I have this delusion that I’m an organized person. I think I used to be organized at one point, but over the years, organization gradually morphed into “fly by the seat of my pants.” I have memories of myself as a kid organizing my room and alphabetizing my books and later, cleaning my first apartment non-stop. Somewhere between having a bunch of roommates in college and having a husband and kids, that alphabetizing, labeling wild child gave way to a mom who frantically runs around the house throwing things into bins several times a week.
Even though I haven’t seen her in a while, I still think I’m that girl who organized canned goods by size and type in the pantry. I’m honestly surprised when I look at my desk and it’s a mountain of books and random slips of paper. I want to be someone with a neat to-do list and a company-ready house, which is probably what led me to by Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Life changing magic? Sign me up.
Instead of organizing bit by bit, Kondo advocates a big bang approach, where you spend time and get it all done in one shot. You work in categories (ex. clothes, books, knick knacks, papers, mementos, etc.) instead of room by room and discard first and then think about organizing. First, gather everything in a category and put it all in a pile. Look at every item. If it brings you joy, keep it. If not, toss it. Organize your house. Organize your life. Organize your mind. It makes total sense. It’s brilliant. I failed miserably at this.
As she recommended, I started with my clothes. My closet is basically a wasteland of t-shirts, workout gear, jeans and shoes, sprinkled with some generic work clothes. I took it all out, piled it on my bed and went through each item. Does this t-shirt bring me joy? Yes, yes it does. All 400 of them. Keep. Do these work pants bring me joy? No. Toss them. I got rid of 5 garbage bags full of clothes. Getting rid of things I will never wear again did make me feel lighter.
However, as I started going through things, it occurred to me that I couldn’t throw away everything that doesn’t bring me joy. You can’t be running around in only purple Chuck Taylor shoes. That’s where it started to fall apart. Some of the worst things I own made the cut. For example,
- My snowpants. These are God-awful, self-esteem crushing things. They are 2 sizes bigger than my normal pants and when I wear them, I feel like a combination of a stuffed sausage and the kid in a Christmas Story who can’t put his arms down. They are cut funny. When I sit on a sled, the velcro starts to come undone and it sounds like my pants ripping. They’re awful, but they keep me warm as I stand at the top of a sledding hill for hours watching my kids plow down face first. I’m also too stubborn to try to buy a different pair because buying these was worse than buying a swim suit.
- Spanx. Wrestling myself in and out of these does not bring me joy. They are a necessary evil.
- Any shoes that aren’t sandals, athletic shoes or boots. Heels don’t bring me joy. I wish they did. I wish I was one of those women who puts on tall heels and looks and feels like a boss. When I wear heels, I feel like someone who is going to fall down.
Then, I moved to my books. They all bring me joy. Next. Knick Knacks. Does anyone get joy from a knick knack? I discarded these with no problem.
After all of that, there was still an elephant in the room. My kids. They have a lot of stuff. Pretty much none of it brings me joy. Kondo suggests tidying when your family isn’t home which, as any mom who has ever tried to donate old toys will tell you, is great advice. She says that what you don’t need, your family doesn’t either. That’s probably true, but I think my kids would object to me throwing away all of their stuff.
Kids are collectors. Their collections of rocks and drawings and random toys drive me crazy, but bring them joy. Millions of Legos covering the floor makes them ridiculously happy. Every action figure we own in a story across the living room floor brings them joy. They want to save every drawing they make and they are prolific in their artwork. Light sabers and Origami Yodas show up in my house in the oddest places. I’m not even sure how many we have. I think they multiply like Gremlins. I tidy and then 2 minutes later, kids come through like a tornado and untidy. It’s the circle of tidying.
So, after this adventure, I did not end up in a minimalist paradise surrounded only by objects that bring me joy. I did get rid of a lot of stuff, which is great, but I did not have a tidying epiphany. I did not find the magic. In fact, I gave up about half way through. It does count for something that I read the whole book though, right? Like how reading diet books makes you skinny? In the beginning of the book, she says we need to aim for perfection. I should have stopped reading at page 18 when I saw this. My house is a hot mess of good intentions and love in varying stages of dishevel. It will never be perfect. I don’t think I’d want it to be. It’s not tidy, but there’s magic in the hot mess.
Have you tried this? Did it work? Drop me a comment and let me know!