What's so difficult about organizing anyway?

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It feels like it should be easy.

From the outside, the process seems pretty easy.

Find find a home for each thing. And put things in their home.

But the tricky thing about organizing is, a process that seems like it should be easy, is actually incredibly difficult. This creates a disconnect that leads us to believe we're doing it wrong, which leads to frustration, overwhelm, avoidance, and eventually to giving up.

So first, lets get one thing straight: organizing and decluttering is hard. Full stop. No ifs, ands, or buts.

If it feels like it should be easy, why is it hard?

There are a couple reasons why organizing and decluttering are easy, but the main reason I see in my work is:

Our possessions are more than just objects.

Sometimes a possession is just an object - unless you inherited your silverware from a beloved family member, you probably weren't too attached to the spoon you ate breakfast with.

On the other hand, sometimes a possession is so much more than an object.

Objects can hold memories, or experiences, or reminders. They can act as a physical connection between us-as-we-are-now and another person, or an event, or another time, or who we were.

Objects can hold hope. They can connect us to who we want to be, who we could be, who we think we should be, or the be versions of ourselves (or our loved ones).

Objects can hold fears. They can be things we hold on to just in case, or because we have nothing to replace it with, or because we've always had it, or because it was a present we're afraid the giver will ask about.

Decluttering is hard because our possessions are so much more to us than mere objects.

Field notes from my second work through the KonMari Method


Thought 1: A pile of stuff never looks good.

I dropped a few items of clothing at Goodwill yesterday, and also poked around. The pile of stuff in the photo above is only a fraction of the mounds of stuff in this Goodwill. 

Am I the only one who thinks prices at thrift stores are on the high side? Is it because the amount of labor dealing with the stuff mountains is so great. Not sure what percentage of unsalvagable stuff goes into landfills, but I bet it's a large percent. 


Thought 2: I'm ready to go even more minimal

2nd time through entire process--1st time was two years ago--the biggest life changing result was that my home did not spark joy-- yikes!

I do think certain life milestones call for a complete KonMari Tidying Festival: births, deaths, downsizing or urge to overhaul one’s life. 

I am at the end of a seven year cycle and ready to go even more minimal. My goal for 2017 is to do my part to #organizetheworld and help others go through the KonMari method and watch the miracles be uncovered.

I did not want to wait for entire process to be complete (we know how THAT GOES). I've completed all the categories, and I am going to be fine tuning the resting places and prettifying. I've been waiting to use my polka dot oilcloth in kitchen for months.

My space is shared with partner so I do not have complete control. I would never for example have a TV in the living room if it was up to me. 

What a coincidence to see Marie Kondo pair up with Cladwell to present capsule wardrobes -- something I have done for years - I have one box of clothes I can rotate back into the wardrobe later. I also have a few drawers for small things (underwear, etc.)

Thought 3: Clothes & Books

I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to clothes AND love the capsule wardrobe concept. 

I also have a couple of drawers with odds + ends -- underwear, pants, shirts, accessories.

Also have one box of clothes to rotate in for capsule. Personally, I do not like to have all my clothes out to be seen if not using. Love The 333 Project.

 My row of books--I might have 20 books left. As I live with my partner, cannot have full control of house :-( -- The collection of comic books NOT MINE.

I completely emptied out and am painting everything white -- but front door is being painted RED -- fung shui kind of treatment.

Want to figure out another place for toaster oven -- the use sparks joy, but not looking at it.

Thought 4: Before

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Do "before" photos look better in soft focus? 😀

This is my "sanctuary" per the KonMari vernacular.

It was constructed a year ago and has taken a year to discover how it can Spark Joy for me. In my experience, going through the Five Categories: Clothes, Books, Papers, Komono, Sentimental is the easy part. And Category Six: the Spark Joy Refinement -- What colors? What plants? What Art? is what's difficult.

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What sparks joy for you?

The Intensity of Cleaning Up & Clearing Out

Photo by  Paul  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul on Unsplash

We spend huge amounts of our lives surrounded by "stuff." Piles of possessions. Mountains of things: things we bought, things we were given, things we don't even remember how we came to be in possession of.

And we spend so much time with these things of ours, that at some point we stop seeing them. We stop seeing the piles of clutter as piles of clutter - they just become part of a daily landscape.

