01/27 Life

Currently Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpRemember when I said that one of my goals this year is to de-clutter because last year I was drowning in clutter?  Then soon after I talked about how I’m in a bit of a creative funk and finding it hard to get the wheels rolling again after the holiday madness?  I’m convinced the two are completely intertwined.

I started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to get a grip on my clutter issues, and it made one thing instantly clear again, a concept I find really easy to forget:

Tidy Space = Tidy Mind

This quote from the book puts it so perfectly:

“…when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.  As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.”  

How badass is that??  Who wouldn’t want to achieve this?

So often I’ve been frustrated by the constant messes piling up around our apartment, but still I let it be just that- a distraction, a nagging troll that occupied my thoughts and convinced me that my efforts to de-clutter would just be replaced with more clutter, so why even try.

I needed a change in perspective, so I’m going to try a different approach outlined by this book that’s different from anything I’ve heard before.  As simple as it is, it’s pretty bold.  Want to know the secret?

Throw away everything.

Ok, so that’s a super simplified and dramatic version of it all, but I’ll go into more details on the main concepts, because I know there are more of us out there who feel me on this dilemma and have decided to take on this battle as a high priority.

1) Identify Your Goal

The book explains this as the most important first step and encourages specific visualization of the lifestyle you want to achieve should you successfully de-clutter.

Story time.  A recent event was my rude awakening for why things needed to change.  We had an unannounced guest.  Guys… it nearly killed me, and is why I frequently kind of joke that I need at least one week notice from anyone that wants to come over.  The mortification I felt over there being nowhere for him to sit because every surface was occupied by materials or scraps for one of the 47 projects I was working on at the time was unbearable.  Some might think I’m overreacting, but to me this brings to light what my goal is: I want a lifestyle where people can come over and I won’t have to worry about them having to move trash in order to sit down.  Simple!  This is in addition to wanting to free up space so I can enjoy both working and relaxing in my home, and not feeling stressed about having to tidy all the time.

2) Discard

This refers to a one time tidying, major overhaul of discarding all items that do not bring you joy.  We’re talking like 13 garbage bags to toss, donate, or sell.  Can you imagine how good it would feel to be surrounded only by items you truly use and love?  It requires examining every possession one by one, holding it in your hand, and asking yourself if it is either useful or makes your heart soar.  If the answer is no, toss it, baby.  The author stresses that this inner dialogue you have with yourself is so important, to not even listen to music or watch TV while you do it.  It should be a serious, almost meditative practice, where you really pay attention to the energy of the item and what you want do with it.

I’ve never in my life taken the time to go through all my possessions and re-evaluate what I still enjoy and what I forgot even existed (I’m looking at you, leather shorts shoved up against the back of my dresser).  I’d like to think a bonus that would come out of this activity is grooming a “buy less choose well” mentality, which is something I definitely want to commit to.

An important factor that the author stresses is to do this in a short amount of time.  In my mind, I was thinking I could get this done in a weekend, but the timeline she gives as an example is six months.  At first I was like whaaat but then I thought about my vase collection and how that itself will probably take a week of examining, so yea, six months sounds reasonable.

3) Organize by Category

The author recommends examining objects by category, not by location/room.  This is a completely new concept to me, but makes a lot of sense.  For example, she recommends starting with clothes by gathering every clothing item from every room into one pile, and maybe into subcategories if there are a ton of items.  This is for two reasons, 1) to get an accurate visual for how much of the item you actually have and 2) to notice repeats and similar items that might be an easy place to start for deciding what to toss.  I’ve actually started doing this with my jewelry and have tossed half of it already, one of which were earrings from Claire’s that I wore to PROM (WHY did I still have those?!?)

 A funny thing the author mentions is warning not to downgrade old clothes into loungewear.  I am so guilty of just making anything I wouldn’t wear in public another pair of pajamas.  My pajama drawer doesn’t even close right now.  It has got to go.



My plan is to hack away category by category each weekend and try to do it all within a 6 month period, and I agree, it sounds a bit daunting, but I really do think this is one of those the-hardest-part-is-starting situations.  The idea is to make it such a big feat with drastic results in lifestyle changes that reverting back becomes an impossibility.

What do you think?  Is this something you’d try or have tried before?  Was this so totally boring?  Are you guys interested in this kind of stuff?

I really recommend you check the book out if you’re trying to get serious about tidying and de-cluttering, and because I only did a so-so job of summarizing the main points.  It’s a quick and eye-opening read, and has interesting anecdotes that address things like why you shouldn’t let your mother see what you’re throwing away.  Hilarious, though that’s not my mom.  She’s really, really good at throwing things away, a talent I unfortunately did not inherit from her.

