Thursday, September 24, 2015

Does decluttering work?

A while ago, I wrote about decluttering, clearing out my space, letting go. I accepted that it would be a long process, and it's still ongoing. But I thought I would check in about what has happened with the spaces I've already cleared.

I relied to a great extent, although not completely, on Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I did not follow her recommendation to do my whole house in a short period of time. For one thing, I share my house with another person who is not invested in this process. For another, I did not have that big a chunk of uninterrupted time.

I started with the bedroom (or really, my half of the bedroom), then moved on to the linen closet, the bathroom, the kitchen junk drawer, the bookshelves, and finally my writing office. My writing office is the room where most of my stuff is, especially papers. I have been going through these papers a little at a time. I've made progress. But I still have a long way to go.

Interestingly, the areas I cleaned up first have, for the most part, stayed neat and clean. The linen closet looks just as it did when I first reorganized it months ago. My side of the bedroom has stayed neat, and so has my bedroom closet. The kitchen junk drawer is still organized. I do love the restful feeling I get from clean, uncluttered spaces. Marie Kondo swears that with her method, there is no backsliding--once you apply her method, your space stays organized. So far, it's working for me.

For me, her best tips were: winnow down your possessions first, keep only what you love, and organize them so that you can see your entire collection of any given item at a glance. (For example, fold socks in a drawer so that you can see them all when you open the drawer, without having to paw through them.) While I don't fold my clothes exactly the way she recommends, I have found a way to fold them so that I see them all at once. Which really does help me realize that, for example, I don't need new socks. I used to think I did, because the same two holey pairs were always at the top of the drawer, but now I can see all the pairs that used to sink to the bottom. Seeing everything I have has also prompted me to use things that were formerly hidden away in closets: I hung up a few pictures and posters that had been stashed away before.

One thing that helped a lot was using all the little boxes and plastic trays I had previously been saving without being sure why. I cut the tops off of them and used them inside drawers to organize the contents. This worked miracles in the kitchen junk drawer: batteries in one box, pens in another, rolls of tape in another, etc. Now we can always find the scissors right away in that drawer.

One thing I wish I'd done when organizing the medicine cabinet was to leave some space for new medicines. When new medications are prescribed, I have to rearrange and fit them in. If I'd left space in the beginning, this would be simpler.

Books are still hard for me to let go of, and although I've cleared off some shelf space, I still have piles (the to-read pile, the to-donate pile, the currently-reading pile, the finished-reading-but-needs-to-be-shelved pile). That's OK. Marie Kondo urges us to aim for perfection, but so far improvement has been good enough for me.

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