The Magic of Tidying Up

Once when Hayden was a toddler, I purged many of his stuffed animals, toys, baby clothes. I displayed his favorite things – a few matchbox cars, Winnie the Pooh, books about Mr. Sillypants. When he came into his room, he didn’t say, “Where’s my stuff?” he said, “Mom, where did you find all my things?’

That’s what happens when you get rid of your things, you find your things.

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I hated these bookshelves in our entry way because besides being a place for books, they were a place to stash shoes and bike helmets. (Dont’ judge, people. We live in an apartment in the city – we don’t have a garage, attic, basement. We have narrow closets.)

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I have been following the wisdom of the Marie Kondo bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It is not a simple process. You have to gather all like things in one place. Here are the steps:

  1. clothes
  2. books
  3. papers
  4. komono (miscellaneous)image

First, discard. Then, organize.

While the girls are at camp in Vermont and Chris is fishing in Canada, I have been purging like mad. I emptied two bookshelves. Then emptied six more.

I took time out to get a pedicure. Yay.

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The least fun part was our handyman yelling at me and Hayden for using the wrong elevator to drag our book case into the garbage. Sorry. 😉

The most fun? Arranging the book cases. In one, I created a shelf for mine and my friends’ published work. There’s a lot of room for more books, friends. Here’s another book case.image

I reorganized the entryway. “Keep only those things that spark joy in your heart.” My father’s painting, my mother’s figurine, wall art from Hayden’s trip to Botswana, a mug/bowl made by our beloved babysitter Josie. (I can see in this picture that the bookcase and the door needs a paint job.) image

This is where the tipsy bookshelves were. The space is now becoming a homework or dining nook.imageThe basic tenet of the book is to get rid of everything that does not spark joy when you hold it in your hands. That’s tough. Because, like my clothes, not many of my books make me feel Oh Joy! Oh Rapture!

I don’t know if it’s because I don’t feel I deserve joy. Or being a good Christian, I have set aside material objects and taken joy from spiritual experiences. I enjoy relationships and adventures not things.

I have not wanted to make the decision of what to keep for the rest of the family. I piled many of the girls’ and Chris’s books to let them make the call. Our books were all junked together. As the children get older, I believe everyone should have their own bookshelf. (And the girls share a closet and during this process, I have thought they should have their own spaces.)

Maybe these shifting family space dynamics are spurred by Hayden leaving for college in three (yes, three!) weeks.

What did I learn?

It was hard to give away books that were given to me. Books that I still haven’t read.

I let go of half-read books or books that I hung on to for someday. Like, let’s say there was going to be Armageddon, I would be ready with my books.

Many of my books were accumulated for book club or before my Kindle.

Books get dusty. Blech. I had a headache doing this yesterday. So Hayden and I took a break and went to see Mission Impossible. Fun.

I have a ton of blank journals and half-written journals. I have baby journals, bird logs, yoga journals, books of lists, gratitude journals. The Marie Kondo method suggests keeping those and going through them during the komono or keepsake portion of the purge cycle. I can wait.

Still. I could not help but read some of my children’s writing as I purged.

Here’s one:

“The hospital is not as fun as you think it is. You get lots of shots, you have to stay in bed all day and night and you cannot walk around because you have wires attached to you.”

I think Hayden wrote this after one of his three heart surgeries/procedures. I think that one was from the one when he was 10.

This is why going through stuff is difficult. And gratitude-inspiring. And time-consuming.

I look at my stuff and think, Wow. How far we have come.

Or I don’t think at all, I simply feel. Does it spark joy? Yes, keep. No, toss.

There is beauty in minimalism. There is joy in simplicity.

Also read:

My post about decluttering clothes the KonMari way.

The Daily Post asks: What obstacles hold you back from getting it done this week?

 

Cleaning the Closet

Wallpaper - Hyacinth, pattern #480 - 1915-17
Wallpaper – Hyacinth, pattern #480 – 1915-17 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been decluttering my apartment — but I’d rather be in Paris.

I hired a home organizer, the Clutter Whisperer, and bribed a girlfriend, Barbara, to help me declutter my stuff. My brother and sis-in-law helped a lot too.

“The 1970s called, Mary Beth,” my bro Brendan said. “They want their chair back.”

I cannot do this kind of spelunking alone. Or without some humor, apparently.

Cynthia, a.k.a., the Clutter Whisperer, whom I found years ago on Craigslist, gave me some advice: purge your books and your clothes. I like her nonjudgmental approach. She said I’d do well in a big old farmhouse rather than a NYC apartment. That’s nice. I’d do better with a backpack in Europe too.

In my defense, as I tell my mother, “City apartments don’t have garages, basements, attics, big closets, cars, or home offices.” I know. I know. We have museums and parks. And I’d take them any day. I like experiences way better than things. But I have to get rid of the things so that I can have the experiences.

I thought when I left my job a year ago, I’d stay on top of my family’s stuff. A family of five just accumulates. And with Chris’s Parkinson’s, he’s a bit slower to help or initiate decluttering.

Also, I’ve been way more interested in my biz and my freelancing work than in home-centered activities.

I have excellent taste. I’m good at noticing (and sometimes making) beautiful things, I’m just not good at showcasing them or bidding them farewell (as in kids’ art projects!)

When working on my closet Friday, Barbara offered me this quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” Tall order. As I cleaned the closet, I found:

  • a journal from my raft trip on the Rio Grande in 1992
  • Hi8 tapes from the kids as toddlers
  • an orange tank top with the price still affixed (LOVE orange, but often wear the basic NYC black!)

These things were all kind of beautiful and kind of useful. The “kind-ofs” get me. I hang on to “kind of.”

I am asking the kids to join me in the purging of books and clothes.

I feel like contacting Gretchen Rubin. In her book The Happiness Project she talks about the joys of decluttering and, even, gasp, keeping an empty shelf. I’d like to do that. I’d like be a minimalist. I’d like to escape to Europe.

Right now, I’m traveling through my daughters’ seventh grade papers, going back in time. And if I’m lucky, I’ll recycle the past and move into the present, perhaps even experience a park or museum today.

Valuing Beauty

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. – William Morris

I love this golden rule. And I love and value all things useful and beautiful.

I am not always good at decluttering. I think, Wow, this old broken hand mixer might come in handy. Not!

Sometimes in our disposable and materialistic culture — YES! America, I mean YOU! — we need and want a quick fix, but beauty takes time. (So does decluttering and throwing away the old hand mixer!)

Yesterday, my techie son helped me download about 9,000 photos from my iPhone to a hard drive. He handed me the hard drive and said, “Here’s your life.”

Among those photos I noticed this random photo from the Stony Point Retreat Center. I thought. Wow. Beautiful sun room. Useful. I want my home to be as full of light as this room. I want to find beauty in my home. I want my home (my life) to be of use. 

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