March 4, 2015

the life-changing magic of tidying up

Well friends. THIS BOOK. Some of you who might know my personality a wee little bit might have had a little guess that I would have SO MUCH TO SAY about This Book.

I'm sure that many or most of you who read blogs with some regularity have already seen This Book all over the place. It's everywhere. Including my house! (the tidying book for the rest of the post will always be referred to as This Book - or better still This Book - the more emphasis you can add, the better, because that's the tone I'd like to get across here.)

I was so obsessed by the idea of This Book (which is really called 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing' by Marie Kondo) that it was pretty much one of the only things I asked for this past Christmas. This Book.

Let's take a magical trip through Melissa's mind for a moment ok? And let's get cozy. You might want something to eat or drink while you read this. Or you might want to go to the bathroom and get that out of the way.

First, I have some cleaning/tidying issues. (IT'S THE BEST WORD IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE! Tidying. Doesn't it just sound nice? And wholesome. So much friendlier sounding than cleaning. Tidying!)

I wasn't always tidy. I grew up in a house that had a housekeeper. I was never expected to do much, chore-wise. And I eventually flitted off to college and didn't wash my sheets for a month. Maybe two. Yes you read that correctly. This was largely because I had never been taught how to do the laundry. It's a good thing I was a naturally clean smelling individual!

Long story short, I was A Very Messy Person and to my college roommate #1 - I humbly apologize. I would leave out glasses of milk and sort of let them congeal. SO GROSS. I might have gone on forever with this laissez-faire attitude towards cleaning if I hadn't then lived with college roommate #2. Who was messier than I could have ever thought about being in 10,000 universes.

She was so messy, that I had to become tidy, and quickly, in self preservation. There was literally a dividing line in our room, and it was marked by a wall of Her Stuff. I became tidy because if I didn't, I would have become consumed by her squalor.

Aren't college girls WONDERFUL???

Fast forward to now, because we'll be here forever if I take you blow-by-blow through every year of my cleaning history. More long story short - I'm pretty fastidious now. Too much mess makes me feel depressed. Back in my single days, I would happily re-arrange books and move furniture around at 11:30 at night. I'm also a control freak. Andrew will be pleased to tell you that when I get stressed, I start cleaning things. Vigorously.

When I'm not actually tidying, I'm usually thinking about tidying. 

Andrew and my beloved daughter are not very tidy. I'm pretty worried that my daughter is a hoarder. I am constantly after them to clean up their %$$@&* mess. I've made Andrew swear to me that if I am struck by lightning, to PLEASE use any life insurance to pay for a housekeeping service, so that they aren't living in squalor.

So, why am I sharing about what anyone with half a lightbulb in their brain would call a mild (not so mild? hormone dependent?) case of OCD when it comes to tidying up? (actually it's funny - I have a lot of books and I'm not perfectly organized all the time - my kitchen is a disaster and so is my closet and my car most of the time, and OMG THE GARAGE) but I like as much as I can to try and keep things tidy, but it's just me doing the cleaning around here and I get tired, so oftentimes, I gotta sit down and not clean up all the time.

I'm sharing because Oh Marie Kondo. I read the the first third of the book when it hit me - I was like OH I GET IT. She has X-treme cleaning OCD! Like, on a massive scale. (i love you Marie!) And this smart lady has turned her cleaning OCD into a lucrative business! THAT IS CLEVER AND AWESOME.

(Andrew got me this bookmark because he said it was the best one he could find. And he's not kidding. He loved it more than any other bookmark. He also wants for you to please notice and ADMIRE the lasers shooting out.)

So anyway.....This Book. I have so many conflicting emotions about it. I'm not done with it yet. But it made me feel excited and scared and nervous and upset all at the same time, which isn't that fun when you're reading? Getting rid of things is FUN. It feels're FREE. Every garbage bag that walks out the door is amazing and makes me feel SO HAPPY.

But I can't do things the way Marie wants me to and that makes me sad. Because I'm too lazy. I can't take every article of clothing and put it on the floor and then decide what to keep and put back. Or take EVERY BOOK IN THE HOUSE and put it on the floor and decide what to keep. Marie says that truly tidying your house takes about 6 months. She doesn't advocate going room by room (I'M TOTALLY GOING ROOM BY ROOM), she likes to go by genre of possessions. Books. Clothes. Dishes.