34 comments on “Currently Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”

  1. This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. My husband and I live in a condo. A couple months after we got married, I decided it was time to get serious about de-cluttering. I started following blogs that live a minimal lifestyle. It has been life-changing! Over the course of cleaning out, I’ve made some money by selling items and clothes, and donated 10+ bags of stuff. It is SO nice to have empty areas of the house, but it doesn’t feel stale at all. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but I’m not pressuring myself to get it all done in a day. It will take time and I’m loving the journey. Thanks for sharing the book!

    1. Aaah, it must feel SO good to have already accomplished that!! That’s a great point you bring up about loving the process. It needs to be that way in order to keep it up. Sounds like you’re really getting this down- I’m inspired! Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Mallory!

  2. I have been purging for the past 3 months. Every day I toss or add things to my donate box. It has become a habit! I love the feeling of clearing things out.

    1. Man, if only I started 3 months ago… that’s great to hear Cindy, and reaffirming that de-cluttering is a positive feedback loop. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow, this is great! I should probably do this with the huge amount of crating materials, but that’s the hardest part… I don’t want to throw out anything that could be useable later on…

    But what concerns me is that you write throw out, do you mean you’re actually throwing things in a bin? Cause I guess that you could probably donate half of the things or more to people that actually need them. If that’s what you did, then ignore this part!

    1. Yes, craft materials are definitely going to be really, really hard to pare down, because you never know when you might have a use for that fabric scrap or leftover ribbon, right? :P

      And yes, you’re absolutely right that items that can be donated should be donated! By “throw out” I simply mean to rid your home of it, but whatever you do with it is up to your discretion of course, and so far with my jewelry I’ve got a lot of it bagged up to either be sold or donated. Sorry I wasn’t more clear about that, and thank you for clarifying an important point!

  4. I love this post and your style! Wondering where you got the peace sign hand sculpture from? I love the idea of using ” conventional” items to display jewelry.

  5. Yes yes and yes! Husband and I were JUST talking about this this morning. When the house is a mess, it takes up soooo much of my mental energy because to me it means “this is a thing that you need to do”. Mess = work to be done! Tidyness = work IS done! My big challenge though is not so much decluttering, which I do frequently, but just plain running out of energy to keep up with maintenance cleaning/tidying. Curse those pesky health issues! But anyways, thanks for sharing this book, it sounds like a super useful read! xoxo

    1. Exactly. Just looking at a mess gives me so much stress, like it keeps me from getting anything else done. My problem is a combo of clutter and not keeping up with putting things back where they belong. Hoping to reach your level where my main challenge is just putting things back!

  6. This is so funny, I am in the middle of a 20 Day Decluttering Challenge at the moment on my blog, and I keep seeing other people doing similar things! I also saw the book you’re reading pop up on Amazon the other day. It’s like all the stars are aligning!

    I have been going on my decluttering mission for 6 days now, and it feels AMAZING. It is so liberating to let go of things that I’ve held on to for bad reasons – i.e., guilt.

    I think the point about visualizing your goals is so spot on. I picture a home where everything has a place, and nothing has to be shoved in haphazardly. And a home where the only things we keep are things we love. I tend to hold on to the past too much, but from now on I want to clear out the past to make room for the future. :)

    1. Oh my gosh yes, guilt, especially with hand-me-downs from family. Funny, the book cautions about not being that person who hands down items to family members to put off the responsibility of dealing with things that are hard to toss. We’ve all been on the other end of that!

      Amazing you’re already on a 20 day plan. Seems de-cluttering is a pretty popular new year goal, so it makes sense the stars are aligning these days ;) Thanks for sharing, Tamara!

  7. Perfectly timed post, Amy! I have the week off from work and am devoting it to decluttering. These are great tips, I have to check out the book! Similar to your Claire’s jewelry discovery, I found a pair of jeans from high school without pockets on the back that I cut on the sides to make them flare more. Why have I held onto these for over 10 years?? Haha I don’t even think goodwill will want those :)

    1. Haha cut flare jeans, I so remember doing that too! Yea I daydream about taking a week off to dedicate just to decluttering. That’s going to feel so good to accomplish, Lusine. Good luck!!

    1. Hahahaha yes yes, if only reading about it would actually make it happen. I feel you on less is more and wanting to be less bogged down by “stuff.” We can do it.

    1. Yesss. It’s funny how we hold on to things without really taking the time to think about if they make us happy anymore. Need to get serious about living with less!

