The Life of Bon: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: An Introduction

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: An Introduction

Two weeks ago I picked up The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo at the library because I had heard a lot about it and because the stuff stuff stuff and the never ending messes in my house have made me absolutely bonkers.  Our house never stays tidy for more than a day or so.  I know part of this is thanks to the two year old hurricane who destroys everything in her path, and I have accepted that as long as there are children in the house there will also be chaos.  BUT I certainly hope that the current constant mess of our house is not the best we can do for the next 15 years!

 I devoured the book in two days and then I started in on our house with the fury of a thousand suns.  A lot of the book I already thought and agreed with (see this post- it's basically a prologue to the book), but there was so much that was new and even (gasp!) "life changing" for me about the book.  I know that a lot of people see the book as extreme, but I think  I need something extreme to really get a tidying system for our home that will work for the rest of our lives.  

Radical tidying vs. every day tidying.  The majority of the book focuses on a "radical tidying up" which Kondo states should happen once in your life. A successful radical tidying will enable you to do everyday tidying easily for the rest of your life.  If done correctly, her promise is that you will never "rebound" and go back to the old way.   Radical tidying up is huge process and can take up to six months, but remember, this is something that will allow you to be tidy for the rest of your life.  (Supposedly.  Talk to me in a couple years!)

Here are the main points of the book and the things that really resonated with me:

1.  Fill your homes with things that "spark joy."  Her definition of what should be in your home is purposefully vague- it can be hard to know exactly what sparks joy in your life.  But I know I have certain hoodies and jeans that I love more than the rest and that make me excited when I pull them out of the dryer.  Whenever I pack for a trip I pack all of my favorite clothes, so I thought about it like that.  If I was packing for a trip, would I be excited to pack this shirt in?  Sparking joy can also include things that are useful.  June's highchair doesn't make my heart flutter with excitement, but it is very useful, so it stays.

2.   We ALL have too much "stuff."  Get rid of it.  This I am totally on board with.  I feel burdened by so many of the things I own.  Many of my things are very guilt inducing for me- a skirt I spent too much money on that no longer fits, a gift I received from a loved one that I don't really like, a computer that broke that I've been too lazy to ever really try to fix.  GET RID OF IT.  It is filling up space, not only in our homes, but in our hearts and minds.  For June, this is all stuff that she can find in drawers and play with all over the house, hence the never ending clean up.

3.  Don't decide what stuff to get rid of, decide what stuff you want to keep.  This mind shift helped me a lot.  When I picked up a shirt and thought "do I want to get rid of this?" I almost thought no.  But then when I thought, "Do I want to keep this shirt?"  the answer was also almost always no.  INTERESTING, friends.  Keep the stuff that is beautiful, that you feel comfortable and pretty in, that makes your home feel joyful.  It was hard for me to give up three of my favorite pencil skirts, but the fact is they've been too small for two years, and they give me guilt every time I try to wear them.  Adios, pretty skirts.  I spent a lot of money on you and I never got the wear out of you I hoped to, but holding on to you for more years isn't going to lessen my guilt.  Hopefully someone who is skinnier than me will get a lot of joy from you.

4.  Everything in your house should have a place.  This is huge for me and it sounds so no-brainer, but once I thought about it, I realized that I don't have a place for everything.  The things that I DON'T have a place for, interestingly enough, are the things that I use the most.  For example, my purse does not have a place in my house.  It doesn't "go" anywhere.  It's on the counter or the living room floor or my nightstand.  This adds to the house looking cluttered and to my constant searching for my purse.  I also don't have a place for my laptop.  It's in a random drawer, or on our bookshelf, or on the bed but it doesn't belong anywhere!  Other things in my house that have nowhere to go:  Greg's wallet, my keys, June's shoes, (aside from her drawer upstairs in her drawer which is so inconvenient a location that they are NEVER there) my school papers, my planner, coins, batteries, the ipad, my sunglasses, OUR TV REMOTE.  No wonder our house is always cluttered!  Things don't know where they belong!

