housekeeping · parenthood

reflections on tidying


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.

I wrote that vision statement a little over a year ago as I embarked on the process of tidying up my home, hopefully once and for all. And the amazing truth of it is… this is actually (mostly) true for me now. If my living and dining rooms are trashed…I mean completely wrecked by the kids with toys, forts, and whatnot everywhere… it takes me ten minutes tops to make it perfect. Now, of course vacuuming and dusting are extra time on top of that. But just to get it picked up and back in shape, five to ten minutes max.

Now, the housework I spend time on is just routine tasks that never go away: laundry, dishes, vacuuming, cleaning. I am not spending my time fighting stuff, trying to find places for things, organizing, sorting through piles of paper, spending hours shredding paper (yes, I used to do this), storing out-of-season clothes, shopping for storage solutions, or saving up stuff to donate.


Since the big tidy, living in this house is easier. I can quickly put away groceries and clean dishes because there is actually space for them to go in the cabinets. Same for clean laundry. Clothes actually all fit in our dressers and closets with a little room to spare–this wasn’t true before. Same for toys–they all have a place “away” when not in use.

After completing all the chapters in the book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, the lessons have really stayed with me. It’s now much easier to get rid of things as I go rather than letting unneeded stuff accumulate. For example, once my youngest outgrew clothes and baby items, I immediately donated them or gave them to pregnant friends. I easily cleared out a full drawer’s worth of clothing that I no longer wear to make room for new spring shirts. When I bought new sneakers I said goodbye to the old ones instead of holding on to them “just in case.”

There are no piles of paper anywhere waiting for attention. You can read the rules for paper here. I still follow them to a T. I don’t save magazines either. I pin stuff I like in magazines on Pinterest (follow me!) and recycle or share the issues. I used to have baskets and baskets of dusty magazines looming around because I liked reading them and thought that meant I had to keep them indefinitely. Not anymore!

I also use the library more. Previously when I wanted a book I’d look to Powell’s or Amazon. Now I usually reserve books through the library instead. I do want to build my sons’ book collection a bit more because they enjoy having lots of options to choose from and it’s fun to go back to favorite stories that we’ve forgotten about for six months or so.

Toys… I recently realized my kids dumped all their toys out first thing every morning and then proceeded to play with about a dozen or so favorites. My youngest has some vehicles that he plays with constantly, and my oldest loves lots of small toy animals to story tell and play with. I keep those available at all times. They also have their wooden blocks, wooden castle, and play kitchen with toy food. Most else is packed away and we get it out when they ask for it, or for something special to do. I don’t need 150 Magnatiles spread all over my living room everyday, but they are fun to get out for a few hours on a rainy afternoon when they are actually in the mood to play with them.

Regrets and narrow misses

I went back and re-read some of my posts on tidying. Tip: don’t write down what you are getting rid of! As I read the post on clothing I remembered the leather trench and prom dress I parted with. And I felt really sad that I had let them go. But in truth, I haven’t thought about them at all in the past year. It was only reading the words about how I had let them go that made me wish I hadn’t.

I have had a few narrow misses. Once I was sitting downstairs thinking about some old photographs and I was hit with a massive panic attack that I had gotten rid of them! I ran upstairs and dove into the box of photographs that I had carefully organized and HUGE RELIEF, the photos were still there. But it was a close call.

Another close call was the cord for my sewing machine. My sewing machine has been sitting unused in our linen cabinet for about three years (this is finally changing) and when I went to find the cord to plug it in, it was no where to be found. I got super nervous recalling the piles of mystery cords I had gotten rid of. Was my beloved sewing machine cord among them?! There was only one place it could be; the box of mystery things I had put aside for my husband to look through before sentencing them to the Goodwill bag. Fortunately we balance each other out and my husband does not have any urgency about tidying, so his box was untouched. And the cord was there!

I do regret a few choices I made, mostly tidying miscellaneous. There were some small knickknack type things I parted with that I wish I had kept, in part for sentimental reasons. I’ve thought of a few items I edited out more than a dozen times, so it is clear to me I shouldn’t have gotten rid of them. I even looked for one of the items at the store I think I sold it to: no dice. Big sigh and lesson learned. For me, I need to be a little more thoughtful before letting certain things go.

I also parted with a black cashmere sweater that I absolutely should have kept. I think I got rid of it because I used to wear it to work and couldn’t see the point of keeping it. But then I was dressing for a party on a cool night recently and thought, “I’ll just grab that soft, lightweight, perfect black button-down cashmere sweater to cover my arms and NOOOOOOOOO!” Sorry girl, nope you tidied that away.

Take it or leave it

Some “rules” I am pretty lax on, such as the KonMari clothes folding technique. I mostly fold the way the book dictates, but not always. Frankly I just do not have time to fold all my panties and match all our socks. I’m all about saving time, not necessarily having the drawers look perfect every time I open them.

I don’t talk to my house and thank it every time I come home. But I do try to cultivate gratitude and focus on what I love about the house instead of its shortfalls. If I start focusing on something I don’t like about the house, I intentionally think about the downsides to moving and all that we’d give up and it works to redirect my happiness.  This isn’t really something I learned directly from the book, but I am committed to this house more than I was before.

So, in summary, I am really grateful I spent several weeks tidying last year and so far it has been a bit life-changing. I haven’t had to organize or tidy anything this past year except for spending about 20 minutes donating clothes and toys we’ve outgrown or no longer need.


4 thoughts on “reflections on tidying

  1. Loved this post! I just purchased the Magic of Tidying Up but have yet to read it! This will encourage me to do just so!

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