“Even the smallest changes in our daily routine can create incredible ripple effects that expand our vision of what is possible.” ~ Charles F. Glassman
It can be hugely draining to be surrounded by lots of stuff. By “stuff,” I mean extra books on the shelves, cups you never use, old spices gathering dust, expired medicines in the cabinet, clothes that don’t fit or you don’t enjoy wearing. All these things confine us. Why continue to live this way? Why not make space???
It takes time to put things away. BUT… if every single item in your house had a home, it would be so much easier to put it back there after using it. Xorin Balbes writes that getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40% of housework in the average home. I believe him.
Stage 2, RELEASE, of SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life — Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You (catch up here) teaches us how to let go and why doing so is integral. This stage culminates in our disposing of literal and figurative baggage. “Consider each object in your home. If you’re not sure whether to release it, use the following guidelines to help you decide. If you do not absolutely love it, release it. If it does not make you feel amazing, get rid of it. If it is beautiful but it makes you feel lousy, let it go. If it is broken and beyond repair, toss it. If it is expensive and carries negative emotional weight, sell it. If it is in good condition and no longer feels like yours, donate it.”
Let me first explain that this isn’t your usual spring cleaning project. This is a once-in-a-lifetime complete revamping of your possessions and your space. By systematically going through each item you have in your house, you can decide once and for all what you should keep and then let everything else go. This is major, people.
In order to help myself get motivated for this enormous project, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
“The moment you begin moving furniture around and getting rid of garbage, your room changes. It’s very simple. If you put your house in order in one fell swoop, you will have tidied up in one fell swoop. (In Japanese, the term is ikki ni, or “in one go.”) Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, when in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature.” (By “one fell swoop,” she means an average of a 6 month period.)
This describes me “before” so well that I had to include it here: “I found myself going shopping just to relieve the stress and so failed miserably to reduce the total volume of my possessions. At home, I was always uptight, constantly on the lookout for superfluous things that could be discarded. When I found something not in use, I would pounce on it vengefully and throw it in the garbage. Not surprisingly, I became increasingly irritable and tense and found it impossible to relax even in my own home… We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.“
“If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after… Tidying in the end is just a physical act. The work involved can be broadly divided into two kinds: deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.”
“Unbelievable as it may sound, you only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it.” I have thus far found this to be true. One example… since there’s now a place in my home for all our glue and glue sticks, after we use it we know exactly where to put it back. There’s not glue in the office, glue in the craft closet, glue in the playroom, glue in the kitchen drawer, etc. Even if you do want to keep things where you most use them, making it easier for you to put things back, Kondo urges you to first gather all things in one category together so that you can assess what you have. By doing this, we realized Mr. B has quite a lot of deodorant and now we will no longer be buying this every time we go to the store. And pens. Don’t even get me started on pens.
Selection criterion: does it spark joy?
There are those persnickety reasons for not getting something out of your house. I understand. “I may need this someday.” “My great aunt Mildred gave this to me.” “This is from that special time that…”
Allow yourself space to change and let go of the former you. This is my favorite section of her book and what I found to be most impactful for me:
“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.”
She also says not to keep something around for “someday” because that day rarely comes. If by chance it does, you can always go buy it again.
“There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate.” The craft closet got done while my daughter was in school, which prevented the 5 bags of trash and recycling from getting scrutinized, put back, etc. I’m tossing items that were wedding gifts that I have never used or never particularly liked. I’m ok with thinking that that particular salad bowl’s purpose was to allow the giver to express their congratulations and love and for us to experience our gratitude. Done. Now it can move on to someone else who will treasure it. (Of course, I’m not tossing Mr. B’s or my daughter’s personal treasures without their permission.)
More is less
Kondo suggests we begin with clothes, then move on to books, papers, miscellany, and finally things with sentimental value. So far, I have finished the kitchen, my bedroom closet, the master bathroom, and the craft closet. There are many more areas and categories to go.
