Tidy Up, Y’all!

This summer I am home with my three young kids, working on final edits for a book I am pitching at a writer’s conference at the end of July, blogging, and spending time with friends. Sounds like the perfect time to reorganize my entire house, right?

Anyone who knows me well knows I am a self-improvement junkie. As much as I love reading fiction, I devour good non-fiction books that challenge the norm.   When I heard about Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingI knew it was a challenge I must accept.

I should have waited to read this book until after my upcoming writing conference, but it came available at the library and was automatically checked out onto my Kindle. I tried to resist it, but when I see the word “decluttering” it is like catnip to me. Or like Vicks VapoRub to my cat.

I succumbed to temptation and spent a couple of days reading it. That would have been fine had I not been driven to implement some of her suggestions, but more on that later.

What This Book is About

While the author may be a small, soft-spoken Japanese woman, she has big ideas on home organization.   In her book she introduces the “KonMari” method, which consists of taking everything you own and determining if each item brings you joy.  If it fails to “spark joy” tell it “doumo arigatou” and promptly discard it. She advises to do the process in one big effort and to start with clothing, since it is usually the easiest to make decisions around. After clothes, move on to books followed by papers, miscellany and finally memorabilia. By starting with easier decisions and progressing to more difficult ones, you get a chance to hone your decision-making skills.

To begin, she instructs you to take everything in a certain category, clothes for instance, and put them on the floor.   When she says everything, she means every single thing: hanging clothes, clothes in drawers, underwear, jewelry, shoes, coats in the closet by the door, etc. After the wave of nausea over the amount of crap you own passes, take each thing in your hand and ask yourself if it makes your heart pound with excitement.   Note: it’s important to move everything to one pile, because when you leave things in their current place they can be invisible to you.

She covers how to organize the things that pass your strict joy assessment. She insists on storing things vertically instead of stacking horizontally, because that leaning tower of shirts are hard on that old N’Sync concert T at the bottom. You know, the one you would totally wear if only you could see it or reach it.

Why Being Tidy Matters

The premise of the book is that we have a limited amount of time, space and capacity to truly enjoy objects we bring into our lives. Having an extraneous amount of things to maintain, to clean and to manage can have a negative impact on our health and professional lives. Weight loss was one benefit that her clients have apparently experienced after implementing her “KonMari” method. I doubt the things she claims can be verified, but I can see their validity.  Once we rid ourselves of the excess things in our life, we are able to see what we need with more clarity.

At first, some of her suggestions sounded silly; such as thanking the objects you are disposing of and greeting your house when you arrive home. What she is really suggesting is to practice gratitude for your possessions.   I believe that happiness begins with gratitude. This is why you should thank your underwear every day for covering your…well, you get the point.

What I Have Done

Tidying Pics

I tried to wait until after my trip to try some of her suggestions and I am proud to say that I am a rock. I waited until the next day to gather all my clothes and put them on my bed to create a peak that rivals Pike’s. I picked up each item and asked myself if it sparked joy. Some answers came quickly. If it didn’t, I tried on the item to obtain the solid “yes” or “no”.  I surprised myself by generating four large bags to donate and one bag of trash. What the hell? I thought I would have enough to fill one bag max. I felt like a big failure toward my minimalistic claims.   I still have a lot of work to do.

While I have not lost weight, I have found that I definitely feel lighter. I also gained a ton of extra space in my closet and dresser. My clothes are no longer squashed together and my drawers actually close without needing to put my weight behind it. Looking at my remaining clothes is now a surprisingly peaceful experience.

I also implemented her suggestion on emptying your purse at the end of the day. I created a place to put my wallet and other items each evening, which allows my purse to rest.   It works hard lugging around all my stuff day after day. When I read this in her book, I thought it sounded so ridiculous that I had to try it. For something that only takes a few minutes, I find that it has surprising benefits. For one, I use all of my bags equally depending on my needs (and colors) for the day and, for two, I am more prepared when I am out since I am purposefully choosing what to pack each morning.

I am resisting the urge to tear apart the remainder of my house until I get back from New York. My house better watch out in August, cause I am going to descend on it like Taz from “Looney Tunes”.  You might find me in the middle of a mound of my stuff spitting and spouting off gibberish, “Soaooo maauch crrappp!”

Final Words

Overall, I think it is a great book to help you if you struggle to part with clutter. I don’t know if will transform your life, but it will definitely help you make more space and create a more peaceful environment in your home. There is much more in her book that I didn’t cover here, such as how to think about gifts and memorabilia.   If you feel like your home is busting at the seams or you like big challenges, this book is for you.