We know the piles are there, and that they are clutter, and that we should probably do something about them, but that never quite happens.

And at some point, the clutter becomes comfortable - familiar. We get attached to our piles of possessions, so that when we do decide to tackle our piles - thoroughly and completely, once and for all - it's a very intense experience.

It turns out that many of us, don't have lots of experience detaching ourselves from our possessions - that's why it's so important to have support when you do a major clean out. Where that support specifically comes from doesn't matter quite as much as making sure you have it.

Support can come from friends or family members, an online community, a book, or even a professional organizer - we just need someone to help us get all the way to the end.

Cleaning up, clearing out, and taking an honest look at everything we own is an extremely intense process - it's why we work so hard to avoid it.

But the feeling of being free, unencumbered by our possessions is completely worth the struggles we go through to get there.

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

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

"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."

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?



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

Photo by  Andreea Chidu  on  Unsplash

At the end of 2014, I discovered Marie Kondo's work, and her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" which, along with sparking all sorts of realizations, reintroduced me to the concept of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, which centers around the ideas of imperfection and transience. "Wabi-sabi" is sometimes described as finding beauty in the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."

In other words, wabi-sabi is about live being perfectly imperfect. As much as "perfectly imperfect" sounds like a contradiction (especially as when it comes to organizing our homes), it's really not a contradiction, and is a quite freeing concept.

We all know life isn't perfect. Things come up. We fall off the wagon. Not everything stays in it's place. No system is perfect.

Wabi-sabi is living your life by finding the beauty in those imperfections, while embracing impermanence and the cycles of growth then decay. It’s heavy stuff, and also, I think quite liberating. The imperfect parts of our lives, are the parts that make our lives, ours, so why not embrace them (as hard as that can be.)

I’ve decided that 2015, for me, is the year of embracing and living by wabi-sabi, and letting life be a little more perfectly imperfect.

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.



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

Good Lord I am Tired of My Own Bullshit

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WTH? How can it be Wednesday already? It takes until Wednesday to become tired of my own bullshit* and have the energy to take action to get some stuff done? WTH!

Really, the best I can do sometimes is just laugh at myself, and start over again, for the umpteenth time.

The ideas started with much enthusiasm—this one for sure will be the one to hold my interest—only to turn to the next big idea within a week. The thing is: now I have at least a half a dozen ideas I am working on, and slowly-but-surely I am making progress on all of them.

But the one unfinished project that was weighing on me was my tiny trailer conversion to my clothes closet (among other uses).

Since I could not hire myself as the organizer to help me with Marie Kondo’sthe life-changing magic of tidying up//the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” The project had lingered a bit too long—I had completed the first stage of sorting two weeks ago.

The shame of being a disorganized organizer starting to creep in and had to be stopped.

 I was tired of my own bullshit AND I want to make room in my tiny trailer for a tiny Christmas tree AND I want to take “after” photos of the project.

 Finished. Almost. Photos tomorrow.

 In my search through past stamped works I put together, the most appropriate quote to help make sense of my love of order & chaos, I came upon M.C. Escher’s,

We adore chaos because we love to produce order.

There is a weird sense of control I must feel, that at any moment I so chose, I could make complete sense of it all by straightening it all up. But I fight against that action of tidying, that if I do tidy my life becomes a bit unknown, that I must admit I do feel comfort, still, with an amount of chaos.

To be continued.

*The word bullshit makes me chuckle (so does jackass).  When I think of my own bullshit, I think of the James Altucher quote, to paraphrase “I am in a war against bullshit, my own bullshit.” and it made me laugh all day and I get off my a**.

Time to Organize Life Around Cooking & Baking (at least this time of year)

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It’s already Tuesday and I am only slowly climbing, one minute at a time, out of a Monday slump. Today feels better than yesterday.

Progress Not Perfection.

I messed around with a few items on my to-do list but was feeling off – every thought seemed to trail off to the next with no consistency. Looking back on the weekend I realized I was either busy learning or doing, no time for just being.

There was no point in pushing myself and over-riding my feelings..

If I had gone down that road I would have felt more blue and prickly. I racked my brain for a simple way to feel better, more grounded (and I mean back-to-earth!).

