The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

& 5 myths we tell ourselves about how to tidy

The bestselling book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up"* has taken the internet by storm the last 2 years. I have read tons and tons of blogs that have reviewed this book and I must say (after reading it cover to cover in a little over 3 days), what I have read has been pretty accurate.

Here's the backstory. Marie lives in Japan. Culturally Japan is just different than America. I envision these spaces with built in ikea-ish closets and can just imagine the storage space. Also Marie is single with no children. That changes the equation for me DRASTICALLY. So while I didn't agree with everything she said, it was still a GREAT read and really made me evaluate #allthethings. The question she constantly asks is "Does this item spark joy?" I really benefitted from asking myself that question as I began to purge. Probably the most uncomfortable part of the book is that she talks to her items (these are items she keeps) and thanks them for a job well done. I can respect that about her and her culture, but I don't make it a point to talk to my items. I will thank God for His abundant blessings. 

Sidenote- I have a great system for reading books TOTALLY cheap. I will do a separate post about this. One of my "Sweet Sixteen" goals for 2016 is to read 12 books this year- one a month. Books can get expensive and if I purchased them on Amazon I would be paying a pretty good bit over the course of a year. I can't wait to share my "secrets". Also I added a "Books {2016}" tab to the top bar of the blog to keep up with this goal! Head over there to follow along!

Ok back to tidying... I should start by saying that I am not a naturally clean person. I am messy. All kinds of messy. While I love clean spaces, I prefer to go back and clean after making the mess. I would say I have a creative edge to me which is where my messiness comes from, but I also like the "end product" of seeing things clean up well (like the end of a project).
This book is all about keeping things tidy. And as much as I like messes I completely 100% agree that the reason things don't stay tidy is because things don't have "their spot". The reason things don't have "their spot" is because we all have excess clutter and lack appropriate storage space for our things. 

Oh, and I should mention that I am EXTREMELY sentimental. Like if you've ever sent me a thank you note, I kept it. I have kept EVERY piece of work my children have brought home. It wasn't until last month that I actually went through the box of art and purged. That's 6 years of paper that was getting a little out of control. I don't WANT to keep every piece per-say, but I also struggle with throwing things away (especially in front of them). I like to take my time to evaluate the pieces and decide what is worth keeping and what isn't. I love seeing the PreK to Kindergarten handwriting with perfecting his name. And going from being a non-writer to writing and sounding out his spelling. #heartstrings
I took notes as I went through the book and figured I'd destroy some myths about purging and tidying. The book is FILLED with various strategies. These are just a few that spoke to me.

-Myth #1: some people are just "tidy"
On page 11 she mentioned that tidying is a learned behavior. We don't naturally do these things. I liked that because I have always felt like I just lack this skill and that maybe I should just consider it a loss that I'll never be good at it. But she said "25% of her students are women in their fifties." They've been "tidying" for nearly 30 years, but still struggle! That's incredibly encouraging to me.

-Myth #2: purging should be done over a period of time
I have always seen tidying as a continual process. Do one closet, move on to the bathroom, etc. Hit them when you have time. She completely blows this idea away. She believes tidying should be done ALL AT ONCE. "If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset." p. 16. You visually see the difference. I'll be honest, I will probably never have to time to actually tidy my whole house until my kids are much older. But I was still able to purge ALOT and see a difference (especially in my closet).

-Myth #3: purge each room as you go
Instead of going room by room, she does:
-all the closets at once (clothes, dressers, etc.)
-all books (we usually store books in more than one place)
-all cleaning supplies (gather from every place they are kept)
-all bathroom items

This was really interesting to me too. And when I cleaned out my closet I totally got her point. It's not until you visually see everything all piled together do you realize just how much stuff you have and just how much of it you don't actually need. I physically touched every item and asked myself "does this spark joy?" Why keep a shirt that you don't actually like wearing? What about that certain color shirt that just doesn't work well? If it doesn't spark joy, it's just wasting space. Most likely you won't wear it anyways, and it's just taking up space.

I know I have used purging processes in the past like Purge 100 (where you get rid of 100 items in a month) or when you throw 1 item away every day. But she even mentioned this (p.18) as not an effective way to purge because it doesn't take into account the things you are bringing in your home. The rate of disposal is less than the rate of the incoming items, so you are still left with clutter.

-Myth #4: storage bins
I am SUCH a sucker for a good storage bin. But this was highly discouraged in the book. Because she believes that her items have feelings (!!) storing them in containers make them easily forgotten and doesn't allow them to "breathe". So while I don't totally agree, I do believe that I am too quick to decide that I need another container rather than purge the items I have.

Example: as I cleaned out my closet I figured I'd definitely need an extra rubbermaid bin for my winter clothes. I had 2 already- 1 filled with super cold snow stuff and another filled with my spring and summer items. After purging all my spring/summer items, and all my winter items, I only had ONE bin I needed to store (which is my super cold winter items). Everything else fit back in my closet and dresser! My knee jerk reaction was to buy an extra bin, keep all my crap and just store more, but I am so glad I went through everything! This is everything I got rid of:

She also recommends storing paper standing up so as not to take up horizontal space. Looks like I nailed that last year.

-Myth #5: keep things because you feel guilty for getting rid of them
Reading about this was a serious turning point for me. Take my thank you note comment for example. She suggests that I ask myself what the purpose of the thank you note was for? "Well, it was to THANK me!" right? So did it do it's job? Yep! When I opened the card, and read the thank you note I was appropriately thanked. There is absolutely no reason to keep it (unless it sparks joy). It served it's purpose and carried out it's task. #mindblown.

Same goes for gifts. The gift giver gives (say that 5 times fast) a gift to celebrate something- a birthday, anniversary, etc. The point was to celebrate the event and show the person you thought about them. If it appropriately served it's purpose and you aren't truly in love with the gift you shouldn't feel guilty for giving it away or passing it on to someone who will enjoy it! What a relief!

So there you have it! I'll leave you with this quote from page 126. "The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can't bring yourself to discard doesn't mean you are taking good care of them. In fact, it is quite the opposite."

*contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are a win win. They provide a direct link to the  products I love, and they help support the blog! Read my disclosures here


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