In our effort to downsize our stuff so we can upsize our lives, my husband and I both read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up. (We checked it out from the library—no additional clutter.) Like many “self-help” books, I ended up skimming a lot of it. Sometimes people have a great idea but when they try to explain their ideas in a book, they end up repeating themselves and adding a bunch of fluff to make it long enough for a book. This was the case here. Plus she asks that we thank our socks and assign feelings to inanimate objects, and that was a little challenging for me.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a synopsis you can read in a few minutes.
Ms. Kondo suggests that the process of tidying up starts with letting go of things you no longer need. It’s easier to organize and be tidy with fewer things. Here are her rules for sorting through your belongings:
- Discard then organize.
- Do it all at once. Dedicate a couple of days, and just get it done.
- Sort by category, not by room. Gather everything that belongs to that category from every room, and sort through it all at once.
- DO NOT start with mementos. It’s too easy to get distracted, and you need some practice letting go of things with less emotional attachment first.
- Sort your items in this order, and this order only:
In the book, Ms. Kondo explains her rationale for these rules, provides stories and examples, and gives more details and suggestions, but this is the gist of it. Then she makes suggestions about how to organize and store things.
The Ah-Ha Moment
For me, the most helpful take-away from the book was this:
Keep only those things that speak to your heart.
That was a revelation, and I don’t know why I hadn’t figured this out on my own. How many times had I “purged” my closet, only to leave that blouse hanging there that I never wore because I thought I should wear it, but I never pulled it off the hanger to actually wear. If I asked myself, per Marie Kondo’s suggestion, if it sparked joy, I would clearly say no. So as I sorted my belongings, and even when I was considering buying new things, I would ask myself if that item brought me joy. If not, it was given away, thrown out, or never purchased in the first place.
She also points out that at some point the stuff in our homes brought us joy and/or served a purpose, even if that was a few minutes of excitement at the cash register. This simple concept keeps us from chastising ourselves for having things we don’t need or want, and it give us permission to let them go if they’re no longer bringing us joy.
Did we use her rules as we downsized from a 2100 square foot home to a 900 square foot apartment, and now to a 200 square foot motorcoach? No. We’ve been slowly downsizing over the last couple of years, and selling the house was another big push. Honestly, I don’t know if we could have done it all in a couple of days. And we’ve been thankful we had an intermediate step between the house and the motorhome. Still, I can certainly see the advantages to doing it all in one fell swoop.
I can say it’s liberating to not be tied down to so much stuff. We won’t have to hire movers or rent a moving van when we settle down. We won’t need to rent or buy a large home to store all our stuff. It allows us more flexibility and the ability to be more mobile. When you live in a tiny space (especially a tiny space that moves) you learn to be more tidy and more organized, to keep everything in it’s place.
And you learn you don’t really need a lot of stuff.