This post is for everyone who wants to read this book but just doesn’t have time to do so. I’m hoping that this will be the cliffs notes to the New York Times Best Seller: The life changing magi of tidying up.
I first heard about this book on Good Morning America and then my mom got it for Christmas. So when one of my best friends, Bianca, sang it’s praises, I had to read it and try it. In a nutshell the book is about decluttering your life and only surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy.
She classifies people who can’t stay tidy into three types: The “can’t-throw-it-away” type, the “can’t-put-it-back” type, and the “first-two-combined” type. 90 percent fall into the third category – the “can’t-throw-it-away, can’t-put-it-back” type, while the remaining 10 percent fall into the “can’t-put-it-back” type. Um, hello that’s me. I can throw absolutely anything away. My favorite Bible verse is “Naked I came from my mothers womb and Naked I will depart.” (Job 1:21) but I confess I’m not the best at putting things away. I usually let things get messy, then have a cleaning session.
The first step is to purge by category. Clothing is first. Place every item of clothing in the house on the floor. I moved my coffee table and placed every single piece of clothing in the den. Oh. my. gosh. I was SHOCKED at how many clothes I have. And although you may be thinking: of course you do, you’re a fashion blogger. I actually do a really good job at only keeping what I wear. We have relatively small closets so I thought this would be a much smaller pile. I’m telling you, you’ll be shocked.
Go though piece by piece and ask if the item gives you joy. If it doesn’t, donate or sell it. She says most people hold on to clothes thinking they “might” wear it “one-day” or “could use it as loungewear” – but inevitably, if you don’t wear it now, you won’t wear it then. And “what you wear in the house does impact your self-image” so why would you wear something you don’t love?
Throughout the book she talks about letting things go. And even though that may seem wasteful, if you thank the item for the joy it brought you when you first bought it and loved it, it’s easier to let go. I think this is true 100%. There were so many things that I kept because I loved them so much at one point, but I never wear them now. I ended up thanking them, and getting rid of them.
the biggest shock / learning point for me in the clothes category was seeing how poorly sweaters held up. So. Many. Ball-y sweaters. Y’all know what I’m talking about. The kind where after ONE wash, it has balls all over it. I’m so done with sweaters that are not knit. I bought a sweater off of EBAY for $11 when I was in law school and I still have it and love it. Why? Because it doesn’t have balls on it. Why doesn’t have balls on it? Because it’s KNIT. Knits don’t ball up after washing and are now the only sweaters I own. These sweaters from J. McLaughlin are absolutely my favorite sweaters ever. And, while they are an investment. I know that I’ll never get rid of them because they will withstand the test of time.
Next is books. Same thing – put all the books you own on the floor and go through them one by one. She talks about how everyone has SO MANY BOOKS they INTEND to read SOMETIME. But “sometime” never comes. Or people who keep books saying they will read them again. But how many books have we ever really re-read? Books are sheets of paper with words on them to convey information. If you are done with the information, donate them so someone else can have the information.
I did’t do the books part because David and I got rid of a TON of our books when we moved from Jackson, MS to Chapel Hill, NC. Our built in bookshelves are bare if anything, and had just been styled by West Elm. So I skipped this category.
The next category is Papers. The basic policy is to discard all papers and only keep those that are truly necessary. Like your social security card. But used checkbooks, bank statements, pay stubs, all go. “Used checkbooks are just that – used. You’re not going to look at them again, and even if you do, it won’t increase the amount of money in the bank, so, really, get rid of them.” haha I loved that line from the book.
“The purpose of your pay slip is to inform you of how much you have been paid. Once you’ve checked the content, its usefulness is over.”
She recommends having ONE folder in the house for very important papers. And all the other ones, to just get rid of.
The next category to sort through is: “Komono” which means Miscellaneous items. Oh lawwwwww.. here we go. This is the “stuff” category. I’ll try to keep this short:
gifts: “the person who gave it to you doesn’t want you to use it out of a sense of obligation, or put it away without using it, only to feel guilty everytime you see it. When you donate it, you do so for the sake of the giver, too.” This was pretty freeing for me. I definitely have kept many things because they were gifts.
cosmetic samples saved for trips: “to use possibly outdated cosmetics, especially when you are supposed to be enjoying your travels, seems rather foolhardy.”
Unidentified cords: “mysterious cords will always remain just that – a mystery.”
small change: “Change belongs in your wallet. No where else.”
Sentimental items: “no matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
My kitchen has been my favorite transformation. I can get to things much easier since getting rid of the things I never used.
The last category is photos. This is saved for last because it’s the hardest. Her hope is that by this point the reader has gotten good at deciding whether or not to keep something. The only photos I have printed are our wedding photos and a few framed pictures around the house. So again, this one didn’t really apply to me.
After finishing discarding and sorting through all the categories, you assign each thing you have kept a particular place in your home. Doing this completely cuts out the “where should I put this” or “where did that go” hassle of life. I must say, I never have to look for Nilla’s ferminator brush anymore. This is the best part of the book – knowing everything has a place. And knowing exactly where everything goes. It saves a ton of mental energy and makes “cleaning up” a lot easier.
For me, the best takeaway from the book was being able to discard/recycle things IMMEDIATELY when they come across the threshold of our house. I immediately say: “nope, not another box, not another miscellaneous item I’ll never use” and I recycle it or throw it away immediately. Going through everything in our house really showed me how things accumulate so quickly.
That’s it! The end! This whole process was much more time intensive than I thought it would be but could definitely be done in a hand full of Saturdays. Or if you are like me and know you can skip some categories (for me it was books and photographs) it would go faster. I think in total this took me a full day for clothes, and a full 2 days for miscellaneous. But I do mean the ENTIRE day. She says it can take between one month and 6 months but I guess that depends on where you are in life and how much stuff you have.
I’m putting some of my favorite quotes from the book below. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!
“Although we can get to know ourselves better by sitting down and analyzing our characteristics or by listening to others’ perspectives on us, I believe that tidying is the best way. After all, our possessions very accurately relate the history of the decisions we have made in life. Tidying is a way of taking stock that shows us what we really like.”
“One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity”
“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
“When we are holding on to the past or saving something for fear of the future, it makes it hard to throw things away. We can’t see what we really need now, at this moment. We aren’t sure what would satisfy us or what we are looking for. As a result, we increase the number of unnecessary possessions, burying ourselves both physically and mentally in superfluous things.”