I am about five months into a pretty serious organizing/decluttering event at my house and it’s going pretty great. We have lived here for five years and added two humans to our family since then and things have been craaaazeeee for a while.
I have donated more than 50 plastic bins of items and I have trashed about 15 bins. Closets feel emptier, I can find the things I need and, increasingly, I am surrounded by things I love. It’s good. I think I’m about 60% finished.
I was already pretty far into this when I read the Japanese Tidying book and wooooo boy, that book SPOKE to me in nice whispers. It turns out that I was already following a lot of her suggestions on my own, but the book gave me a push (and permission) to get RUTHLESS.
Here is what works for me:
1. Asking if something brings me joy. This is straight from the book. Yes, it is super loopy/woo-woo. BUT IT WORKS FOR ME. If the answer is no or maybe, I get rid of it. I try not to dwell on the question because I’m really great at talking myself into keeping items that actually bring me no joy. No matter how valuable or who gave it to me, if I don’t like it? I don’t like it. I don’t want it in my house.
For example, this is my linen closet. It’s so great. I got rid of sheets I had owned SINCE COLLEGE. In my house, we use white sheets. White sheets on every single dang bed. With five beds it keeps everything nice and simple. WHITE SHEETS ONLY. So why was I hanging onto green sheets and tan sheets and blue sheets? THERE WAS NO GOOD REASON. (They have all been donated.)
But look, I did keep some patterned sheets, because I’m a fun mom and sometimes we make forts and it’s better if they aren’t made of GOOD sheets that I feel like I have to wash again right away.
2. The Tidying book did not try to make me feel bad for HAVING a lot of stuff and it didn’t try and guilt me into not buying anything else in the future. I feel like tons of books and methods and gurus really push this idea and want you to dig deep and ask yourself what having 43 bath towels means about you as a person, but Marie Kondo does none of that. It’s a VERY face value evaluation of your stuff and I loved that.
For example, maybe I have 43 bath towels. I do not need this many towels. I don’t even like them all. I’m going to keep the GOOD ones. Maybe I will buy more towels next week when I get to Target and I see those rainbow dot ones that make me all happy inside. But most of the ones I have get donated. That’s okay. The end.
(I did not actually have 43 bath towels but if I did? THAT’S OKAY.)
That was so FREEING for me. No sense looking backward into WHY the towels are here or what bad habits caused me to BUY the towels or entering into a horrible shameful math equation of acknowledging how much money I’d WASTED on TERRIBLE TOWELS. No, nope. Sort, get rid of them, move on with your life. Sunk cost fallacy, AHOY.
3. I am a point in my life where I feel like I CAN actually go through this exercise with some effectiveness. I almost feel like I’m taking my house BACK from my children. I used to let them sleep anywhere they’d deign to actually SLEEP but now they sleep in their beds like proper children and they keep most of their toys in their rooms, too. They are old enough to pick up after themselves and I’m asking them to. They have strong opinions on what they like and don’t like to play with. After living in survival mode for so many years I’m ready to actually pick up my house and keep it looking nice. (I have the time for that now! It’s weird.)
This is Preston’s closet. It was STUFFED with a wide variety of Baby Items that I intended to sell or give away but I got RULL HONEST with myself and just took a deep breath and donated almost everything. It feels great.
As my kids get older I am far less attached to their toys and clothes and once I get The Baby Years sorted/donated/sold I feel like I won’t have to repeat that kind of mass evaluation/donation any time soon.
4. I stopped caring where things went. I sold a few things, but I have been singularly focused on getting items out of my house as quickly as possible, and for me that is a short trip to my drive-through donation warehouse. I have donated A LOT. (I donated a mink coat.) For a few weeks I went every day, sometimes twice a day. The donation guy RECOGNIZED me and would say things like, “See you this afternoon!”
The Mink Coat, plus a duvet, plus two bins of..I don’t even know what. STUFF.
I’m also throwing a lot of stuff away right now and that’s bothersome because we are not really supposed to throw things away because…THE PLANET. But the way I figure it, it’s stuff I should have been throwing away all along, for the five years we’ve lived in this house. I just happen to be throwing it out in a single six month stretch rather than five years. Do I feel bad about it? Yes. But was it all going to end up there anyway? You betcha.
