How a small book made a big difference.
As is the case with most of my fresh starts, I found The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo by accident. Being a Chapters/Indigo fan and all, it was common for me to pop in and see what was new. The Chapters I’d gone into had a spring cleaning section set up near the entrance, and of all the books on display, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was the most simple looking one.
To give you a paraphrased version of what this book is about, it basically outlines how to get your shit together. Literally. And you don’t just put things away in a spot and go, “yeah, close enough.” You actually have to go through every single item in your house, pull it out, hold it, and figure out whether or not it’s worth keeping. It is one of the most irritating but fulfilling things you can do with your time.
While I fell in love with planning and agenda-keeping as a youngster, I had no interest in cleaning anything up. To this day, I admit “the chores” are the thing in my life that actually piss me off the most, namely because my mother used to say I didn’t do them “well enough” all the time. (That’s served as a note to myself to encourage any children down the road when cleaning up and not tell them they suck at sweeping. Seriously. Lesson learned.)
I’d rather co-ordinate bills — and I don’t even like basic math — than mop the floor or wash dishes. The only thing I like to do as a cleaning task…is dust.
As a kid, opening the door to my bedroom looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Clothes and school notes everywhere, stuffed animals strewn about. I never had any food in my room, but I didn’t really need that to demonstrate how much of a mess it was in there. It’s really a shame that I don’t have any photos of this tumultuous-looking shit, because I’d be a poster child for how NOT to keep your room.
As I got older I decided to start organizing my room out of boredom. It would work for about a week, and then it’d be a mess all over again. Throughout my post-secondary years, I wasn’t home much, so when I did have a day or two off, most of it was to do laundry or wash whatever dishes were in the sink. Then we’d start the cycle all over again.
Fast forward to moving in with my now husband, and while I’d whittled down my belongings from moving three times that year, he had a lot of stuff. Even then, combining my stuff with his stuff meant…well, what felt like an inordinate amount of stuff. Laughably, the day I was in that Chapters store, we’d just nixed a full shelf of books from our collection, so it was a touch ironic we were potentially bringing more books home. Fortunately, this was a good book to pick up.
So, I bought the book, started reading it, and was taken aback by some of the advice she was offering. Pull everything out? Really? We were NOT going to have time for this. We had a lot of stuff. But, Jon and I decided we’d do it over a week, in the evenings, and only take our stuff to the donation bins (there’s one at the end of our block, thank goodness) once we were 100% done.
Between the two of us, we couldn’t believe what we owned: gnarly, food stained t-shirts we didn’t care for, old (we think they were) school notes we weren’t able to read; we found more books we hadn’t touched in ages. We had a lot of mementos — in fact, each of us had a tote full of things we wanted to hold onto. We were able to reduce that quickly by holding on to each thing, and asking, “does this actually bring us joy when we see it? Or do we get annoyed at the fact we need to find a spot for it?” Most of the answers were the second one.
By the time we were done a week and a half later, we had twelve black garbage bags full of stuff. Twelve. Black. Garbage. Bags. It felt so good to be rid of all that stuff!
A year after incorporating this literature into our lives, we are both very proud of our living space and how (relatively) clean it is. We’re only doing bits of tidying up at night, or the next day, and every few weeks we try and rotate between the dusting, sweeping, mopping and sometimes vacuuming. (We have hardwood flooring so we don’t need to vacuum all that much.) Some days get a little crazy, and we have a lot to put away. However, each item has a home and is meant to be in our apartment. It’s refreshing!
If you’re wanting to declutter your life, don’t wait until spring to start. Capitalize on that desire to sort through all that extra stuff you probably don’t need. We’re so glad we did, and we haven’t looked back since. 🙂