"I Only Have To Do This Once" the perfect decluttering mantra for when the going gets messy

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Things get messy before they get organized

In organizing and decluttering (as in life) the going usually gets worse before it gets better. 

It may not be a very motivating statement - but in organizing and decluttering, it's a very true statement.

Especially if you're doing truly doing life changing decluttering, which is the kind of decluttering that I focus on.

In my work, I focus not just on changing my client's spaces, but also their lives. Don't get me wrong, we organize, we declutter, we toss, but we don't put things in neat little boxes - because things put in neat little boxes don't stay in neat little boxes. So together we look at how they use, and interact with, and live in their space. That way, we can come up with an organizational system that actually works.

Organizational systems that work don't come prepackaged

Organizational systems that work come about when you put in the work to find out what you need. How do you use your space? What do you need from your space? What possessions bring you joy? Which objects do you own that you don't love?

They're not quick, or simple, or easy to set up, but ultimately they have the potential to change your whole life.

And even better than that, once you have an organizational system that works for you, it's a snap to maintain. You don't have to worry about putting something back in the wrong place. Or finding somewhere to put something. It just works for you.

So, while it might take longer to find your system, and discard or replace non-joyous possessions, ultimately it takes less time away from your life because you only have to do it once.

You only have to do it once.

"I only have to do this once."
"I only have to do this once."
"I only have to do this once."

That thought makes the whole process far more palatable.

Ways you could use this mantra

You could...

  • tape it to the fridge.
  • put it on a post-it note stuck in your planner or on your computer.
  • set it as a reminder on your phone.
  • write it on the bathroom mirror.
  • hang it to the door of your closet.
  • have your organizational cheerleader remind you of it.

Remember...

The mess may get messy, and the task of organizing may seem impossible, and the cookie cutter solutions might seem awfully appealing.

But if you do it right. If you don't stop halfway through. If you lean into the (temporary) mess.

You only have to do this once. 

How to Keep Your Home from Sliding Back into Chaos

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So now that you've decluttered, cleaned, and organized once and for all, we want to make sure your home doesn't slide back into the chaotic state we first began with. There are a couple of tips you can use to keep this from happening. Most of them are those obvious things that we all know we should do, but don't often stick to.

Tips for Keeping Your Home From Sliding Into Chaos:

1. Finish.
Once you start the WHOLE process. It's only when we see our space COMPLETELY organized & decluttered, that we feel the all encompassing joy that will motivate us to keep up with the process.

2. Get rid of what needs to be gotten rid of. 
Take out the trash to be thrown out. Drop off the bags & boxes for donation. Recycle the recycling. Schedule the hazmat pick up. Get the things you want to get rid of out of your space. This is technically part of finishing, but really deserves it's own attention. When we leave things in piles by the door waiting to be thrown out, or dropped off, or picked up, they sometimes have a tendency to get "stuck" on their way out the door. Until it's out of your space, it's still part of your life.

3. Create a home for everything.
When every object we own has it's own home, a place where it belongs, in a location that makes sense to us and our routines, we're far, far more likely to put things back when we're done with them. A home doesn't have to be a pretty little box, but it should be somewhere that make sense for the object it houses.

4. Create a habit of putting things back home.
When we completely transform our spaces, we can completely transform our lives, and so it's a fantastic time to develop a habit of putting things back into their homes when we're finished with them. Having a home that makes sense will help you do what we all know we "should" do when we're finished using something - put it back where it belongs.

5. Let your organizational system evolve with your life.
Your home and organizational system should support your life & schedule, not impose itself. For example, if you find yourself continually not putting something back in it's home, try giving it a new home, maybe that just wasn't the right spot for it. If some part of your space isn't working for you - try something else.

6. A stitch in time saves nine.
And maybe the most important part of making sure our homes don't slide back into chaos is - tackling small organization hiccups before they spiral. Life happens - things get busy at work, it's the holidays, and everyone is sick at once - it's all you can do to keep life happening let alone your home organized. When this happens, it's important to take the five minutes now (rather than the hour next week) to clean off the kitchen counter, or your dresser top, or wherever it is things manage to accumulate. Taking the (small amount of) time now, will save you copious amounts of time in a couple days (or weeks, or months) - and it comes with the added bonus of making the rest of life feel more manageable.

And that's how it's done.