I could go on and on forever, but This Book is FASCINATING and I highly recommend it. It will light a fire under your bum. It will encourage you. It will make you a little confused (your socks are kind of ALIVE and you should say hello to your house). But it's also awesome and Marie has loads of really practical tips to get your possessions under control.

Ultimately, she has one mantra when it comes to tidying and deciding what to keep in your life. Only hold onto things that "spark joy". If you don't feel joy when putting on an article of clothing, toss it. (what if NONE of your clothes spark joy? what then? should you be naked? or buy a whole new wardrobe?)

Andrew note: "I don't know. My water heater doesn't really 'spark joy', but I don't want to get rid of it."

Another Andrew note: "Nomi. (our puppy) Out she goes."

If you don't feel joy regarding pretty much any material possession, toss it. It's a very easy way to decide what to keep, when you think about it. And totally counter to the way I was deciding whether or not to keep things: WHAT IF I NEED THIS DURING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE??????

(Melissa Note: Marie says that you shouldn't feel guilty about getting rid of your stuff, especially if many of those things were gifts. You're not really getting 'rid' of things - you're sending them along on a new journey! You should thank them for a job well done and wish them well in their new home.)

After a couple of days of reading This Book, I was able to conquer my kitchen junk drawer, which has been a wasteland since Julia was born. I spent 30 minutes (maybe less!) and I had this to show for my efforts:

You need to get This Book. And please let's fight/talk/debate about it.

P.S. My pal Shannon reminded me of a Very Important Nugget/mild spoiler alert - at the very end, Marie writes that she's had to CALL AN AMBULANCE because of  "too much tidying". I'll let you decide - how-to lifestyle guide or cautionary tale?? You be the judge. (Andrew says: "why can't it be both?" INDEED, my friend. Indeed.)


  1. Ok, you sold me! I've been hearing a lot about this book, but yours is the best review so far. :) I don't worry that my children are becoming hoarders. I KNOW that they are. Intervention! Although, I'm pretty sure that my son would pick up every rock or stray piece of string in his room and believe, deep within his being, that it is causing him joy. So not sure how that will go. :) Still, I will press on. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. my daughter brought home a used hot dog wrapper from the movie once. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    1. omg you're right. off to include!!!

    2. NOW its a complete review! I will say, that for the most part, this book is a treasure. Not trying to count the number of things you have or decide if something you love is "minimalist" enough is a refreshing message. I can just imagine the Good Night Moon knock off from this as she goes around thanking all of her possessions. ;)

    3. omg Shannon you need to have written this! Brilliant. "Thank you bear.....I love to know that you are there."

  3. Andrew is HILARIOUS. No wonder you love him so much!

    Must get this book although my book collection might make me look like a hoarder.



    1. he is a funny fellow! that's why I keep him around ;)

  4. I cannot believe you posted about that book! I've had my eye on it for some time, but couldn't bring myself to order it. You have pushed me over the top. I will order it for a Spring Break project! I am positive that acquiring life changing magic will be way more fun than hanging out on a sunny beach somewhere…right?!

  5. I want someone else to tidy everything for me. That would make for a much happier Danzel. My house is a mess right now, but I hate hate hate hate hate cleaning and tidying up. And most of the mess isn't mine, so you know, there's that, too. Whine.

    This book would probably just make me feel worse. ;)

    1. doll, i'm right there with you. if i could wave a wand - there's no way in Downton Abbey I'd want to tidy up if someone could do it for me! although I kiiiiinda like reorganizing my books by color, i honestly think that's fun.

      here's a fun fact. Nomi the dog is pushing my cleaning OCD into high gear BIG TIME. Like, I'm kind of freaking out at the extra level of mess she has introduced into our lives.

      the book is fun on many levels. it does have practical tips. it also serves as comedy - as in, ha ha ha Marie! I am NEVER going to do that! it's like reading an entertaining cleaning story, one that I ultimately will have to admire from afar. she's good at motivating though - you start reading a little bit and then you just kind of feel CARRIED AWAY by the urge to throw away everything you own. ha ha ha