When we first moved into our house, we owned one futon, one queen-size bed, a hand-me-down coffee table, and several mismatched plates and utensils. Our three bedroom house felt very empty. Fifteen years later, every room of our home (now four bedrooms after two remodels) was filled with stuff. Every surface was covered with piles waiting to be sorted and put away. It’s amazing how having children compounds this issue!
In thinking of what was going to happen with the house while we were traveling, I felt like it was definitely time to start purging. The last thing I wanted was for someone to move into my house and have to deal with all of my things and have no room to put any stuff of their own. I would roam from room to room picking up this and that and managing to get rid of a small box of unwanted stuff every week or two.
As it turns out, my mother-in-law is going to be the only inhabitant of our house during our 10-month absence, but the clean-out seed had been planted and I definitely didn’t want her judging my chaos! Things really started to pick up momentum when a friend introduced me to Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up —The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
While I have not been following the book to the letter, I have been using it as a guide to tidying up. Although I learned about the Pareto principle years ago and knew that I probably used 20% of my stuff 80% of the time, I didn’t fully realize what a hold that 80% had on me though. I had tax returns from my very first job in 1989 and for each year since then (that’s 26 years of tax returns in case you hadn’t bothered to do the math). I had clothes in four sizes, only one of which would currently fit. I had saved every piece of personal correspondence received for years — every letter, birthday card, invitation, and thank you note.
Through following the systematic decluttering process outlined in the book, I have begun to significantly reduce the amount of stuff I am hanging onto. My desk is fairly clean, which is quite a feat for me. My file cabinets hold only items that I can’t scan or find online. When I look in the closet, everything I see is something that I like and that fits. I am no longer moving piles around the house. I am confident in knowing that when I leave, I will not be leaving a state of discord for someone else to live in. (Except for the kitchen; I am really fond of all the stuff in my kitchen!)
This process has also served as a reminder that we do not need to pick up every trinket we see while traveling. I believe that we will make much more thoughtful purchases while we are abroad and perhaps come home with very few material items. (The fact that we each have only a backpack will also have something to do with what we buy… but more on that later!) My hope is to come home with fabulous memories and a plethora of pictures to serve as a reminder of our adventure.
I can definitely see how, if followed consistently, the book has the potential to be life-changing, and I hope that I will continue to follow this plan. For now I am content with the magic!