The Art of Tidying Up

Posted by Brette in Organizing

tidyingHalf the world read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo before I got around to it. I might have been late to the party, but I still have a lot of thoughts about this concept.

I found the book to be kind of puffy – lots of filler and not a lot of meat, but it sounds like her follow up title will offer more specifics which I suspect a lot of people will appreciate. It’s one thing to tell people to organize things, but another to actually show them how to do it.

Some of the book feels a bit woo-woo, but I found that there were some concepts inside the woo-woo I could get on board with. Kondo talks a lot about getting in touch with your belongings. She wants you to thank them for what they’ve done for you, offer them appreciation and respect, and think about what they might need (space, a new home, etc.). It sounds a little silly since that pair of pants you’re putting away is not an animate object, but I do appreciate the idea of treating objects with respect. This is a very Japanese approach and something we encountered a lot on our trip to Japan. While I don’t think my belongings have feelings, it’s true that if you treat the things you own with care and thought that they perform better (are easier to find and don’t get broken or damaged). You also will like them more. I find that if you fill your home with items that have been thoughtfully and carefully culled and arranged that your home begins to feel neater and more controlled.

One of the basic tenets of the book is that to sort things you’ve got to sort everything in one class, so she says to get ALL of your clothes out and sort through them all, discarding some and keeping some. It’s actually very true because you can’t see what you have unless you assess it all together. I did this with my clothes and did a huge purge.

I was struck by her advice to only keep things that bring you joy. This isn’t completely practical because the pooper scooper we use in the dog yard does not bring me joy, but it is a useful tool we need. However, this is a way of thinking I’d actually been applying for a while without realizing it. Slowly over the years I’ve been weeding out things in my house so that I only keep the items that have meaning to me. I’ve gradually replaced all the wall art with paintings we’ve bought on our travels. Nearly all of my “stuff” is now either family heirlooms, items that have a special memory associated with them, trip souvenirs, or items for a specific holiday. While some of the framed art I decorated with when we first bought our home were nice enough, the items didn’t resonate with me in the same way items I’ve bought while traveling do and so I’ve slowly gotten rid of them. I’ve done the same thing with clothes. I was hanging on to items that “could” be useful but in truth I didn’t really like. Wearing them didn’t make me feel happy, so I stopped keeping them.

The impetus to get things organized so you can see them and find them is a good one.  I  have found it to be true that once you really organize something you don’t ever have to go back and redo it. The only exception to that I can find is our pantry. It’s just not big enough for all the things I need so every time I get it nice and neat it falls apart into a disaster within about a month. Kondo would say that means there are things in there I need to get rid of but despite my purges, I’m unable to get it down to a small enough size so that the space works. I found it hard to get a lot of things organized in my home until my oldest moved out and I suddenly had a lot more closet space. You also need to have time to organize. I feel as though I was never really able to get organized until my kids were no longer little. When they were small and we were both trying to be good parents and work full time, there were not enough hours in the day to do more than the glaringly obvious things that needed to be done around here. Once they got older and I had more time, organizing became easier for me.

One thing I am struggling with is that I have some family heirlooms that I just don’t care for. They aren’t displayed, but they are stored in boxes in our basement. It is hard to give them away. It’s one thing to give them to another family member, but harder to just donate them. I agree with Kondo though that keeping these items stashed away in a box is not a good use of them, yet I’m still struggling with the step of just giving them away. I’m rationalizing it by saying my kids will be getting married and starting their own families in the coming years and maybe they or their spouses would like some of it then.

My favorite organizing tip in the book is about storing clothes in drawers like you would file folders. Fold things and place them upright in the drawer like a folder. This way you can open the drawer and see every single item right in front of you. I did this with my jeans and yoga pants and it’s a system that is working well for me. I love being able to pull the drawer out and know exactly what I have to choose from.

If you’ve read the book, what did you think of it?

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