My Journey to Tidying Up

Growing up, I was rarely the one in my family who would be described as tidy. I had an organizational system all my own that no one else could seem to understand – one that often ended up encroaching on my sister’s half of the room. Or at least, that’s how everyone else told it. I maintain that my possessions stayed well within their boundaries. And I despised coming home to find that something of mine had been moved from its designated place, no matter how nonsensical it may have seemed to my family (I could wax poetic about the various implications of this meddlesome behavior as it pertains to neurodiversity). In any case, when Marie Kondō came onto the scene in the mid 2010s, I only heard the jokes made at her expense, and thought I’d be the last person to read and make use of her work.

Enter 2020, the year I started Book Club Babes. Those who know me know that I’m not particularly good at small talk; my brain likes rabbit holes and info dumps and this can (apparently) be tiresome for people who just want a break from the bigger topics. I can’t do that. I spend a lot of energy interacting with people and need to get more out of it. What I can do is talk about books all day long, something which lends itself well to a book club. After sitting in on a different club meeting, I realized just how perfect this could be to help stay connected virtually and started asking friends if they’d be interested. What started as a group chat became an actual group with monthly themed polls so everyone could feel involved while also ensuring we mix it up. And by February of 2021, we’d landed on Self Care/Help.

Self Help: This is not a genre I would have chosen for myself. Too often, these sorts of books are overly happy-go-lucky and aspirational, affirmations without any real sense of grounding, authors who don’t seem to have the necessary life experience (just enough money to dig themselves out). Perhaps I’m being overly glib or judgmental. I’m not saying these books don’t help people, but they’re not generally for me. So when it came time to select the 10 or so books for the member poll, I opted for books that were more topic-specific and came up with the following:

…and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, which won out. I’d picked up my copy about a year prior at the thrift store, and happily settled in to read, having gleaned a basic sense of the KonMari method while watching the Netflix show previously. I can honestly say, I was not expected to be so deeply affected.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, here is where I get to the point of this post. There is more to tidying up than a general sense of cleanliness. I cannot express the deep sense of contentment I felt while reading TLCMoTU, and then Joy at Work (written in collaboration with Scott Sonenshein). In the past two months, I’ve started to shake the stagnancy that had set in over years and years of telling myself I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t worthy of positive change. I’ve started to return to myself, with a deeper appreciation for that which surrounds me, and a greater understanding of what makes me happy.

I discarded over 70 books, 90 vinyl records, 10 grocery bags of clothing (one was just socks), and many more bags of komono, most of which were still in good enough shape to be consigned or donated. The books and records paid dividends in store credit and cash-outs so I can enjoy something new while knowing that they’re off to a new home where they’ll be appreciated. I all but eliminated the ridiculous gift supply stockpile I’d accumulated. I cut off a foot of my hair. That’s 12 inches headed to Locks of Love! And I sorted through the coin collection my Mormor collected with/for me when I was younger. Turns out, I really only still wanted the state quarters, so I’m off to find a coin dealer in the next few months.

What I wasn’t expecting was the wave of sadness that came when I sold my banjo the other day. I hadn’t played Jojo in years, and she more than deserved a chance to be loved and used to make music like she was intended. I don’t regret it. But I had forgotten the sentimental attachment I had to her, being the instrument my mom bought for me on the way home from spring break my senior year. of high school. That relationship is broken, but Jojo was a happy memory. Jojo was the family cat, Bella, hopping in the box and claiming it as her own when I opened everything upon arriving home. Jojo was days spent in the guest room with Bella at my feet learning how to travis pick. Jojo was the reason I wrote one of the only songs that I still like on an ill-fated album. So my hope is that she continues to make those memories for her new owner, and I’ll thank that damn banjo for the ones I’ve got – they’re pretty special.

All this to say, thanks to my Book Club Babes for choosing this book out of the line-up. I’m finding that I’m a really big fan of not storing my shampoo, conditioner, soap, and whatnot in the shower anymore (and all the Facebook ads for cleaning & hygiene products). I’m an even bigger fan of how wide open everything feels and how happy every single thing in my home now makes me. Here’s hoping, dear reader, that you’ll take a chance on Tidying Up too.

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