Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: de-own (page 2 of 3)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Book Review & Overview of the KonMari Method

Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

For our 10th Anniversary last week, Nathan and I took a much-needed, child-free vacation to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks. They are incredible and inspiring places that everyone should visit at least once. The time together was amazing and I also found time to indulge in an unexpected treat: I read a great book!

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is getting a lot of press right now and is surprisingly high on the best seller list. I didn’t expect it to be life-changing, but within a few pages, I found myself getting really excited. After one chapter, I knew I had to try her technique, which she’s coined the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method is surprisingly simple.

  1. Discard
  2. Organize Completely

The KonMari Method: Discard

First, discard everything, by category, starting with your clothing and ending with mementos. How do you know what to get rid of? Pull everything out, pick up each item one by one and see if it “sparks joy”. Do you love this item or not? Listen to your gut – you should know immediately. If you don’t, then it’s got to go. The end goal is that you’ll have a house filled with only the things that you love.

While many organizing methods tell you to clean and get rid of things gradually (10 minutes a day, 10 items a day, the minimalist game), Marie Kondo argues that you need to tidy up your whole house all at once (over a period of about 6 months). Once you get to a place where you’ve achieved perfect order and everything you own is something you love, you’ll never want to go back. In fact, she’s rolled out this method with hundreds of clients and, while some never get to a state of perfect order, those that have, never rebound.

As I write this, it sounds too good to be true, but as you read Kondo’s book, she has you bought in from the outset and the farther I got, the more I wanted to try her KonMari Method. She details the order in which you should consider items for discarding and specifically warns you to discard before you start to organize (lest you get side-tracked and never finish). She also stresses the importance of discarding by category. Looking at all of your clothes at once, for example, helps you better figure out what you should keep.

The KonMari Method: Organize Completely

The second step, after you’ve removed all items that don’t “spark joy”, is to organize completely. Using only the storage items (boxes, closets, etc) you have on hand, give every single item a place. Every single one. Once they have a place, you’ll have perfect order.

What’s Not to Love?

There were a few things that were either weird or weren’t covered in this book. What if an item doesn’t “spark joy”, but is something you really need (like a suit that you wear at weddings and funerals)? Clearly you should replace those items with something that you do love, but who has the money to do that for everything you need right away? I guess you could keep a list and slowly replace the items when you can, but I wonder if that lessens the magic of looking around and only seeing items you love?

What if you have kids or a spouse? Kondo specifically says you should not discard/organize for others. Only they can go through this journey for themselves and she says they usually start to do it on their own based on your example. I have a really, really hard time imagining my 4-year-old will spontaneously start throwing out her stuffed animals, but I guess I’m willing to try it just in case it actually works.

The book is also peppered with allusions to inanimate objects having feelings. For instance, “I pointed to the balled-up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?’” It was hard to get past that at first and I’ve never fully bought into the idea that my house itself will be happier once I’m done organizing, but Kondo’s ideas make so much sense that at this point I couldn’t care how she developed them or about her relationship with her picture frames.

I really can’t wait to get started. I’ll let you know how it goes.

A Usable Garage (Weekend Project)

There are two places I didn’t get to in my first round of de-owning: the garage and the cars. I specifically saved these two for warmer months and last weekend we were treated to perfect weather.

Project: Clean & organize the garage

Time Needed: An afternoon to a full weekend (depending on the size and junk-density of your garage).

Prep: Clear your driveway so it can be a staging area, grab several garbage bags, and have a push broom ready. Check with your garbage collector on what they’ll collect from the curb.

Like many Americans, our one-car garage (a luxury in our area) is so full of junk that it doesn’t have enough space for a car. We have bikes, a wagon, lawn mowers (yes, multiple lawn mowers), junk from two moves ago, giant old bags of grass seed, all manner of car-washing equipment and some grungy old tables, one of which is attached to the wall somehow. In the nearly three years we’ve lived in our house, I have never, ever cleaned the garage, except for a couple of sweeps with our push broom. There is a garage attic storage area that we’ve never explored. The only thing I knew was up there were two raccoon traps that the old owner used when raccoons wandered into the house via (thankfully removed) cat doors.

I really was motivated by the beautiful day. Here was a perfect activity that would keep me outside for hours and would have long-term benefits for the entire family.

The garage went from this…

garage before de-owning

…to this (these tables are fully detached on their way out)!

garage after de-owning

We ended up with a pile of garbage and a “maybe someone might want this” pile that included an old push mower and the raccoon traps. It’s amazing how much of the items we don’t use in the garage are really just pure junk. The best part is that now the garage is a room that I really want to use. We’ve already set-up shop painting new doors for our bedrooms. There is enough room for a car to fit (when we move the tables and doors) and I know exactly where everything is. I probably breathed in far more dust than I did in five years living in Arizona, but unless I contract hantavirus, it was completely worth it.

Good-Bye Garage Garbage!

Good-Bye Garage Garbage!

In fact, if this weekend will be just as nice as last weekend. I think I’m ready to start Round 2!

