Housekeeping Hindsight

Many of you followed my KonMari journey these last few months.  I wrote about it here (where I talked about throwing the book across the room several times), and here as well within the context of my clothes.  I’ve also written here about the app I use for keeping track of house cleaning, based off of the FlyLady system.  Phew.  You reach a desperate point, people.  You get so sick of surviving your days and become determined to find a way to thrive.

I do not believe the two systems (KonMari and FlyLady) are in conflict, and as a homemaker I still use both.  KonMari does not focus on getting dirt out of stuff.  She deals with clutter.  She deals with just piles of stuff everywhere.  She deals with stuff never being put away.  FlyLady does work with clutter, but not nearly with the philosophical thought of the other.  Actually, not even close.  However, she does have a good rotation system for cleaning the dirty stuff in your house.  So I used KonMari to declutter and completely transform the way I think about my stuff and how to organize it, and I use the Wonderbear app based off of FlyLady to keep track of what needs to be cleaned next on rotation, and just do the thinking for me there.

It has been a beautiful pairing.

The KonMari system suggests you don’t go through her system gradually.  She does not believe in gradual change, because you never see success, or experience what it will look like as things gather faster than you get rid of them.  She suggests you go through her steps in no more than 6 months.

(Please keep in mind, this system is not merely decluttering.  It’s a philosophy of managing stuff.  Really, reading the whole book is necessary and I won’t lay it all out here.)  

I ended up going through it faster than that because I had an opportunity to contribute my stuff to a friend’s garage sale, and because I just don’t have 6 months to apply to this project.  I just wanted it done.  The last thing I need is a huge project going on during gardening season, or worse, harvest season.

So now that every closet, every dresser, every toy has been brought to a place of order, and I have pushed literally dozens of large garbage bags to various locations from the dump to goodwill, to the garage sale…

this is how my life has changed:

I’m running out of laundry to do.

I used to try to get a minimum of 2 loads of laundry a day for our family of 7 people.  When I washed diapers it was 3 loads a day to stay afloat.  I have it programed in my cleaning app to put a load in after breakfast and after supper.  I’m having trouble some days coming up with a load big enough to wash in the evening.  It’s skipped often.  I hang clothes on the line to dry more because I have time.  Why not?  We just don’t do as much laundry.

I treat my clothes differently.

Now that I have less clothes, and love them all, I treat them differently.  I wear my apron more in the kitchen, because I don’t want them washed too much.  I fight to get stains out more.  I pick them off the floor more, because I shudder to think that they’d wrinkle.  I’m more likely to mend them carefully and quickly.  Instead of being this disposable nuisance, they are something that I care for with more thought.  They hold more value in my mind than they used to.

I look put together more often.

I used to blindly grab a shirt and a pair of jeans, or yoga pants, and just get through my days.  Now I put together an outfit, even wear jewelry from time to time (gasp!) and think about what shoes match.  As a stay at home mom, this has been huge for my frame of mind.  I know studies have been done on how what we wear effects our performance, and it’s true.  It’s not that I don’t wear comfortable stuff anymore.  It’s that I feel beautiful more.  I’m caring for myself more.  It changes how I think.

I’m open to time with friends more.

Our house is never 30 minutes from being “company ready” now.  Having people over is less stressful.  Also, Knut would often want us getting together with friends, but I have spent some years being overwhelmed at home and worried if I went out with friends, I’d lose the slim edge of progress at home that I had made when someone is watching them, or I’d get behind not doing what I should be doing to keep up.  I didn’t want to go places because there was just so much to manage that if I left it alone for even a few hours, it would be unmanageable for days.  I couldn’t handle that possibility.  So I’d always push to just stay home.

I see my friends more.

My kids don’t whine about chores as much.

The lifting of the stress is trickling down to the little people.  Since we homeschool, and there are so many of us, we have to clean often to manage the mess that naturally happens.  Mess often means they are playing.  It means they are learning.  I don’t want them always being afraid of making a mess.  But we do need to manage it.  We each have a chore to do after each meal, and those chores rotate.  The most common chores that are in kids’ rotation are: dishes, clean up and vacuum the dirtiest room in the house, or fold and put away a load of laundry.

“The dirtiest room” is no longer that dirty.  The kids are excited when they get that on their rotation.  There’s just not as much fight to it.  Also, sometimes in the evening there just isn’t enough mess to justify all those categories (note the less laundry above).  So I made a deal with the kids.  If they do their breakfast and lunch chores without 1 complaint, and with a cheerful attitude, I’ll do their supper chores for them.

Really, there’s very little to do in the evening.  Dishes basically.  So it’s been a win-win.  They still whine out of habit from time to time out of sheer habit, but with an extra chore in the evening as a consequence, that is quickly stopping.

My bedroom has been clean.

OK, I know my whole house has been cleaner, but this room in particular has been the test of sanity for me.  My bedroom is the room I shove all the clutter from the rest of the house when company comes over.  It’s the room that has stacks of boxes that I need to “go through” or have no idea where to put.  My bedroom has really never been continuously clean at any point in my life.  It’s my “dump” room.

