Lessons from a book I read: "The life-changing magic of tidying up"

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A couple of months ago I read a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of De-cluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I bought it by accident. I had a cold, was stuck in bed and had been contemplating it on Amazon. I sneezed and clicked a button and a confirmation number appeared on my screen. This was a true blessing, and we've had a wild ride together.

As soon as I got my hands on it, I gobbled the book up in a matter of hours, even taking notes on the way. Everything Marie Kondo asked me to do was something that I'd been wanting to do, but had never quite been able to articulate to myself.. Her philosophy for tidiness is beautiful: If an object doesn't spark joy, say goodbye. She actually gets you to hold each item in your hands, every book, every bottle of moisturizer, and decide what to do with it. Also, this woman has serious cred. She's the guru of tidiness in Japan. On the back of her book she is actually quoted as being "a warrior princess in the war on clutter". And the shtick is, if you follow her instructions properly, you will only have to follow this program once. Ever. Damn, that's good.

I began tearing my house apart and I was unstoppable. I was possessed. I did not call any friends, eat proper meals, or go to the gym. I even forgot to go to work once. I completed the "KonMari Method" (Marie Kondo mashed up) in 6 blurry, wonderful days. I emptied, sorted and reorganized every nook and cranny in our entire home. I started with non-emotional things like clothes, and things in the kitchen. I cleaned out all of the spice jars and re-labelled them. I donated a lot of fabric. The result?

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10 bags of garbage + a shit load of recycling

12 bags of clothes

14 boxes of stuff

1 scrap metal pickup

That's how much stuff we kicked to the curb. That's how much stuff oozed out of our house. It was like a cyst being drained. Sort of.

 

 

I noticed some trends with the stuff I was getting rid of. A lot were items I'd bought while traveling. A lot of items were from Forever 21 (I am 28, and no longer allowed to shop there... except sometimes). I discarded a lot of stuff I knew I had bought on a whim. They were not things that I had researched, contemplated, or fell in love with. 

And I trudged on. I followed Marie Kondo's instructions. I held onto every item and said to myself, "Does this spark joy?", and I realized that the magic of this question is that it eliminates the battle between the heart and the brain. When I listen to my animal brain, it tells me to keep everything. It says "You might need this one day, you're just a giant squirrel, never stop gathering". Instead, the question of joy just let me be honest with myself. There was no criteria to fill, no quota. Just a pure question that made me excited about the objects I had chosen to keep.

Getting rid of photos was grueling. Throwing out a photograph once seemed unthinkable to me, but I did it. I had about 10 large albums, all created between the ages of 15-19. I took the photos out of all my albums (this probably took 5 hours) and then I sorted through them (3 hours). 

I kept photos that reminded me of wonderful times, and got rid of the ones I took because I was simply bored. I threw out doubles. In the end, I said goodbye to a full garbage bag of photos.  I had hauled these pictures from one apartment to the next, for the last ten years, as though they were gold. Snapshots of my youth, portraits of boys who broke my heart and whose hearts I broke. And what I realized, going through all of these photos in one go, is that life is long and many things and people and events exist around us. If they're great, we don't need pictures to remember how important they were. And with that, I carried my garbage bag of photos to the end of my driveway. I was surprise at how okay I was with it.

I should point out that I don't live alone. I knew my partner would be comfortable with me sorting through his stuff at my leisure (he's "easy-going"), but I also knew that if I did, it wouldn't be true to the KonMari method and might not have lasting results. So I forced him to go through his things, hold onto each item, let it talk to him, repeat, etc. He was so into it, and it was great to have help. Jah bless my sweet fiancé.  

Finally, I completed purging our house. Our front porch was full of everything that was waiting to be donated. Books, shoes, art, tools, bikes, furniture, even the bins I'd previously acquired to organize all this stuff - they were no longer necessary. When I realized that it was all over, I stood and I stared at the pile I had accumulated on my front porch. I contemplated it. I slowed down my brain. I brought my focus to different objects, and I thanked them for the joy they'd brought me and for the lessons they taught me.

I thanked the George Foreman grill for saving Jenny's life when the only thing she could stomach were grilled cheese sandwiches. I thanked a picture frame for displaying a photo of my childhood cat, Cosmo, day after day, for so many years. I thanked the juicer for teaching me that juicing is a lot of work. I thanked many pairs of sunglasses for shading my eyes on the endless road trips, and the old shower caddy for always being there to hand me the soap. There was nothing in this pile that I resented, nothing that made me feel guilt. There was nothing that I never wanted to see again out of anger or frustration. It was like we all knew it was time to move on to our next lives, and I'd like to think that we parted with the utmost gratitude and love between us.

