housekeeping

a life-changing tidy

KondoBookI’ve embarked on a journey of tidying my home, supposedly once and for all. “But wait. Stop,” you say. “You are already tidy.” Or, well, maybe you don’t say that but a few people close to me have. So let me explain.

Yes, my house is tidy. Especially when people come over. I have a natural inclination towards tidiness that has been with me since childhood. In truth, this preoccupation with neatness is both beneficial as well as tiresome. It is helpful in that I can quickly see what a room or space needs in order to clean it up. I can also take action and just do the needed work fairly fast. This makes home life pleasant and keeps our space from feeling too constrained.

However, I don’t ever really stop seeing what needs to be done either. That can be exhausting. Perhaps this is diagnose-able, I don’t really know. I’m sure there is a medication for it. This trait is a bother sometimes, but it has never interfered with my life in too negative a way. But, my eyes perpetually seek rest and balance. It is difficult for me to relax when things are off. I believe this is why I was drawn to the visual arts at a young age and pursued painting through college and for years after. Making a painting or throwing a pot is an opportunity to fuss with something until it is just so. Balanced. Drawing, painting, and making are ways to seek and try to accomplish beauty, although these pursuits also bring a certain struggle and unrest because artists are perpetually dissatisfied with what they make.

Now… I am the only person living in my home with this inclination towards tidiness. I won’t say too much more about that! {Clears throat.} But, the truth is, I am at it alone here when it comes to tidying. (Regular old household tasks I gratefully do have a partner in crime for. But deep tidying? No.) I think my oldest son might veer towards tidy someday because he is like me in so many other ways. And he often wants things “just so.” Not tidy, but just… In a very certain way.

Side note about tidiness: I’ve noticed that my tidiness sometimes causes other people to feel annoyed or judged. That makes me sad because I tidy for my own enjoyment. I actually get into that place of “flow” that often happens with creative pursuits when I am deep into organizing or tidying. I’m really not sure what more to say about this except that I don’t care if your home is tidy or not, unless you want it to be tidy but can’t seem to make it happen. Then I do care because I would prefer you to be happy in your living space! I am actually sometimes jealous of people with messy homes because I figure that they are probably having more fun than me. They probably read more, or watch more films, or play more games, or who knows. 

Now, what was the point here… Oh yes! I am on my last big tidy! I am reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In this relatively small gem of a book, Kondo takes readers through the miraculous steps of her KonMari method of getting one’s house in order once and for all. She advocates a category-by-category approach rather than tackling tidying by room. She also asks us to (and helps us) only keep objects that “spark joy.”

Kondo’s writing is really helping me release some objects from my life that were asking for freedom. Our modest size home was feeling smaller by the day but for various reasons that would take another post to explain, we are staying here at least for the foreseeable future. And I want to be able to rejoice in that. I want to fall in love with my house again. I don’t want to resent my house for feeling small. (By Portland standards it’s actually not too tiny at 1300 square feet, but it feels tiny sometimes.)

As I said above, I keep things tidy. But it’s too much work. I’m getting burnt out on it. Basically I want a tidy house without having to work at it all the time. I aspire to be able to just do the dishes at the end of the day and spend five minutes picking up toys and then being done. I’ll clean for an hour a weekend at most. I’ll have more time to enjoy my children, prepare meals, take care of myself, read, write, and enjoy a little more leisure. That’s my vision statement.

Back to the book. Some of my observations of going through the KonMari method are;

  • My house is temporarily getting worse before it will get better. When I delve into tidying, other routine housekeeping tasks take a backseat and there is stuff piled everywhere. Some of the stuff will eventually be put away, other piles are destined for the consignment shop or Goodwill, and plenty will be recycled or thrown out. But until they reach their destinations, all these things are haphazardly piled about. The dishes are not done in a timely way and meals are afterthoughts.
  • Having children adds a layer of complication not addressed in the book. I think it goes without saying that tidying and keeping tidy are more difficult when you share your home with young people. As I tidy, my sons enjoy taking apart all my piles of stuff, mixing everything back together in one large pile, and wandering off with sorted items or using them to build forts. Also, as a parent you need to just accept a certain amount of mess and chaos in the home. By the end of each day, my floor is covered in toys, sofa cushions, broken crayons, dried play dough, smashed food, muddy footprints, every separate page of a 200-page notebook, shredded toilet paper, diapers (both clean and not), baby wipes, milk puddles, crushed Cheerios, and stuck-on stickers. Several pieces of furniture are inevitably tied together with shoe laces. Twigs, rocks, and roly poly bugs in jars line the windowsill. That’s just the reality of having kids and having them home all day. I have to let all that go and just be a mom and let them be kids.
  • The focus of Kondo’s method is on what to keep. This is a nice shift from focusing on everything that you are discarding. If I feel sad about anything I’ve parted with, it’s a momentary emotion and relieved by going and holding some of the treasures I’ve kept. It is easier to enjoy and appreciate the things you love when they are not surrounded by things that are just making a mess.

I plan to write a post about my experience tidying each category Kondo advises in the book: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, and mementos. Please add your reflections on tidying in the comments if you would like to join in the conversation.

 

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