Tidying Up (The Life-Changing Magic?)

I recently hopped aboard the "tidying up" bandwagon based on Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  The basic premise of Kondo's philosophy on tidying and organizing is that the typical "tidying up" that people do, little by little, one room at a time, doesn't create lasting effects, so we instead need to make a substantial, transformative change in our space by focusing on the objects that bring us joy and parting with clutter that isn't necessary.  Kondo challenges us to recognize our attachments to things and to "detox" our space in order to "detox" our bodies.

I had several things that motivated me in this endeavor.  As a homeowner, I wanted my space to be inviting and comfortable for my family and visitors.  I strived to reduce my stress and anxiety by reducing clutter and unnecessary junk.  I wanted to shift my focus from material items to experiences and adventures.  And I also hoped to create more space for our baby on the way.

I first had to come to terms with my own bad habits and erroneous thought processes around material items.  For 15+ years I have held onto things for the future, envisioning the home or space I want to create, and thinking about what kind of decorations or themes I want in my future "dream house."  But the reality is that my "dream house" is now, and there is no sense in keeping decorations or objects that don't bring me happiness in the present.  I am also guilty of holding onto things that bring back fond memories, as if I want to recreate that period of happiness, but Kondo's book challenged me to cherish the memory but accept that the memory has passed and that the object has already served its purpose.

The process that Kondo recommends is sorting through household items by category (e.g. clothes, books, etc.) instead of by area and taking out EVERYTHING in that category where you can see it, touch it, and evaluate the importance of it.  By taking ALL of your clothes (or books or purses) out in the open, you realize how much you have, and you are forced to examine every item individually, asking the question, "Does this still bring me joy, or has it already served its purpose?"

I started with clothes, which was the most substantial task in terms of volume.  I took out all my clothes from the closet, dresser, winter storage, coat closet, dress closet, and anything lying around the house, and put everything in a pile.  After looking at each item and determining what to keep and what to get rid of, I reorganized everything back into the closets and dresser in a more organized and efficient way.  I then repeated the process with shoes, purses, jewelry, other accessories, books, paperwork, journals, text books, binders of school notes, towels and linens, kitchen supplies, cook books, winter gear, and beauty supplies.

Throughout the process, these were my mantras and questions I asked myself:
  • If I haven't had time for it in the past 5 years, I won't have time for it in the next 5.
  • Even if things don't take up a lot of room (like jewelry), they take up space, and can be a cause for anxiety.
  • What things will bring me joy if I keep them in my life?
  • Envision a certain "dream home" that is open, uncluttered, and simple in its beauty.
  • It's okay to have some regrets about getting rid of things.  Life goes on.
  • If I didn't wear this before, I'm certainly not going to wear it once I become a mother.
  • Did this item already serve its purpose?
  • If I didn't remember that I even owned this, then I probably won't miss it.
  • Letting go is more important than adding.

All my clothes

Tidying up is exhausting

Organizing baby's closet while I'm at it

Onto towels and linens

During my "tidying up" adventure I encountered many personal obstacles.  I struggle with getting rid of clothes that are perfectly fine in the chance that I may want to wear them sometime, but I had to realize that there is probably someone else out there who needs these items more than I do.  Books were also really challenging for me to part with because they may have taught me an important lesson, or maybe I hope to explore them again someday, or perhaps I haven't had a chance to read them yet but I hope to soon.  I reminded myself that a) most books I've read have already served their purpose, b) I probably won't read most books a second time, and c) if I didn't read it within the first few months of purchasing it, I'm probably not going to read it at all.

Admittedly, Kondo is a little nuts sometimes, and she must be a huge organizational nerd who could use three tall glasses of wine (or maybe something stronger).  I'm not going to follow all of her advice (laying socks flat in the drawer? talking to your furniture? unpacking your purse every single day?), and sometimes I want to tell her to get a life (and a boyfriend).  I also think her concepts are difficult to apply to couples with many hobbies.  (She doesn't give a lot of advice about how to organize your garage when you and your husband have 5 bikes, 3 pairs of skis, at least 4 snowboards, rock climbing gear, countless bike tires, backpacking equipment, camping gear, and more between the two of you... not to mention an exorbitant number of cat and dog toys.)  I also didn't get rid of any Christmas decorations because truly all of it brings me joy.  However, I'm on board with the basic concepts of her strategies and I believe that her ideas can create lasting change.

While time-consuming and stressful at times, this experience was also liberating.  I feel motivated to continuing to throw out things I don't use, to part with something every time I buy something new, and to put things away right away.  Will this "tidying up" whirlwind turn out to be "life changing"?  I have yet to determine that, but I do feel a little freer and less anxious to see more space in my home and my life.  I could still be better.  I continue to keep things I think I'll use in the future, and maybe I need to repeat the process every couple years to get good at it, but I think this was a good start and I feel like a weight has been lifted!


  1. I am a very organized minimalist, but I could totally benefit from reading this book!!!!! You're in nesting mode too, perhaps?

  2. Love this! I think I want to declutter once a year.

  3. My wife just read this blog, and is planning on using some of your advice and start prioritizing our clutter, and reassessing what is valuable. She's quite the "saver," so I definitely appreciate your writing it!


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