If you haven’t seen the show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” on Netflix, go watch episode 1 now. I’ll wait….
Okay, so let’s be real. I have been the queen of clutter. I mean, my house has never looked like a hoarder’s den, but I’ve always had plenty of unnecessary crap gracing the flat surfaces of my home. It’s never been intentional, but then again, clutter never really is.
And if I’m being totally honest, while the kids do contribute to the issue now, I can’t blame the whole problem on them. I was like this before I had kids too.
For a long time I saw people with tidy homes as a threat. Like, okay Suzie, glad you managed to have an organized little system for everything, but those of us who live in the real world are kinda hanging onto the struggle bus for dear life and just don’t have the mental energy to tackle having a tidy house.
In fact, when “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” was first released I was in the midst of the newborn days with my third child and I intentionally chose not to watch it because I couldn’t handle having something else on my list of things I felt like I was failing at. Just being real with ya’ll.
But then, after a while, I decided I was finally desperate enough to make a change. So I watched it.
Here’s my real, uncut thoughts from the beginning of my journey with tidying up.
First of all – I wish that on episode one they would have shown a little more realistic version of the clothes sorting process. (For those of you who haven’t watched it, Marie has her clients pile every single item of clothing on their bed so that they can look at it and become overwhelmed and horrified with their amount of STUFF and be motivated to change it. Then they have to go through, holding each item piece by piece, and determining if it sparks joy. If it does, they keep it. If it does not, they thank it and then put it in the “get rid of” pile.) But come on, y’all. Did that process only take one day? Surely not. Where did they sleep while they were going through their clothes? Their house didn’t really look big enough to have spare square footage for piles of clothes waiting their turn to be held and evaluated for that “joy spark.”
Second, what were their kids doing during this process? Where were they? Because when I try to do anything with laundry, I have anywhere from two to six little hands reaching around me, hanging onto me, undoing my piles, “helping” me fold things. It’s delightful. And inefficient.
Third, I initially scoffed at the idea that having a clean and tidy house could bring me joy. First of all, you can have a tidy house and still have your inner world be a wreck and have no joy. Second, it’s not that I really doubted her premise that having a tidy house could make life smoother, but I doubted how realistic it would be to get a tidy house, and how realistic it would be to maintain it with kids once achieved.
Fourth, kids are the opposite of minimalists. They want to keep all their toys. And aside from the toys, what about clothes? I have four years between my boys so at any given time I have four years worth of boy clothes sitting in a bin in a closet that don’t spark joy for anyone but are necessities to hang on to if I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg every time my youngest grows into a new size.
Fifth, I don’t have the budget to only keep things in my wardrobe that “spark joy.” I would have nothing to wear and I would have to go shopping. And I don’t tend to shop at price points that buy clothes that “spark joy.” And even if I did, I would get spit up and marker and grease stains on it (for real, how does that seem to happen so easily?!).
Sixth, I think there are always things that are vying for my time and attention and I only have 24 hours each day. I had been working really hard to prioritize sitting on the floor and playing with my kids and making eye contact and having unhurried time with them. I would prioritize it over folding clothes and tidying and, even though the house bothered me to no end, I tried to ignore it and just be present. Which I don’t regret at all.
So at first after watching the show I did nothing.
But eventually I hit a point where I couldn’t handle the house in its chaotic condition anymore.
So I got started.
We have a very small house and at the time it was so full it felt like it was busting at the seams, so every time I would organize a space it would create chaos in another space as piles of things to be gotten rid of would accumulate. It was stressful and didn’t seem like we were making progress.
Then we had a yard sale.
I had high expectations of my house feeling empty and spacious after we got rid of all of our “stuff.” We eliminated a whole bedroom’s worth of stuff (I know because it had been piling up in there and literally filled the room), and yet our house still didn’t feel good.
Then one weekend we decided to finally tackle the little tiny office nook that had never been unpacked since we had moved into the house eight months earlier. Since we had never unpacked that area, paperwork and mail and coupons and all kinds of random things had just been piling up on it. It was taking over our bedroom. We bought a filing cabinet and finally unpacked and sorted everything.
And it felt so good.
It was like that was the catalyst I needed to begin to see that we had actually been making progress through all the purging and eliminating I had been working to do for months.
Then Target had a sale on cube organizers so I bought two – one for each of the kids’ rooms. And finally, once everything had a place where it belonged, our house started to feel tidy. In fact, it actually started to feel good. It felt like a pleasant space to spend time in. (Which is good since we are a homeschooling family and four out of the five of us spend all day every day inside these walls).
And believe it or not, the kids are able to help keep it tidy because everything has a place. So they just put things back where they belong. They can’t clean up when they don’t know where things go. And they can’t know where things go when I don’t know where things go.
You know what else happened?
I started to feel like a boss.
