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Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was completely delightful. Whether or not I follow any of Marie Kondo’s advice, I just loved reading about her eccentric approach to decluttering her home.

She does have a number of useful ideas: Instead of decluttering room by room, or drawer by drawer, Kondo advises that we declutter by genre. For example, start with clothing and declutter the tops, then the trousers, and so on. Otherwise, you can end up with duplicate collections of things throughout the house.

She flips around the usual way of looking at decluttering. Instead of deciding what to get rid of, Kondo recommends we look at our possessions in terms of what we want to keep, and for each item ask ourselves, “Does this spark joy”

The book becomes more eccentric as she starts to anthropomorphise possessions. Don’t store clothing in stacks – how would you feel if you were that t-shirt squashed at the bottom of the pile? Kondo even thanks each item of clothing she wears for their service to her the end of the day. At first this seemed delightfully odd, but, as I continued reading, I realised that by ascribing human feelings to each possession, it encourages an appreciation of each item in our life. There is something very appealing to me about taking a moment to appreciate what I have.

Yesterday evening, I tried her method with my clothing, even though I’d already decluttered a lot of it at the end of summer. However, using Kondo’s question, ‘Does this spark joy?’ I was able to thin my stock of clothes significantly – though I kept a number of items that don’t spark joy: I need SOME things to wear. By the time I’d finished, there were 5 more bags with clothing to discard.

There can be quite a lot of guilt attached to throwing things out. There were things I was hanging on to because they were still in good condition. Even if I no longer like them or they don’t fit properly, it seems wrong and wasteful to throw them out. So I tried Kondo’s method of thanking them for their service. Unexpectedly, it seemed to work. I felt a lightening of the guilt attached to throwing them out. I could acknowledge that they’d served me well in the past, but now its time to move on.

Kondo also recommends a way of folding and placing clothes in drawers so that nothing is stacked and all the items are clearly visible. I re-packed my drawers like that and am very happy with the result. I can find everything easily, nothing is crushed and a couple of the drawers that were overflowing now have space for all that I had previously stored in them and more.

This was an unexpectedly delightful and quirky book. I’m not sure that I will follow all of Kondo’s methods, but I’ve enjoyed the results I’ve seen so far.

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Taking Time Out to Listen

 

I’m sitting in my living room on a Sunday morning, still in my pajamas and ugg-boots, feet resting on the coffee table. My laptop is balanced on my lap, and I’m having a moment of peace.

I sat down in the middle of doing some housework because I’d had a brilliant idea for a blog post which I felt I had to write immediately, before the inspiration faded.

But, as I prepared to write, I started to notice the space around me.

It is a beautiful, warm, spring morning. The light outside is probably too bright for writing, but it is gently filtered by my living room curtains. I can hear the bird song. There are lots of currawongs and cockatoos outside, by the sound of their calls.

Occasionally I hear the drone of an aeroplane overhead, and the rumble of the traffic along the Pacific Highway, not far from my flat.

Upstairs there is the soft hum of a neighbour’s vacuum cleaner, and in the distance, I hear a neighbours dog barking.

It’s not silent, but it’s peaceful.

Usually my life is noisy. I listen to music, or podcasts or audiobooks while I do housework or drive from one place to another. When I’m not working, I’m reading books, blogs, newspapers and my twitter feed. I’m always, always thinking.

My brain is so noisy. I toss around all the things that have either inspired or troubled me, turning them over in my head and working out what I think or want to do about those things. I plan, make lists, solve problems, find new problems, grumble, rejoice, philosophise, wonder and create. It’s hard work all this thinking, and sometimes I think it is noisier inside my head than outside.

So it’s nice to be able to switch off from time to time. I’m glad I started to notice the birdsong this morning.  I’m feeling more peaceful and content than I have in a long time.

Here is a video I found in which you can hear the birdsong from my part of Sydney.

