So, one of my dear, dear aunts and I have a lot in common, one being we have both always struggled with keeping our homes clean. We were messaging back and forth a few weeks ago, and she said she had found an amazing book on cleaning that I just had to read. She was so insistent that I read it, that she said, “You know what? I’m just going to send it to you for your birthday.”
It’s a Japanese book, and I smiled at some of the cultural aspects addressed. (A bedroom was measured by the number of mats fit in it.) To be perfectly honest, I have thrown this book a few times.
Like when she said that some people have messy homes because they can’t seem to put stuff away.
throw the book at the wall.
Yeah. My problem couldn’t be 5 children in my house dumping stuff faster than I pick it up. Couldn’t be. Stupid lady. All I do is clean up.
So I picked it up again, because I trust my aunt, and I trust her judgment. She never sends me stuff. If she sent it, she must have for a reason.
Then the lady goes on and on about how she never has to tidy anymore. Her house is always clean and things are always put away, and I too can have this life where I just come home from work and take a long hot bath in my impeccably clean home.
throw the book at the wall.
Stupid lady. I don’t live in lala land. You cannot tell me you have a method where I never have to tidy my house again. It’s against nature.
So I pick up the book again, because my aunt knows me, and she knows herself, and if she found something that works, it must work. As I read I think there is something lost in translation because I find she’s not talking about cleaning, she’s talking about tidying in particular. She’s talking about clutter. She’s talking about piles of junk that show up out of the blue everyday. She’s talking about simplifying.
OK, now this is my language. I’m slowly starting to understand.
About a week before I got this book from my aunt, I ran across this blog post about the idea of wardrobe capsules. Studies show that most people just wear the same small amount of clothes, and most of your clothes sit unused. This system is where you keep only your favorite clothes, and only have out in your closet the cluster of clothes that you will wear for that season (3 months or so.) That way, when you look in your closet, it’s quick and easy to see what you want. That idea had already been percolating in the back of my mind. I love the idea of decluttering and go through purges. But this book isn’t about going through a purge. It’s about living the purge. There’s a definite method to it that I have never been taught. She says most people have never be taught how to tidy, meaning we were taught how to put things away, but we are rarely taught how to decide what gets put away, and what needs to go, so the house does not get overwhelmed. The principles to that are in here.
So with a vision of what I want my closet to look like, and using the principles of this book, I have been tackling my closet to start with. That’s where she says to startI’m constantly having piles of clothes accumulate on the chair in my room. That chair isn’t for sitting, it’s for clothes piles. Clothes are stuffed to the brim in my closet, and I even have piles on the floor in there now.
The reason that I have so many clothes and use so few is for a completely different post I’m working on writing. For now, we’ll just say that’s the short version of the situation. The fact that I’ve gone through the body changes of growing 5 children to birth, and I am not able to do stuff that normal people do like try on clothes in the store have something to do with it. It’s a whole long saga.
So I’ve decluttered before. I’ve cleaned out my closet before and got rid of stuff. That isn’t anything new. However, this book has some very different methods for decluttering, in a way that makes it “stick” and I have to say, I’m really liking this. I’ve gone through my tops, bottoms, dresses and socks thus far. I’ve got my underwear, purses, shoes, and accessories left this week. You declutter not room by room, but category by category. You don’t get rid of things you hate, you pick up each item, and see if it sparks joy. I know, I know, it sounds cheesy. But it’s been working.
Now I look in my closet, and it’s like going to In and Out Burger. OK, maybe that’s not the best illustration, but I like having limited options, when all the options are delightful. It’s just been so simple. I’m loving this and it’s truly like I’m carrying around less garbage. I don’t even have enough clothes out in my closet to make a significant pile. Once I decided which of my clothing “sparked joy” I bagged up 5 (count them!! FIVE!!) garbage bags full of clothes that will leave my house. I then used the capsule idea without any effort at all, and only have hanging the clothes that I will wear this season, limiting myself to the portions in the blogpost linked above except I kept a few more dresses. I love wearing dresses on Sunday and 2 is just not enough. I kept 5. Because I’m the boss.
So, I’m only on chapter 3 right now. I’m hoping this book gets more into how to declutter the rest of the house. I really like the ideas presented. I do still throw the book from time to time, when the 20 something, I have no children and just need to keep my little apartment tidy attitude comes out through the author. But the more I read, the more I consider that some principles are universal. The human nature is the same no matter what stage of life you are in. Really, some lightbulbs are going off in my head as she’s explaining what I’m doing and why I’m doing it as if she has a camera watching me. It’s starting to get eerie. I was just reading last night about why the clutter problem is so common with the younger sister, and why that is, and as a younger sister myself (in the habit of hand-me-downs) my jaw just kept dropping as I realized what I was doing.
Honestly, I’m considering reading this book out loud to my children for our next read aloud. Silje has taken notice of my room’s transformation, and she wants to read it so she can do her room next. If this thing catches on, it could be a game changer.
As for knitting, I’m focusing this summer on actually writing all the patterns I need to publish. I need a really clear brain for that since I have such a build up, so I’m pausing from knitting my own designs and making a shawl for a friend of mine. I’m taking some Madelinetosh Prairie Lace yarn in “fragrant” from my stash and I first bought this pattern, because it is so her. But about 2 hours into knitting this, I realized that this pattern is much more complicated than my brain is handling right now. Seriously, I don’t know what half of these abbreviations are.
