Friday, May 1, 2015

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Yes, that is the name of the book.

I finished it a week ago and have been contemplating what to say. First of all, I recommend this, with no hesitation, to anyone who is interesting in clearing their space, decluttering their life and bringing some order to the chaos. This is an amazing book. I've mentioned in this space, how I have embraced the general concept and how it plays into the direction I want to take my life now. It's a reasonably fast and engaging read. I would give it 4 stars out of 5.

The primary idea to take away from the book is that you need to keep only those things that bring you joy. That's not a hard concept to embrace. When you look around your house, does everything in it bring you joy? The author means everything, from the rug on the floor to the pictures on the wall; from the pots and pans to socks and shoes. Every item we clutter our lives with should bring you joy. If it no longer does, it's time for that item to move on. I can get behind that idea. As I look around my house, it's not hard to see things which no longer bring me joy and which can be removed.

She has you thank any item you are getting rid of. Seriously. It seems odd, but it's part of her "life-changing" bit. In thanking that shirt you no longer wear, according to the author, you allow its energy to pass to the next person who uses it. "The energy will come back to you," she asserts. That seems really New Agey. Still, I found myself, with the recent closet clean out, thanking the shirts I gave away for providing me with use for the years they were with me. It was an unconscious thing I just found myself doing. I'm not sure how I will tell if their energy comes back to me.

As I mentioned in a post last month, she has you assemble all the items of one type and go through them one-by-one to determine if they are things to keep or get rid of. She has you start with clothes. I have clothing spread out throughout the house. There are plastic bins in the basement with what are now vintage clothes. I know my limits. If I spend a great deal of time collecting all the clothes scattered through the house, I'll never get around to cleaning, sorting and clearing. I think that kind of thing works if your living space is small, but it just won't work in the clutter of my life.

She stresses how you need to follow the program, that results won't be permanent if you don't. You start with clothing and then move to household goods, books, mementos and finally photos. By the time you get the the exceptionally personal act of sorting your memories, you are fully primed to be as honest as possible about whether you want to keep what you have.

I can see this but I also know that piling all my books in the center of my living room floor so I can co through them one at a time is, at best, unrealistic and, at worst, a recipe for having books in the middle of my living room floor for the next 3 years. So as much as she doesn't want you to deviate from her carefully prepared method, I think you can and should adapt it to how your life is.

Will it change my life? I'll let you know, of course, as I clean and shed the accumulated items of 32 years in one building. I've cleaned the shed. I've done half of one side of my clothes closet. I do things in steps. I was looking for the cleaver on Wednesday night, forgetting that I'd had pizza and it was in the sink to be washed. I pulled open my utensil drawer and stood there looking at a mass of shiny things. "I don't need 80% of this stuff," I thought.

For me, there is value in baby steps to organization. I feel, with each area cleaned, a bit lighter in spirit. This feeling has come as a surprise to me. The author cites clients who lost weight, changed jobs, ditched unhappy relationships and did what amounts to personal housekeeping once their space was ordered. As I mention above, it strikes me as a bit New Agey, but perhaps it's a mindset that develops. When you surround yourself with the things that bring you joy, you look at the rest of your life and decide if the other pieces of life bring you joy.

There are things that I have always wanted for my personal space, but getting to that point is a long journey. I do like some clutter and am a slightly messy person, by nature. I find, in cleaning some spots, I encounter something that I just can't get rid of. I'm not sure that it provides me with joy but I can't seem to part with it. The author would have you chuck it, and, eventually, I probably will. But I feel a collection of "I can't just yet" is okay. In the greater goal of the journey, bringing a few of these along is not bad.

So, if you are at all interested in clearing your space, bringing a bit of order to the chaos, I heartily and strongly recommend this book. I was surprised at how quickly I could assimilate the "Does it bring you joy?" mantra. Some people will embrace the program and do it exactly as she says. Some of us will take our time. I think there is a great deal of merit to the journey. If you read this book and implement her suggestions, I hope you'll come back here and let us know how it worked for you.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts Tea


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