Episode 065: Why Tidying-Up Really Matters

KonMari, Clutter Busting, Clear & Simple, or Fly Lady

If you haven’t seen anything about the new Marie Kondo Netflix show, you might be living under a rock. Just kidding. But, seriously, I went on and watched an episode to see what it’s all about, and I did feel myself getting infected by the declutter bug once again. All of this talk about Kondo’s method made me realize just how much I know about decluttering. It reminded me how much I used to be very, very organized and wish I could be again!

I’m the sixth of seven kids, so I know a little about the accumulation of STUFF. Nine people in one house is just a lot of people, so we had a lot of stuff. I regret that a lot of that stuff stayed at our childhood home with my parents and now they are dealing with a lot of our stuff.

Something I held onto when I was a kid (and I still have) are my marching band drumsticks. I love those things. I loved playing the drums and being in the marching band. I had the privilege of leading my drum core for three of my four years in high school. It wasn’t because of my skill as a musician, necessarily, but it was because of my passion for the organization and the music. I loved it.

Me playing the drums in high school during spirit week!

I found out after I graduated that my band teacher named a drum cadence we had written after me. It’s kind of weird to think that these kids shout out my name when they want to play that cadence while they’re out marching, but it made me think about why those drumsticks matter to me. It isn’t that they are imbued with my skill or my memories. It’s because they represent the legacy I left behind at my school. The thing is, those drumsticks will never BE my legacy. I cannot go back in time and relive those years that I loved playing the drums. I also don’t want my kids to hold onto them believing that they have some inherent value just because they were mine. What I want them to realize is that our lives are a legacy and I want to DO things that are memorable. I want our experiences and our passions to be memorable.

We put way too much value into our stuff and acquiring stuff that those things become more important than our time and our stress over stuff. This year, my family has actually committed to NOT giving gifts for holidays and birthdays because we want to have experiences instead. My kids are a little disappointed but I want them to give up this obsession over stuff, and start valuing our experiences.

I think it’s healthy to regularly go through our stuff and purge things that don’t serve our family anymore. I talked about this a bit in Episode 034 (Part 1, and Part 2) with Lee Waters and Brityn Bennet. Brityn said that she likes to keep her home organized because the mess creates what she called “white noise” that drowns out the important things in life. I noticed that theme in the first KonMari show. The couple on the show observed that their family life, and even doing chores was less frustrating, and they felt less anxious when they got their clutter under control. 

I also feel like the outer clutter in the home is a reflection of my inner chaos. While I was learning about different coping strategies back in August, I had one particularly rough day when my kids had totally trashed our house. My anxiety was boiling over, and I just could not function. That’s rough when I have my kids home all day, and a lot depends on me! I went outside to sit on the back steps to sulk for a minute. Then, the thought came to me that no one else was going to get this work done! I need to just get in there and do my best. One of the principles I’d learned that I will talk about later came to mind to set the timer for fifteen minutes, and I got to work. A task I sincerely thought would take me all day took only one hour, and I had a crazy sense of accomplishment and peace. 

In the article “Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies” from Psychology Today, Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. lists these eight reasons for anxiety around clutter:

  1. Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.
  2. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
  3. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
  4. Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
  5. Clutter makes us anxious because we’re never sure what it’s going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
  6. Clutter creates feelings of guilt (“I should be more organized”) and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
  7. Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve.
  8. Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. files and paperwork lost in the “pile” or keys swallowed up by the clutter).

We aren’t the only ones who are anxious. Our kids are growing up with “the gimmies” with easy access to anything and everything. I read in the book Simplicity Parenting that our kids need time and space to digest their lives and things going on around them. As overwhelmed as we feel about our stuff, they get even more distracted. Have you ever wondered how kids with baskets full of toys can mope around and tell us they are bored. Because they have TOO much and it is overwhelming. Kids thrive on simplicity and minimalism. I will include several links to this in my show notes. I’ll also have book recommendations for how to create more simplicity and to value it.

So, are any of the methods that title this post effective? People scoff at Marie Kondo for the way she give inanimate objects feelings. But, is there something to that??