This designer is all kinds of genius, way above my attention span, and I’m thoroughly impressed with it, and someday I may knit it, and I normally love it when I find a pattern where I can learn some new techniques. But right now I’m really just looking for an easy knit I can bring outside when I’m watching the kids play. I want something simple I can bring to the lake and hold a conversation with someone. So I decided to go with this pattern instead, which I found through a Ravelry search. It’s really simple, but I think there’s this multipurpose elegance to it too. I want one. The abundance of knit stitches over and over again in that stockinette stitch done in the round is exactly what I’m in the mood for right now. I’m chilling out just looking at the pictures. So that is going on the needles, and I had to learn how to do “Judy’s Magic Cast On” so I’m still working with a pattern where I have to learn at least one new technique. Everyone of my personalities is happy now.
Tracey ~ Clover saysApril 29, 2015 at 2:28 pm
I loved this post Gretchen and now want to read this book. I am not too much of a pack rat, but I am married to one and he needs help before I totally flip 😉
I do have to let you know from one mother of 5 to another that when your babies grow up and start leaving home to make sure they take all their stuff with them and not leave it at your home to store, I finally tackled that issue in my home last summer and have a lot more room in my home.
Mom saysApril 29, 2015 at 2:50 pm
When you sent me the text last week with the link to the article on wardrobe capsules, I was so inspired that I bagged up two large bags of clothes and took them to Goodwill. It’s only the first layer, though. This task of de-cluttering and simplifying is a good one, but there is a psychological component to it as well. For some of us, it takes time, but I’m excited. It is SO freeing to have an uncluttered home. Heidi called while I was de-cluttering and I told her what I was doing, and she immediately was inspired to de-clutter as well. Thanks for this post, and I must get the book as well!
Kim saysApril 29, 2015 at 3:12 pm
This post is fascinating. I have been feeling weighed down by the clutter in my house in a much more intense way these past 6 months.
We have lived in this house for 21 years-and I have raised 4 kids in it! While I am not sure I can commit fully to the whole capsule idea, I think I will spend some time in my closet this weekend looking at it with fresh eyes, and armed with some garbage bags. We are in between seasons right now which makes clothes organizing difficult sometimes. I think this clothes idea would benefit my kiddo who is still at home. He needs help organizing and purging.
The other area I need to get realistic in is the area of the book clutter! So. Many. Books. And I read mostly on my Kindle know, except for a few authors I am committed to purchasing in hardback. But there are so many that have been on my shelves for several years which I know I will not read, because of the constant newer ones I keep finding. 🙂
Thank you so much for this post. I am will need to re-read it before I head into my closet for reinforcements. 🙂
Oh, and Sandbank seems to have managed to make its way into my Ravelry favorites.
October Rose saysApril 29, 2015 at 5:40 pm
I love that color!
I have a hold on that book at the library. I am excited for it to come in. 🙂 From what I’ve read, it seems like she approaches organization/decluttering from a perspective that *embraces* the gifts we have in material possessions, which I think is wonderful. Material things are not bad and are meant to be gifts that “spark joy.” It’s when they start to control us that they become negative.
Desiree saysApril 29, 2015 at 7:21 pm
Good luck with eliminating clutter. I gave up! I hope there is a simple way to do it because someday we will try again!
Zauberflink saysApril 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm
This books sounds very interesting and the way you describe your reading makes me laugh out loud 🙂 I would have reacted the same way!
I really like the colour of your yarn – and I love that simple pattern. Although the other one is quite stunning of course.
Sarah McKelvy saysApril 30, 2015 at 3:42 am
I must admit to laughing out loud on multiple occasions while reading this post. My reserved copy of this book is finally in at the library.
Monica saysMay 1, 2015 at 12:37 am
I read that book a couple of weeks ago. My main criticism was also that her book definitely does not speak to large families with small children. If one lives alone, with a spouse, or maximum of one child (as in all her clients, it seemed) then her method is certainly doable. Her technique for folding clothes is creative and brilliant but I don’t want to spend that much time folding laundry. Plus, my kids are terrors on folded clothes in their drawers, especially my middle kid who is 3.5. So it’s interesting in theory but not very applicable to my life at this moment. I throw out and donate stuff all the time but I have yet to reach marie kondo’s sweet spot ;). Maybe you will have more luck!
Becki saysMay 1, 2015 at 1:38 am
I enjoyed our post – and honestly…it was the first time I’ve been motivated to check this book out. Thank you for sharing, Gretchen.
Ranee @ Arabian Knits saysMay 1, 2015 at 6:02 pm
Okay, I need that book. And I will probably throw it against the wall, too, because I am a mother of eight, who homeschools, and lives in a 1700 square foot home.
MamaWag saysMay 2, 2015 at 2:13 am
You will throw the book a lot more before you get to the end. For the kitchen and bathroom sections, I just had to accept that she is a childless person in an apartment and it really wasn’t realistic for this mom of 7 in a 3 story 135 year old Victorian house. I had to laugh at the idea of drying off and removing shower stuff. Our shower goes 2-3 hours max with out a shower in a 24 hour cycle. (I’m a late night girl and my DH gets up for work at 3:30 am.) Same thing with the kitchen sponge. Ours is in constant use 24/7. I’m not a fan of her anthromorphism, either. As negative as I sound I loved the book and did get a lot out of it.