How to keep your home from sliding back into chaos is nothing groundbreaking. Which is sad if you were looking for a miracle cure, and quite comforting if you were looking for something you could actually accomplish. 

Ready to get started? 

The KonMari Method deals with the parts of tidying that are actually difficult.

 Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing is a brilliantly & concisely written - no extra words, no fluff, no filler - she gets straight to the point. This makes for some great quotes, and I do love a good quote, so I've gathered together some of the best and most poignant ones.

These are all from Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing."

  • “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”
  • “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
  • “No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important."
  • “The true purpose of a present is to be received.”
  • “Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.”
  • “The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
  • “Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn’t that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?”
  • “People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”
  • “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”
  • “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”

Interestingly enough, some of the best parts of her book aren't about tidying itself. Instead the best bits have to do with addressing the psychological hurdles we need to overcome in order to tidy. As Bourree Lam wrote in this article in The Atlantic, "...I think the reason Kondo-mania continues is because she has actually hit upon some good solutions to deal with these pervasive mental fallacies."

We all know that tidying isn't inherently difficult, it's a pretty simple process - get rid of things, and then put what's left away. But in reality it's much harder, because of these "pervasive mental fallacies" and the reason the KonMari Method works is that it deals with the bits of decluttering that are hard - the internal bits.

7 articles about the KonMari Method that you might not have read yet

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I love the KonMari Method of organizing because it actually works. Go through all of your possessions in one go, keep only what sparks joy in you, and discard the rest, then everything gets a spot, and your home is tidy once and for all.

But I'm not the only one who loves Marie Kondo's methods. Months ago I wrote a round up of 10 articles about Marie Kondo (perfect reading for us organization geeks) - so if you love organizing and reading about organizing, here are 7 more articles about the KonMari Method for you to enjoy.

1. "Japan’s ‘queen of clean’ promotes benefits of a tidy home" in The Globe and Mail

2. "12 Rules for Getting Your Clutter Totally Under Control" on Cosmopolitan

3. "How KonMari’s phenomenal book can help put your house in order" in Japan Times

4. "No more unwanted baggage; the golden rules of tidying up to de-clutter your home, mind and life" on Stylist.co.uk

5. "The Psychological Benefits Of 'Kondoing' Your House" from the Huffington Post

6. "KonMari Trendy New Organizing Method" on Martha Stewart's website

7. "A Therapeutic Approach to Closet Cleaning That Actually Works" from WhoWhatWear

Happy reading!!

Donating vs. Selling - getting rid of the things that don't spark joy.

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When we're decluttering & organizing, getting rid of the things that don't spark joy isn't exactly easy, because what do you do with it?

Do you put things out with the trash? Recycle them? Pass things to friends & relatives? Donate? Sell? Just thinking about what to do is overwhelming! But you haven't actually decluttered until the unwanted objects are out of your life. (Shoving things in a closet doesn't count.)

Some things are obvious - the broken things, you recycle or toss; the things your friends love and want, you pass along to them.

But what about the rest? Donate or sell?

The case for selling: it makes back some of the money you spent buying all the things, and who doesn't appreciate an extra money in their pocket?

The case against selling: it takes a lot of time, and energy - you have to deal with listing, shipping, and lots of trips to the post office.

The case for donating: it gets everything out of the house in a couple trips, if feels good, and there might be a tax write off.

The case against donating: finding organizations to donate to can sometimes be tricky, especially for less common items.

So, which should you choose? Instead of trying to logical it out, try asking "which sparks joy?"

Would you get joy from selling your things and seeing them go to people who very much want what they're getting, acknowledging and being ok with the fact that it might take a little longer to get everything out of the house?

Or would you get more joy in donating the things you no longer want, passing them along to a charity and trusting the things find their way to people who want/need them?

Marie Kondo answered this question in an "Ask Me Anything" on reddit, she says, "I am sure there are several different ways to get rid of books, by selling them or donating them. You should figure out which way sparks joy, makes you happy. If it sparks joy to sell them one-by-one, go for it. But it takes so much time and energy, if it does not spark joy, maybe you can donate them to a library or sell to one organization."

I think it's amazing that the question "does it spark joy?" is so telling, and can be applied to so much more than just deciding what possessions to get rid of and what to keep - it can also clarify how to declutter in a way that works and feels good to you.

What if we started decluttering our lives by tossing everything first?