I had already done a fairly good cleanout of my closet before beginning this project, but when Mr. B’s closet rod fell to the floor and I helped him do a huge purging, I was inspired to tackle my own again. I adopted Kondo’s criteria (does it spark joy? do I feel good wearing it?). After reading this chapter, I took sections of clothes completely out of my closet, tried on almost everything, and only put back what I need and like. I ended up with another car full of clothing for Goodwill.
I know exactly what I own and where it is. Since this is my first finished project, I return here often for motivation as I keep going. I plan to frame the little paper quotation that I love reading, paint the back of the shelves an accent color, and put photos on my shoe boxes. But that’s later…
Cookbooks. I don’t really like to cook. I had two stuffed shelves of cookbooks and every time I’d see them in that very prominent spot in the kitchen, I imagined they were calling out to me, “You’re a failure as a homemaker!” I kept the very few that I have actually used in the past 20 years or so and a lovely person named Lilac came to collect the rest. If I need to make something, I’ll go to allrecipes.com. Ta da! Space for something better.
Since I was already in my kitchen, I figured I’d work in there. When we moved in about 3 years ago, my mom was kind enough to unpack the kitchen boxes and put everything away. It’s been fine, but I don’t know where lots of things are! I’ve got platters here and platters there, serving dishes mixed with casserole dishes and various pans. I rarely use any of it and it’s all jumbled together, so I dove in. I have to admit that I was so rarin’ to go that I mostly forgot to take “before” pics.
Above is a “before and after” of our cooking utensils drawer. Below is the new organizer I bought for our silverware drawer. I figured that if I look in this drawer multiple times each and every day, I deserve something more than cheap white plastic.
I tossed medicine droppers, very old spatulas, and sold extras of things on a Facebook trading group… and I found several very cool cheese graters I had no idea we owned.
I don’t have “before” pictures of these below. You should probably be grateful.
I sold many things. Cha ching!
Kondo writes, “The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.” This perspective will be most helpful when I get to the sentimental items like journals, photo albums, and old letters. For now, I am sticking to the public areas of the house.
This is our craft closet before and after it was hugely streamlined and then organized. I went to the dollar store (cute shopping carts, right?) to help contain the craziness.
Here’s some detail shots of the end result. My daughter can easily grab a jar of markers and take it somewhere and then easily put it back. For construction paper, I thought I was great before with some stacking bins, but it was impossible to keep it sorted nicely that way. Having everything in clear bins so we can see what we have helps us too. I am keeping the doors open so I can enjoy the view every time I walk past it. Bonus: I found our wedding video and DVD buried in a box at the top of the closet. We have seriously been looking for it!
Finally, yesterday I tackled our bathroom cabinets and drawers and also got a drawer organizer for my bedside table. The scale had to go because it definitely doesn’t bring me joy. I now have a ton of empty drawers and shelves too.
Balbes writes that “your home is an extension and a physical representation of who you are — and who you have been.” I can see how holding onto so many different past scenarios and situations can cause mental clutter, and I am eager to let it all fall away. “Once you face your belongings, confront your fears, unclutter your space, and discover your personal desires and truths, you will have more energy, feel more inspired, access more creativity, and find that you can harness your creativity and find refuge, renewal, and splendor within your own four walls.” I can already see this is true.
By letting go of anything tied to a negative experience or memory and by treasuring those items that evoke joy or happy memories, I am literally shaping my life!
I have lots more to go: file cabinet, hall closet, picture frames, holiday decorations, books, office supplies, cleaning supplies, greeting cards, DVDs, gift wrap, tools/batteries, and eventually the playroom and the garage. The list at this point seems endless.
I challenge you to spend just 5 minutes emptying out a drawer, tossing the things you don’t need (or relocating items that belong somewhere else), and putting back only items that you need/like, preferably in some kind of organized fashion. See if it doesn’t perk you up each time you open that drawer.
Posts in this series: