When a friend of mine told me about a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I knew I would love it. I am not naturally tidy, but I enjoy the idea of tidiness and reading about being tidy. A book that promised magical tidying powers, which I imagined to be along the lines of Mary Poppins, was irresistible.
I borrowed the book from my friend and my hunch was confirmed. The author, Marie Kondo, describes a detailed tidying process. Her basic method is that you go through all of your possessions one at a time, hold them, and see if they “spark joy.” You only keep the things that spark joy, and you get rid of everything else. At the end, you are surrounded by only your sparkiest and most joyous possessions, everything you own has place, and cleaning is as easy as snapping your fingers. Utopia, basically.
I immediately jumped on her bandwagon and started sorting through my clothes. I roped my husband into the process, and with some convincing he gamely held all his shirts one by one to see if any joy was sparking. We got rid of lots of clothes, many books, many, many toiletries (I had no idea we owned so many, and I still don’t know why), many papers, many junky pens, many random small appliances and objects. We did it over the course of several months, and by the end our house was wonderfully organized and neat. It does not always stay perfectly clean, because of my not naturally tidy tendencies, but when things get a little hectic and fall out of place it is much easier to pop them back. Here are the other, more unexpected magical things I have experienced through tidying:
- I no longer have to buy new hair ties all the time. Back in my pre-tidying days my hair ties had no home, and so they would get lost all over the universe. Now that they are no longer homeless, they happily remain in their home, so I am saving a small fortune (a very, very small fortune) on hair stuff.
- My bathroom counter is almost always clean, or can be made so in less than a minute. My husband is very happy about this.
- I hardly ever lose things anymore. After you have touched every single possession you own and bonded with it and found its own personal spot, you just have a better sense of where things are.
- I’m saving lots of money. When you go through all the work of getting rid of lots of junk, you get particular about what you bring in so you don’t have to haul it all back out. I’m much more thoughtful about purchases these days.
- I have fewer clothes, but I like them more. I am a frugal person (or let’s be real, super cheap) and I get seduced by deals all the time, especially when it comes to clothes. That shirt might not be perfect, but it’s only $3.99! I’m learning that it’s better to skip all the not-quite perfect bargain shirts and spend the money on one nice shirt I really love. And when you find that bargain shirt that is also something you love: jackpot.
- I am now able to let go of things. I held on to a lot of things out of guilt (guilt is a speciality of mine). Either it was a present or I’d spent lots of money or it had been a really great thing at one time but was no longer working for me. Marie encourages you to thank your possessions for the purpose they served and then let them go. For example, if someone gives you a present, the purpose of that present is to communicate their love for you. If you don’t like the actual present, you can thank it for doing its job and then set it free so it can make someone else happy. It sounds hokey, but thinking that way flipped a switch for me, and I was able to let go of lots of things that were taking up physical and emotional space.
- I appreciate the things I own more, and I take care of them better. Christians have historically spent a lot of time worrying that they love their possessions too much, but I realized through this process that I don’t love them enough. Instead of loving my things and enjoying them, I just owned them and neglected them and forgot about them and bought more. The theologian Robert Farrar Capon wrote, "Man's real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God's image for nothing." Caring for my things makes me a better human.
- Tidying did not solve all of my problems. I’m always looking for quick fixes for life, and tidying does not solve the problem of evil or restore broken relationships or make you rich and famous (unless you are Marie Kondo). But it does bring sustainable order and peace to your space, and that is no small thing.
So if you have some time and enjoy bandwagon jumping, I highly recommend this book. Anything that helps you love your possessions, make wise financial choices AND saves your hair ties is on the side of the angels.
If you like reading about tidiness as much as I do (and who doesn't?) here are some great articles about the KonMari method of tidying:
Alas, I Will Never Actually Declutter My House This is an interesting counter-perspective by someone who was raised with the Depression-era goal of never throwing anything away that's good enough. I've thought about that a lot, because I do not want to be wasteful. I've decided that if I'm going to have Depression-era hoarding habits, then I need to have Depression-era spending habits, or there is just TOO MUCH STUFF. Practically speaking, that means that I got rid of a lot of "good enough" stuff, but now I'm only bringing in things I like that can hopefully last for a while.
A Series of Letters Between a Minimalist and Maximalist The best point the maximalist makes is that if you don't have tons of a stuff you won't ever experience that great feeling of stumbling over something long forgotten. I do really enjoy that feeling, but I enjoy the feeling of knowing where all my stuff is more.
The KonMari Method Applied to Kids
Hilarious Takes (which include profanity)