In early January, I read Spark Joy (the sequel to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up/an illustrated master class complete with drawings of a cute bunny folding things). I knew I needed to do a large scale clean out of our apartment to make room for all of the baby stuff that was coming our way soon and that we had to move the desk Will and I share for work/studying and our second bookcase into our bedroom… and I was feeling totally overwhelmed by all the stuff in our lives.
If you’ve read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which you should, it’s good stuff), you may not see a need to read Spark Joy, unless you are just really into organization and decluttering (which I am). Marie Kondo is not messing around, and it’s relatively easy, even for someone like me who wants to be a professional organizer, to dismiss some of her practices as extreme. Like folding all, and she really does mean all of your clothing in a certain way. Or not keeping anything on the counter in your kitchen. Or unpacking your purse every day so that the straps can breathe. To name a few examples.
But I really really loved the message of this book, even more so than The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo argues that the hard work of decluttering is only done once- the process so deeply changes you that you are able to hone in on what you love and don’t love about everything, from your home to your wardrobe to your life. I am only a few weeks post purge now, but I have never loved my home more, and I’m actually finding it way easier to make decisions about what I want – and don’t want- to bring into my life.
My great apartment purge commenced around January 2, and even though I am a pretty regular declutterer, I was amazed at how much stuff I unearthed that we did not need or want. A few highlights:
- The workbook from our pre-marital counseling containing a ton of personal details about my life that I swore I would reference but realize I have not looked at once in our three years of marriage.
- Birthday cards and notes from people I could not put a face to. I’m all for nostalgia, but you can’t be nostalgic about people you don’t remember. Bless them for giving me a card. It served its purpose and I was able to let it go (I kept all of my other birthday cards).
- An oversized vintage style bright red alarm clock I bought when I lived in London for my future child’s nursery. I was 22, five years away from getting married and 8 years away from having my first child. Now that I actually am decorating a nursery for said future child, I don’t plan on using any red and I don’t have anywhere to put it. So I thanked it for giving me a vision of my future family and donated it, hoping that someone at Goodwill will find it and love it.
- 3 BUCKETS
- A whole vial of glitter, unopened, from who knows when. I love me some glitter but really, not necessary. Last purge I found 18 gluesticks, which is definitely worse, but somehow the glitter survived unscathed.
It’s a full month later, and I am STILL finding items I don’t want in my apartment (I confess, I did not do the full decluttering that Marie Kondo suggests where you methodically go through all of your possessions. I’ve got baby brain and baby bladder. I can’t do anything methodically these days). But again, I think it’s because I was able to get a clear vision of what I wanted and didn’t want- so the more things that I come into contact with that I don’t want, the easier it is to let them go.
Here are the main takeaways from my great purge, as framed by Spark Joy:
- You can’t organize clutter. This is perhaps my biggest takeaway OF LIFE. I love organizing. I love boxes and bins and labels but honestly, decluttering sometimes gets in the way of that because once I declutter I realize I only need one bin instead of 3 and it would be dumb to label it because I can see what’s in it. I’d been meaning to tackle the dreaded ‘under the sink’ cabinet in our kitchen for over a year. I went to the dollar store and Target to look at storage options and basically, everything was out of stock because it was January and that is when people organize things. Then, on a 10-minute work break, I decided I couldn’t deal anymore and began tearing everything out of the cabinet. I got rid of a few bottles/supplies we don’t use, swapped the box I had all of my cleaning supplies in for a smaller box, grabbed two vases I wasn’t using from another cabinet to corral sponges and trash bags, and ordered a new recycling from Target. IN 10 MINUTES. I spent $5 on the recycling bin and didn’t need to buy anything else. My under the sink cabinet looks freaking beautiful now and all it really needed was less stuff (not more organization).
- Just because you have room for it, doesn’t mean you should keep it. We don’t even have that much storage space and I am still able to cram so much junk into our apartment! Usually, it’s with the excuse of ‘someday I will use this picture frame’ or ‘someday I may want this sweater’ or ‘it’s not taking up that much space under my bed (or in this box, or at the back of this cabinet…).’ But the problem is, if I don’t like it enough to use it now, I’m probably not going to like it more in three or four years. We don’t keep expired food in our fridge, because, gross, so why would I keep things that have passed their expiration date for our lives? I think it’s mostly fear- I’ll need this, I’ll want this, I spent money on this, etc. But the truth is, I’ll probably just make do without it. Or not miss it at all. OR buy the thing that I actually want and use that instead.
- You should be able to take care of all the things that you have in your home. I’ve found that it’s infinitely easier to keep my space clean when there is less stuff to clean. I know that sounds basic, but it’s kind of mind blowing when you think about it. Less stuff = fewer items to collect dust, to put away, to fix, to polish, to use. About a year ago, I organized all of makeup into an easily accessible drawer in the bathroom and placed my makeup brushes in a mug in the cabinet. When I’m done getting ready in the morning, it takes about 20 seconds to put my makeup away and place the brushes back in the cabinet. This simple change has allowed me to keep our bathroom (relatively) tidy on a daily basis, and having a minimal countertop brings me a lot of joy.
- You should love and appreciate all of the things that you have in your home (ie, they should ‘spark joy’). Getting rid of stuff I didn’t like helped me to see and acknowledge what I did. I was able to create more of a cohesive vision for our home than just ‘this is what we have, so this is what the aesthetic is going to be.’ I also loved Marie Kondo’s idea about valuing nonbeautiful but useful things- like her screwdriver, or her kitchen mop. My parents bought us a drill a few years ago, and though we very rarely need to use it, when we do, Will always comments ‘man, I LOVE this drill, this was such a great gift.’ We are so grateful to have it when we need it- and that gratefulness makes storing the drill no big deal.
- Keep items for the life you have now, not the life you think you will have someday. Remember the red alarm clock for my future child’s nursery? It was a nice thought, but ultimately a waste of money and space (that sucker was big). I keep a lot of things in preparation for the next season – such as ‘I need to keep these craft supplies because I will have children someday who will want to do crafts.’ That is probably true. But at that time, I can just buy paper and markers and glue sticks. (There are some exceptions to this of course, like supplies for entertaining, some furniture, etc.)
- Things are meant to be used and enjoyed, not put away in boxes. I love this idea so much- Marie Kondo suggests using your china, displaying your collections, and enjoying your beautiful things. Will they get damaged? Maybe. But they will bring you so much more joy this way, instead of being stashed away for occasional use.
So now the real question is… will I be able to keep this up with children?? I feel like nothing brings the stuff avalanche like little kids… and nothing has me questioning my love of white in home decor like a visit from my niece and nephew. But I’m hoping that these new found philosophies will keep me from getting overwhelmed by my stuff again, and help me to pass on a healthy relationship with stuff to my kids.