5. For sentimental items:  thank an item for the joy it has brought you and then get rid of it.  I understand that getting rid of stuff can be really hard for people because it has sentimental value.  It reminds us of a time in our life, a trip to Europe, a relationship, something new that we learned.  But the Konmari method emphasizes that giving up the item doesn't mean that we give up the memory of that time, the relationship, the memories of the trip, etc.  If we are keeping something ONLY because it is sentimental, then we need to part with it.  There is some very sentimental stuff I can't get rid of (basically anything from my dad), but there was a lot of stuff that I realized I've been holding on to for sentimental reasons ONLY.  One of these is a jean Victoria's Secret bag that I got eight years ago.  This bag was the perfect size and shape ,and I have used it for my church bag for EIGHT YEARS.  The bag means everything to me.  BUT, it's so worn out, it's tearing, and I really don't use it anymore.  So I hugged the bag, thanked it for its eight years of hard work, and threw it out.  And I didn't feel any guilt!  Only relief!

Kondo is Japanese so a lot of what she says is maybe hard for Westerners to totally accept.  I know many people have said that thanking an item and saying goodbye to it was kind of overkill, but it really works for me.  I need that closure when getting rid of stuff, and I don't feel weird talking to items.  (I know that it's just an item, but to me an item DOES have a life, otherwise why would it be so hard for us to get rid of it?  There's history and emotions and memories behind the things we own.  It's this "life" that they develop that makes it hard for us to part with it.  Saying goodbye properly feels right to me.)

6.  For gifts:  thank the gift for the intent of the giver and say goodbye.  I think we feel ungrateful if we get rid of gifts that people give us, but the fact is the giving really has nothing to do with the item and everything to do with that the person thought about you, made an effort, spent money, gave you something.  So I don't have to keep the mug my student gave me three years ago.  Thank the mug because it represents that my student cared about me and thought about me, and let go of the mug, knowing that it doesn't mean I have to let go of my good feelings toward my student.  I can still graciously receive and love the gift without holding on to it for a life time.  Revolutionary!  

7.  Organize by category, not by room.  When it comes to the radical tidying of your house, work by category not by room.  Again, this is a mind shift for most of us in the way we organize and clean.  Kondo recommends you start with clothes.  Not your bedroom, YOUR CLOTHES.  This was a huge pain in the butt to gather ALL my clothes.  I had clothes in boxes in the basement, some clothes in my car, jackets I had left at school, clothes in the spare bedroom, coats in the coat closet.  But the plan really wouldn't work if I didn't have every single piece of clothing I owned in the same place.  That was the only way I could really understand how many pairs of shoes I have, how many jackets I own.  And the best part is that now all of my stuff is in the same place and it all has a place to go!

Things I don't agree with:
I loved almost everything Kondo suggests.  There are a couple of things I just cannot get behind, no matter how hard I try:

1.  She says to not listen to music or podcasts or tv when you are doing your sorting/ throwing out.   You need total focus to really know what to keep and what is sparking joy in your life.  While I see her point, there's just no way I could do it.  This process on clothes alone has taken me hours and hours, and I just couldn't do it without something to listen to.

2.  Take the items out of your purse or bag each night.  This is counter productive for me to stay organized.  The more I have ready at night, the smoother my morning goes.  I have a bag for school, my regular purse, and my church bag.  These bags stay packed all the time.  I do agree with Kondo that every time I come home I should clean out the garbage and take out the stuff I don't use in the bag, but unloading every item just to reload it in the morning?  Nope.

3.  Take everything out of your shower each time you use it.  I agree with the thought here- shampoo bottles get gross because they are in the humidity of the shower and constantly exposed to water.  But taking them out and in every shower and drying them off just feels like something that ain't never gonna happen in my house!

There you have it- your introduction to the Konmari method!  So far I have really loved it and already feel so much relief at the stuff I have let go.  Next week I'll give you a rundown of the clothes method, what I kept, what I got rid of, and what my closet looks like now!

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