Book Review: The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

The life changing magic of tidying upRecently my dishwasher broke down and at the same time we had an above average amount of out-of-town company staying with us. Trying my best to keep everyone fed and also have time to actually connect and catch up with them I found myself using what seemed like every dish in the house. At the end of the day after the kids were down I was faced with a mountain of dirty dishes that took at least an hour to wash by hand. On top of that because I was spending so much time washing dishes all of the laundry, toys, paperwork and everything else started to pile up. I noticed I was feeling resentful-not towards my company because I really was happy to have them there – but towards these mountains of “stuff” that sat waiting for me as if they were trying to ruin the end of my day!

I’m a big believer in the idea that things come into your life when you need them. During the week of the broken dishwasher and above average amount of company a friend of mine mentioned this book. It sounded interesting so I added it to my library holds list. Sometimes holds take weeks or even months to come in so I often put books on my list and then forget about them. This book came in the very next day – it was as if it knew how much I needed it!

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up is as much about decluttering the mind as it is about decluttering your house. Marie Kondo helps us to realize that all the possessions that we surround ourselves with take up our time and energy even if we are not conscious of them. Think of all of those things you have tucked away that you haven’t used in years and never will (come on, I know you haven’t looked in the back of the bathroom cabinet for a while)! Getting rid of them and keeping only what is truly useful and brings you joy creates more space in your life. In this book Kondo walks you through a very specific order in which to tackle decluttering your home and helps you grant yourself permission to let go of things that are no longer serving you.

One of the things that I loved best about this book was that it encourages mindfulness in our everyday tasks. Kondo talks about the importance of thanking our possessions for a job well done, and putting them away respectfully in a way that they can rest until we need them again. While this might sound a little woo woo, what I love is that it raises your level of consciousness and gratitude for those everyday things that surround you. I am certainly appreciating my dishwasher this week! But I’ve also been trying to be grateful for those things around me that I don’t always take the time to think about. I’ve been folding the blankets I usually leave in a heap on the couch and at the same time appreciating the warmth and comfort they gave me while reading. Or putting my shoes away with respect and appreciating how hard they worked to carry me through my day. Yes, my house is staying tidier, but even more than that my heart and soul feel in a better place.

This book is not for everyone. One friend thought the author was a bit over the top and took things to too much of an extreme (however, she did also admit it inspired her to take eight bags of clutter to the thrift store). Another dear friend felt like this kind of process was written from a somewhat privileged perspective – that many of us can’t just get rid of stuff that doesn’t bring us joy because we can’t afford to replace that needed item with a version that does bring you joy. A woman in my running group had the funny response that her toilet bowl brush certainly doesn’t give her joy but there’s not way she can get rid of that! Of course if your warm winter jacket isn’t in your favorite color you shouldn’t just toss it out, and please don’t get rid of your toilet bowl brushes (I think a dirty toilet might just bring you less joy than a toilet bowl brush after awhile).

What I do know is that since reading this book two weeks ago I am closing in on having taken twenty bags of unnecessary items to Goodwill or the dump. While I will admit to not being the tidiest person I know, I am also not a hoarder! The problem isn’t that I haven’t been able to let go of things, it’s that after awhile it’s easy to just stop noticing them. This book helps you mindfully take charge of your surroundings so that when you walk into your home instead of feeling bombarded by dirty dishes and piles of clothes and toys it feels like a haven where you have space to breathe.

Try giving this inspiring book a read. And just like when you tidy your house take what serves you, and let go of what doesn’t.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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Why wait until January? Make Your New Years Resolutions Now!

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Think back to last January. Were you feeling inspired to tackle your health goals head on? Maybe you signed up for a gym membership, committed to eating healthier or were determined to do more active things with your family? Are you one of the 8% of people who made new years resolutions and kept them? If so I applaud you!

For many of us the New Year marks a time when we stop and think about what it is that we really want to change in our lives. What a great tradition! I am a big fan. However as the year goes on and our lives get busy it is so easy to push those resolutions aside as the craziness of everyday life catches up with us. It’s too bad our culture doesn’t have a tradition of making resolutions quarterly (or weekly…or daily).

This year think about how amazing would it be to tell your January self that you know you can stick to your health goals because you’ve already been doing it. You have already made it through the start of the school year and the busy holiday season and you’ve come through feeling strong and healthy!

I propose starting now. Today. Take a few minutes out of your day to think about what your resolutions might be in January – or remembering back to what they were last January – and figure out a way to make them start happening right now. Then (note: this is important) write them down and post them in a place you will see them every day like the bathroom mirror or front of the fridge. Particularly strong resolutions will have measurable goals, focus on the positive, and will not include just the what but also the why. For example:

  • I will hit the gym 3 times/week because I want to have more energy to play with my kids after work
  • I will cook healthy foods for my family at least 4 nights a week because I know healthy fuel means stronger bodies and brighter brains
  • I will make building close friendships AND exercise a priority by setting up a weekly walking date with friends because both are important to me

I know from experience a lot of us start off the new year full of hope for our healthy resolutions, but also a little exasperated with where we are starting. We’ve indulged in a few too many piece of pumpkin pie or snuggled up indoors through the rainy season. So feeling a little grumpy we drag ourselves to the gym – (you’ve probably heard the news. Gym memberships see a spike in January and then level off to normal levels by March).

It’s much harder to be excited about and stick with resolutions when we are approaching them from a place of post holiday frustration than when we come at them strong and confident in our ability to succeed. If your New Years resolutions are something you want to carry throughout your whole year and really incorporate into your life than there is no better time to start than now!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.