Now I make my bed every morning and have for maybe over 2 months.  Not because it’s on my app, or some list.  I do it because it makes me happy.  My room is spotless all the time.  The worst it has gotten in the last few months is I once left a pile of 4 pieces of clothing on a chair for 48 hours, and that was when we got back from a vacation and I was dealing with unpacking and stuff.  I know…what a slob, right?  I love walking into my bedroom.  Everyday.  I can’t even…

Packing is transformed.

Speaking of unpacking for a trip, guess how long it took me to pack my 5 kids and myself for the trip?  (Knut’s a big boy and packs his own bag.)  It took me 1 hour.  That’s from getting out the suitcases, going to each dresser, picking out some cute things, zipping them up, and picking toys for the road in the backpacks.  We don’t go places often, mostly because of our animals and just life and the farm needing us home.  But packing used to be a days-long ordeal.  It took me an hour this last time.  I didn’t have to track anything down.  I knew where everything was and it was clean, folded, and ready.

All in all, this whole process of getting my stuff in order has made it so my life doesn’t revolve around my stuff.  As a homemaker, it has been burden lifting.  My stuff isn’t so oppressive.  My mind can wander to things like reading or playing games with my kids without the guilt that I should be putting out some messy fire somewhere.

I’ve learned to live within my means.

I’ve learned that living within my means doesn’t just mean not spending money you don’t have.  It’s not buying stuff you don’t have a place for in your home, and not bringing more things into your life than you can manage. When you don’t have time to spend with the Lord, you don’t have time to dream, you don’t have time for people…then something has to go, and I think a lot of the time that something is stuff.  In this “1st world” we live in, we are blessed with abundance.  Mismanaged, these blessings become a curse.  This system has allowed me to focus on what I really want to prioritize.

Anyone else trying to simplify your life out there?  What have you found helpful?

UPDATE: I have some more thoughts further on down the journey about KM, including some concerns I have.  If you’d like to read more on that, you can find that here.


  1. says

    How inspiring! Thank you for sharing your experience! I need to pick up a copy of that book and get to work…the result sounds lovely :-)

  2. Mom says

    I’ve got to download that book. I SO want to simplify. So glad that it has made your life a little bit easier!

  3. Laura says

    I recently read this book and am itching to get started on my house! I’ve done a bit but have so much to still do. I’m curious – how did you handle your kids’ things like toys? Mine don’t want to part with ANYTHING! It makes decluttering very difficult. She says in the book not to do it for others – that when they see you do it, they will follow. I don’t think my kids will do that though :-). And while I would love to get rid of a lot of their stuff, I have never felt like it was right for me to do so without talking to them first. I try to encourage, but that doesn’t always work. Just curious how you handled this.

    • Gretchen says

      Great question! Well, first off I have had to get rid of my kids’ toys before. Before KonMari, we did a big purge twice a year. Once before birthdays start in the summer, and once before Christmas to make way for new toys. I suggest you leave it for last, which is what I did. That way your kids SEE how less things changes the rest of the house. My 11 year old and 9 year old love to help me declutter, and can do their own things with guidance. My 6, 4, and 2 year old cannot handle it. There are too many tears and they don’t understand. We purge when they are not around, and always, always use dark trash bags and remove easily. First, anything that is broken or having any missing pieces goes first. Done. Cheap plastic toys are also an automatic go. I also have a distain for any battery operated toys, and they leave our house during every purge as well, with the exception of Snap Circuits. (Though I got them the green energy expansion so they can charge their own batteries for this toy now.) I give preference to wooden, handmade, and generally well made toys that make my kids WORK to play. I have a big plastic tub for stuffed animals and dolls, and we only keep enough that fit in that tub. So preference is given to obvious favorites. Obviously, we want to keep toys that the kids love, and discard ones that don’t excite them. Also, we get rid of toys that they love but make me want to jump off a cliff they are so annoying. During this last purge we got rid of most of our dress up clothes, which was hard for me. In that case, it wasn’t that I didn’t like them dressing up, as its so imaginative, and so we both loved that collection. But it was always dumped out and it was a daily fight. They always cried cleaning it up. I found pieces everywhere. So as a family, I thought: “what brings us joy as a family and what causes us to fight constantly?” That helped us dig a little deeper when I approached it that way. Good luck!

  4. Abby says

    I have started reading her book and a lot of it makes sense. But how in the world did you find the time? My kids are 5,3 and 1 and need me all day long. 20 minute snatches of time will not work with her system.

    • Gretchen says

      That is a crazy time as a mother. I managed because not only do I have a 6, 4 and 2 year old, but I have an 11 and 9 year old. Older kids make a big difference. You may need to call in reinforcements!

