Thoughts on tidying up

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my name finally rose to the top of the library’s hold list for Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I dove into the book, knowing I only had three weeks (no renewals allowed when there’s a wait list).

Within a day of checking out the book (hadn’t even started reading it yet), I found two lost items: a pair of earrings lost in the clutter on the top of my dresser (found when decluttering said dresser top) and Gabriel’s snow pants, inexplicably residing on the bottom of our closet floor (found when pulling out my breast pump, which I should have donated years ago).  Kondo’s little book already seemed magical to me!

I used to be quite into tidying.  As a child, I wanted my room to be just so, which was challenging while sharing a room with my not-like-minded sister!  Somewhere along the line of sharing a house with someone, and especially when that became two someones, one of them a little person, and the general hum of life, I buried those old tendencies.

For a variety of reasons, the timing is right for some purging and organizing, and Kondo’s book gave me the push I needed.  My biggest question was how to deal with all of the stuff that is not mine.  Kondo advises resisting the urge to “tidy up” or downsize for others in the household, instead letting your own personal efforts have a trickle-down effect.  This sounds overly optimistic, but despite my doubts, both Matthew and Gabriel initiated some tidying of their own.  (Matthew actually beat me to sorting through clothes!  And he read the book.)

That said, I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference, or just Kondo’s passion for the subject (and writing to sell a book), but there are some pretty hokey parts that you have to read with a big grain of salt.  A skeptic also has to question Kondo’s claim that “no one ever relapses.”  That’s a pretty bold claim without providing evidence!

Still, it seems her methods are sound, and it felt like someone was giving me permission to off-load lots of things that I was keeping “just because,” which was quite freeing.

Per Kondo’s method, I started with clothes.  In the process, I discovered that I am more of a “practical” keeper than a “sentimental” keeper.  Once I’m in the discarding groove, it’s fairly easy to see that I don’t need most sentimental items, but those old pants, that might be useful for some grubby task someday?  A bit harder to part with.

To date, I’ve finished the clothing category.

Two tidied dresser drawers

I wouldn’t mind those drawers being a bit less crammed, but compared to how they looked before, this is huge progress.  Seeing every item when I open a drawer will help me identify more items that are just taking up space, rather than being worn and enjoyed.

Books come next, but truth be told, I, personally, don’t have that many books (cough-Matthew-cough).  Other than a gifted book here or there, I’ve always been a library gal (even when it requires waiting patiently on the hold list for a popular new item), and until I hit college, with the requisite text books, I did not spend money on books, despite being a voracious reader.  My fingers get twitchy when I look at our bookshelves, but if anything is to happen in that arena, it won’t come from me.

I have jumped around a bit, tackling some low-hanging fruit, like boxes of old class notes and old work stuff.  If I haven’t referenced my grad school course materials in the past ten years, I’m unlikely to start now.  Yes, those binders contain some useful information, but it’s not organized in a way that is easy to access.  If I wanted that information today, I’d look elsewhere.  Enter the recycling bin!

So far, in addition to the recycling (and, yes, some trash), I’ve made two big trips to the St. Vincent de Paul store.  While Kondo recommends that tidying up should be a somewhat discrete event, and not something that drags on forever, she also gives a time frame of six months for the work, which works well with where I am.  I’d love to knock it out in a week (and I could see someone even doing it in an intense weekend, assuming they didn’t have too much stuff when beginning), but I can’t put the rest of my life on hold, so I’ll have to take the step-wise approach.

I’d love to hear your experiences with decluttering, simplifying, or “tidying up,” whether you used Kondo’s approach or something else — please share in a comment!


  1. guinnessmike says:

    I went through t shirts – got rid of ones with holes etc but I saved them for cleaning rags instead of using paper towels not sure that counts LOL

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Holy clothes definitely become rags around here. Good for general around-the-house cleaning and for wiping down bikes!

  2. Shannon says:

    I just finished her sequel, Spark Joy, because I could get a free download of it. I agree completely – some of it was seriously too woo-woo for me while a lot of it provided a helpful perspective. We just had to do a major clean-out of one of the bedrooms to get ready for a new baby and it provided a lot of encouragement/motivation for what was a thankless job.

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