There’s a book that almost everyone seems to have read, that keeps popping up on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads lately, called, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
Since it’s a #1 New York Times bestseller, I guess nearly everybody has read it. And although I haven’t – I’m more than willing to vouch for what it stands for.
Purging, organizing and cleaning a houseful of shit is indeed life-changing.
The problem we had gotten into (besides getting knocked up and needing to create a bedroom and play space for a tiny new freeloader) is a common one, I think. We had both spent our twenties mindlessly accumulating our own “treasures”, as well as the left-behind remnants of various roommates, before moving in together and not throwing out nearly enough stuff. And then, you know, we bought a bunch more crap together. And still didn’t throw enough away.
We just kept stowing and shoving and shuffling things into nooks and crannies in an olllld (1911) house with not nearly enough storage space. And when you truly don’t have “a place for everything”, it’s really hard to adhere to the second half of that wise old adage about keeping “everything in its place.” So there’s overflow. Random crap accumulates on spare beds, counters and tables, things come in the door and hang out on the ledge there for-fucking-ever. Shoes spill into the living room from the doorway and things like golf-bags, yoga mats and Rock Band hang out beside your fireplace. it’s madness. And then you lose your mind. Or I do, anyways. Because there comes a point when you can’t properly clean up unless you have a place to clean to–so you just end up re-stacking the same old shit. And shit stacked a different way is still stacks of shit. Your space doesn’t look or function any better, because it isn’t.
Hence the need for a massive overhaul. Which – despite the deceptively lightweight-sounding phrase “tidying up” – is exactly what this book is about.
From the inside cover blurb:
Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).
With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
It is that one thought about being “doomed to pick away at your piles of stuff forever” that had me so stressed out a couple months ago. After many half-assed false starts, I just couldn’t see a way out of the clutter, short of a full-scale, slash and burn attack.
So that is exactly what we did. Taking a “toss first and tidy later” tactic, we earmarked items for disposal and put a “dumpster in a bag” on the front lawn, which ended up being so laughably small that it served as nothing more than a flattened general target area. Loads of clothing went to Goodwill, some items went to last-minute Kijiji takers, some to walk- or drive-by scavengers and the rest to the blessed angels at 1-800-JUNK. Doing God’s work, they are. Not to say they do it cheap.
Another angel in the mix was my brother-in-law Greg, who came down to help us out. The extra muscle was essential given that I am a useless heavy item mover (always, not just in my pregnant state) and having three sets of hands on the task really did help make short work of it. Over one weekend, we were able to accomplish all of our major cleaning and reorganizing goals and it was positively exhilarating (hey, when you can’t drink, it doesn’t take much to thrill you). But really, I do think that getting it all done in one shot so the full effect of the transformation was immediately visible (like an episode of Hoarders!) was the key to my cleaner’s high. Even the cats seemed stoked about exploring their newly expanded territory.
With our remaining stuff neatly stowed and storage space to spare, I spent the next couple of weeks tackling the few remaining smaller tasks that became icing on the cake, instead of just a drop in the bucket as they would’ve been before the Great Purge of 2016. Plus, we were able to happily accommodate the influx of Baby Ranger necessities and are all ready house-wise for her arrival! We intend to let her believe that her parents have always been meticulous housekeepers.
Who knows, maybe one day I’ll actually get around to reading the book that inspired this post.