What if we started decluttering our lives by tossing out all of our stuff first, and then brought back into our lives the things we loved the most?

If we start decluttering by asking "what can we get rid of?" we're starting by assuming that we'll be keep most of our stuff.

If we start decluttering by asking "what can we keep?" or put another way "what sparks joy?" we're starting off by assuming that we'll be getting rid of most of our stuff.

"Focusing solely on throwing things away can only bring unhappiness. Why? Because we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of." -Marie Kondo The Life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

The more "stuff" we have, the harder it is to organize. The more "stuff" we eliminate, the easier it is to organize. And the higher the ratio of "stuff that sparks joy" to "stuff that doesn't spark joy," the easier it is to stay organized.

Organizing your home is one thing. Staying organized once and for all, is another thing entirely.

A new decluttering mantra - 'You only have to do this once.'

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"If you don't like where you are, change it. You are not a tree." -Jim Rohn

Most cleaning advice goes something like "toss out five thing every day for 30 days" or "spend fifteen minutes tidying up every day" it's all about cleaning & organizing in small, consistent, continual burst forever and always (at least that's what it feels like).

But the KonMari Method is completely the opposite - in one fell swoop get rid of everything that doesn't "spark joy" and then organize what you're left with. It turns out that most of our possessions often don't "spark joy" and can be gotten rid of - which makes organizing much easier.

Of course, you have to get through the process of going through each and every possession individually first.

If you're anything like me (or most of us) you have a lot of "stuff" most of which doesn't spark joy - in my closet I only have one or two pieces that really, truly sparked joy. You'll also probably have categories of stuff that are much more daunting to get through - for me that was art supplies.

Going through everything you own, just to get rid of much of it can be quite a daunting task. What helped me was repeating "Jane, remember, you only have to do this once."

Do you get overwhelmed by too much "stuff" too?

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Too much stuff - it's a common problem.

Why do we have all this stuff? Do we really need all of it? Do we even need half of it? How do we let go of the things we don't need? How do we keep those things from coming back?

When I first started asking myself these questions, I began realizing my possessions were like an outward expression of my inner self.The state of my home, my office, my desk influenced, and also reflected how I felt.

Cluttered with bits & bobs, excess papers everywhere, piles of clothes, and boxes of this & that - don't even get me stated on my inbox & emails! - there's no end to the form that "stuff" can take.

I keep looking for clues to solve the organizational puzzle - both for myself, and my clients.

Everyone has their own puzzle to solve when it comes to organizing, with it's own clues, and it's own solution. No single solution works for everyone in every situation - the best solution is the one that works for you now.

For me, the key to my code is generally minimizing. What no longer "sparks joy?" What can I thank and let go of? What objects can move on from my life?

For me, having lots of "stuff" is overwhelming - I don't think I'm alone in this.

Since our external world reflects & influences our internal world. I find that pairing down my possessions, with intention and focus, keeping things that spark joy, and passing along things that don't - no need to throw things out willy-nilly! - helps me begin to harmonize my internal and external worlds.

Put another way.

When my space feels good, I feel good.

Marie Kondo puts it like this:

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

(quoted from an excerpt of Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" posted on slate.com)

Our "stuff" is about so much more than just the physical object - so no wonder we get overwhelmed!

And no wonder, that when we start letting go of objects that don't bring us joy, we also begin to let go of the emotional baggage attached to those objects. It's almost like, by taking 1 step towards decluttering, you're also taking 2 steps towards eliminating overwhelm.

So, what's the smallest step you could take towards decluttering, and eliminating overwhelm?

10 Fabulous Articles about Marie Kondo (if You are an Organizing Geek)

 Marie Kondo: We Should Be Choosing What We Want to Keep, not discard.

Marie Kondo: We Should Be Choosing What We Want to Keep, not discard.

I'm a huge fan of Marie Kondo, and her organization method. I've talked about her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" before, and got the chance to meet her in person at the beginning of her US book tour. She is thoughtful, delightful, and full of joy.

There have been a plethora of interesting articles about Marie Kondo and her KonMari method recently, so I thought I'd gather some of them together all in one place.

“Keep only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest,” she [Marie Kondo] advises. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”

Her “KonMarie method”, as she calls it in the diminutive and illustration-free volume, encourages a rapid, dramatic and transformative one-time organising event completed methodically and lovingly in no more than six months. It is not an ongoing battle against clutter.

