends to do this by category. Instead of cleaning by room, the books says to start with clothing. Kondo’s advice is to grab every single item of clothing in your entire house and pile it in one room. This means clothes from your significant other and kids as well. She says to go into every closet, nook and cranny and pull out every item and put it into a pile. Nothing makes you feel like a clutter bug until you see every item of clothing in a huge heap. Once this is done, she declares that I should go through every item and hold it. **This is where things get fun in the book. She says, “If it doesn’t spark joy, discard it.” Give it away or throw it away depending upon its condition. She has a whole bunch of tips on how to determine if you really need the item. She explains that people really get attached to their things, so it can be hard to discard at times. Once you are done with clothing, she recommends moving on to paper and books.
Paper, Books, Memories, etc.
Paper can really stack up in our houses. She explains that we don’t actually need 90% of what we have in terms of paper. Most bills are paperless, most warranties are too, and most other items are kept for memories (ie. cards, reports, etc.). She recommends having three clear folders for these things and categorizing them as “now, later, and forever” categories. This one was a huge relief to me. She’s right, most of my papers fell into these categories, and I really did get rid of 90% of them with this process.
Regarding my kids’ papers that I want to keep forever (that adorable mother’s day present, the poem about our dog, etc.), my friend has a good plan. Keep a Tupperware container (small) to hold each child’s memories, and when things start to overflow, weed out the memory box making sure it fits in one container. I won’t tell the author of this book that trick, though. I think she’d see this as a weakness. One area where she and I disagreed was that of books. I love my book shelves full, and each book is like a trophy to me. She has a way to discard books and other items that may be collecting dust. I won’t go into all of those here, but it was worth my time to read this part. So if you have a bookshelf problem, send me an email at email@example.com or check out this book.
Overall, this was enlightening. I loved it as a person in need of de-cluttering help, and my super clean-freak friends loved it as well. The author discusses all of the aspects and the psychology behind being tidy. Clutter keeps us in the past, and a tidy house can help us move forward. She also recommends that this overhaul be completed in one day or one weekend. Homeowners cannot feel the change in their house if it happens in pieces. Again, please note that no children were mentioned in this book, and we know how they can change our plans. It’s almost like clockwork. I’ll get in the cleaning zone. I’ll be so focused on a category, and I know that in an hour my house will be perfect, and someone will have hurt feelings, or a play dough will fly through the air, and that feeling will fade. These are very real hiccups in the cleaning journey.
Lastly, my kitchen needed help. I hated my junk drawer situation, and I needed a place for my spices that wouldn’t cause me to go on a search every evening as I cooked dinner. Pinterest had a great idea regarding the spices. There was a board by A Spicy Perspective that mentioned converting a junk drawer into a spice drawer. I cleaned out my junk drawer and actually put our pens in a pen holder. We put batteries in a central location, and our tools made their way back to the tool box. I transformed the top drawer in my kitchen as a spice drawer. This may seem small, but it has been amazing for cooking. Not only do I have them right by my stovetop, but I can also see all of the labels for cooking. I love this little idea Pinterest gave me. It’s one thing I pinned that I actually followed through with and had success.
Now, if you interviewed any of my friends or even my husband, they would tell you that I have come a long way in terms of order and organization. It’s interesting, but I have gotten better at this with the birth of each new kid. I still agree that friends come over to see us and not how clean our house is, but I also agree with the author, that a lot of the clutter is a way of holding onto the past. And that moving forward is so much easier when you aren’t bringing a bunch of junk with you. It’s interesting to think that there is psychology behind what we collect, but it was very freeing to “discard” of items that don’t spark joy. Doesn’t that just sound nice?