I’ve connected with many of you over the past few weeks of this blogging adventure who have expressed that Less, Please! has inspired you to start decluttering and simplifying, whether by starting a capsule wardrobe or just finally getting to work compiling things to donate. Which is awesome! And really encouraging to hear. It makes me feel like you must have just needed a very gentle nudge, because we have really only just scratched the surface of practical ways to begin to minimalize.
So I thought for this Monday post, I’d share a little bit more about where my decluttering journey (which I am still totally on!) began. Hopefully it will help you find a place to start if you’re inspired!
I’ve always been really good at making piles. Growing up, we piled everything on the back stairwell with some vague intention of taking things upstairs at a more convenient time (my sister and I each had our own step). In college, I constantly lived among absurdly huge piles of clothes and shoes (so, so sorry all you gracious roommates). In my first adult house, the “mail pile” by the fridge soon spilled into the entire stack of drawers by the fridge which became a catch-all for anything that didn’t belong anywhere else.
The thought of dealing with the piles literally knotted my stomach. Not only did I not know where to begin, I didn’t know the end or how to get there either. Most of the time, our belongings felt like a burden that I didn’t know how to deal with rather than gifts to be enjoyed and cherished. (These crazy statistics on clutter indicate that I’m not alone)
That is where I was coming from when I say that, in my experience, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the most honestly marketed and aptly titled self-help book out there. I read it a year after our first daughter was born, while expecting our second, in the midst of selling our first house and leaving my full-time job to stay at home. I stumbled upon the book at the exact right time when I had to deal with the clutter to put our house on the market and get ready to move. Using the book as a guide but breaking down the categories in my own way, I tackled our clutter in the order of clothing, bathroom stuff, office/household supplies, kitchen stuff, baby stuff, books, and memorabilia. (It took about 4-6 weeks, some before the move and some after)
The simple principles of scaling down your possessions to only those you really love, viewing those remaining things with gratitude and joy, and keeping them in a very specific, respectful, and beautiful way—truly changed my life. It changed my way of relating to my possessions and existing in my space. It helped me to steward the material gifts that the Lord had given us with thankfulness and purpose.
One year later, I do not live in a perfectly organized and tidy world, but the way I keep our home is markedly different. A large portion of the guilt, anxiety, and shame that I felt about my homemaking abilities was tossed out with dozens of industrial-sized trash bags full of our former possessions (many destined for donation). While on the journey, I’m enjoying exploring how the freedom of scaling down and getting rid of excess and clutter translates to other areas of life--making room for more of the good stuff like contentment, presence, joy, and thankfulness. And I'm thinking about what it means to keep my heart uncluttered, not just my house.
Anyway . . . If you are wondering where to begin, I do recommend The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and here are a few of my main take-aways and commentaries:
· Having a guiding question like Marie’s, “does this spark joy?” is more helpful than I could have ever imagined when tackling decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. I had to do some soul searching however, because I wanted to be cautious about attributing a source of joy to my material possessions. I realized that I could ask myself, “does this spark thankfulness?” and still anchor my joy in the Lord, who gives all gifts, while reflecting on whether that particular possession stirred thankfulness in me and should be kept and cherished, or whether it stirred anxiety in me and needed to be let go of.
· Another filtering mindset that Marie recommends was to ask yourself what you are going to keep, not what you are going to get rid of. That simple flip in the assumption of the default: that everything is going to go except for what really earns its keep, was revolutionary for me.
· Once the decluttering stage is over, the next task is to assign a very specific, appropriate and joy-inducing place for every last thing. She recommends using aesthetically pleasing and functional ways to organize and store rather than stuffing things out of the way in rubber tubs. This aspect is so empowering to me. Not only because now, I never lose my keys because I know exactly where they belong, but also because organizing is so much more lasting and enjoyable when things look pretty in the closet or drawers! It makes me feel like I am acting on the gratitude that I’ve reflected on when each thing has a thoughtful and special place.
· There is a bit of a strange aspect of the book in which Marie talks of talking to her possessions and thanking them for what they do for her. For me, it wasn’t difficult to declutter that aspect of the book in order to keep the really helpful aspects of it.
What about you? Have you read the book (or the follow-up, Spark Joy)? What did you find helpful or unhelpful? What other resources have helped you start tackling the clutter?