That Book About Cleaning Everyone Likes

Alright. Yeah. I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna blog about that book.

That book that it seems every mom on the internet has read. Apparently I'm one of them now, I've joined the club.

I'm not ashamed!

I wish I joined sooner.

Let me tell you.... My story. *dim the lights*

It all started when I moved to Arizona. My mom had just read this book. I was talking to her about how I was wanting to get our house unpacked and in order, and she shared a few tips from this book from me.

Mainly.... throw away my stuff.

"But mom, I can't throw away my stuff. I have a lot of stuff I need!"
"Like what?"
"Well... my teaching things... Christmas decorations..."

And then I thought about it. In our house we have three huge walk in closets, a laundry closet, a pantry, and a hallway door closet. Were all of those things truly jam packed with teaching supplies and decorations? Short answer, no. True answer? No. So I started throwing away things based upon my mom's tip of throwing things away. She briefly told me about the "Spark Joy" method, which essentially boils down to... if you don't love something, why do you have it?

I rid myself of many clothes and many boxes of things I knew I would never use. The months passed and still my house was cluttered. I had my excuses. I was busy, I had a baby on the way, I was tired and pregnant, or my favorite "It's not that bad!" I'd justify the mess, I'd get it to livable and then live in it and do nothing about it.

Everything changed one day, a Sunday, when someone noted that their Sabbath day observance was hindered if their home was a mess. I reflected on my life and noticed that if my kitchen, in particular, was a mess, then I couldn't focus. My mind would wander back to that kitchen and stress over the mess I had to clean. So I got to work on getting the kitchen clean. But not always clean. It was a disaster Saturday night, and then 5 minutes before going to bed I would rip my hair out, pretty much, and polish the thing down, only to then return home from church that day and destroy the house once more.

I'm not a clean person, guys, I'm not. I just never really HAD to clean. My mom was a great cleaner. And I didn't have that many things in college, so I didn't end up in a mess.

But that there was the key, I didn't have that many things.

Two weeks ago, I decided to pick up that book. It had been sitting on my bookshelf since Christmas, my mom brought it to me. I picked it up and read it. I had been hit by an urge to clean, and I thought if the book had some tips on how to do it, might as well read it.

The next day, this all happened...

The picture on the left shows the clothes I threw away, the picture on the right, the clothes I kept. Before you get all panicked, I didn't throw them away in the trash. They're sitting in another room in bags, waiting for me to take them to be donated or sold. It's not a waste.

And now, my wardrobe is full of clothes I love. I tried that "spark joy" method. I thought it was nuts at first. But I notice days when I put on clothes just for the sake of needing to wear something, and I notice other days when I put on an outfit that I truly love, first time. The first day described, I find myself throwing outfit after outfit on the ground, trying to find something I actually like, before getting frustrated and giving up. And I haven't done that for a few days now, ever since doing this. Every item of clothing I wear is something I love. Every outfit I don gives me confidence. That is an amazing feeling. 

I still have a lot of cleaning to do, but I've gotten started on the rest of it. I stress... let me tell you my stress.

The first time I cut down a Christmas tree, Joe's family tied it to the top of their car, and Joe and I followed behind them. Joe said "Doesn't the tree look a little sad on top of the car?" and I was ravaged with guilt. That poor tree... cutting it down in its prime, taking it away from its family....

Simply put, in my mind, my things have feelings, and to discard of something, to me, was to tell that item that I didn't love it anymore.

But think about this now. All of my things were sitting in boxes and drawers, the most of which were never seeing the light of day, and the things that were being used were being thrown about with no true home. To give my things a NEW home, they could go to someone who would use them! Maybe not immediately, maybe they'd be sent to the thrift store a few times, but eventually they would find a permanent home. That's better than I could give them. A home where they would be out in the light of day, being valued. 

There were some things about this book that stressed me out. For example, she goes through the process of throwing away books. That is just... nearly blaspheme in my mind. You can't throw away books. You can't donate books. She mentions at one point, something along the lines of "Are you truly happy surrounded by books you've never read?" and in my case, the answer is yes. Yes I am. But the true brilliance of this book is that YOU are the standard of clean. When you start to discard, you throw things away until you are content. And for me, I noticed I had two copies of the full works of Oscar Wilde, and so I discarded one, and I was content. I am happy surrounded by books, and that is ok. Others may see my shelves lined with books and feel uncomfortable, but I do not. 

Now, there are some things I got rid of that were securely fastened to memories. Tiny golden snitches. Wrapping paper. Notes passed in high school. I held onto these things, sure that one day I would pull them out and the memory would flood me. And as I cleaned, the memory did flood me. I thanked the item for the memory it gave me, and I discarded it, while writing down the memory in a journal. Some day will come in which I would pull out those items and be unsure of why I kept them, and the memory would be gone. Writing the memory in a journal allows me to preserve the memory while keeping my space clear and open and fresh and clean. I anticipate those bookshelves full of books will soon be full of journals, and I will need to buy more shelves! But that only means that my dream of a Beauty and the Beast Library is close at hand!

And lastly. 

The part that I thought was the best. 

The author discusses why this is life changing. Let me share with you a quote. 

"The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don't."

I don't know how to explain how, but this book has helped me find peace with where I am at in life right now. It has helped me let go of things, forgive people, and embrace what is most important NOW. It feels great to walk through the store and not be filled with the impulse to buy everything. I brush an object with my finger tips and feel no joy in doing so. Why would I purchase something that does not add joy to my life? This has been particularly useful as we're saving to buy a house! Simplifying has freed my mind of stress, and filled my days with time.

As Marie Kondo boasts, tidying only has to be done once. You simply have to discard what you don't need (or decide what you do love) once, and then find a place for what you have. Now those Saturday nights are no longer full of stress as I frantically clean the kitchen. I'm not done tidying, quite yet, but my house sings of the difference already! The big tasks of cleaning wait for the weekend when Joe is home, and he can help me with the baby (while I've taken a liking to tidying, Isaak has not taken a liking to me not giving him constant doting attention...) but the small tasks each day take little to no time, and I find myself looking forward to them, to returning my items "home" and thanking them for their service. 

I've truly been blessed by this book. I believe even the cleanest person could benefit from reading this book. It's kinda a silly notion, a book on tidying... but truly. The author is very engaging. And the concept is quite fascinating. I give it all the thumbs up that I have. For just about any problem in your life.... struggling with a break up? This book. Unhappy at work? This book. The concepts in it can reach you wherever you stand, and lift you up!

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