Anna Maria Locke

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (book review)

May 2015Anna Locke1 Comment
The life-changing magic of tidying up review

I’ve never thought of myself as a naturally organized or tidy person. I leave my clothes on the floor, I’ll start doing dishes but won’t finish them, I ignore piles of old papers and random junk, and folding laundry is the woooOOOoooOOrst! I’m more of a big picture thinker, and don’t like to focus on details, which is why when I was applying to graduate programs I quit biology for geography, trading microscopes for landscapes.

However, I’m type-A enough that I know I feel best in a clean, uncluttered, and organized space, and my Pinterest boards reflect that inner desire ;) But I haven’t been able to bridge the gap between who I am and who I want to be, so “purge closet,” “de-clutter,” “organize office” have been items on my to-do list for literally months and years and I end up feeling stuck and trapped. Mostly because the sheer thought of decluttering is so overwhelming! I don’t want to face the emotional investment that comes with deciding what to keep and what to discard. I’m a very sentimental person and I also have a resourceful side (which I credit to reading all the Boxcar Children books when I was little), a talent for creating something out of nothing, for looking at an object and imagining a dozen different possibilities or uses for it. Plus I have a physical aversion to waste! So if something might be useful down the road or is attached to memories or sentimental value, I can’t bring myself to throw it away! 

Do you get it?

Ben and I always complain about the lack of storage space in our apartment, but our apartment is not even that small. I just have so much random CRAP from past phases of life wasting all the storage space, stuff that we haven’t even touched since we moved here three summers ago. So the things I actually use on a regular basis are just crammed into shelves and corners. It’s stifling!

Now that I work from home, I’m learning just how important my physical environment is to my confidence, mood, and general ability to get shit done. I can’t think or work in a cluttered, messy space, but decluttering the apartment has been on the backburner as I’ve been focusing on building my business and figuring out my life. You know, the big picture things. Decluttering and organizing doesn’t feel important or urgent, so I just avoid it.

Over the past couple months I'm finally reaching a good place with my confidence, business, health and fitness, and social life, but I still felt “off,” and was still struggling with anxiety and dissatisfaction. Everything was good, I knew it was good, but it still didn’t FEEL good and I couldn’t pinpoint why. In April I took a coaching business training course with my Beachbody team. One of our assignments was to complete Chalene Johnson’s balance assessment, in which you rank your overall satisfaction in 10 core areas of life. My lowest score was "environment and surroundings" because I’ve never really loved our apartment, even though I spend almost 24/7 in it. 

Wait. Could my cluttered, messy apartment really be the last thing holding me back from accepting myself and finally overcoming the self-doubt and anxiety? BOOM! It was like a giant lightbulb went off in my head.

Enter: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Have you heard of this book? It's apparently wildly popular right now, and was recommended to me by my friend/old supervisor, my life coach, and a couple bloggers I respect, so a few weeks ago I picked it up at my local bookstore on a whim.

OH MY GAHHHHHHH it’s legit, you guys. Magical, life changing, the whole shebang. I read the entire book in one weekend, then took three full days to tackle some major tidying. I went through my clothes, personal possessions, books, papers, fabric and art supplies, and office. I still have to deal with the kitchen and bathroom, but I already feel like a whole new person.

I won’t give too much of the book away, but it’s written by Marie Kondo, a Japanese personal organization consultant. She describes her method of decluttering and tidying a home for the long haul--no more just rearranging your stuff, hiding clutter in drawers, or falling back into old habits. Her system WORKS. It’s not emotionally overwhelming, and the sense of zen she infuses into the process makes donating or throwing things away feel respectful and oh so good.

Basically, you tidy by category, not by room. You start with clothes and accessories, then move onto books, and on down the list, going from items with least sentimental value to more value so you can be objective and don’t overwhelm yourself from the beginning.

When you begin a new category, you find everything that fits that category in the house and dump it onto the floor. Then you go through each item one by one, touching and handling every single object, and make a split second intuitive decision by asking yourself “Does this spark joy?”

If it doesn’t spark joy (or hold intrinsic value or necessary purpose), it goes bye bye! It’s as simple as that.

In the end, you’ll only keep your absolute favorite things. You don’t have to worry or be afraid of being forced to give up what you really care about, because it’s totally up to you, the decision is literally in your hands. The point is to live simply, surrounded only by objects that bring you joy and happiness. It is SO liberating!

I ended up donating three garbage bags full of clothes, dozens of books, downsized my shoe collection to around 23 pairs, organized my fabric stash, and have a space for everything! My once-small closet feels organized and spacious.

What I learned about the tidying process

-How to get rid of gifts or sentimental items without guilt.

-How to overcome the “it might be useful” or “I might wear it someday” trap.

-How to be systematic and productive instead of getting distracted, spending 2 hours down the rabbit hole of looking at old books and pictures, and giving up.

-How to finally say goodbye to old books, notebooks, and course materials!

-How to fold and store my clothes to take up less space and make everything visible.

(Here's a visual of the "vertical folding" technique, featuring my pj's/tank tops and bottoms.)

-How to say “thanks but no thanks!” without feeling guilty when a family member tries to pass down stuff to you.

-How to turn decluttering and tidying into an ART, not a chore.

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What I’m learning about myself in the process

+ I am an "all or nothing" person, and that is OK!

I'm an enthusiast, passionate, all-in. When I do something I do it right, no holds barred. I love Marie's philosophy that you can't use the Pinterest approach of tidying for 20 minutes a day because you end up driving yourself crazy with a never-ending to-do list. You have to go all-in and take on your entire home in one fell swoop.

This helped me release a lot of guilt about how I think I "should" be running my business and life. Breaking things down into small daily actions sometimes is MORE overwhelming to me than getting it all done at once. (even follow ups, business stuff.) Having a huge daily to-do list with lots of little things gives me tons of anxiety, while having one or two main focuses everyday helps me stay calm and fulfilled! So I've re-structured my work schedule to create weekly and monthly systems instead of trying to do everything every day.

+ I have a personal style!

It emerged after I purged my closet of all the clothes I don't care about. I love black and dark colors, ivory, lace, florals, stretchy pants and leggings, flowy tops, comfy-classy-boho-sporty. I do not like to wear jeans, buttoned downs, brown, or pastels.

+ Deep down I AM a neat and organized person, and I do have the power to take control of my life and happiness instead of playing victim!

It’s SO liberating to say good-bye to past phases of life, old memories, and trappings of previous stages that no longer serve me. I got rid of all my grad school and college papers and was hard because so many years of blood sweat and tears went into those things, but they also were infused with so much stress.

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I shared my 3 day tidying binge on Facebook and inspired several of my friends to read the book too. It’s an emotional process and I think it would be really fun to have an accountability group for support, so I’ve decided to add an optional Book Club component to my June Bootcamp for anyone who's interested in tackling a total life overhaul next month! We'll be making room in our lives for POSITIVE changes and habits by removing negativity and clutter.

We’ll set healthy habits, learn how to fuel our bodies with delicious nutrient dense food, build self esteem and work on developing a positive body image, learn how to love ourselves for who we already are, motivate each other, and most of all have fun! 

Make room for the good stuff in your mind, body, and life. You owe it to yourself and the people you love!

+ You can learn more about my Bootcamp here.

+ If you’re interested in joining us, please contact me here so I can get to know you and chat about your goals!

Enrollment is open until June 2nd.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

xo Anna