In the book Marie talks about throwing things away all the time. She is so casual about “just throw it away!” that it was positively shocking to this American. Maybe that’s a Japanese thing? I have no idea. Because I feel like in the US throwing things away is…bad. Like, we DO throw things away, but it’s always under duress, right? We have absolutely been trained that if we must throw something away, it definitely shouldn’t be a lot of things. We are supposed to recycle or compost or upcycle or reuse or find a new home for it. ANYTHING BUT THE TRASH CAN.
It’s so weird because we have all this stuff but we have also been trained to not LET IT GO. It’s BAD to let it go! And if you must let it go, you need to send it to The Correct Place. I have an overwhelming need to organize my trash into neat piles so it doesn’t end up in the actual trash and I just CAN’T.
I have things I don’t need, some of them are going in the trash, and I will be much more careful in the future about what I acquire.
5. Acknowledging that an item once brought me joy when I bought it or when it was given to me, but it no longer brings me joy, so I should get rid of it, was a HUGE HUGE moment for me. For example, I threw away a TON of photographs from college. TONS.
It was hard, because photos feel so special, but seriously I was not going to get these remnant photos out for my kids one day. I have scrapbooked the best of the best, I have the negatives organized and filed in sleeves, these prints had to GO.
I realized that it had been fun to take the pictures and it was fun to get them developed (remember that?!) and it was fun to show them to my roommates to laugh at back in 1998, but their usefulness and any joy they gave to me had long since passed. GONE.
So that’s what I’ve been doing since January. It’s been a slog but life is so much better here. Simultaneously climbing out of the fog and chaos of The Baby Years while getting my house together has been amazing. A lot of people don’t like the Tidying book for some really valid, “that’s a bonkers idea” reasons. (The author suggests emptying your handbag every day and…no.)
I just loved it. It came along at a point in my life when I had the time to devote energy towards this kind of thing and I’m so glad. Maybe I’ll even have more time to blog soon.
NOW THAT MY SOCKS ARE RESTING*, THE FUTURE IS WIDE OPEN, GUYS.
*I will make you read the book to get that joke.
1. I am typing this from My Room, which is also the guest bedroom. I have a desk here and I recently painted the whole thing dark grey and my wonderful Macy’s MIL gifted me with an entire new set of fluffy white linens for the bed. I replaced the pillows. (Costco, and MAN they are good $8 pillows.)
I bought long and flowy white curtains (even though I usually make my own curtains and simple white curtains seems like a no brainer to make on my own but I could not for the love of Pete find ANY fabric I liked AT ALL after three fabric stores so I bought them from Pottery Barn and I paid too much but I don’t care). I bought two white lamps and this room is White! and Grey! and it is very much Not For Children. I bought a plush little tufted grey velvet chair for my desk. I had hoped to spend more time up here but, big surprise, there is not a lot of spare time in my life for Being Alone In My Fancy Grey And White Room.
But I’m here right now and you know what? It’s kind of NICE in here. I should spend more time in here. One day I will take pictures and show you but I have to hang stuff on the wall and get a box of misfit toys out of the way. THEN I can take photos. But trust me, it is very posh compared to the rest of my Sofia and Batman themed home. I mean, I have breakable accessories from Anthropologie in here. That’s like, the very definition of Not For Children.
2. The school year is almost over (!) and I am amazed at my LL Bean Lunchboxes. A+. I love these. They fit my plastic containers perfectly, they fit in the backpacks nicely, they seem to be indestructible and they repel stains. I bet these last me at least two years. RECOMMEND.
3. I sprained my ankle four weeks ago. I think I mentioned it in passing in my last post but I slipped on some ice and I sprained it and it was awful. I was home alone with all three kids and I fell in the driveway and I had to crawl back into the house. It was the kind of injury where I could not walk but I was not bleeding out so I was like, “OH! I THINK I AM OKAY ACTUALLY!” and then I realized that I could not responsibly supervise Preston from a chair with a bag of ice on my foot, so I had to call Chris and make him come home.
