Let’s face it, this is the age of minimalism. Or at least, aspired minimalism. We all crave a space that is clean, organized, purposeful, and visually pleasing. It sounds so simple! But seriously, it’s not.
I long for that serene space. I am constantly attempting to achieve this lofty goal, and constantly falling incredibly short. Talk about housewife guilt! Sadly, if my house is cluttered and messy I am depressed and irritable, but with a clean and tidy space I have no trouble feeling at peace! And because my house is constantly messy, I constantly feel like a failure. This reveals where I am actually putting my hope and peace. Hint, it’s not the Good News of Jesus.
Above any physical problem, our greatest problem has been taken care of in the work of Christ on the cross. He has taken on our offense against God, our sin, and paid the penalty that we owed. By faith in him we are reconciled to the Father, we are forgiven, we are cleansed, we are made alive! This is truly good news, and the more we SEE this and BELIEVE this, the more accurately we see the smallness of our “problems”. No matter what we go through in life, whether it’s a colicky baby or cancer, we have all we need in Christ.
So, back to organizing. I don’t want to over spiritualize the act of decluttering my house. It is the same level of spiritual-ness as changing a diaper, buying groceries, and doing laundry. It is dealing with STUFF, items, things that will not last and have no eternal significance. My mom always said, “People are more important than things” and that is lived out by doing everything to the glory of God! God cares about our heart as we go about our daily activities, he wants us to love him and love others as we take care of the things and stuff that surround us. Things are not nearly as important as our attitude towards people, but sometimes we just need a little help to know how to organize and deal with the things around us! And that’s what this post is about!
I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to declutter. My older kids are just about to jump into more serious academics that require more hands on time with mom, summer is ending, and my littlest one is 6 weeks old so I’m starting to get into a “new normal” groove. Speaking of 6 weeks old, the baby is going through a leap, which means he wants lots of cuddle time! So I’ve used all the time with my arms full to watch YouTube videos on tiny houses and organizing! Win Win!
One of the things I’ve found is this awesome method called the KonMari method, which is developed by a woman from Japan named Marie Kondo. She has written several books that have been translated into many languages, and she speaks worldwide on her method. Basically, she’s a big deal! Some of her ideas are very based in Eastern culture, and I don’t agree with them, but I have just chosen the parts that are helpful to me. Her method lays a great foundation for the how and why of sorting, so I’m going to describe it in depth because laying that foundation has really helped me feel calm and excited about decluttering my house! It is possible, people!
- Before you start sorting, write down or draw what you want your life to look like. What do you want to change by tidying your house? What is your goal? Having that on paper will help motivate you to finish tidying everything.
- Sort your items by TYPE, not by AREA. So you put all of one TYPE of item (i.e. clothes) in a big pile, then go through that pile one thing at a time.
- As you put take your clothes, etc, and put them all in a huge pile in your room, you are working on the premise that you are going to get rid of everything. Then, you are going through each item and deciding what actually “speaks to your heart”. Normally we go through our things and try to decide what to get rid of, but that is a very negative focus. Instead, we are focusing on finding and only keeping the things we love. This makes it a very positive focus!
- Sort in silence (this is not possible for me with 5 kids, but hey, it’s a goal!)
- The order in which you go through your house is important. She recommends that you start with clothes, then move on to books, then papers, then miscellaneous items (komono), then lastly sentimental items. You save sentimental items for last because they are the most difficult to sort through, emotionally. So by the time you have a gone through everything else, you have really honed your decision making skills and figured out what is important to you and why.
- When you go through a TYPE of item in your home, you only keep the items that spark joy. In fact this is her catch phrase and the name of her new book!! Pick up each item, one at a time, and see how it makes you feel. Do you feel happy? Or do you feel weighed down? The items in your home should only make you feel happy! If you have doubts about whether an item sparks joy, then it probably does not.
- Don’t be afraid to get rid of things, but on the other hand, don’t be afraid to say yes. If it does spark joy but it isn’t very functional, try to find a new place or purpose for that item. The goal is not to get down to a certain number of items. You’re not trying to say “I should only have 2 tshirts, 2 skirts, 5 books, 10 DVDs”. You simply ask yourself if the item sparks joy, and if yes, you keep it. And if not, you let it go. And don’t feel guilty about getting rid of things that don’t make you happy, even if you’ve had it for years, and even if it was a gift.The things that you are passing on have served their purpose in your life.You will feel so much lighter when you just let go!
- KonMari has a special way of folding clothes and towels in drawers so that you can see each item. This link has some great pictures on that. Basically you stand everything upright so that you can see every item in the drawer when you open it! This feels less cluttered and allows you access to your items. She also recommends you have your clothes sorted by color, and that you hang items in your closet by length. Small things that help to keep everything looking tidy in the long term!
