Spark Joy

I finished reading Spark Joy (affiliate link) this last weekend, and everybody is feeling the results! It was a dangerous book for me to read – I’d read two pages, and then go clean out half the drawers in my kitchen. My family is starting to feel like nothing is safe in our house, which might be a good thing, because maybe they’ll start hiding their stuff, and that means less clutter.;)

I wasn’t actually planning to read Spark Joy, but I stumbled across it at the library, and decided to skim through it. It ended up being a lot more interesting and helpful than I was anticipating. I had low expectations because it’s a sequel, and is the sequel ever as good (or better!) than the first book?!

It’s by Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (affiliate link), which surprisingly lived up to it’s name – I think my life was changed from reading it! I read it during my decluttering challenge in 2015 (which you can read about here, here, and here), and it was a huge contributing factor to me reaching my goal of decluttering 2015 things in the year 2015. What impacted me the most from The Life-Changing Magic was the way Marie Kondo changes the usual decluttering question of “What do I want to get rid of?” to “What do I want to keep?”

She recommends emptying everything out of your closet or cupboard or drawer, picking up each item, and considering if it’s worth keeping, based on one qualification – does it spark joy? In the beginning, that seems like a strange question, but I quickly found there were some clothes I didn’t like wearing, books I felt guilty for not reading, and knives or potato peelers which were annoying to use. Marie Kondo claims that as you exercise your ability to find joy, you will become better at determining which objects are increasing pleasure in your life (even if the “pleasure” they produce is just by being useful).

By the time you finish the process all over your house, getting rid of anything you don’t love or appreciate, you are left only with things you love. I find it takes all the guilt and heaviness out of decluttering – never get rid of something you truly want to keep. If you want to keep it, it sparks joy. Keep nothing out of guilt or obligation.

While I completely love this idea, I felt as though I got it figured out the first time around, when I read The Life-Changing Magic. I wasn’t sure what Spark Joy would add to my life.

Reading it has solidified the ideas from Kondo’s first book, and it’s just very motivating to read, even if there’s nothing groundbreaking in the second book. It was good to be reminded of what I learned in 2015. There were also a lot of very helpful, practical storage and organization tips for specific areas of the house, and my kitchen drawers have never looked better.:) I’ve learned that it’s actually possible to experience a spark of joy from opening my underwear drawer and seeing everything neatly organized.

Kondo claims that if you get rid of enough stuff, find a place for everything that remains, and spend just a minimal amount of time maintaining it, your house will never get messy again.

I have not achieved this in the areas I share with the four other people in our home, but I’m definitely seeing the truth of it in the areas that are mine to maintain, and don’t get messed up by others. This ties in with what Marie Kondo says you should do when family members don’t want to declutter – deal with your own stuff first, which should keep you busy for quite some time, and by the time you’re done, there’s a good chance the desire to simplify will spread. It’s quite contagious!:)

Also, I’ve noticed that when my areas are tidy, like the kitchen, our bedroom and master bathroom, I can handle more clutter in the shared areas, like the living room or main room in the basement.

Kondo stresses keeping things clear – I found it interesting that even in the kitchen, she recommends leaving your counters as bare as possible.

I tried this a few months ago, after listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, but Marie Kondo is even more hardcore – she thinks even your soap should be stored off the counter. Trying this for the second time, I was able to get even more stuff off my counters, and the emptier it gets, the more I love it! It makes cleaning after a meal so much more enjoyable. My soap is still on the counter for the time being, but I’m eyeing this rack from Amazon for under-the-counter storage:

I also loved her view on decluttering items received from others, like gifts or cards:

“The main purpose of a greeting card is to convey a greeting. The moment you finish reading it, its job is done. Keep only those that truly spark joy.”

I feel the same about gifts – we give each other gifts to show love and try to delight others with things that would make them happy. Love is shown simply in the act of giving the gift, no matter what it is. Sometimes the delight comes in getting rid of it.;) If we are offended by the thought of someone decluttering the gifts we give them, I see two solutions: choose gifts with greater intention (like asking them what they really want, if you don’t know), and release the gift once it’s been given. You’ve given it away, and it’s not up to you to control what happens to it. Its mission was accomplished the moment you put that gift into another person’s hands, regardless of how much they end up using it. This feels very freeing to me – if I don’t find the perfect gift, it’s okay. I still gave it in love.