I got x-rays, I paid a $250 ER copay, they gave me a prescription for Tylenol with Codeine even though I said I’m allergic to Codeine. (I thought about filling it anyway in case of Zombies, because those prescriptions are not easy to come by, but in the end I don’t have that kind of spare time on my hands.)
I mainlined Motrin and spent a lot of time with my new friend, Ice. My mom came up and stayed for several days. And four weeks later IT STILL HURTS TO WALK.
4. If you have a Netflix subscription and you have not watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you are doing it wrong.
5. I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot on the airplane to Utah and oh my goodness it was such a SAD but MAGICAL story. It’s a few years old, but if you are not familiar, Henrietta had a tumor that was biopsied in 1951 and those cells created the first immortal line of cells for research purposes. HeLa cells were used by Salk to develop the polio vaccine. They’ve been to space! HeLa cells are STILL USED. But her family had no idea and in fact were quite troubled by the idea that their family member was still “alive” and in so many places. HeLa cells were even sold, but her family never saw a penny. It was just SUCH a good read. It’s only a few bucks on iBooks. I had heard a podcast or two on HeLa cells but the book was just amazing.
6. Then on Oyster I got into The Arcana Chronicles and goshdarn there is nothing more annoying than finding a bunch of free books in a series only to get to the third one and see that they’re not all free yet and the NEWEST one is $11 on iBooks. (I bought it.) (They’re totally not well written but I GOT INTO THEM and now I need to know how it ends.)
7. We’re going back to Disney this winter and I AM SO EXCITED.
It has been five years since I went skiing and this week I am at Park City and…I can tell it’s been a while since I was on a pair of skis.
My first trip up the lift terrified me, which is weird because I am not afraid of heights (I think I was contemplating the idea that I’d have to go DOWN all that mountain we were going up) and then I snowplowed all the way down the steepest and twistiest green I’ve ever seen, which is SO MUCH MORE WORK than just skiing down the hill like a normal person.
Then my boots were bothering me and I hate walking in them but you HAVE TO at first, which is actually the worst part of skiing: the lugging of the gear over non-snow surfaces. The clothes and the skis and the poles and the boots and the hiking just kill me. It’s SO HARD to just get the day started.
The spring breakers were kind of rude and I really wished I was wearing a sign that said I AM THIRTY SIX AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ON SKIS IN FIVE YEARS PLEASE AVOID ME.
I think if I was a better, more confident skiier I could get over the boots and the young person attitude but I spent five hours on the mountain yesterday and I hated every minute of it. On every run I was thinking, “When can I STOP?”
I thought it would be more fun. I have always enjoyed skiing in the past but I sprained my ankle ten days before our trip and I am partly frightened I’ll get injured again (not my ankle because in a boot it’s immobilized but I’m not super confident/strong on my right foot because of the sprain and I can tell I’m dragging it a bit) and I am partly so rusty on my skills that I’m frightened to even TRY much. Plus, there aren’t a lot of greens here that aren’t actually just shortcuts to other blues and blacks strung together, which isn’t very fun at all for a scaredy-cat skiier.
And also, while I am logging mentions to the complaint department that this post is turning out to be, I don’t think I like this mountain at all. I really like Breckenridge and this is not Breckenridge so it has been hard to adjust to Something New. Very few green runs, the base area isn’t very well organized, high snooty/snobby factor.
So. That’s how I burned one day of lift ticket and rentals and found myself in a coffee shop this morning while Chris and Claire ski. I’m pretty happy about it. I woke up thinking I DO NOT WANT TO GO SKIING and I am a pretty self aware person so I announced I would be staying put for the day.
Claire loves it though. She rode the lift four times yesterday and she was zipping all over the place. She wanted to go skiing MORE after her six hour lesson! That was very pleasing to hear after the day I’d had. She was thrilled to get back to it today and she offered to teach me a few things. (Which, yes, she probably COULD.) I plan on skiing tomorrow with Claire and Chris (no lesson for her tomorrow, just skiing with Mom and Dad), and I’m enjoying the Being On Vacation part where I am not cooking or doing laundry or picking up food Preston threw on the floor. But it might be a while before I want to come back.
Here are some pictures.