- At the end of this you will have gone through and touched each item in your home and decided it brings joy. There will not be one thing in your home that does not spark joy, even in the things hidden in cupboards and tucked away in drawers.
So! Let that sink in! I’ve been taking the last week to process it and kind of decide how to work through my own house. First of all, I’ve been thinking about what it means to me for something to “spark joy”. I’m reminded of the William Morris quote, “Have nothing your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I have been going over the things in my mind that I truly enjoy having in my home. My favorite pieces of clothing, my favorite artwork, particular tools that I love using and owning for my sewing projects. Then comparing that to how I feel about other items. It’s making me realize I have a lot of things saved to put up on my wall, but most of it doesn’t really “spark joy”. I have a lot of clothes, but some of them are very “meh” to me. Those things are unnecessary! Why am I keeping them? Why am I afraid of letting go?
I’m reminded of the William Morris quote, “Have nothing your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
KonMari for my family of 7
Obviously, I can’t folllow the KonMari method with every single item in my home. I’m not the only one who lives there! My husband has different tastes than me. My kids have different tastes than me! Different things spark joy in them that don’t in me, lol. So I’ve had to make adjustments. As I go through the clothes, I’m doing one size at a time, one gender at a time. So I’ll have a pile of all my 4t boys clothes and go through and decide which items are in good condition and which ones they actually wear, and get rid of the rest. They don’t need 8 pairs of PJs! They don’t even wear PJs, lol! Also, with my clothes, I’m pretty early postpartum, so a lot of things still don’t fit. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to chuck them all out. I’ll do another KonMari Cull in about 6 months and see where we’re at then.
Another big question for those of us in a family and on a budget is, what do we do with the items that we can’t get rid of, but that don’t spark joy? My toaster doesn’t spark joy, but I’m not going to toss it and go get one that does. I can’t afford it and it’s rather silly when I have one that works just fine. With items like that (my WaterPik flossing apparatus, my plain cotton undies, our bottled water dispenser, certain kids toys) my goal is to be content and happy with what I have, maybe even try and spruce up the items that I do own. If I see a replacement item in the future I might buy it, and then I can discard the one that I currently own.
I’m also much less strict about books than she is. I love books, I love having them for reference, I love being able to loan them out, and I love having them for my kids to discover the joy of finding information or new worlds inside their pages! I just can’t get rid of books that I’m not “currently reading” or into. I have all my midwifery textbooks from my studies, I have books on drawing, I have a few of my favorite old novels, and I have classics like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm that I hope to read with my kids someday, and some books that are just pretty to look at! And I am okay with that. 🙂
Another thing I’ve realized as I’ve been diving into decluttering ala KonMari is that I don’t always have the time to make a HUGE pile of all of one type of item. I have 5 little kids running around (although one is not running quite yet). If I pulled out all the books and put them on the floor it would be like a magnet for jumping and playing and would create a sensation! So instead, I’m modifying it slightly and just doing as well as I can with the environment in my home.
How to declutter your life, er, house
I have to point out that most of us only think of step 4 when we think of organizing our houses. But by laying the foundation of WHY you’re doing this, and by doing these extra steps, you are setting yourself up for success! I don’t know about you, but I have failed at this so many times, I am ready to take a little extra time and do it right.
- Give yourself time. Understand that this decluttering that you’re undertaking will not happen overnight. Don’t get overwhelmed. Things will get a bit worse before they get better, but you will feel a bit of weight lifted with each giveaway bag you fill.
- Make that list of of what you want your life to look like. It can use words or drawings, magazine cutouts, pinterest board. Whatever you want. But keep that goal in your mind as you work your way through your house! I have already found it helping me to stay motivated.
- Stop making excuses. I have lots of excuses for why I’m not organized. I have 5 kids. I homeschool. We live in a climate that is often over 125°F in the summer (basically the weather is trying to kill us) so we spend a lot of time inside. We live overseas so some basic items are not readily available. And we have lived off support (aka a very limited budget) for years which means I often say yes to other people’s junk! These are my excuses that I am owning up to, and facing head on. What are your excuses? Don’t let them stop you anymore!
- Get rid of stuff. Then, get rid of more stuff. Go through each set of items that KonMari mentions, and in that order. For me, that means I’m starting with my clothes, my kids clothes, helping my husband go through his clothes, then going through all the clothes I have saved away that don’t currently fit my kiddos but will in the future. I have a “spark joy” pile, a garage sale pile, and a maybe pile. Before I pack/put away the keep pile, I go through the maybes and decide whether or not I want them, I don’t save it for later. Because we’ve already made an overseas move, I don’t have a lot of books that aren’t “joyous”, although the kids books could use a little clearing out. Papers will be a beast but I am already starting to think about what kind of filing system will work for us and the space I have. Mostly, I am mentally psyching myself up to go through all my “komono”, because there is a lot of it. Decorating items that are packed away, a hodgepodge of pots and pans, all my craft and sewing stuff, my enormous fabric collection, the vitamin and medicine cabinet, extra sheets that we’ve been given, and my cleaning supplies. And that’s just a rough draft of a list! But I am ready. The awareness of that mess sitting in a cabinet physically weighs on me, and I am so excited to actually have it sorted. After I finish all that, I will think about sentimental items, lol.