  8. I LOVED this post!! Ever since my fiance’ moved in he’s been saying I’m a hoarder… I’m not but when we moved apartments I see what he meant. I felt so guilty with him having to move so much of MY stuff. At one point I was so irritated with moving I thought if these boxes caught fire I wouldn’t be upset because I don’t know what’s in them. I’ve since been making a very concentrated effort to get rid of as much as possible. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one going through this : ) Thanks for posting this I can’t wait to get the book!

    1. Totally a similar thing going on over here. We started decluttering our shoes by gathering every single pair in the living room, and about 99% of them were mine! I guess I’m the one that really needs to do the decluttering, not my boyfriend.
      There are so many of us struggling with this, but also so many of us trying to do something about it! So happy you found this helpful. Enjoy the book!

  9. I’m so excited to read this, because I have decided to tackle my wardrobe this month in exactly this way, and I plan on downloading the book as soon as I finish The Scarlet Letter.

    I would LOVE to get everything done in 6 months! But since there are 4 people in this apartment, I’m going to start with my wardrobe and call it a win if I can get that done this month. Oh well, at least I just did my books two months ago!

    1. Ah, yea, 4 people’s stuff is a lot! Wardrobe is a good place to start. The book mentions that it’s typically the easiest category to start with since clothing is least likely to have sentimental attachments. I’m tackling wardrobe next and it’ll definitely be a huge win to get that done. Good luck, Elisa!

  10. I started reading the Minimalist blog over a year ago & have been slowly, but surely working on organizing / de-cluttering our home. I’ve donated many items & am in the phase of needing to sell things. This seems to be the hardest part for me, I have stuff set aside, but can’t muster the energy to post it on craigslist so I’ve gotta work on that this year! I have definitely done better with not buying everything I love in the store, even if I don’t know where I will put it & that has been a huge help. Good luck on your journey & check out the minimalists blog (if you haven’t already) for short little essays that can help to remind you of your goals & stay on track :)

    1. See, that’s another thing. The time and effort needed to sell things is really stressful in my eyes, so I wonder if by just donating everything that’s reusable will make this a much more enjoyable experience, especially since I don’t even want to keep a pile of things to sell hanging around!
      I’ve heard a lot about the minimalists, so your suggestion confirms that I gotta follow. Thanks for sharing!

  11. This sounds like an interesting read; I have been in this process for a while now (moving cross-country twice in 10 months helps speed it up ;) ), and I just have one little tidbit of advice to share: don’t rush, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You definitely won’t miss most of the things you get rid of (hot pink pleather short-shorts, anyone?), but if you go at it too ruthlessly, there will be some collateral damage. Plus, some things, either clothes or knicknacks or memoribilia, no matter how much you don’t need them, you won’t be able to throw out. And that’s totally okay! My siblings were going to throw away all of our kiddy books, and I am SO happy I kept them, even though I have absolutely no need for them. And that sweater I never thought I’d wear again? It’s now on constant rotation.
    But the bottom line is: have fun! Enjoy all the weird, wonderfully outdated things you find! :)

    1. Great advice. My boyfriend was going really hard on me to toss things and I had to be like HEY. GO AWAY. It’s true, sometimes you just have a connection to something even if there’s no use for it, and that definitely falls into the category of making your heart soar = keep.
      It actually is enjoyable finding things once I get past the sheer horror of how long I’ve held on to some pretty nasty junk. It’s like coming across lost treasures or thinking man, was there really a time I was into that? :P

  12. I love this! I am a TOTAL hoarder. Jewelry from high school? Overflowing drawer of “pajamas” that are really retired clothes I should just get rid of? Needing plenty of advance notice to get the house ready for guests? GUILTY, three times over. I have a really hard time getting rid of things (and I keep accumulating more), so I should probably (definitely) read this book. It’s interesting, I’ve been noticing a theme of minimalism and decluttering in a lot of blogs and conversations with friends lately.

    1. Pajamas. I love pajamas so much, but so true that it’s another way of putting off retiring old clothes for good.
      I’ve always thought I’d never be a minimalist, but I’m realizing that was more out of fear than out of really knowing what I wanted. It’s crazy how inanimate possessions can dig so deep like that haha. Things do matter though, and it makes sense that we all want to be around only the best and most important things. Not enough time to deal with all things less than that!

  13. wow I NEEEEEEEEED that book! This is such a fabulous post! My husband calls our place a “craft graveyard” ha ha so Im right there with you in having to move “trash” when people stop by. Its embarrassing! You have inspired me! xoxox

    1. Yes girl, crafters especially know this pain. My craft graveyard knows no boundaries. I eat, sleep, and live among my craft scraps. There’s gotta be a better way!! What a relief to even know one more person I admire is going through the same embarrassment haha!! Thrilled you’re inspired, Sara. We can do this <3.

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