Once everything was purged, it was time to organize, and deep clean. All of the clothes got folded up like precious little packages and were organized so that virtually nothing is lost at the bottom of any drawer. The closet starts with dark, heavy items on the left, and floats up to the right with lighter & shorter items. All of our stickers live in one basket now (seriously, my life has been overtaken with bike polo stickers for the last five years, and now they are all in one place). Together, my partner and I sorted through our "personal administration bin" and kept very little of it. Now we just have a cute little shoe-box sized drawer in the closet, which I taped a divider into to keep our documents separate. We can actually find important stuff now, instead of sifting through old cellphone contracts and millions of versions of our high-school resumes. Everything we need is accessible, yet tucked away. We ended up with tons of empty cupboard space in our tiny kitchen, so board games, headphones & chargers, and cameras live above our stove. All of this organization makes the house a cinch to tidy. In the past I was notorious for cramming closets full of stuff and calling it "tidy", and then wondering why things got so messy so quickly again...

It's been over a month since I Konmari'd my life, and it really has stuck. I've been shopping way less. I know where all my hair elastics are. I know where all the pens are. All of the tupperware still have lids. Folding laundry is relaxing. I now love cleaning our house. I fill the mop bucket with eucalyptus, peppermint and vinegar, and it's like aromatherapy for me. I burn cedar incense, and turn on all our lamps every time the sun sets. I've been watering our plants regularly and actually kind of care about them. I love our space, and I notice the flaws in our home way less than before, if at all. I feel great. Life-changing magic of Tidying Up? Truth.

While writing this post, I flipped through Marie Kondo's book, looking for quotes or advice to put in here so that you, too, could have the tools to tidy your home as well, but it would never do it justice. The book puts you in a mindset. It provides reasoning for some very specific steps for execution. I realized that my house wasn't messy because I was messy. It was messy because I hadn't been treating the objects around me with very much respect. Now though, I see that objects are sacred, no matter our lifestyle or income. They have lives of their own and should be treated like sweet, loyal, and hardworking friends.

If getting your home in order is something you want, go read this book.  My house now gives me lightness, and the air inside feels fresher. It's no longer an anchor, or a place where I keep my things. I have a feeling of freedom, where all I'm carrying with me are the things I've invited. VIP. 

Oh, and for my finale, I bought us new sheets. Crisp, white sheets. Heck yes.

And now, a bunch of pictures of our home! Like, a big bunch. Enjoy!

*Update: My KonMari report, a few months later.

I treated myself to some serious swag from Flowers & Vintage. Cause I'm a grown ass woman.

Coats, hats, scarves, mitts, keys & umbrellas.

Coats, hats, scarves, mitts, keys & umbrellas.

Charlie & my favourite wind chimes from Chile.

Dinos from my childhood & a globe from Philadephia.

Alexis on the beach in Cuba.

Sweet baby Charlie approves.

We now only own THREE bikes between the two of us. I think we donated about 10. Bananas.

All the pens in the entire house live here. Believe it.

Pantry is refreshed!

Scissors and tape live with the cutlery now. So easy!

Re-organized and re-labelled spices.

The "Alcohol and Incense" station.

Makin' use of open shelving.

Just looking at this picture makes me so relaxed.

Our "dresser".

All of our pants AND shorts.

Sockies!

T-shirts folded in a special way, sleeping soundly in a shoebox.

All of my socks and underwear, with a divider made from a shoe box.

Dresses, sweatshirts, sweaters, flannel, short-sleeve button-ups, plus stickers, administration and photos on top!

Where we hang things like cardigans and hats!

All administration for both of us lives in this tiny bin at the top of the closet! Phew.

You probably remember my prized possession, this gold shopping cart laundry hamper!

Pink bathrooms 4 life. Tall cosmetics in the tiny basket, everything else in the big basket at the top. Matches for poops have been consolidated and live beside the plant.

These gold dinos travel all over the house...

No more grungy shower caddy. Soap and shampoo live out of the shower now.

ALL OF MY HAIR ELASTICS LIVE HERE! HALLELUJAH!

Finally, an empty room that we have nothing to put inside, except our dog and some books.

Good luck on your quest for tidiness. If I can do it, you sure as heck can.

xo

Julia