 

Tasks I Just Can’t Face – Beating Procrastination

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” ~Olin Miller

I had a moment of self-revelation yesterday when I discovered that I have been using one of my key productivity tools – my to-do list as a form of procrastination.

Some people use lists to procrastinate by spending such a long time making and prioritising them that they have no time to do their actual tasks. I do still do that from time to time.

My method of procrastination has been to lower the priority of the tasks I just don’t want to face to the point where I never get around to doing them.

A number of months ago I scraped the front of my brand new car on the edge of our garage door. It was a horrible scrape – gouging out paint from 3 panels.

I was so ashamed that I did that to my new car (it was only 2 months old at the time) I just didn’t want to face it. Nevertheless, I added “arrange smash repair” to my to do list.

Each morning I would star the items that really needed to be done that day. I’d make sure I would get through all the starred tasks, and then, if I had time and inclination, would attack the other tasks. So long as I got through my starred list, I could go to bed with peace of mind that I was staying on top of everything.

Since “arrange smash repair” didn’t have to be completed by a certain date, it was never starred. I would just keep putting it off. Weeks turned into months.

On Friday, however, I dinged my lovely new car again. This time on the rear. I was backing into a space and caught the edge of a garden bed which had a brick border only 3 bricks high. I just couldn’t see it from my rear window. I now have a scrape on the rear left corner of my car to match my scrape on the front right corner.

I realised I couldn’t put the repairs off any longer even though I didn’t want to face them. That’s when I admitted to myself how I’d been procrastinating over the last few months.

Forcing myself to deal with the damage was difficult. I felt like such an idiot for damaging my car twice and I didn’t want to admit to anyone that that is what I’d done. I also didn’t want to have my car off the road for repairs, and I wasn’t looking forward to paying the excess (with 2 separate incidents, its become very expensive).

I couldn’t face the whole process, so I decided to just face the very first step – ring my insurance company. I’d deal with the rest of the process later.

Breaking it down like that made it easier. I booked the assessment. Now that that is out of the way, I’m actually looking forward to the rest of the process. I can’t wait to have my car restored to the beautiful condition it was in when I bought it last year.

So here is what I’ve learned:

My tip for avoiding procrastination

(Based on Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done)

  • Ask: What is the very next action I have to take on this task?
  • Just do the very next action.

This helps me, because I can ignore the enormity of a task, especially one that is overwhelming, and, as I start to chip away at it, it gains momentum and becomes less daunting.

Sometimes in life, the difficulties we face are only difficult because we make them that way.

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do sort of tasks to you procrastinate, and how do you beat procrastination?

Decluttering the Wardrobe

One of my strategies for living more simply is to get rid of all the clutter. I’m only going to keep what I need or what I love. That’s why one of the first steps I’ve taken to living more simply is to declutter my wardrobe.

My wardrobe is a perfect example of why I need to do this. It is packed full of clothes, but still I can never find anything to wear – probably because I can’t find anything in there. I have a small number of clothes that I like and wear regularly. The rest just hang there, taking up space and sapping my energy.

I waste time in the mornings trying to find outfits because most of what I have either doesn’t fit any more, is horribly unflattering, doesn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe or has worn out.

To declutter I decided to make 4 of clothes on my bed: Keep, Give to Charity, Discard, Out of Season.

One by one I took each garment out of the robe and put them in one of the piles. If I liked the garment it would go straight into the Keep pile. Garments that were in good condition but are unwearable because either they don’t fit me anymore or the style just doesn’t suit me went into the charity pile. Garments that were shabby and worn out went into the discard pile. Any out of season clothes went straight into that pile – I’ll declutter them when Spring comes around again.

After the initial sorting, I tried on every one of the garments in the keep pile and looked at them in the mirror. If they didn’t suit me or didn’t fit properly, once again they went straight in the charity pile.

I went through the same process with my shoes.