And so, we press on around here, getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy. My girls are no longer afraid of decluttering, as they were when they thought it meant getting rid of things they love. They’ve embraced the idea that getting rid of things they don’t use or like leaves more room for what they love, and will often declutter on their own (Yessss!!! That’s a huge victory!)

Marie Kondo writes that anywhere you find mess in your home, it’s a sign you haven’t gotten rid of enough yet, and it’s an opportunity to let go of items clogging your life. You guys, it’s so addicting! I know I’ve written about this many times already, but it’s really true – the more I declutter, the more fun it gets, and the more I enjoy our house.

If you’re feeling stuck, Spark Joy might be a great book for you to read – you might suddenly feel inspired to tackle the kitchen drawers! I’d recommend starting with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, just to get you going, and then moving on to Spark Joy.

So tell me: where do you need some magical tidying up in your life? Do you enjoy decluttering, or feel stressed by it? Love or hate it?!

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One Simple Way to Remove Stress at Christmas

Remove Stress at ChristmasWe haven’t had a really good, hearty Christmas around here in a long time. Everett’s birthday is at the end of November, so the year he was born was a “get by and survive” kind of Christmas. I actually don’t remember much of it at all – I was probably too sleep-deprived!

Last Christmas wasn’t much better, because I was dealing with post-partum anxiety, so once again, the girls were disappointed by my lack of Christmas spirit. Many of our little family traditions were put aside for the second Christmas in a row.

Happily, I’m feeling much more my usual self, and excited to celebrate Christmas with all the little things that make it special for our family. I’m ready to party.

ChristmasI am NOT ready to get all stressed out and overwhelmed by Christmas craziness, however, so I’ve come up with a plan. It’s my easy way of making sure the important stuff gets done, and the special things don’t pile up until I’m cramming for Christmas like a college student the night before a big exam.

Here’s what I did to remove the stress from Christmas:

1) Make a list of all the Christmas to-do’s.

I tried to write down everything last thing I could think of, like how many kinds of cookies we’ll make, buying envelopes for Christmas cards, ordering gifts online, whatever else all needs to be done.

2) Count how many weeks there are until Christmas, and make a plan about what to do when.

I was able to think deliberately about which items need to get done first, which tasks are quick, and which ones will take a little more time. I was able to make a plan for how much I want to get done in a week, and if I can stick to my plan, we’ll get ready in time, and I’m hoping to feel less stress, and more enjoyment.

My task for this last week was to order our Christmas pictures, and make sure our address list was up to date. It’s my least favorite Christmas chore, and it’s done already! I’m quite excited.

It’s such a simple tip, it hardly seems worth mentioning, but it took me 16 years to figure it out, so maybe someone else out there can benefit from it! If you want to take it a few steps further, Marcia Ramsland writes about holidays in her book, Simplify Your Life. When she realized that Halloween and Christmas are always eight weeks apart every single year, unlike Thanksgiving which changes every year, she came up with a schedule she follows year after year. Her book is full of really great, practical ideas, and is one of the few organizing books that has made it through numerous rounds of decluttering – I keep coming back to it again and again!

Simplify Your LifeWith a restful, organized Christmas on my mind, I was also interested to come across Tsh Oxenreider’s post: 5 (Sane) Ways to Prep Now for the Holidays.

There seem to be endless ideas for Christmas organization on Pinterest, which overwhelms me, but this Christmas planner seemed like it could be a good fit for what I’m looking for.

I’m also thinking these books would be interesting to check out: A Chic and Simple Christmas: Celebrate the Holiday Season With Ease and Grace or A Simple Christmas: Celebrate the Old-Fashioned Way in a Post-Modern World.

Please share! I want to hear all of your tips for how to keep things simple, organized, and as stress-free as possible at Christmas!

 

*Affiliate links included

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Remembering to Grab My Camera

When my friend said the other day, “You must have so many pictures of Everett!”, I had to admit…“Not as many as you might think.”

These days whip by so fast, I don’t think to grab my camera nearly often enough, so yesterday, I stopped what I was doing, right in the middle of a batch of muffins, and went to get my camera – just because that’s when I happened to think of it.

