For months I’ve been seeing posts about a certain book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and I kept thinking, “Why would anyone want to read a book on cleaning?” I just kept seeing these raves about it, though, which made me wonder what exactly was in this book to make it so popular. As I struggled with getting my kids to effectively tidy and maintain their room and felt the dumping ground of my dresser begin to make me irrationally angry, I caved and decided I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Maybe there was real magic in this book and if that was the case, I needed to be enlightened… yesterday… or at least before I really lost it.
We’re at that point where we’ve been in our house for a little over 10years and over those years we’ve added our two kids to share the 900square feet that is our home. As is the way of things, we’ve accumulated stuff. Where all my possessions used to fit in a 2-door car save for my futon and a table, things are different now. Some of it can’t be avoided. Bunk beds for the kids, a couch, dining table and chairs, a couple bookshelves — if you have a house I think its fair to say some basic furniture is inevitable. The little things though — clothes, shoes, spare kitchen items, random papers you can’t live without for some reason, toys, stuffed animals, etc — these are the things that can start to overtake a small living space. And they were starting to encroach on ours and my sanity.
I haven’t made it through the whole book yet, but I have already set out two pillars by which I’m basing my own clean house project. The first is the one you hear the most buzz about, that each item in your home should “spark joy.” I’m on board with that. I’ve loosely interpreted that to mean that everything here needs to either serve a regular, necessary purpose or we have to just really love it. The second pillar was the real light bulb/”A-HA” moment for me. If we are going to have a thing in this house, it has to have a single place where it belongs. It’s such a no-brainer when you think about it. I’ve always subscribed to this, but I’ve also always gotten sloppy and lazy about it and when I’m lazy and sloppy about it there is no hope for anyone else in my family. Now I get that we run into problems for no other reason than we don’t have one place for most things. You can’t really maintain an inventory of items in any scenario if you have multiple homes for each item. It simply isn’t possible.
So with these two tenets in mind, I set out to rejuvenate our house with a little organizing and decluttering. In the book, Kondo recommends doing your whole living space in about 6months — a totally reasonable time-frame for our space, I think. Since I’m trying to be mindful and methodical in doing it right once so that all we have to do is put things in their one place from here on out, I’ve been tackling just a bit every day. One day I cleaned and vacuumed under our bed and decluttered and organized my nightstand.
I snapped this photo quickly — hence the less than fab background — but I thought you’d get a kick out of her taste. She pretty much loves NorthBound Knitting, String Theory Colorworks, Miss Babs, Tanis Fiber Arts, and anything pink or containing silk.
After her choices were photographed, we stacked the stash back onto the shelves. There are other places in the house where I have some yarns tucked away, too, but these are the skeins I like at my disposal in hopes that I’ll get to them soon. I always organize these shelves by their intended purpose with the exception of handspun which I just stack together. The upper left is the handspun and the upper right is yarn for socks with a column of sport weight sock yarn sandwiched between the handspun & other sock yarn. The lower shelf is mostly yarn designated for sweaters with the right 1/4 of the shelf containing shawl yarns.
After the yarn, I tidied the kids’ homeschool books and we’ve been hard at work making last minute updates to the coming year’s curriculum. Once the remainder of our new books come in I’ll have to dial in those shelves a bit further. I’ve cleaned and organized my cedar chest which contains the bulk of my spinning fiber. I’ve cleaned out the bathroom closet. I’ve tidied my own dresser, both inside and out. And I’ve started in on the kitchen, including finding a home, one spot for my new dishcloths.
I’ve got a long way to go, but I feel as though I’ve made a good start. And it will definitely take some getting used to, especially getting the other members of my family to be reliably on board and consistent. That being said, I feel really good about the message it sends. At the heart of it all, the things we have we love and/or need and we take care of them. Period.
So is there magic in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Arts of Decluttering and Organizing? I think there is. I may feel a little ridiculous reading an instructional book on cleaning. I may get teased by my hubby for reading it. At the end of the day though, I feel like I’m looking at my home, the things inside of it, and life in general in a more mindful way. It’s not about acquiring more organizational tools that allow us to cram more and more stuff into our houses just as my day-to-day life isn’t about trying to pack it chock full of activities. It’s about making better choices, contemplating what’s truly important and necessary, and letting go of the things we no longer need. If we really stop to think, it’s not just a philosophy for tidying our homes, it’s a very fulfilling way of life. It’s freeing. It’s comforting. It’s empowering. And yes, I think it’s kind of magical.