Kondo sees tidying as a cheerful conversation in which anything that doesn’t “spark joy” is to be touched, thanked and ceremonially sent on its way towards a better life elsewhere, where it can discover a more appreciative owner.

“The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment,” Kondo said,

Like any lifestyle guru, Kondo has rules... The central law of Kondo’s method is to keep items that “spark joy” in an owner and dispose of items that do not.

Kondo's promise is about more than just stuff. It's about intentionality and mindfulness, with a sprinkling of Zen philosophy.

Marie Kondo has built a huge following in her native Japan with her “KonMari” method of organizing and de-cluttering. Clients perform a sort of tidying up festival: time set aside specifically to go through belongings. Each object is picked up and held, and the client needs to decide if it inspires joy. If it doesn’t, it needs to go.

Many experts say to declutter 15 minutes a day, working one room at a time. According to Marie Kondo, if you do this, you’ll be decluttering forever. She recommends that you make clutter clearing a special, once-in-a-lifetime event.

“When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly,” she writes, “we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes.” She proposes a similarly agreeable technique for hanging clothing. Hang up anything that looks happier hung up, and arrange like with like, working from left to right, with dark, heavy clothing on the left: “Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”

"Although this approach contradicts conventional wisdom, everyone who completes my private course has successfully kept their house in order—with unexpected results. Putting their house in order positively affects all other aspects of their lives, including work and family. Having devoted more than 80 percent of my life to this subject, I know that tidying can transform your life."

"During the selection process, if you come across something that does not spark joy but that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, 'Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?' It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life."

 I love finding these articles about Marie Kond--I am curious if elements of the Kon-Mari Method were lost in the translation (yes), and more importantly: just who is this person whose seemingly simple method has been transforming lives in the United States.

Let's change the question from 'what can I get rid of?' to 'what sparks joy?'

 Photo by  Roman Kraft  on  Unsplash

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Ever since I was first introduced to Marie Kondo's book and the KonMari Method I was enamored by the possibility of organizing my home (and my clients homes) once and for all.

Most of the time we start cleaning/organizing/decluttering by asking the question "What can we get rid of?"

What can we get rid of? When was the last time we used it? Do we have multiples? Do we really need it?

We focus on the "getting rid of" aspect.

The KonMari Method asks "What sparks joy?"

Does this spark joy in us? - This question focuses on the "keeping & fulfilling" aspect.

What would life feel like if everything in our home sparked joy? How amazing would it be to come home to that? And what would you do to keep that feeling?

Once you have the feeling of walking into a home where every object sparks joy, would you ever again tolerate objects that didn't spark joy?

Let's change the question from "what can we get rid of?" to "what sparks joy?"

To be organized, is to be free (Thank you Marie Kondo!)

 Photo by  Paul  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul on Unsplash

If to be organized is to be free, then to be organized once and for all is the dream.

I have been on a mission for more than 6 years to understand "stuff," why we have so much, what do we really need, what stuff do I want—from minimalism, to voluntary simplicity . . .  when does having too much stuff negatively impact our lives.

In late September last year, a friend mailed a New York Times article about Japanese home organizing expert Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" walks readers through the KonMari Method of organizing your home once and for all.

It took me a couple of re-readings of the article before I realized I would be crazy not to purchase the book—I am in the organizing business, after all—it’s research!

I read the book twice, at least. There were nights I could not sleep due to excitement, - these were ideas and answers I had been waiting my whole life to learn—they were the missing pieces (I know that might sound weird, but it’s true).

I have been on a mission for more than 6 years to understand "stuff." Why we have so much? What do we really need? What stuff do I want—from minimalism, to voluntary simplicity? - When does having too much stuff detrimentally impact our lives?

Back to Marie Kondo, I used self-restraint and followed the directions in her book exactly—she is insistent that one must do exactly as she says for maximum results. Basically, you won’t be doing her method if you don’t fellow her steps exactly.

Unless I trust them completely, I usually want to rebel when someone strongly suggests something— for some reason I trusted Marie Kondo—through her book, she convinced me that, her whole life, she had been trying to understand the underlying problems people have being organized.