In the end I had 4 large garbage bags full of clothes to take to the charity stores and one garbage bag full of worn out clothes to put in the rag collection. The out of season clothes were packed in a box which rolls under my bed.

My wardrobe now is much more limited, but everything in there fits me. I still don’t think it all suits me, but I needed to keep a few things I didn’t like so much, like my unflattering jeans, until I can replace them with something better. In the mornings it doesn’t take me so long to get ready because I can clearly see my options. With less, I’ve had to be creative with mixing and matching and have put together some great new outfits using some new combinations of old favorites. I can also clearly see what I’m missing, which means my shopping trips can be more purposeful. I’ll stop duplicating the same garments over and over again, like I did with the 5 pairs of grey work pants I discovered, and buy things I actually need… or love.

Why I Don’t Like Facebook Anymore

The first decluttering action I’ve taken in my quest to simplify my life is to deactivate my Facebook account.

I used to love Facebook. Through it I was able to reconnect with so many old friends. It was wonderful to renew contact with school friends and old colleagues. We could satisfy our mutual curiosity about eachother, and answer the old, “What ever happened to…?” questions.

Through the regular status updates, I felt that I knew what was happening in the lives of friends living in different cities or countries. I could also keep up with the daily minutae of my friends’ lives here. I loved that.

Its been a few years however, and I’ve fallen out of love.

I’ve started to find those daily status updates irritating. Its really just a lot of inane small talk, which, while occasionally amusing, is usually fairly boring and inconsequential. I’d prefer to spend my time having some quality conversations rather than reading and contributing to the inanities of Facebook status updates. I find the blog community that I’ve become a part of far more satisfying. We have real conversations about real ideas – but to do that on Facebook would somehow seem inappropriate.

More concerningly, I’ve realised that Facebook is increasingly becoming a substitute for real communication, and a fairly poor substitute at that. Facebook takes all the effort and care out of communicating – its so easy to send a virtual Christmas Card or post a birthday message on someone’s wall. But while its easy, the gesture seems hollow. I remember a time when I would call my friends on their birthday, and when they would call me. There was a personal touch and a warmth to it that I miss. Its kind of like comparing food from a fast food outlet to a home cooked meal. Once in a while is alright, but you wouldn’t want to have it as your main source of nutrition.

In order to simplify my life, I’ve decided to remove the clutter. I’ll keep the things I need and the things that I love. I don’t need or love Facebook any more. Yesterday I deactivated my account and I couldn’t be happier with that.

Living Simply

Its time for me to simplify my life. It has become too cluttered and busy.

 When I eat, I am usually reading or working on some project. I often find myself gobbling, eating in such a rush because I’m anxious to get on to the next thing. I barely notice what goes into my mouth.

And just as I don’t notice my food, I’ve stopped noticing what is happening in my life as it speeds on through time like a bullet train. I fit so much into my day and I multitask to such an extent that I rarely pay close attention to what I’m doing or stop to appreciate what is around me.

I don’t think I’m the only one. Nowadays there are so many distractions. With our mobile phones and mobile internet we are available 24 hours a day. Before all this, I used to quite enjoy looking out the window watching the changing landscape when I travelled on a train. Now I pass the time with any of the multitude of apps I have on my phone. The real world passes me by – I’m too busy wasting time in the virtual one.

I fit a lot into my life – but it hardly seems worth it when I’m too busy to enjoy or appreciate what I have.  I keep thinking that sometime in the future I will slow down – but there are no guarantees of that. Eventually I will run out of time. I need to do something now. I want to appreciate the life I have now.

And so I’ve decided to try a couple of things:

1. Single tasking – a great article in single tasking can be found here. The approach seems to be working – for the first time in weeks, I’ve written a blog post.
2. Get rid of the clutter in my life. I don’t just mean the physical clutter, but all the other things I don’t want or need. Those activities that take up my time and attention – but contribute little in the way of enriching my life. I’m going to start with Facebook, and I’ll post about why that is tomorrow.