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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Keeping the Useful and the Beautiful: A Little Challenge For You!

I was reading a blog post the other day about getting out of debt and paying off your house in five years or something like that. It’s not a particular goal of ours at the moment – we’re just focusing on being very disciplined about budgeting, and we’ll see where it goes. But what stayed with me from the article was this familiar quote by Dave Ramsey:

dave-ramseysource

Here in Niverville, we have a Buy and Sell Facebook page, and I’m sure everyone who looks at it must recognize me by now, because I’ve sold so much stuff on there over the last couple of years! Since I started my decluttering project of getting rid of 2015 things in the year 2015, I have sent many, many items out the door, so I got up from the computer feeling thoughtful. Was there anything left in the house for me to sell?! Besides our kids of course.;) I thought I had gotten rid of most of the unnecessary items in our house.

But as I turned around, my eyes landed on a painting about our piano, and a thought hit me: “I have never liked that picture! Why do we still have it??!!”

Ben bought it to put in a show home a few years ago, and when the house sold, he brought the picture home. There’s nothing wrong with it – the colors work with our decor, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. We stuck it up above the piano, and I never thought specifically about it again, other than to absentmindedly acknowledge very occasionally to myself that I didn’t really love it.

To add to the ridiculously of this decorating decision, I had a perfectly beautiful, large family picture sitting in the basement, waiting for the perfect spot. I suddenly realized I could sell the painting I didn’t love, and replace it with the picture of my sweet family. Why didn’t I think of this months ago??!!

Later that evening, I was telling Ben about this epiphany while we were cleaning up from supper. He was putting a serving bowl in the dishwasher, and casually commented, “This is actually a very impractical bowl – you can’t put that much in it.”

I looked over, and even though I’ve been using that bowl for years, I suddenly realized he was totally right. When I thought about it, I’d always been kind of annoyed by the bowl – one side is higher than the other, so it looks larger than it really is. And we had a set of two!! They went out the door as fast as the painting.

Somebody gets to buy something on Niverville Buy and Sell for a good deal, and I get a little bit of cash to put towards something I will find more useful or beautiful. Everybody wins.

I get really excited about this little “anti-treasure hunt” – it’s become a fun challenge to think more intentionally about the stuff I own, and figure out what is not adding something good to my life. It’s very freeing to see it all go. useful-or-beautifulsource

I’m curious – if you look around your house right now, can you find one object that you’ve never actually liked? Let me know if you find something to get rid of!!

 

How Decluttering Leaves More Room For Love

Friends, I have 450 items to get rid of in order to reach my purging goal for the year: 2015 in the year 2015!

I am very excited, and also a bit dismayed. How in the world do we have so much junk in our house??!!

My home doesn’t look that full or messy. It’s usually quite clean and tidy, because clutter makes me grumpy. And I’ve always had a donations box on the go, for items I came across that we no longer needed. But even so, I have been able to get rid of 1565 items without any trouble.

I notice that our home is a little easier to keep tidy. There’s more room in some drawers. Our basement looked fairly awesome…until Ben started finishing it, and now it’s under construction, which would not have been possible if we hadn’t gotten rid of so much stuff.:)

But the sad truth is that I could probably do this whole thing over again and get rid of 2016 things in the year 2016. So much stuff!!!

Even though I was expecting my home to look emptier and a lot more minimalist, I am still completely thrilled with the results, and I’m not about to stop purging anytime soon. It’s addicting, freeing, and I feel so much lighter when I think of all the boxes we have sent out the door. I’ve probably made a few hundred dollars on our town’s Buy and Sell Facebook page. (I kept track in the beginning, but lost count after awhile.)

I think the best part, though, is that I love my stuff that remains. I’ve gotten rid of the junk that made me feel guilty or burdened, and I just feel happy with the things that are left.

shelves

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo writes a lot about only keeping things that spark joy. It’s not even about the things we actually use – it’s about how those things make us feel. I might use things I don’t like at all, out of obligation or guilt. Or I might have something I rarely use, but I really love it and it makes me very happy the few times I am able to make use of it.

When we get rid of all the things we don’t love, it leaves wonderful things behind, with more space and freedom to enjoy them.

