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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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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.

Two Things I Didn’t Take into Account

Just over two weeks ago I developed a routine which I thought would help me keep some balance in my life once I returned to work. It worked well for a week and a half.

Only I forgot to account for a few things:

1. Insomnia. I forgot that when I am working, I usually suffer sleep maintenance insomnia. I fall asleep easily, but I wake each night any time from 1:30-4:00am. Once I’m awake, I stay awake. It really doesn’t matter how much time I schedule in my routine for sleep – I just don’t get anywhere near enough.

2. February Heat Wave. Here in Sydney, February is usually a very hot and  humid month. But even by our standards, the last week has been excessivly hot with temperatures soaring in the mid to high 30s  (95-104F) each day. In their wisdom, our state government does not provide air conditioning to schools in Sydney’s North and East. We are too close to the coast. Inland schools are air conditioned as the temperatures there are even worse.

We don’t have air conditioning at home either.

The combination of excessive heat and humidity, along with very little sleep each night has made me really tired each evening. By 8pm my eyess are heavy and I find it hard to keep them open, let alone do anything remotely productive, like writing this blog, or relaxing like reading a book.

I’m still keeping up with the essential things: I’m cooking healthy meals, keeping the house clean, staying on top of my workload (just) and doing some exercise each morning. But the fun stuff is disappearing –  there’s been no reading and very little blogging.

Hopefully when the southerly change comes through tomorrow afternoon, the temperature will come down, my energy levels will improve and life’s balance will be restored.

Getting Organised 1 – The CD Collection

Our CD collection is a recurring organisational challenge. My partner and I love music and we have a lot of CDs. We tried various methods of storing them but our collection kept out growing our systems. We’d end up with CDs stacked in any available space and it had become almost impossible to find what we were looking for. When we would open our cupboards CDs would fall clattering to the floor as well, which caused a fair bit of frustration and damage.

This summer, after reaching the end of my patience with our collection, I finally decided to get it organised.

To organise the CD collection I needed some modular storage boxes and a label maker. By modular, I mean storage boxes that are stackable and will fit inside our cupboards. The first couple of boxes I tried wouldn’t fit inside our fairly shallow cupboard space. I mention this, because if you wish to follow the same system, you might want to measure up your cupboard or shelving space first.

Happily for us, Ikea, who manufactured our shelves, also stock storage boxes designed to fit in them.

It took about half a day to get the CDs into boxes. I simply organised them alphabetically by artist. I also had a couple of boxes devoted to “Various”. Bands that we follow closely, like The Church required their own boxes. Using the label maker, I printed some tags for the outside of the boxes so we know what is inside them. As our collection grows, I’ll just adjust the tags to suit it.

We’ve both been very happy with our new system. For the first time in a long time we can find what we are looking for quickly, and going through the sorting process reminded us of a few treasures we had forgotten all about.

What are some of your organisational challenges? Found anything that works?

I’m Reorganising my Blog

Knotrune has inspired me to reorganise my blog. At the moment it is a haphazard collection of thoughts on an array of topics, and tends to be determined by whatever my current obsession is. While those of you who are my friends are good enough to read it regularly, the lack of focus does not exactly encourage people to follow it. One moment it will be about books, then suddenly I’ll add several posts in a row about music, then cooking, then technology, then back to books.

So here is the structure I am going to try to follow in the immediate future:

Monday – Manners and Etiquette

Tuesday – Technology

Wednesday – Organisation (I lifted this topic from Knotrune – hope that’s okay with you.)

Thursday – Music

Friday – Food

Saturday – General, uncategorised musings

Sunday – Books.

Okay, I know it looks as if I’ll be posting every day, but I have no intention of that. It might be possible now, while I’m on holidays, but I can’t see myself able to continue once I go back to work. What I will do though is make better use of the drafts area in WordPress. When I decide I feel like writing, I’ll add my entry to the draft area and just schedule it to be published on the appropriate day – that way, if I want to go on and on about a subject I can, but readers won’t be bombarded with the same theme day after day after day.