I have read “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” “Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding you Back” and “Get Organized the Clear and Simple Way,” and I am always learning more from The Fly Lady, so here’s the breakdown of what I get out of each of them.

The KonMari method is a spiritual approach to tidying. I appreciated that she had the family in the first episode of the Netflix show pause to close their eyes and thank their home for serving their family. I could tell this would make a huge impact if we would pause to consider the labor our home performs for us daily. I know my house takes a beating with kids pounding on walls, clamoring up and down the stairs with a leap at the bottom skipping the last two or three steps. There are staple holes, dart holes, chipped paint, dusty surfaces, and filthy carpets. And, yet our home keeps us safe and warm, and we love it. Konda encourages her clients to thanks their possessions for serving them before purging them, or to thank your thinks for serving you throughout the day before you put them away. In this article from HuffPost, the author says that the KonMari Method is a reflection of the Japanese Shinto religion that imbues objects with souls. Everything serves a purpose and had to pass through many hands to get into your possession. I think it’s a beautiful way to look at our things! I think I would want to take better care of my things and intentionally own only those things that would serve a deliberate purpose. Taking this element of tidying is useful for making decluttering an enlightening part of our spiritual development to see it as a stewardship to take better care of our things and our space. While other decluttering books tell you to pull everything out, eliminate only what you don’t want and do you best to organize what’s left, Kondo’s method is about taking all your stuff and only keeping what you really want.

Clutter Busting is a psychological approach to tidying. I enjoyed this book because it talked about how we allow our things to hinder our growth. For instance, we see a pile of fitness equipment we never use, but won’t get rid of it because we feel guilty for how much it cost. Get rid of it and let go of the reminder of the guilt. It will not serve you sitting there giving you anxiety. He talks about how people hold onto things for sentimental reasons are basically living in the past. Our parents’ things will not serve to bring them back after they are gone, but become a daily struggle to figure out what is valuable and what is not. We cannot imbue our identity into our stuff. We are who we are regardless of our stuff. Basically, Brooks Palmer is saying that we need to recognize our own inherent value even without the stuff we fill our lives with. Our culture would have us believe that we have more worth if we acquire more stuff. Somehow your stuff defines your economic standing and therefore your personal value. Never mind that most of the stuff we acquire is financed! It’s no secret our debt is rising (but that is a totally different subject). Not all debt is of frivolity, but is all of it really necessary? While I did not get a lot of practical tips from this book on how to get organized, it was deeply useful for considering why I have all my stuff in the first place. If you aren’t convinced about being a minimalist yet, this one might sway you.

The Clear & Simple method is a logical approach. I loved this book. Like the KonMari method, you sort all of your possessions into categories, at first without any judgement. Then you can assess how much of those things you actually have, and whether all of it is necessary. This is one that taught me to only purge what I don’t need, but the steps to clearing things out and organizing them were so doable, it made the whole process so easy! It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but I really want to read it again now to get all the steps down! There’s also a clear way to organize paper clutter on their site you can apply right away. I like their tips for clearing out brain clutter, and the encouragement for getting clear about why you want to get organized in the first place and to map out how you want to organize your home before you even get started. You know I love that! 

The Fly Lady is an emotional approach to tidying. F.L.Y. stands for “Finally Love Yourself” and is full of techniques that speak to our overwhelm of the daily grind. Marla Cilley encourages women how to overcome their C.H.A.O.S. or “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome” by tackling one small habit at a time. I love all the small steps that add up to big wins. For example, getting dressed “to shoes” each morning helps me be emotionally and physically ready to tackle the day. “Swish and Swipe” is a way to quickly tidy the bathroom so it is always clean. And, shining the sink is a way to always start the day on the right foot by having the kitchen sink emptied and clean every night. The principle of starting a timer for fifteen minutes comes from the Fly Lady as a way to overcome the first obstacle to tidying: starting. If you will just get started and tell yourself to work for just fifteen minutes, you will find it easier to keep going. 

Recommended Books (Click on the image):

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About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.

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