Thank god I remembered cooking, and especially baking, which makes everything lighter, dare I say happier? I feel a bit of shame admitting that fact, how crazy is that? Is baking going to get me closer to my goals—sometimes is it not better to just live and be satisfied with ordinary chores, which is what most of the day is made up of anyway: not a glamorous fact.

Luckily I had a bunch of plantains hanging in my studio (first time ever) that were getting to the over-ripe-ready-for-banana-bread-stage. I purged most of my recipes years ago, so next stop random internet searching which brought me to Nigella (first time ever) and then stops at two of my favorite food bloggers Molly and Heidi. I cannot follow one recipe exactly, so I combined the three into one, taking the powder chocolate idea from Nigella. Yes, I felt more settled down after the experience AND it gave me a break from thinking non-helpful thoughts. And yes, I cooked again today.

Do our Perfectionist Tendencies Get In the Way of Being Organized?

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God knows I keep looking for good reasons why I struggle with my own organization and clues to solve the dilemma. I won’t give up on the dream of my own organized life. meaning every every piece of paper, tool, article of clothing has it’s home once and for all.

You know what I just realized? No way can that fantasy of an organized life happen yet--I am still searching for a place to call home.

[Dear clients: no need to fear, I am a wizard when it comes to organizing others--it's an intuitive thing. The irony is that I am the perfect organizer BECAUSE I am always searching for the newest organizing tips and tricks. And I love sharing any and all things that will help you]

In one of my research bouts I came across a review with this novel idea that caused immediate relief: (paraphrased)

"Perfectionists are in a state of disorganization as they struggle to find the perfect organizing solution."

If we don’t organize our lives with care, we will end up irrelevant at the farmers market

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I find myself irritated by the presence of older women, when there are numbers of them, as in the Farmers’ Market. I find myself shocked at my impatience with the sight of all the grey hair and wrinkles and baggy clothes.

How hard is it to take a bit of care with your appearance. do you know what a difference in makes in how you are perceived? Does it matter what other people think of you, more importantly, how do you feel about it? Have you totally accepted your age? If that’s the case, I guess more power to you.

The thought of being irrelevant chills me to the bone. The idea of having nothing to offer the world and worse, that I could be a drain, shudder.

What does it take to keep up the Basic Appearance Level?  Answer:  Five essential self care

  1. stay in shape

  2. good haircut

  3. good shoes

  4. good skin care and whatever make-up improves what can still be improved

  5. be always in the process of learning as much as possible until your head swims.

Our days must be organized to keep our priorities alive or risk being irrelevant.

Take It or Leave It

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I want to be that person who with full abandon puts on a dress before going out in the world. A dress looks feminine and happy. A dress is well put together look in a non-fussy way.

Who am I kidding, I reach for a variation on the blue jean theme every day - the variation being different is color of t-shirt and sweater.

I had high hopes that I would finally wear this cute striped dress - what a perfect place: Palm Springs Film Festival.

I tell clients: Get the donation bag out ASAP and do not look in the bag again! I had not immediately dropped off my full donation bag to the Goodwill. I peaked inside and pulled out the dress. I should follow my advice.

I could not forget that perky little dress that had some of my favorite colors of sunny yellow and oranges green and purples. I could not forget it was still waiting for me to give it another chance. What colors do I usually wear? Neutrals: blacks, grays and browns.

I only had worn the dress once and that was months ago. Though do not think it’s relevant for everyone, I don’t like to own a piece of clothing unless it gets used once a month.

By this time I have almost perfected the art of packing only necessary items. Tip: Lay out items you think you want to bring and then divide in half. I still overestimated what I will in reality wear. I would be happy wearing the same thing every day - as long as I have well designed shoes, a fresh manicure, and decent accessories.

I packed the striped dress knowing I would leave it behind, on to a more willing model, if I did not wear it.

I did not wear it. I don’t love it. I don’t feel comfortable in bright stripes. I most likely will never wear a dress.

I am more resolved to have only what I love to wear in my closet.

[Just returned from dropping off a selection of beautifully tailored and colored outfits to the consignment store. I never wear those outfits. With the direction: if not sold, please donate.]

I know whatever memories might be important do not live in that item. If I want to be reminded of an event, time of life, painful lesson learned, I will open my digital wardrobe file and have a good laugh at myself.