Laugh if you want to, but the idea that I was finally accomplishing something that I had never felt good at was invigorating and it started to spill over into other areas of my life. I’m not saying that tidying caused me to do these other things, but it all began happening at the same time and I definitely think that the momentum from tidying up helped.
-I began working out four or five times a week.
-I began reading books.
-I began flossing my teeth daily.
-I began keeping my car clean and taking it to the car wash and vacuuming it.
-I began not delaying or dreading the millions of little tasks like scheduling doctors appointments and handling phone calls to clear up inaccurate bills, etc, etc.
It was as if I had inwardly decided that I was a mom who gets stuff done and my life had begun to reflect it.
My personality type is one that needs my outward world to be orderly so that my inner world can feel orderly, but for years I had lived without that.
So all that being said, here are my own “real mom” tips at tidying up…
1.Don’t aim for perfection.
Perfection is not really achievable. Near perfection may be, but you will probably neglect other important things in the process. Decide where on your priority list having a tidy home falls, and act accordingly. Do not place it at a higher priority than spending quality time with your children or your spouse. Do not make it an idol.
2.Know your season.
When you’re in the midst of a busy season and already feel overwhelmed by your schedule, going through your entire house and doing a massive tidying process isn’t realistic. Accept the season you are in. Don’t be hard on yourself for having a messy house in the midst of busy seasons.
3.Know that tidying takes T.I.M.E.
It is a huge process and it usually makes a bigger mess before you see any progress.
4.Find a level of tidy that works for you.
Since we eliminated about a quarter of our belongings, and then got organizational furniture and systems in place to keep the rest of it orderly, it is much easier to keep things clean. But I have also accepted that I will not stay on top of folding my laundry in this season. I mean, I would love to so that things aren’t wrinkled when I pull them out of the basket, but that’s not a hurdle I’m tackling right now. Our house is so tiny that if there are baskets of unfolded clothes it guarantees at least one room is going to feel chaotic and messy. So I literally emptied an entire closet and put the contents of it into a pretty little cube organizer, and designated that closet as my unfolded clothes space. Now my baskets of clean, but unfolded, clothes can sit there out of sight until I have the time to fold them. I’m sure Marie Kondo wouldn’t approve, but it’s sustainable for the season of life I’m in.
5.You may have to spend a little money to save money.
One thing that had always prevented me from having a tidy house in the past was my resistance to purchasing any sort of tools, furniture, or containers to help organize things. I can see now that it was silly. When things are not organized, you can’t find what you need when you need it. You end up buying the same item over and over. Or you end up with too much of something (like clothes) because you can’t see everything you have and you feel like you have nothing to wear even though you have heaps of clothes laying on the floor of your closet. You can find inexpensive organizational furniture at Walmart or Target, and wait for a sale or a coupon. We waited for a sale for $40 off $100 to purchase cube organizers. I’ve noticed places like TJ Maxx have started selling all kinds of organizational containers to do the KonMari drawer organizational method, but you can often find what you need at the dollar store for way less. I actually just piled up any little container or box that I found as I tidied and then pulled from that pile as I was organizing my drawers.
6.It helps you learn to value and take care of the things you own.
I realized that whether it was having a messy car with water bottles, coffee cups, and bar wrappers that would fall out every time the doors opened, or having stains on laundry that I didn’t put a lot of work into getting out, or that piece of candy that melted in the bottom of the diaper bag – I wasn’t very good at taking care of my things. Therefore, I would go and buy new things that I didn’t need. Then the old things and the new things would both sit in my house and take up space and make things feel cluttered.
7.Know that tidying does actually bring a significant measure of peace to your home.
Hear me clearly – tidying is NOT the source of peace. If your relationships, your mental health, and your finances are a mess, tidying your home will not fix those things. It is not the solution to all joy and happiness; HOWEVER, it does significantly increase the feel of peace in our home and in our days. The process of getting out the door in the morning is easier because I know exactly where the matching socks are, and it is easy to find what I need. The kids enjoy playing in their room more because they aren’t stepping on toys. There is space to play, and they can find all the pieces to their puzzles and games when they want to play with them. Having a messy car or reaching into the diaper bag and feeling something sticky surrounding my chapstick or putting on a shirt when I’m running late only to find it has a stain on it all contribute to the feeling of chaos in my day. The subconscious thought that it affirms is “I just don’t have it together.” It’s so silly and simple but pulling a neatly folded stain-free shirt out of my drawer and loading my neatly packed diaper bag with no melted candy in it into my clean, organized car that doesn’t have trash falling out of it makes me feel like I have the little things together and if I have the little things together, then surely I can accomplish the big things too.
8.Know that tidying creates margin.
It enables you to spend less time managing your “stuff” and more time focusing on what matters to you. Margin is what creates an unhurried life and an unhurried home.
So what about you? What are your favorite “real mom” tidying tips?
P.S. Before you go…
Make sure you download your FREE Unhurried Planner! Plan Intentionally. Live Purposefully.