In Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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.

IMG_0226One day my daughter decided she wanted to ‘go shopping’ in my yarn stash/’store’, so we pulled most of it out…

IMG_0233She picked about 30skeins that she wanted to claim, so we photographed her choices for future reference.

IMG_0234I 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.

IMG_0241After 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.

IMG_0317I’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.

19 thoughts on “In Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. You know, I thought that when I had a craft room, I would finally have things organized. 4 months with a craft room tells me this: It does mean that I have less crafty stuff laying around the main part of the house, but it certainly doesn’t mean that my craft room is organized.

    1. Organization definitely takes real commitment no matter how big the space! I’ve really learned that at least in our family if we’re going to keep things tidy, there has to be a very very hard line regarding keeping things in their one spot. It gets messy fast if we start to let things slide!

  2. Last fall I had an auction to get rid of 36 years of accumulated “stuff” that had very little or no appeal to me any longer. Most of this stuff was accumulated by my late packrat husband and you wouldn’t believe the stuff I found. Now I’m going to get that book and organize my sewing room, my yarn, my dyeing and batik supplies and put together an art studio I can actually work in in the room that is empty of all things after the auction. Sigh. So empowering. I am so glad YOU wrote about this book because I too have seen it and laughed. I hate cleaning, am totally disorganized but creative as all get out …….. now to create a place of peace!

    1. I believe it! My parents have lived in their house for about that long and they have an entire barn full of stuff! Part of my husband’s and my own motivation for not moving into a bigger space is to keep our life simple and not accumulate a ton. The 10year decluttering seemed like an important part of this plan!

      And yes, this book. I kept seeing people already way tidier than me using it and figured it was mostly just hopeless, but I think it’s been really helpful. I’m kind of interested to see what other insights are in it!

      1. Great idea! I’m TERRIBLE with reading books on a screen (I may be the last one!), so I got the book. I whole-heartedly intend to sell it or give it away as soon as I finish!

  3. I’m on organization mode too. I just can’t believe how much crap I have accumulated over the years. It’s time to declutter my life.

    1. I just finished cleaning & organizing about about 1/2 of our basement. It still needs some major attention, but it is totally amazing to walk down and have it at least somewhat organized. It’s a real game-changer to not feel the pressure of all that random “stuff” all over!

  4. lol – I had to laugh at your reaction to hearing about the book. I have also seen lots of mention about it. Years ago a friend introduced me to “” with the warning “she’s very Christian, very Mrs. Hetero-sexual but her system WORKS.” Some of her things are much like you describe – keeping things you either need or love, and everything in a place. She also works with getting control of clutter, 15 minutes at a time – “you can do anything for 15 minutes” and goes on from there. It is a system that is very adaptable and does work, as I am sure your book’s does as well. It is really all about consistency and self-control, developing routines for cleaning and getting things organized. And so now that you have reminded me how I mean to be doing things, I should get back into my clearing out routines. 🙂

    1. It’s really easier said than done. I keep telling myself that I’m doing it for my kids as much as I’m doing it for me, so they can see me setting a good example of not just keeping a tidy house, but taking care of my things. I am so driven by the knowledge that if I don’t stick to it no one will!

      1. You are right – if they can learn these lessons while young, they will become habits that will help them all of their lives. My Mom was always overwhelmed by the house, the kids, the cooking, etc. There were no peaceful places in our house, but now that we are gone and no one cares if dinner is at 2 or 6 or made at home or leftovers, she has been able to relax and create calm and order. I just wish she had been able to do it long enough ago to teach us when we were small. 🙂

      2. I have to share yesterday for the first time ever my kids cleaned their room well, working together and not fighting and did the best job they ever had. It has totally reinforced the belief that this long-term habits things is possible. ☺️ It’s definitely not easy, but wow what a difference!

  5. THank you for this recommendation. I just moved and dumped so much stuff that the people at the local Goodwill know me. I have my own office to as yet conquer and part of the problem is the yarn-age. How to store it. Fortunately I rarely just buy yarn but rather buy it for projects. I rarely buy souvenir yarn. Nevertheless I have many projects on hold from seasonal things to other things that are pressing for one reason or another. I need to build out my office space for all the extras and literally dont know where to turn to get help in figuring this out. Your book recomenation seems like a nice start. If you want to share your yarn storage tips I would love to hear about it. Thanks again for sharing. Lara

  6. Such a fun post. I would have a hard time tossing sentimental stuff, but I’m running out of room. I’ve paid good money for my fabric stash and yarn, but there isn’t room to put it all away. I can’t knit fast enough : /
    I’ve been working on my house for months but with 5 adults living here and my mother downstairs…….

    1. I’m lucky in that I’m really not a sentimental saver. I still have the outfits I brought both my kids home from the hospital in, but that’s pretty much it. My yarn & fiber & fabric… I have a lot and I’d happily destash if necessary, but my hubby is of the school of thought that if I’ve bought it I should use it (even if it takes a while). I won’t argue!

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