Our lifestyle contributor Natalie Borton is back with another thoughtful peek into her life as a stay-at-home and work-from-home mom. This week, she’s welcoming us right into her space to show how she’s tackling untidiness with the help of a popular book. Read on to see how you, too, can tackle your chaos this season!
One thing you should know about me: I’m completely obsessed with simplifying and optimizing my life. While I feel that I live pretty contentedly, I also usually can’t help but think about how things could be done better—especially in the realm of organization.
My husband and I both employ a less-is-more approach when it comes to our home. If we aren’t currently using something or specifically saving it for a future need, it goes straight to Goodwill or the garbage can. Despite all of our best efforts, though, tidiness always seems so fleeting. We clean up one area only to find it messy again the very next day. Don’t even get me started on our kitchen table—that thing has stuff on it every single day! We struggle to break the habit of dumping things on it when we arrive home (especially now that we have a baby who gets into everything at ground level!).
Earlier this year I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, and let me just say: Her strategies (collectively referred to as the “KonMari Method”) are definitely life-changing. I wish I could say that we have completely implemented those strategies and are now living in ultra-tidy bliss—but sadly, that isn’t the case just yet. However, we are slowly but surely making progress, and we have no one but Marie Kondo to thank. While I absolutely recommend reading the whole book, I’ve outlined three of Ms. Kondo’s simple (though not necessarily easy!) steps to achieving lasting tidiness in your home, below.
1. Discard by category, not location.
I’ve always tidied by room, but according to Ms. Kondo, cleaning up by category is essential. She recommends sorting through and discarding items in a specific order: Start with clothes, and move toward things that are increasingly personal. Save sentimental items (like photos and handwritten notes) for last. Her simple rule for determining what you’ll keep and what you’ll toss? Ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?” If yes, keep it. If not, toss it. It sounds a bit radical, but imagine how wonderful it would be to ultimately surround yourself with things that only bring you joy? (I want that!)
2. Designate a place for everything.
Very important: Do not attempt to find a place for anything until you’ve completely finished sorting and discarding. For anyone who needs a tidy space in order to function, this probably sounds like a nightmare—but apparently the tidying process must be done “once and for all” instead of in little bits at a time. This rule is the hardest for me: I try to neaten things every night before bed so I can wake up to a put-together space, so it’s scary to think about simply leaving things out until I’ve properly sorted through all of my possessions. At the same time, though, I clearly need to change my process, because I end up with clutter no matter how often I tidy up. I’ve been doing a halfway job for too long, and I can absolutely see why Ms. Kondo’s tedious process is necessary for attaining a truly tidy space.
3. Put things away (where they belong!) when you’re finished with them.
Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten? You’d think we would have it down by now! But since most of us don’t have specific spots for everything in our house, I think we tend to put things out of sight instead of “away.” According to Ms. Kondo, “The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again.” It’s a pretty obvious concept, yet such a challenging one to fully embrace! She goes so far as to suggest taking a few minutes to empty out your purse every night when you get home. (I don’t know if I could ever get on board with that, but I do see how it could make switching bags much easier.) So: Once you pick a place for something, always make sure to put it back as soon as you’re done using it. If everything has a place, clutter just won’t happen. This will require commitment, but I imagine it gets easier over time.
Written by Natalie Borton