  5. says

    Okay Gretchen, confession: remember how you threw the book across the room when you first read it? Earlier this week I had that reaction to this post (minus the throwing)! So, I closed the tab and just couldn’t even deal with finishing reading it. I was so irritated at you! HAHA! But really I was irritated with myself because all of the wonderful changes you were describing were exactly what I’ve been soooo longing for but the problems still exactly describe my life. I never did open this post back up (until just now) but my frustration has been simmering. And simmering. We live in a small house with very few closets and no realistic indoor storage and we are getting ready to start homeschooling and I’ve been terrified we are going to drown in stuff just because of the small space and large volumes we already have. It was time to do something.
    I made a resolve to finish the KonMari stuff by Christmas; hopefully sooner, and I started TODAY. I purge my clothes pretty regularly but this time I was for real yo. Eleventh grade homecoming dress? What was that doing in my closet? A sari from India that I’m never ever ever going to wear? Why? One thing I realized was that getting rid of the stuff I wear in spite of hating/being indifferent to it means that I will feel freer to buy new nicer clothes that I do love rather than chastising myself for buying a skirt that I probably do need because I have 6 unlovely ones in the closet already.

    I am trying to decide how to deal with the children’s clothes currently in drawers and currently in bins out in our shop…. yikes, that will be a huge project but I think really freeing. So thanks for shaking me out of my unpleasant complacency by irritating me 😉

    • Gretchen says

      Hahahaha! Oh Sarah. This made me laugh so much. I’m glad you didn’t stay mad at me. I’ve been mulling over another blog post entitled “things that haven’t changed since KonMari” like how my kids still fight and I still yell, and we still rush more than I would like. I’ll confess too, that my house still isn’t clean all the time. But the mess isn’t overwhelming as I don’t feel buried in it. To me that’s the main difference. I don’t walk around my house feeling like I will just ball up in the fetal position from it. I pass a closet all orderly, and sigh and think I’m making progress. I open up a drawer and see everything so neatly folded and it makes me smile. I think if I wanted a clean house 24/7 I’d have to KonMari my kids, if you know what I mean. 😉 What is that proverb? Something about how the when there is no cattle in the barns the stalls are clean? Something like that.

      But I think that especially as moms we are juggling so much in our minds, that we don’t even realize we are juggling, that to just let go of some of those balls, where they aren’t even in your realm anymore just is so burden lifting. I’m glad you are giving it a try.

  6. says

    Phew! I feel inspired to get a little cleaner myself now. I only really have my bedroom to worry about these days, living at home and working full time, but it is slowly becoming a very messy bedroom. The top of my desk is my “filing system”, my bed is rarely made, and clothes don’t seem to make it into the hamper. Looks like I’ve got some work to do :) So glad to see how these books/apps have worked for you!

  7. Kerri says

    This is a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing your tips! I do have a question – if you are doing 2 loads of laundry every day then does it just stack up until ‘folding day’? Maybe your laundry routine would be worthy of a post of its own?

    • Gretchen says

      We have 3 bedrooms in the house. The boys share 1 bedroom, and 1 hamper, and the girls share another bedroom with hamper. We also have a slim, tunnel-like closet in our upstairs bathroom, where I have put a 3 bag laundry sorter. My husband and I just put our dirty clothes directly in there, and I empty out the kids hamper, sorting them every couple of days. When it’s time to do laundry, I just pick the fullest sorted bag and head downstairs. The other bags just hang there until the bag is full enough for a full load. I also have a hamper in the laundry room next to the washer and dryer. We use a bunch of white washcloths from Walmart instead of paper towels in our house. Any kitchen rags, towels, or clothes my kids leave around the house needing washing (which is usually a ton of socks) are thrown into that basket in the laundry room. When I empty a sorted laundry bag from upstairs, I dig through the dirty hamper next to the dryer, and pull out any items that will make it into a sorting bag (usually kids clothes that I wouldn’t usually wash with rags) and carry the sorting bag back upstairs until it is full. Basically the laundry basket gets sorted when a bag it belongs in is emptied. Sometimes I just run a rag load and don’t bother sorting. I depends on what is going on that week.

      • Gretchen says

        We don’t have a folding day. I have 3 kids in my clothes folding rotation, and one load gets folded by one kid after breakfast and the other after lunch by a different kid. With less laundry, their chores have gotten smaller. That has translated to them REALLY getting on board with this whole KonMari thing.

  8. Vanessa says

    Hi, I just stumbled across your post, and you are describing exactly how I want to feel about my house. Especially the bedroom. Its my current dumping room. Even now there is some stuff in there I’ve got to finish folding and putting away.
    I have a 4 yr old, an almost 2 yr old and I’m currently 22 and a half weeks pregnant, and I feel buried in the amount of stuff we have, and I’ve just finished the clothes portion this past weekend (part from the stuff that I need to fold and the washing), and I’m about to go and do the book section right now before bed, and hopefully do the paper section tonight – have already got my mum looking after the kids on Saturday so my husband and I can ‘Konmari’ our kitchen, and I’m comtemplating asking if they can stay over night so we can do the kids toys on Sunday morning because that would free up so much of my mind I would feel I can complete the rest of the tasks.

    I have a question, where or how do you organise/put the clothes you or the kids are wearing but aren’t ready for the washing basket – I can’t figure out how I should do that without creating a pile on my daughters bed for my kids (they share a room) or on the floor (or on top of my dresser) in my room.

    – Will be coming back to read this when I’m not feeling motivated to finish, would love to finish by Xmas, but if not I definitely want it done by the time baby no 3 comes early April!

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