Anika and EverettAnika loves to snuggle on the couch and read with Everett. She gave him her bookmark to wave around, but he kept whacking her in the face!:)

KayliaKaylia could color all day long. She says it’s because she is a great artist.

Everett's roomWhen reading got boring, Anika got out Everett’s mobile. I love how happy those bears make him!

kitchenAnd then I went back to my muffins in the kitchen! Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana muffins. If only my photos were scented, because my house smelled amazing!

What’s happening at your house right now?:)

 

Weekend Purging Challenge

I’m stuck.

Remember how I made it my goal to get rid of one item a day this year? And then, that was so easy, I decided to get rid of 2015 things in the year 2015?

It’s been going awesome – until April. Don’t know what happened this month, but I’m stuck at 950 items purged. My dream for this weekend is to break 1000, but I don’t know if it will happen….

My problem is that I’ve done all the easy stuff. I’ve gone through the whole house, except for the girls’ toys. I’m saving that battle for a little later on in the year – build up my stamina!

We’ve cleaned out our basement, which feels amazing.

basementshelves Ben built shelves, and we’re just waiting for warm weather to clean out the garage, and take a load to the dump.

But now it’s time to get to the harder stuff. I’ve gotten rid of the obvious things that we never use, but now I need to focus on the stuff we use only very occasionally, and could probably live without. I can’t believe that our house can still look so full, even after getting rid of 950 things!

Alright, who’s going to join me?! Fifty things purged this weekend!!

Three Things I’m Learning From Purging

Remember how I told you back in January that it was my goal to get rid of one item a day in 2015, because getting rid of 365 things in a year would be awesome?

Well. Things are going a bit differently than planned….

I’ve gotten rid of 573 things in two months.

I am having so much fun! It feels awesome, and I have every intention to keep going. Suddenly, 2015 items in the year 2015 doesn’t sound quite so impossible anymore.;)

Purge

As each load goes out the door to the thrift shop, I feel lighter, freer, and happier! There’s just one thing that disturbs me:

We haven’t missed anything.

This bothers me, because it means that 573 completely useless items have been sitting around our house, unused. We don’t even notice that they’re gone, other than the fact that our house looks neater and less cluttered. How much more could I get rid of without even feeling it?? And I haven’t even started on our basement or garage, where we store the majority of our stuff that doesn’t get used regular. Those 573 items are “everyday” things that I’ve found in our kitchen, living room, bathrooms, and master bedroom. I still need to tackle a bunch of closets, and the girls’ room.

But our walk-in closet is looking fantastically empty. I love going in there! Sometimes I just stand at the doorway and look in admiringly….

closetAs I’ve gleefully purged for the last two months, I’ve noticed my thought process changing. I’m learning some great things which I hope will stick with me:

1) Purging is a mindset.

Getting rid of at least one item a day means that I am continually thinking of what to get rid of. I used to think of purging as an event, instead of a daily habit. I thought I needed to set aside a large chunk of time, and do it all at once, which I would never have time for at this point in my life.

Last month, a friend asked me, “How do you have time for purging, with a newborn?!” When I thought about it, I realized how fast it is to grab an item here or there.

It’s always on my mind, so when I’m in the bathroom getting ready in the morning, or making supper, or doing laundry, I’m always asking myself these questions:

What do I need to keep? How much can I get rid of?

When I evaluate what I truly NEED on a regular basis, it becomes obvious how much excess we have.

2) Clear, open space is beautiful.

I was surprised how difficult it was for me to have completely empty drawers and shelves! It seems like wasted space – I should be filling them! But why? Why can’t I have empty cupboards in my kitchen?

I was going to get rid of some more books in our living room bookshelves, but caught myself thinking, “If I get rid of anymore books, our shelves will look too empty!”

Wait, what?! That’s a good thing! The bookshelves don’t need to be crammed full! The bathroom counter can be completely empty. Our closet doesn’t need to be full of clothes.

The emptier, the better. I just needed to get used to it.

3) Change is a good thing.

There have been many things I was tempted to keep out of habit. But when I think about it, a lot has changed even in the three years since we moved into this house. I decorate differently, I dress differently, I cook differently. I like different things at different times in my life, and it is right and good to get rid of things that have served their purpose, and now we are done with them.