- Stop buying stuff. Stop buying stuff in the Target dollar section. Stop buying crap at garage sales and thrift stores. Stop buying something because it’s a good price. Stop buying something that you might do something with later in the future. Stop impulse buying. Once you go through your home and have touched every single item and made a decision about it, you will be a lot less tempted to add unnecessary items! If you see something and love it, then think about where it will go in your home, or how you will organize that new item. If you can think of where it will go, and it truly sparks joy, then do it. But make sure you think about the “joy” aspect before you buy.
- Less is more. Even though the KonMari method doesn’t specify a certain amount of things to keep or toss, when you go through your things assuming you’ll throw most of them out, and only save the things you love, you end up having very little. If you are not sure about this, go ahead and put the “maybe” items in a temporary giveaway bag in the garage. See what it feels like to live with so much less! It is truly an incredible feeling! If you have something that you absolutely need but doesn’t spark joy, make a list of those things, and keep an eye out for deals, or even make a budget item to save for it. Think, a nice camera bag, or some amazing jeans. Then when you get the thing you actually love, get rid of the old item.
- Learn the art of saying no. The truth is, you will always be saying no to something. If you choose to keep an item, you will be saying no to more space. If you say no to excess things that don’t spark joy, you will be saying YES to more space, less clutter, and less stress. No, I don’t need these high heels I’ve only worn twice in 8 years. No, I don’t need these old college textbooks. No, I don’t need these mementos from my overseas trip, I have photos. No I don’t need this jewelry that I bought in college, it’s not my style anymore. Saying no is a good and healthy thing.
- A place for everything, and everything in its place. My goal is to make sure at least half of this is always true in my house. Every single item in my house needs a home. It needs a place. Now, with kids, obviously things will not always be in their home! That is a fact of life, and it shouldn’t make us upset. I have come to accept that most of the time, my home will not be incredibly tidy. But if you have fewer things, and a home for each one of those things, the mess isn’t nearly as bad! Plus, the stress from the mess tends to melt away because it doesn’t feel impossible to tidy!
- Storage solutions are all around you. When you are looking for ways to store the things that do spark joy, think outside the box. Can you hang things on the wall? Look at all the empty space on your walls, above bookshelves, tops of cupboards and closets. Find ways to utilize these spaces that often are wasted. Command hooks are a great option even in a rental. Shoe storage pockets can be cut up and used in all kinds of places. Over the door hooks can go on the inside of bathroom cupboards. Look on pinterest for storage ideas for the different rooms in your house. You may not be creative, but plenty of creative people are making lots of money sharing their awesome ideas online!
- Out of sight, out of mind. In this case, you need to think inside the box! Heehee, see what I did there? Ahem, moving on from my bad joke. There are plenty of things in our home that don’t need to be accessed very much. Christmas decorations, memorabilia, old medical files, tax documents, things like that. Look for cheap plastic tubs in places like Big Lots, Home Depot, and Walmart. I prefer the clear Samla tubs from IKEA, you can easily see the contents of the tub, and they come in several different sizes. Plus, because they are all from IKEA they stack really nicely. For things that need to be accessed more often, like charging cords, vitamins, notebooks, office supplies, I use cheap cardboard storage boxes from IKEA to store various things on my bookshelves, because they look a little nicer than clear plastic. Now, these boxes shouldn’t become a catch all for junk. Each item inside needs to be thoughtfully kept. But it is my favorite way to store things! You can also use silverware organizers, or small drawer inserts to organize office supplies or undies in a drawer. Even out of sight, you want a place for each item, or each type of item.
Whew! That’s a lot of info! But I hope you feel excited and equipped rather than overwhelmed. It has been so inspiring for me to write this post! It has actually been in process for a over a week, and I’ve added and edited many times. As you can see by the pictures, I’ve already started applying the KonMari method, and something that has helped me not to get overwhelmed is making a written list of all the item types in my home, and I’m through about 5 of 25! See my handwriting below as proof that it doesn’t have to be pretty to get the job done. 😏
Little by little it’s happening. And it is wonderful. I would love to hear from you all about other tricks you might have, and get updates as you begin your own journey of decluttering and organizing! Good luck!!