Our house is tidy, clean, organized and cozy – for the most part. Yet I often find myself feeling edgy, unhappy, unproductive and, yes, almost, stressed in my home. Now, why is that? Why do I constantly feel the urge to take a big box and throw more things out?
Free your mind.
According to experts, clutter consumes us mentally, adds stress and often wastes precious time, mostly because you have to spend time searching for something. When we keep thinking about the things that bother us – like that unfinished DIY project, drawers full of kitchen gadgets that we use once a year or storage boxes filled with sentimental value like Christmas ornaments or toys from our childhood – the annoyance can quickly spill over into other areas of our lives. God forbid, we may even snap at our husbands. (Great, now I can blame my bookshelf for that!)
At the beginning of this year, I signed up for the January Cure. And so it began, our entire family embarked on a mission to clear our home of unnecessary stuff. We called it #projectletitgo. (Because when you give something a title, its significance automatically triples.)
Whilst our home got cleaner, our garage emptier and our cabinets more organized, it still didn’t deliver the relief my husband and I were hoping for. It seemed like our approach to tackle clutter as a space problem could not be solved by acquiring more bins and organizers. Or following an abundance of Pinterest boards. Putting the label maker down, we realized we needed to go deeper.
How do you want to live your life?
Enter Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing guru. Her method: Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.
Marie Kondo challenges you to ask yourself whether each object you have is propelling you forward or holding you in the past? (Like those photos from your ex. Oi!) Of course, a toothbrush or Ziplock bags won’t ever get me overly excited. But that’s not the point.
According to Kondo, the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only influence the way you choose the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.
Kondo recognizes profoundly: That overload of things in our homes is often about unhappiness, and that the right kind of tidying can be a kind of psychotherapy for the home as well as for the people in it.
With this newfound approach, we basically overhauled our decluttering project and took another look at the things we previously wanted to hold on to. Here’s an example: A side table next to our couch, shabby chic style. Purpose: Holding a lamp, housing a box of tissues and coasters, and offering space to put a drink. Clearly needed, right? Do we like it? Yes. Do we absolutely love it? No. The table can now be found on Craigslist offering joy to someone who really wants it.
Did you see how we decided about an item’s fate more aggressively? Mr. Thrasher even went as far as claiming that we don’t need a couch because we usually host our guests at the dining table. Insert wife’s vehement veto.
Get children involved.
I’m proud to say that even our 4-year old daughter embraced my newly discovered obsession with a minimalistic approach to decluttering and generously sorted out a lot of toys. From an early age, we taught her how to store AND organize her toys. In her playroom (also our home office), she has five individual toy bins:
- for her stuffed animals (she owns 7) and doll’s clothing,
- for her construction toys (Lego’s, Magnatiles, GoldieBlox),
- for games and puzzles,
- for science stuff (magnets, her science kit)
- for her dress-up clothes and accessories.
Every bin is only half-full. Art supplies are within reach but behind doors in my bookshelf. Her books are neatly stored in her bedroom – German books on one shelf, English on the other.
This system also helps to establish boundaries: Her bedroom is for sleeping and quiet time, the playroom is for playing and learning. She has one treasure box where she keeps cards, letters and drawings from her friends, and two smaller boxes for little odds and ends.
To get you started, check out these 21 Tips on Keeping a Simple Home with Kids which are precisely on par with our family system. Admittedly, this strategy may not work for every child (or its parents). As a always, a healthy rule of thumb is: the purpose of the task is to strengthen the relationship. If what you’re doing is driving a rift between you and your child, it’s not worth it. Take a step back and reassess.
Imagining myself living in a home that contains only things that spark joy, I am slowly but surely resetting my life. One donation drop-off at a time.
Now, if only I had the guts to follow this process with my wardrobe…
What is your organizing secret? What was your “toughest” purge? Tell your story and leave a comment.