Sep 17, 2015

I Tidied, but was it "Life-Changing"?

I have had some incredibly inspiring reads lately.  Last time I talked books, I gushed a bit about Fat Girl Walking and Radical Self Love.  This post, on the other hand, is entirely dedicated to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I was intrigued by not super excited to read it, because there'd been mixed reviews.  People said Kondo's advice wasn't practical, you can't find joy in everything, and her suggestions of speaking to your possessions was just weird.

I agree with some of that.  But I don't have to agree with every single thing an author says in order to get something out of her book.  And, in this case, I got a LOT.

Or you might say I got rid of a lot.  Pic on left: hello empty spaces!  Upper right: an entire row of books.  Bottom right: binders and paper types down from 2 shelves to 1, with more room for gaming supplies!

So here are the things I thought were spot on.

Kondo says there are two reasons we hold onto things.  Either it "might come in handy one day" or it holds sentimental value.

The problem with the first rationalization is that eventually we have a house full of things that "might" be useful one day and aren't useful now.  PLUS, it's often motivated by a fear of not being prepared, when in reality, running out of something isn't that big a deal.  Typically it just means running to the store to pick something up or sometimes even realizing that we can make do with other things instead.  (My personal example was my 2 interview suits.  One was gray and I hated the pants.  One was black and I hated the jacket.  Now I have one suit that is mixed colors but I like it so much better and I've never been afraid to be unconventional.)

The second, of course, is not a problem when you genuinely ENJOY having those objects, but far too often what once held sentimental value ends up being something you have to hold onto forever because you feel guilty if you get rid of it.  And why should our possessions make us feel bad instead of good?!  This is the part that really struck me.  Kondo says that the purpose of our possessions is to give us joy.  If they once did and they don't anymore, then they have served their purpose and it's time to let them go.

She goes a step further, personifying them a bit, and says our possessions deserve to be used and loved, and aren't happy when they're not making us happy.  Remind you of anything?  Toy Story 3, maybe?!!!  I like this philosophy a lot, and I don't even mind the personification of my stuff if it makes it easier for me to let it go.

I'm still a little iffy on the whole "tidy once" thing.  I can see Kondo's point about once we're surrounded only by possessions we love, we'll be less likely to fill the house with clutter again.  But I think it's probably simpler in theory than in actuality.  We'll see, because...

I have completed the challenge!

I modified it a bit.  I don't love my toothpaste or my socks, but I use them every day, so they'll just have to be an exception.  But I did my best to eliminate anything that wasn't either useful (and actually used) or that made me happy.

Before I dive into the longer description, here's the stats:
  • Donated: 4 big boxes (1 of just books, and another with clothes), a (mostly) functional vacuum, bike rack, swiffer, dog crate, and a box of food we won't eat
  • Trashed: 1 bag (some unsalvageable clothes, makeup, half-used toiletries, etc)
  • Recycled: 1 bin (old papers, used up notebooks - after removing the coil, of course, and tons of packaging)
  • Gifted/Sold: Textbooks, bicycle, clothes, leftover wedding accessories

And here's how it went down.

I started with clothes, planning a clothing swap (more about that next month) in order to inspire myself to let go of a lot of "might be useful one day" type things.  I ended up with about half the amount I started with and this huge pile of empty hangers (the ugly ones to be donated, of course).


Then I tackled the rest of the closet and bedroom.  Ryan obligingly allowed me to dump out the drawers of his bedside table and sorted (which really consisted of him putting away the 10 things he wanted to keep and me finding homes for or tossing out the rest of it).

I think the hardest thing to get rid of was my bedspread from high school and my bike.  Both teenage relics but they're a double whammy because they also fell into the "might be useful" category.  But you know what?  I've had access to my bike for the last 3 years and not touched it.  And we had a guest crash on our couch and we didn't bother to get the blanket out.  Time to let them go.

There were a few things that Ryan said "had value" and that I should sell.  But the problem with that statement is that we haven't bothered so far, so why would we now?  And if it truly does have value, then donating to Goodwill is an even better cause, because that value can go somewhere that needs it!

However, he did persuade me to let him sell some old textbooks (I gave him a time limit and then it's off to Goodwill!), and also to give my bike to a coworker of his who fixes them up and sells them (Fantastic!  My old bike will live again!).  I'm also trying to find homes for the leftover sparklers and sky lanterns from all the weddings over the summer, because they are such fun objects, but, like the books, I'm keeping to a time limit and not allowing them to travel back into storage.

The main floor didn't have a ton of superfluous "stuff" other than books.  I cleared out the couple I owned that I didn't like enough to reread and then decided it was time to let my massive Xanth collection go, as well.  I posted before about how they got me through a rough patch, but now I've finally outgrown them.  As for the kitchen, it is definitely crammed and overloaded, but I've scoured it several times already and everything is either A) used often or B) not mine to dispose of.

Oh!  I did, however, consolidate the cleaning supplies.  And I finally tossed out the clear blue cleaner that WASN'T glass cleaner, because that is all wrong and has confused me more than once and led to smears on our bathroom mirrors.  I've actually held a secret loathing for it the entire time I've been living with Ryan and having permission to dispose of it filled me with glee.  (What?  Is it weird to feel so strongly about my cleaning supplies?)

They're not pretty, BUT they are tidy and they are only the things we need.

And the biggest challenge: the basement.  I'd already tackled the filing cabinet, but the storage room was a doozy.  I enlisted Ryan's help again, and we painstakingly went through all the boxes to make sure we at least knew what was in them.  Honestly, we had less stuff than I thought, but we still managed to get rid of quite a few "might come in handy" type things.  Ryan still has quite a bit that doesn't really fit my qualifiers, but I'm satisfied that all of MY things are things I enjoy or enjoy owning.

Example: I might not use my craft supplies that often, but a few times a year I get them out, do something fun, and really enjoy it.  I also like that I have them, whether or not they get used (although I finally tossed the clay sculpting supplies, gouache, and some ancient gel pens).  Does that make sense?  Perhaps not, but it makes me happy.

And that's what this whole thing is about.  Finding happiness.  Realizing which things do or do not contribute to that happiness and keeping only the things that make your life better.

I've begun to search for ways to apply this to my life and not just my stuff  (especially now that I'm out of physical possessions to get rid of).  I thought about being old and looking back over my life.  What would I be proud of?  What would make me the happiest to remember?  And, you know...

I think a lot of the little projects and achievements I spend so much time and energy chasing won't even factor in.  So if it's not making me happy now, and I won't give a squat about it then, it shouldn't be on my radar at all.

So in answer to my own question, yes.  I do think reading this book and trying out the tidying once philosophy is life-changing.  I hope to carry this new mindset into the future with me, keeping a mindful eye on new purchases entering my life, as well as to do list tasks.  Will it give me joy?  Is it worth it?

I suspect the answer will frequently be "no."  And that my life will be the better for it.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?  What do you do to increase joy in your life?


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