For me, the desire to be organized is something about wanting to be at peace with what I have and what I use—it feels as though, when I am “organized” I will be free. By that I mean, I will be free to stop looking for the "right way" to be organized. The excitement of find Marie Kondo, and the KonMari Method is that it does provide the possibility of being perfectly organized - once and for all.

The organizing is a one time event - centered around eliminating everything that does not "spark joy." It turns out that most things we hold on to don't "spark joy" and can be gotten rid of - which makes organizing what's left exponentially easier.

How strong is the desire to be organized?

How strong is the desire to be free of stuff?

How strong is the desire to be FREE?

xoxo

Jane

Joy was Sparked when I met Marie Kondo, the Creator of The KonMari Method!

Marie Kondo + Jane

How did so much time pass before posting this photo of Marie Kondo? Marie Kondo started her U.S. Book Tour almost two weeks ago, beginning at BookPassages at the Ferry Plaza Building in San Francisco. I like the fact that she does not speak English (or as someone pointed out, maybe she does but unless it was perfect she would not use) and all questions and answers were through a translator--which reminds me, I can post a quick little video, later.

I must say that I was impressed with Kondo's thoughtful and joyful demeanor--and she was as cute as could be! Kondo giggled when someone said everything she owns sparks joy, "Then you are lucky!"

I wanted to meet up with Marie Kondo, if at all possible, and thank her for her life-changing book. Once I entered the bookstore I knew no way, as it was standing room only. The only option was to raise my hand during the Q & A Session. Believe me, I am a shy person in crowds, but I knew I would have to get over my fears and "Do It Anyway!"

Luckily, I was the last person called upon. I was kind of joking, but not really: "I want to go to Japan and study with you, Marie Kondo--is it possible to be "certified" in your method?" There was a bit of laughter and then, "Funny you should ask, we are just starting to certified organizers in Japan and we hope to start in U.S. soon (or something to that effect)." I talked briefly to Ten Speed Press, Kondo's publisher, have sent them an email--time to follow up on that one. 

There is a reason for the title: "the life-changing magic of tidying up//the Japanese art of decluttering" I want to spread this joy to as many people as possible. 

But first, I need to check in and let you know how The KonMari Method has worked for me and where and how I stumbled, so you don't have to.

xoxo

Jane

Jane Organizes + Marie Kondo Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

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the life-changing magic of tidying up//the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing Author: Marie Kondo

How great is that: the promise to have one's life changed by tidying up! Not only that, it is an art and magic. The author of "the life-changing magic of tidying up//the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing," Marie Kondo, had me hooked. I am always on the look-out for tips + tricks for organizing and de-cluttering.  Check out this New York Times Article for a nice introduction to Kondo's methods, as practiced by the writer, Penelope Green.

I will be looking for beta client testers of such an extreme organizing tactic such as Kondo's -- to give the method a chance to really work, one must be ruthlessly honest with one's self.

We all have different relationships with our stuff, and that relationship serves many causes: keeping memories alive + hopes + dreams. Of course I have had to do the Kondo method first on myself before practicing with clients. As I could not hire myself, I am not finished with the process. I still have paperwork and mementos (few) to process BUT I can say the process has taught me some things, some uncomfortable. There has been something comfortable about always being the the state of organizing--I did not have to face the "what's next" when I still was in process. Clothes? I had to admit that only one item of clothing "sparked joy"*  (and wouldn't you know, it's a red striped skirt made in Japan). Most of my clothes are utilitarian, along the lines of looking for my perfect uniform. Dishes? Again, utilitarian--I am not giving them away until I have found something that "sparks joy".  

The Year 2015: The Year of all things Japanese

The year 2015 is going to be about accepting (and living) Perfectly Imperfect.

It's going to be about the Art + Philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, especially as expressed by Leonard Koren  (I can say, as I met him over weekend, Koren is a fine gentleman--and believe me, I don't toss that term around often, unfortunately.

It's going to be about sharing what I learned from the Magic of Tidying Up Book and why it's the holy grail of getting organized once and for all.

A trip to Japan is in order. I want to meet Marie Kondo, give her thanks for developing a system of organizing I can share with my clients.

But of course, life is never what you think it's going to be  -- most likely a wild ride.

*"sparking joy" is a criteria Kondo advises for keeping an item--part of me questions the reality of keeping only joyful things--as in "what a first world problem" but the other part of me chimes in with why would we not only have things that spark joy? We don't need much in material goods to have a joyful life, why not they