Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Tidying journey begins

Home for daily necessities
Now that the holidays are behind us, and I have control of the daily necessities (keys, wallet, mail, etc.), it's time to take action and finally tidy up (de-clutter) my home and my life. I hope to chronicle the process in this blog for several reasons:
  1. To have accountability, as in “So… How’s that tidying going? What progress have you made?”
  2. To declare a deadline for finishing, and
  3. To offer an example of one way to de-clutter/tidy up in the hopes that someone else who is struggling with the same issues can learn from my mistakes and successes. 

Using techniques I’m learning from several books and blogs, I plan to actually accomplish my goals instead of merely wishing and dreaming.

The three books on the top of my heap at the moment (in alphabetical order) are these: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo; SoulSpace by Xorin Balbes; and Unstuff Your Life by Andrew Mellen. All three of the books have you start by assessing your stuff/space, and asking and answering specific questions about and understand your stuff (SoulSpace), your relationship to stuff and your core values (Unstuff), and, the most important first question, “What motivated you to tidy in the first place?” (Tidying). There’s a fourth source, in addition to the three books mentioned above, that I will use to help answer the questions and connect my heart to the process: the Starter Kit from

In December, I made a great start by getting control of Purse, wallet, keys, mail, etc., using Chapter Two of Unstuff. If I do nothing else, that one step has made a real difference in how DH and I function. It feels good to be in control of at least one aspect of our lives. It feels so good that I'm motivated to keep going!

I answered the questions from Unstuff, and pondered the questions from SoulSpace, and now I've decided the next step is to answer the first question in Tidying, “What motivated you to tidy in the first place?” And then answer the very important second question, “What do you hope to gain by tidying?” (I think that “Tidying” has a more positive connotation than “de-cluttering”).

Before I answer those questions, though, I’d like to explain why I see this project as possible and doable within a deadline.

The all at once approach 

From The Life-Changing
Magic of Tidying Up

The job of tidying must be done all at once, according to Marie Kondo, in
Tidying Up. The gradual approach is too nebulous and open-ended; the task will never be done. I know this to be true from personal experience. I've tried de-cluttering for fifteen minutes every day; tried picking up and getting rid of one item every time I go through a room; tried de-cluttering one room at a time (this one still has merit with modification). The job seems overwhelming and never-ending. I compare the job of tidying to that of doing laundry.

Years ago, when starting out as a housewife, I did laundry every Monday (that’s the way it was done then). This included sorting, washing, drying, ironing, folding, and putting away. When I finished, the job was done for the week. Our family of four had all our clothes clean and ready to wear. For six whole days, I didn't have to even think about the laundry. It was done and everyone could find the clothes they needed. Done.

I still do laundry once a week, though I don't spend the whole day doing nothing-but-laundry. Now, I stay home one day/week to work on projects, and I deal with laundry during breaks. The result is the same: it's done for the week and I don't have to think about it for six whole days. Done.

The trend for doing laundry today seems to be a continuous daily process that is never done, and has you do a load (or more) of laundry every day (“A load a day keeps the laundry monster at bay”). That means there are clothes somewhere in the process all the time: Clothes in the sorting baskets; clothes in the washer that you have to remember to put in the dryer; clean clothes in a basket waiting to be folded; clean clothes folded and stacked on every surface in the bedrooms awaiting their owners to put them away. A couple of families in my life do laundry this way, so I've seen how it works. Now, I realize that when all the adults in the family are working, and all the kids are busy with soccer and other activities, finding a whole day for laundry could be impossible. The “load-a-day” system apparently works for them, and I’m all for what works for each family. I just personally find the “clothes-in-process-somewhere” system oppressive and demoralizing.

Likewise, I find the gradual or piecemeal approach to tidying (de-cluttering) just as oppressive and demoralizing. So, when I read in Tidying Up that Kondo recommends doing the whole job at once (she estimates that it takes 6 months), I felt an immediate connection to this way of thinking. This “all at once” approach sounds like the best way for me tackle my clutter monster. (The clutter in my house has become an oppressive monster in my mind.) So, if I can handle the job the way I do laundry, I might have a chance of reaching my goal of a clutter-free life. Once the initial tidying up is done, a clutter-free house is easier to maintain as such.

Homes for things, and keeping it all together

To help with the maintenance, you make a Home for everything and keep like things together. This tenet is a major part of the approach from Unstuff Your Life, as well: "a Home for Everything, and Like with Like." In the few areas of my house where do I have homes for things and keep like with like, I can function with ease. I can find things and return them to their homes almost without even thinking about it. And other people can always find the scissors or tape measure (for example), and return them to their homes. Easy.

Respect for your things

But making homes and keeping like with like isn't the whole story. The other side of living a clutter-free life involves a mind-set. How do you see the things in your life: on one hand do you see them as "things-that-need-to-be-conquered," or on the other hand do you see them as "friends or loved-ones?" Kondo’s approach includes the “friends or loved ones” attitude (those are not her terms, but they work for me). You only keep in your life things that spark joy, and you mindfully treat your things with respect (even those you are letting go). I’m ready to start treating my things with respect. 

The journey begins:

  1. First, set a deadline: July 1, 2015.
  2. Next, answer the important why questions (the process of which is explained so beautifully in the PilotFire Starter Kit).
  3. Meanwhile, continue to practice the “end-of-task” habit I talked about in an earlier post to maintain as much order as I can.

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