THAT is the best thing I have learned this year.

Also…I love this blog post: “Clutter builds up when we stop making decisions about our stuff.” 

“Rather than choose which wrapping paper we like most, we buy all 13 rolls in a jumbo package. Rather than donate clothing that no longer fits, we hang it back up “in case I need it.” Rather than recycle back issues of a magazine, we stick it on the shelf to read “later.”

It’s those items — the ones that we don’t use or love or need — which slowly fill our closets and drawers, our garages and attics.

Those are the items that make it hard to see the painting on the wall that you do love, hard to find your one snuggliest pair of ski socks, hard to clear off the table to share a meal with the people you love.”

So true.

And very motivating for my final purging push – 450 more things gone by Christmas!

Want to join me?!

 

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….

Getting Rid of Junk

Every once in a while, I come across a blog post that I really, really wish I had written, just because it’s brilliant, and perfectly worded, and I agree 100% with absolutely everything in it.

The Powerful Difference Between Organizing and Decluttering is one of those posts.

I read it this morning while I was eating my breakfast. I was sitting at our kitchen counter, which had an enormous pile of papers and junk that I needed to sort through, a job I’d been putting off for far too long.

As I sat there surrounded by my junk, I read this:

Living with less trumps organizing because organizing is temporary…..

Decluttering—or, just getting rid of stuff, is permanent. It leaves your four walls, and immediately you have more visual and physical space. Your shoulders feel lighter, you know where everything is, and you truly love everything left. And you love your home just a little bit more.

I looked at my pile for a while, and I thought, “I am tired of trying to find the right place to store all of that stuff. Could I just throw EVERYTHING away??”

I went through the pile, and it turned out there were only three papers that need to be filed (in existing files, so that was easy), and a notebook and two notepad that needed to be put back in a drawer.

files

The rest could get thrown out!!

Perfect.:)

Do you have any piles in your house that need to be thrown out instead of organized?

Wearing Stuff Out and Using it Up

This post is part of a series called “35 Days of Favorites”, in honor of my 35th birthday. You can read more about the details here

I’ve been a little too blessed in this life.

I’ve always lived with a lot of excess, and haven’t ever needed to learn how to squeeze absolutely all the life available out of the things I use and own.

I’ve gotten rid of clothes because I was tired of them, not because they were worn out. I’ve sent loads and loads of perfectly good belongings to the thrift shop because I wasn’t using them, and they were simply lying around my house, taking up space.

I’m so tired of excess.

I don’t know what brought on the need for change. Maybe it started with this clothing revelation, and just grew from there.

Maybe it came from the stuff I was reading.

Or from moving yet again, and getting tired of hauling around all of the useless, random stuff we owned.

Whatever the case, it’s time to do things differently, but I think this skill of using less will take awhile to learn. This past year, it was my goal to start cutting back.

To start with, I’m trying to own only as much clothing as I actually use. For example, I own two hoodies now instead of five, and I just recently had to buy a new one, because one of my old ones was so worn out, it was only fit to be used as a rag.

I own two pairs of good jeans, and keep one old pair for emergencies. I buy a new pair when I get the inevitable hole in the right knee. (Why always the right, specifically??!)

I’m trying to keep less food in our pantry, and only one kind of salad dressing in our fridge!

I packed away half the girls’ toys, and they are just as happy as ever with what they have.

And our most recent accomplishment: Driving our van until it died.

It sounds kind of dumb, but it was a victorious moment. We limped along for a long time, knowing that the end was near. And then one day, we took our van in to have a problem repaired, and were told that it would cost $900 to fix, but the vehicle was only worth $1000. If we chose to fix it anyway, another $900 of repairs were predicted within the next few months.

We bought a new vehicle because we didn’t really have a better choice, and it felt good.

vanThere sits our van, waiting to be picked up. She’s done well, and carried us many, many miles!

I still shop too much, waste too much, and think I need too much, but I’m working on it.

And every time any of my belongings legitimately wears out, and must be replaced out of necessity, it makes me feel good inside.

I would like to feel this way more often.

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Any helpful purging, “living with less” tips out there? How intentional are you about wearing something out before replacing it? Anyone else struggle with balancing “need” versus “want”?