The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Too much stuff…

Our consumption obsessed society has left us with a lot of stuff in nearly every aspect of our lives. It seems like America in particular is all about BIGGER, BETTER, and MORE, whether it be cars, clothes, phones, beauty products, accessories, home goods, and even food. We love to get the new phone, even if our old phone is really not that outdated or old at all. The food portions at one restaurant are so much bigger than that other restaurant, we feel like we are getting more for our money. What we bought to wear last season is no longer in style, and the newer clothes at the store seem so much cuter….

Even after organizing, it feels cluttered…

Let’s face it, new things are nice and they give us a thrill to buy them. When I find myself feeling sad or overwhelmed, I often buy myself something to make me feel better. And sure, it helps, but the feeling never lasts long. In fact, I often end up feeling guilty for making an unneeded purchase and then overwhelmed by having more stuff in our small house.

Desks are often used as dumping grounds for more stuff.

It’s the stuff and the clutter that contributes to feelings of stress. Especially as a mom of a toddler, I find myself overwhelmed trying to keep up with house work. The dishes and normal cleaning routines aside, tidying up clutter EVERY DAY is tough when a toddler is tugging at my pants. And even with all that cleaning, my house is far from magazine-worthy. I mean, it’s clean: the bathrooms, floors, laundry, kitchen, etc. are all washed. But there’s just too much stuff. I want to devote less time to cleaning and more time to my son.


Everything just feels messy all the time…

Consumerism has completely taken over today’s society. Our stuff is not only packing our homes and causing us to feel stressed and overwhelmed, it’s literally destroying the earth. Americans are averaging about 250 million tons of trash per year. Everything that you buy at the store required the usage of some combination of natural resources to make it’s way to you. The point is that our needs for more are causing more land to be wasted for waste management or for use to satisfy our cravings and needs. The solution is simple: buy less and buy more mindfully.

When I came across the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo, I was hoping that this highly recommended book would help start my path towards minimalism and give me tools to steer clear of the siren calls of consumerism.

This was a super easy and quick read. Kondo is a bit quirky, but she was very relatable and pretty adorable through her writing. The goal and purpose of the book is to help the reader get rid of all the clutter they have accumulated and to help create a peaceful environment. There were a couple of messages that stuck out and gave me an “ah-ha” moment.

Only keep what gives you joy
This is the main message of the book and the one that is obviously the most important. It was such a simple message and makes complete sense. I have so much stuff that I keep just because it’s still “perfectly good” or “I might need it later”. Why keep things that don’t make me happy? It made me look at my stuff from a completely different point of view. Just knowing that certain things brought me joy, made me appreciate them more.

Declutter all at once, by category
Many people recommend decluttering a little at a time or by room, but Kondo brings up a great and almost obvious point: declutter a little at a time and you will be doing it forever. How true! By going about tidying just a little at a time, you really don’t realize how much of something you have, especially if like items are scattered around the house. Plus it gives you plenty of time to add more stuff. By piling ALL of your clothes in one spot, it’s helps to create perspective on your belongings.

Fold properly and vertically
Without getting rid of anything, this tip alone changed my closet. By folding things so that they all stood up, like files, everything is in view and totally organized. Yes, even folding your socks. In fact, folding my socks is probably my favorite tip of the book.

Organizing gives the illusion of a clean room
Kondo emphasizes that all the organizing bins and fancy contraptions will not take care of the main issue: too much stuff. You can file and sort to your hearts content, but your house will still have too many things.

However, there were a few aspects of the book that I felt could not work for everyone. The main one is that tidying should be done alone and all at once. I totally get the recommendation because I’m sure it’s easier to do so alone. But with a toddler, it’s just not feasible to get a babysitter for every part of decluttering. She says not to do this during a child’s naptime either, but in order for tidying to happen at all, I need to work with the time that I have. She also assures the reader that other members of the household will most likely join in on the decluttering. My husband has the most stuff out of all of us and is the absolutely worst at letting go of possessions. His motto is practically, “I might need this”. So I was hoping for more recommendations on how to go about cleaning with a messy family, but who knows, maybe she is right and maybe he will join in after I declutter.

The biggest thing that worried me, however, was the amount of trash the tidying would generate. Wasn’t I trying to make my carbon footprint smaller? Wasn’t I trying to reduce the amount of stuff I sent to the dump? But, Kondo assures the reader that it’s about jumpstarting a lifestyle of minimalism, a lifestyle of reduction and buying less. The idea is that with a peaceful environment and clearer mind, the need to buy more will be abated. That we will see what we have, realize that we have everything we need, and be happy with our beloved possessions. It’s worth a shot to try to combat the gnawing need to buy stuff.

I plan on tackling each subject and writing a post on it in the coming weeks: Clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and personal mementos. I’m also going to include a few posts that are outside of the musings of this book, but related to a lifestyle of less. Posts will include making more mindful food choices as well as reduction of waste in general.

Up first…. is CLOTHING!

Happy tidying!

Check out the book here

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