I thought that having a lavender plant in our bathroom would be a lovely idea, but when I looked at it with fresh eyes, I had to be honest and admit the lavender plant was outrageously ugly. You can’t imagine the relief I felt when I chucked it out.

I can change my mind! No, I didn’t wear that mint green shirt. Ever. It seemed like a good idea when I bought it, but I wasn’t thinking about the fact that mint green shirts clash with olive skin tones. Why would I keep it??!

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573 items gone feels awesome. If I keep this up all year, I can’t imagine how fantastic that will feel!

And guess what – it’s totally contagious! I had a nap on Saturday afternoon, and when I woke up, I asked Ben what he’d been doing. He was downstairs, purging! There’s an impressive pile of his stuff ready to ship off to the thrift shop!

But no matter how much stuff I get rid of, more things trickle in. The girls will keep bringing papers home, we keep getting new clothes, life keeps going, and so there will just always be more stuff.

I have often purged in the past, but it’s amazing how stuff continually builds up.

When I’m done with purging this year, will we have enough stuff to do it all over again?! We shall see….

New Normal

Our sweet boy is two months old this week.

EverettHe giggles in his sleep, but he will not giggle at Ben, which is driving Ben crazy!!

I’ve been finding it hard to pull out my camera often enough – the days just kind of run away on me! Often, Ben will come home from work, and I’ll still be trying to figure what we’re doing that day…except the day is over. They seem to fly by awfully fast right now…

And this little boy is growing fast, so I want to be sure to capture the smiles and the chubbiness!

toesI’m trying to remind myself to grab my camera throughout the day like I used to, and not be too busy to notice all the little moments – like creating Lego masterpieces, “Picnic School” (meaning it’s done on the floor!) , and family games.:)

Kayliapicnic schoolgamesTwo months of beautiful chaos! I’m torn between thinking the time is going too fast, and being thankful that it is passing, because things are getting easier, and we’re starting to get into a new normal routine.

Anika and EverettWhat did we ever do without him?!

I’m Winning the Battle Against My Kitchen Counter…

Ever since we moved into this house, there’s a spot on the kitchen counter that’s had me beat.

I have not been able to keep it clean for the life of me.

It has driven me nuts for two and a half years, because it’s where EVERYTHING ends up – mail, toys, books, papers I don’t get around to filing, every random piece of anything that doesn’t really have a place.

Do you have a place like that in your house?

Here’s my good news: I have finally found the way to be FREE!!!

counter

I was reading some kind of organizing something or other, can’t remember what, but these words stuck with me:

Clutter attracts clutter.

It made sense to me. If there’s a pile of junk, I will throw more junk on it. My family will throw more junk on it. I think to myself, “I’ll just clean all of this up later”, and keep adding to it.

There were times (when company was coming over!) when I’d whittle it down to nothing, and have a clean counter for an evening, but it never stayed that way for long, because the clutter would always come back, and multiply.

Since reading that clutter attracts clutter, I have made it my goal to make sure the clutter never starts. I don’t put anything on that counter.

And the weirdest thing has been happening: If I don’t put stuff on the counter, my family doesn’t put stuff on the counter.

What??! This has been going on for almost two weeks, and I can’t believe it. Every once in a while, the odd object will end up getting place there, and I clean it up IMMEDIATELY, so it doesn’t attract anything!!!

I never told my family what I was doing. I never announced that everyone had to stop collecting junk on the counter. They just don’t put it there anymore. So weird!!

Yesterday, Ben was loading the dishwasher after supper, and he suddenly said, “I’ve been noticing that the kitchen is a lot tidier. It’s easier to clean up after supper.”

That’s when I knew that big change was really happening – Ben noticed!! Sometimes I demand admiration from him for major accomplishments, but this time I hadn’t said anything, because I wanted to be sneaky about my experiment.:) (That sounds like he’s super unobservant, which isn’t completely true – mess just doesn’t bother him, so these things slowly, gradually dawn on him…)

With my success inspiring me, I’ve tackled the second junk area in our home – we’ll see if this one is equally successful!!

Do you have a spot in your house that has you beat? Where do you tend to pile things?