Get Rid of Clutter: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying
Are there pockets of clutter in your home that are dragging you down?
Do you struggle to downsize your collection of books, DVDs or Tupperware? Just in case those missing lids ever turn up…
Find it hard to let go of clothes in case they come back into fashion or you lose or gain weight? Feel guilty getting rid of things that were given as gifts?
As I prepare for my upcoming move back to London, I’m in major ‘get rid of clutter’ mode. When we packed up and moved to Madrid six years ago I donated dozens of bags filled to the brim to our local charity shops. I gave away piles of books, clothes, baby and household items as I had no time to organise a sale or figure out eBay.
It was amazing to start fresh in a new house. After unpacking I was delighted to find empty shelves and plenty of drawers to spare.
So how is it that just six years later we’ve amassed so much stuff again?
I’m finally reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo after previously writing it off as being a book about precision folding and talking to your socks. Well, there is some of that, but the deeper underlying message is actually a good one.
Only keep things in your home that spark joy.
This is of course easier said than done, but in the spirit of another fresh start, I’m giving her KonMari Method a go.
I followed her guidelines for sorting through our possessions in a meticulous order, not room by room, but by gathering all like items together in one place. This turned out to be very effective as I could see just how many of a certain type of thing we have.
For example, vases. I gathered each and every vase or vase-like vessel in the entire house and arranged them on my kitchen table, including those hiding away in our basement or displayed on high shelves. This made it easy to eliminate those that are a similar size.
Then I used her KonMari Method of picking up each of the remaining vases and asking, ‘Does this spark joy?’ Empty vases don’t spark a lot of joy for me. Out of 16, I’m keeping five.
Next I moved onto food storage containers. I used to be the Tupperware Queen but I’m now moving away from plastic and over to glass. I still need to keep some plastic containers though…
Out of 33 I’m keeping 19. And they all have lids! Progress, right?
Kondo’s book helps with the emotions around decluttering, such as what to do with things other people have gifted you or how to get rid of something that has sentimental value but is no longer sparking joy.
It’s easy to pass on clothes my kids have outgrown, but my own clothes are always tricker. This is where her method really kicked in for me. Instead of surveying my clothes from inside the wardrobe and drawers, I had to start with tops and take them all out and put them on the bed. Wow. Seeing how many tops, sweaters and t-shirts I have was an eye opener.
Holding each one in my hand I asked, ‘Does this bring me joy?’. This showed me how many things either used to bring me joy (in which case I thanked it for the joy it brought me and moved it to my ‘get rid of clutter pile’.) or how many things never really brought me joy. Expensive mistakes, killer heels, scratchy fabric. Instead of thinking that I might wear them again one day, I was ruthless about letting things go. I took her advice to start the process in the morning when my mind was fresh and I felt strong and decisive.
I worked through the rest of my clothes in the prescribed order and when I got to my socks, underwear and bra drawers I was able to chuck out most of it. Why was I hanging onto ill-fitting bras, teeny thongs and shrunken socks?
I smile now when I open my drawers and wardrobes and see only the things I want to wear. My clothes have breathing space and that in turn makes me breathe easier!
This process takes devotion and I’ve blocked off chunks of time every couple of days so I can get through the whole house and not lose momentum. It helps that I have a deadline coming up – my big moving-the-country sale at the end of this week.
I wrangled a bit with the idea of selling vs donating and finally compromised on a 50/50 split between us and a great charity here in Spain called Fiet Gratia that helps women who are forced into prostitution. It’s shocking and sad to learn that Spain has become one of the top countries for human trafficking and I want to give something back to the country that has given us such a great life for six years and where I plan to return one day.
It also warms my heart to imagine giving our stuff a new lease of life.
Shedding books has been a rather emotional ride for me, especially the children’s story books. So many sweet memories of them sitting on my lap every single night before bed for years. We’ve kept several that I’m not ready to let go of, but the amount of teen and tween fiction books we’re selling is astonishing. My hubby and I are ready to share our books with others too, so we’ve turned our ping-pong table into an incredible bookshop.
I’m not feeling any particular ‘life changing magic’ yet because it’s all still inside of my house, but I’m sure I’ll feel emotionally lighter once it’s gone!
Once we’re in our new house I plan to use her method of having a set place for everything and always returning things to their place. Kondo says this is the key to not having to constantly tidy – which sounds good to me. If only I can get the rest of my family on board.