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Ten Signs You’re An Inherent Minimalist

Lego HouseI know that minimalism does not come naturally for the majority of people; however, there are some of us that seem drawn to this lifestyle as if it were encoded in our DNA. For me, it has always been there, even when I tried to fit into materialist settings. I don’t feel that I am a hardcore minimalist, although I think my husband would disagree. He once told me that I wouldn’t be happy until there were five things left in our house…and that was us and our three kids!

Here are some signs that you might have the genetic predisposition for living with less:

1.  You are mesmerized by Tiny House living

You know you could rise to the challenge of living in a 300-square-foot (or less) home. There would be so much less to clean and manage. Sure, you might have to go to the bathroom two feet from your kitchen, but is that really such a big deal? It’s also worth mentioning that you can hoist your house on a trailer, drag it around the country and park it almost anywhere. On top of those benefits, there is the cost to build and maintain it, which are both a fraction of a traditional home’s expense. Check out: http://www.rowdykittens.com

2.  You avoid shopping like most people avoid the dentist

You refrigerator is empty. Instead of running out to the supermarket, you seriously consider whether eating is a necessity. When you do make it to the store, you are a chronic under-buyer. Even though you know you might need something next week, you can’t seem to make the commitment to buy it today.

3.  Your wardrobe is extremely limited

You pretty much wear the same thing every week. You are aware that some people are judging you, especially if you are a woman, but that does not motivate you to put forth more effort in this area. You marvel at people who you never see wearing the same thing twice. Where do all their clothes go? You comfort yourself with the fact that Steve Jobs wore the same thing everyday to avoid decision fatigue. So, it’s not that you aren’t fashionable; you’re just a genius.   It’s the sacrifice you have to make for your superior intellect. Check out: http://theproject333.com/getting-started and http://www.un-fancy.com

4.  You travel light

You travel assuming best-case scenario. You are not going to pack for any disaster that may happen because that just requires too much stuff. When possible, you travel with only a backpack since it’s boss to walk through the airport with your hands free. Free to do what? Anything you want.   They will be free to high-five someone, wave, pick your nose, play patty cake, the options are limitless! When the plane lands you head straight for the Taxi stand and are sitting by the hotel pool with a drink in each free hand while the other suckers are still waiting for their luggage at the carousel. Check out:http://zenhabits.net/mintravel

5.  You don’t cry when things break

That’s just decluttering done for you, pure and simple.

6.  You have learned not to voice your opinions about stuff around others

When someone hears you say you like something, many times they hear, “I want that!” That often is not true for the inherent minimalist. You can like something, but freak out if it comes into your possession. You love having empty shelves in your home, since it makes you feel as if you still have room in your life and you are not yet full. Check out:  http://www.becomingminimalist.com/blank-spaces

7.  You are not a good gift giver

You like to give, but you find it extremely difficult to give anything that might be useless or clutter someone else’s home. You are good at gift cards and donations, but if someone is wanting some sentimental tchotchke from you, it ain’t gonna happen.

8.  You are not a good party planner

Obviously you are fun at parties, but you are not going to create a deluge of unique party decorations from ideas you garnered off Pinterest (even though those ideas are adorable). If you do get a few festive flourishes for the party, they will be disposed of immediately afterwards. Your life does not need to be weighed down by holding onto an “Over the Hill” centerpiece waiting for your next friend to reach middle age.

9.  You prefer not to participate in prize drawings

The thought of someone calling your name for a towel, a bag or some other random crap, makes you squirm. The elation of winning doesn’t outweigh the responsibility that comes with properly disposing of said crap.

10.  Your family always blames you for missing things

Your son can’t find his favorite stuffed animal, so he accuses you of throwing it away during your last junk-sweep of the house. Your spouse is missing his most comfy t-shirt, so you must have donated it. When your family members do find the missing item, they never apologize to you. It’s annoying, but then you remember those rare occasions when you have actually disposed of something you shouldn’t have and find that you are equally guilty of not apologizing. After all, they just need to take better care of their stuff.

I hope that you are able to take away something from this list. If you see yourself in these signs, make sure you fly your minimalist flag high, which probably doubles as your sock so when you are done waving it you can put it back on your foot and not have to carry it around. If you don’t identify with this list, tuck it away as a tool to help you be more understanding when someone gives you a gift card at the generic birthday party they threw for you.

Did I miss any signs? Have a great, simple, clutter-free day!


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