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Saturday, September 5, 2015

finding joy in tidying up

One of the happiest years of my life was my year serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (it was also one of the hardest, but that's another story).  A big contributor to that happiness was having a tidy, organized house to come home to at the end of the night.  I was living in Syracuse, so all my belongings for the year had been shipped to me - and that coupled with the desire to live simply helped me drastically reduce the amount of stuff I had.  Consequently it was the first time I had ever consistently had a clean room, and it was the lightest I ever felt.  I experienced what it was like to let my living come before my stuff.  The only problem was that when I went back home after my year was over, I was confronted with all my possessions I had left behind.  Gradually these unessential possessions got mixed in with my essential ones, and I was weighed down once again.  

I kept remembering that experience while listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  It was a quick listen for an audio book (about five hours), and it really hit home for me.  Author Marie Kondo, a lifelong/obsessive tidier, has a really simple approach to cleaning up your home.  First, keep only the things in your home that bring you joy.  Second, find a place for every single thing in your home to stay.  She claims if you go through every single item in your house one time asking yourself the simple question "does this bring me joy?", you'll be able to permanently put your house in order.  Sounds like a lot of work but also pretty tempting right? 

She says tidying begins with discarding (anything that doesn't bring you joy) -- and to tidy in the right  order as quickly as possible.  The order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, photos/memorabilia.  She recommends going category by category and being pretty ruthless if you don't feel a sense of joy (or at least a sense of very good function in the case of things in the kitchen/bathroom/office).  

I loved how simple and profound this approach is.  I also loved some of these other thoughts of hers.  Would you rather your house be for living or for storage?  It's unnatural to own things that don't bring us joy and that we don't really need.  And one of my favorites -- gifts served their purpose when you first received them (by showing you the gift giver's care for you), it's ok to let the gifts go if you don't use them.   

Marie Kondo talks about how inanimate objects have feelings and you should wish them well on their journey when giving them away - kind of kooky.  I also thought she sounded crazy when talking about storing clothes vertically in your drawers, but I decided to give it a try and it turns out it works really well!  Picking out my clothes is so much simpler and more enjoyable since I can see everything in my drawer at a glance. 

Marie Kondo is a little over the top (I mean she tidies for a living!), but her message was spot on for me.  Listening to this book has inspired me to really clean out and tidy up our apartment - to try to permanently find that light feeling in our living space.  Our little baby Theo is already rolling on his side and looks ready to start running any day, so I know my days to deep clean are limited.  Plus, what better way to teach our son about simplicity than to bring him up in a house that has less stuff?  

Thus, I am dedicating the month of September to cleaning out the house!!!  I started, last week, and I can already feel a difference in the apartment.  Visually it doesn't seem like a lot yet since it's been stuff that's mostly stored away, but that light feeling from my service year is slowly returning.  

This past week I cleaned out/went through/organized the following: 
- All my clothes (in closets, dresser drawers, and storage under my bed)
- My accessories, jewelry, shoes, jackets
- Our pens (super simple, but it feels great to know I only have pens I like writing with in the house)
- Our towels and linens

I've already given away about ten trash bags full of stuff.  It felt amazing loading that stuff up and dropping it off.  I just can't believe how much more clutter and stuff we still have with ten trash bags out of the house.  It's crazy just how much stuff a space can hold.  

I'm coupling this month of cleaning with another challenge of sorts I've been wanting to do for a few years.  I'll be taking a daily photo of our apartment and posting my favorites here.  It doesn't take much effort, and I thought it would be fun to document the transformation of our living space.  My initial favorites are in this post.  

Next up in my organizing project are our household books and papers.  I'm hoping I can post an update next week saying that I've made really good progress in this area.  The key for me so far has been doing a little bit every day and having an idea of what I'll be working on for the next few days so I don't lose momentum.  

I'm hoping to post weekly updates and one final summary of the project at the end of the month.  I have about 50% confidence in myself that I'll stick to that posting schedule with little baby Theo taking my attention :)  

Have you caught the Marie Kondo tidying bug?  Think you have anything that could use decluttering?  


  1. Mary! I just read the book, too! Out went three boxes of my clothes and a bunch of infant things we just don't need to hang on to. Freeing and challenging at the same time. I love your blog. Now I have a super basic question--if it is powered by blogger, how do you not have .blogger.com in your we address? I dusted off my bog (after deleting the stuff I wrote a million years ago), and my mad computer skillz (yep, I said it) are rusty at best. -Rachel Zerkel Smith

  2. Isn't it crazy how good it can feel to clean that stuff out? It's amazing how much stuff I have held on to over the years just out of habit. Glad you like the blog -- thanks for reading and commenting :)

    I bought the domain name for my website through Go Daddy.com. It costs about $20/year I think. I recommend not searching through their website to see if your desired name is available unless you're ready to purchase it right then. Apparently people can stalk the searched for names and then try to buy them up so you have to buy it from them as a third party. (Did that make sense?) Then I googled instructions for how to forward my blogger blog to my go daddy domain site. I don't remember all the steps, but I was able to figure it out without any computer skillz. Let me know if you have any other questions about it!