Conquering clutter can transform your home, and your life
Published: December 23, 2022
By: Cheryl Maguire
“Does this spark joy?” I asked myself.
Cradling an apple spice candle in my hand, I sniffed the top of it.
The scent is gone probably from sitting in the attic for 15 years, I thought. It definitely isn’t sparking any joy.
I tossed it in the overflowing trash pile.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo had been a best seller for 86 weeks when I first discovered it. That discovery preempted a month-long marathon decluttering of my house. I emptied every drawer, closet and bin which resulted in eleven bags for donation and ten for the garbage. I consider myself a ‘neat freak’ yet if I wrote a book about how I ‘clean up’ it would end up in the clearance bin.
When I first heard of this book, I couldn’t figure out how she sold so many copies of a book about the least exciting topic I can think of. But as I read her book, I hung on every word. It was more captivating than the psychological thrillers I usually read. The deeper I delved, the clearer the central theme of the book became — to have the reader analyze their relationship to material items.
In the book, Kondo states, “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.” Even though everything I own is neatly stacked or stored in a bin, I rarely get rid of things.
“You will never use spare buttons,” Kondo states.
She’s right. I’ve never sewed a button on a shirt in my life, so why did I have a pile of buttons in my drawer? I could no longer ignore the clutter.
The book got me to think about how I acquired each object I owned and why I held on to it. I realized that there was a pattern to why I kept items. I worried I might need it in the future or felt guilty about never using it.
It was time for me to initiate step one in her book, “start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely.”
The process of discarding according to Kondo should focus on, “what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” She suggests you do this by holding each item you own and asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?”
At first, this question seemed ridiculous to me, but I tried it despite my misgivings.
“If you only keep the items which spark joy, then you surround yourself with things that make you happy,” Kondo says. This reorganization of your material things can lead to a transformation in your life and perception.
For me, the biggest transformation came through discarding my unused items and unworn clothing. Kondo refers to this as, “the magic effect of tidying.”
When I finished tidying, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Opening a drawer and finding a pen without any useless buttons, gave me pride in my ability to get rid of unnecessary things. I experienced a life transformation as well. In the fourth grade, I wrote my first book which my teacher typed using a typewriter and a cloth to create a cover. I found this book while cleaning. It was a reminder of my love for writing which I had dabbled in throughout the years.
Once I ‘cleaned house’ I decided to actively pursue freelance writing which has led to publishing my writing in publications such as The New York Times, Parents Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Upworthy, Twins Magazine and other publications.
Being a stay-at-home mom can feel isolating. Writing has allowed me to meet other people and feel connected to them.
Like Kondo says, I put my space in order, in a way that changed my life forever.
Cheryl Maguire is the mother of twins and a daughter who finds delight in decluttering.