Here’s an inspirational story about my own mother who gave up all material possessions to live a life on the road doing volunteer work in exchange for room and board. It’s a very extreme example, but one we can all learn something from: Less Things = More Freedom.
For now, if you’re ready to start clearing some clutter in your own life, here’s Marie’s book to help you get started:
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
And if the KonKari method feels too hard-core for you, maybe you’ll like this one better? Heh heh!
Here’s my challenge to you: Create a place in your house where you will put things that no longer spark joy. Maybe it’s a big box or a section of a cupboard or the garage. Once you’ve amassed a few items, be decisive about getting rid of them. Maybe you’ll sell them or perhaps you’ll donate things to a local charity shop. Whatever happens, clear out anything and everything that doesn’t serve you. Then sit back and wait for the magic to happen 😉
In the comments below, share your thoughts. Where are your clutter hot-spots? How do you get rid of clutter? Have you got a success story to share? Let’s get the conversation flowing. We can all help each other.
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I’ve heard so much about that book but like you, I decided it wasn’t for me when I heard about the Japanese style folding! Now that I’ve read your review, I think I’ll give it a chance. I need some kind of a step by step method to get me started. Drowning in clutter! I accept your challenge and will start with a big box.
Thanks as always for another inspirational post Kelly. I look forward to your newsletter every Monday to see what new insight you’ve got for us!
Glad you’ve accepted the challenge Barbara and wishing you great success! Let me know how you get on 🙂
Challenge accepted! I also need to going on this. I know I’ll feel emotionally lighter once I get rid of so much of what we don’t need. It definitely weighs me down.
I like the idea of getting a big box and starting to put things into it as I notice things that don’t spark joy. Thank you. I hope your sale and your move go well. 🙂
Too much ‘stuff’ is definitely draining and weighs you down. Good luck with the challenge – here’s to filling up that box and getting it out of your life! x
Working on the challenge. Starting in the playroom!
Excellent Heather! Be sure to schedule it in, treat it like a project (crank up some music!) and get it done – woo hoo! 🙂
Love this! Definitely have to give it a go.
I’d love to hear how you get on Patty 🙂
Great article Kelly! It’s wonderful to see you making such a difference in your home, knowing you won’t be taking unwanted stuff with you when you move. Thank you also for sharing my book – what a wonderful surprise for me!
It’s such a pleasure to share your book Helen! You’re an inspiration to all that want to declutter their homes and lives. xx
Ooh yes I’ve done this with my kids’ clothes. And yes, I can totally relate to the Tupperware conundrum (as if those lids will ever actually turn up lol!). Such a good idea to get all like items together just to see how much we already have. I need to get started with my vases!
It really is an effective method to gather all similar items into one place and eliminate from there, rather than tidying room by room. I’ll love to hear how you get on Nina! 🙂
Hi Kelly, I always enjoy reading articles about decluttering as I know how powerful an experience it can be. It can also be a very difficult process. I am definitely someone who finds it hard to let go of things, I still own quite a few items from my own childhood. Then there’s the items in the garage that belonged to my mother such as her jewellery that I just can’t find a way yet to sort through. I have had some little wins though in the last couple of days – I sorted through a cupboard that I keep party/decoration items in and very proudly disposed of a couple of bags of various plastic utensils, cups and other items that I had been saving but unlikely to be used again such as my 30th birthday decorations – I just turned 39 so I don’t think I’ll be needing them again. I also finally delivered a baby steamer/blender and various kids dvd’s to a friend who is a young mum today and went through my collection of recyclable bags that had been driving me nuts. We have a garage sale coming up at my church soon so it’s a good opportunity to tackle the garage and other areas of the house that need clearing. Thanks again for your inspiration and I wish you well with your move back to London! I hope it all goes smoothly. Night from down under, Fiona 🙂
Hi Fiona! I hear you on the nostalgic items. I have a whole box of Barbies and Little House on the Prairie books I’d been saving for my daughter. But I have two sons instead! (And a grandson now too!) But after saving them for these many decades, how can I get rid of them now. I’m holding out for a granddaughter….
So don’t beat yourself up over those types of deeply personal possessions and give yourself great credit for shedding all of that stuff that doesn’t spark any joy. Like those 30th b-day banners!!
Now, get to that garage in plenty of time before that church sale. You have a deadline to work to! 🙂
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