Have you cleaned out the garage recently? What did you throw out?

On Ownership: A Short Story About a Life Jacket

Life Jacket

This photograph of a child’s life jacket that I bought three years ago says so much. When Alison was just old enough to fit into it, I purchased this from Amazon. I distinctly remember why and it seemed so logical at the time: I wanted to be able to do fun things like kayaking on a random summer morning and I didn’t want to have any excuses not to now that we had a child. I also wanted Alison to be an adventurer, and to understand from a very young age how much fun spending time outside really was. This life jacket would help me do that.

I’d actually thought about the purchase for a long time (much longer than the recommended 30 days) and waited until Alison was big enough to use a regular child-size life jacket (so that she could use it for a long time). I did everything right — except realize that we never actually needed a life jacket of our own.

No one we know owns a boat that would necessitate us bringing our own life jacket. Though I’ve always wanted to own a pair of kayaks, we didn’t have firm plans to do so at the time and we still don’t own any. Additionally, any place where you’ll rent a boat, canoe, kayak, or anything else will also rent you the life jacket.

Since we bought this life jacket three years ago, I’m happy to say that we’ve taken Alison on many a boat ride. She’s been paddle boating in the tidal basin and on our local Lake Accotink.

Paddle boating

Lake Accotink Paddle boating

She’s been on car and passenger ferries and she’s kayaked across Biscayne Bay with a thunderstorm at our backs, next to stingrays and mangroves. She’s also hiked to the highest point in Shenandoah National Park and withstood a 15-mile bike ride to see baby alligators in the Everglades. She loves the outdoors and she begs each weekend to climb rocks and fallen tree branches across the creek in our backyard. In short, she’s growing up exactly the way I wanted her to and, as you can see from the attached tags, we have never once needed this life jacket.

So, the next time I buy something for myself or my kids, I’ll remember the one shopping test that really matters: do I really need to own this?


Check out this link for ideas on how to share instead of own.

Decluttering: Guidelines for Round Two

Sheep at Mount Vernon

Sheep at George Washington’s Home: Mount Vernon

Though we’ve made tremendous progress over the last four months, we definitely haven’t reduced our possessions down to the essentials. We haven’t even reduced them down to the things we actually like, let alone need. I was naïve to think the full de-owning process could take place all at once. Not only do I have so much more to get rid of, I want to keep going. We have momentum now! Here are some guidelines I’m adopting to help me shed as much as possible in my next round of decluttering.

Decluttering: Guidelines for Round Two

  1. One: Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist discusses the power of owning just one. Any duplicate items have got to go.
  2. One Year: If I haven’t used it in over a year, it’s going in a box with a date and I’m taping it closed. If I don’t use it in the next year, I’ll donate the box without looking inside.
  3. Joy: Does this item “spark joy”? Japanese decluttering sensation, Marie Kondo, uses this question when decluttering for herself and her clients. If I really don’t like something, I’ll get rid of it. If I need it, I’ll replace it with an item I love instead.
  4. Family: I don’t have any quotas or rules for the things my children and husband own. I just want to get them excited about de-owning so that they’ll start to do it on their own. If I can get them to sit down with me a few times and happily de-own, I’ll be happy too.

Decluttering the Scariest Room (Weekend Project)

I did it! After nearly three months of de-owning, I’ve finally finished every space in the house EXCEPT the basement storage room. I saved it for last because it looks like this:

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Storage & Craft Area

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Workshop & Exercise Area

It’s also holding the most memories, useless junk, and dust of any room in the house. My original goal was to get the clean sweep of the house done before the end of the year so I could realize the tax benefits of any donations I make. At this point, I definitely won’t finish, but this weekend, I felt like I needed to put in my best effort anyway.

I got halfway done with the room.

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Here are the steps I took to tackle this crazy mess.

Advice for Decluttering the Scariest Room

  1. Start with one shelf or drawer and move methodically from one end of the room to the other.
  2. Work in 90-minute cycles. I learned this trick by reading Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte. 90-minute cycles seem to line up with your body’s natural rhythms. If you work for 90 minutes, then take a short break, you’ll be able to work longer and have higher quality output.
  3. Make a list of things to come back to. If you have all the time in the world, don’t skip things. However, I am specifically looking for items to donate before the end of the year. That being said, I skipped my box of childhood photos (which I know I want to digitize later – perhaps I’ll throw a photo scanning party!) and my file cabinet (I can come back to that in a few weeks). I also left my husband’s keepsakes alone. He needs to go through those himself.
  4. Clean as you go. Once you’ve pulled everything off a shelf or out of a tub, take a minute to clean it. It made me feel much better to remove two years of dust.
  5. Label, so you’ll be able to find the stuff you still use (which should be most of what’s left) without making the room explode again.
  6. Involve hot chocolate. Everything is better with hot chocolate.

Next weekend, I’ll try to do the other half and get our final batch of stuff to Goodwill — just in time for a relaxing week with family and the New Year!

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