Magic. Apparently it’s a real thing, and all my Harry Potter fangirl wishes and dreams have come true. Or maybe it’s just the decluttering high. It’s been close to 6 weeks now, and I can say this much: life is incredibly different, even if some things stay the same.
Suddenly I feel lighter.
I don’t have the burden of the unspoken shame that comes with having a messy, cluttered home. If someone is around & happens to drop by, I don’t have to scramble to hide the mess. I can snap a quick picture of my son doing something cute without having to worry that there’s a mess in the background.
I don’t feel paralyzed by the overwhelming monster that my home used to be. I can find things when I need them, and I take decisive action when I know I don’t have something I need. I don’t have to think about finding a place for things because everything already has a place. It’s like I’ve magically come up with a few more hours in the day.
There are some things that don’t change.
Laundry will always need to be done, even though it doesn’t seem as endless anymore. Folding is a liiiiittle more tedious because the KonMari fold is a fickle thing, but it’s become meditative in its own way. Dishes always need to be washed, but being more decisive means staying on top of them more easily.
Bug is still working on keeping his toys put away. And by working on this I mean I nag him and he wails in despair, since he apparently likes to see all his toys around him. On the floor. Kids are hard.
The thing is, old habits die hard. It’s hard to recover from untidiness, but having less clutter around me makes it very clear where I’ve left messes and fallen short on my own intentions.
But it’s so important to remember that sometimes slippage just happens. Sometimes my work day just gets away from me, so the housework for the day suffers, but I’m generally able to manage to get back on track within a day or 2, even if that means switching some days around. Some nights, getting Bug carted right off into the bath takes priority over the dishes, so I leave them in the sink to be finished in the morning. Some days I’m just wiped out. A Stepford Wife I am not.
But I’ve set up routines to alleviate tediousness
I’ve made things easier for myself by setting up a daily and weekly housekeeping system (accompanied by chore charts, a recipe planner, and shopping list template) that isn’t so rigid that I resist it, but is efficient enough to prevent housework from piling up in an overwhelming way. Sometimes this is more of an ideal than a reality – even the best laid plans can go astray. But plans at least create the framework of what should happen next. (Scroll down to the bottom to get these printables yourself!)
To begin with, I batch the biggest, most tedious chores to save myself the time and effort that is inherent with starting a new task. Tim Ferriss breaks it down this way in The 4-Hour Workweek:
There is an inescapable setup time for all tasks, large or minuscule in scale. It is often the same time for one as it is for a hundred. There is a psychological switching of gears that can require up to 45 minutes to resume a major task that has been interrupted.
So instead of having to spend 5 minutes dusting each of the 4 rooms in sequence throughout the week, I do it once and it takes me 10 minutes total for the whole house. I’ve saved myself 10 minutes, just because I didn’t have to deal with material prep time every. single. time. I dusted. One & done. BAM. This is my chore breakdown by day:
- On Monday, I clean out the fridge and go grocery shopping.
- On Tuesday, I do laundry.
- On Wednesday, I dust, vacuum, mop the kitchen, and clean windows alongside other surfaces.
- On Thursday, I clean the bathroom.
- On Friday, I do a deeper clean on the kitchen – mop (again), wipe down the cabinets, the backsplashes, the stove.
- On Saturday, I clean my car.
- On Sunday, I get a well needed break and I get to browse Pinterest to make a menu for the week (mostly because I’m hardly ever home on the weekends. On the off chance that I am home for a weekend, I repeat Wednesday’s chores, too).
Of course there are the everyday chores that can’t exactly be done in batches, so they’re done habitually instead, attached to other already-existing habits.
- Every morning while the kettle boils for my coffee or tea, I put away the dishes, then I prepare breakfast. If he isn’t already awake, Bug and I make our beds (who am I kidding? We make my bed. He still won’t sleep in his alone), then we have breakfast. Once we finish, we wash our breakfast dishes, and I wipe down the kitchen counters while “he” wipes down the table (we’re still working on it). We get dressed, putting our PJs away or in the laundry, then I cart him off to preschool and I tuck in on work.
- After I make & eat lunch, I refill ice trays, the Brita pitcher, wipe down any messes on any counters, and put any dishes I use straight into the dishwasher.
- In the evening, I prepare dinner, wiping down counters as I go and while I wait (if something I’m cooking has a wait time, so to speak). After we’ve eaten, I put any dishes in the dishwasher while Bug “cleans” the table. I then kick him out to go pick up his toys while I sweep the kitchen floor, run the dishwasher, and take out the trash. At that point in the evening, the kitchen is closed! Then it’s all bedtime routines from there – the bathroom counter gets wiped down after we brush our teeth & I wash my face. We read a book and go to sleep. It’s all very idyllic when it comes together as intended.
Another consistent habit I’ve established is putting things away after their use – it’s much easier now that everything has a place. When I get home, I even empty my purse when I get home, like Marie Kondo advises, but for much less… woo-woo reasons. By emptying out my handbag at the end of the day, it’s held up better (I tear through purses like tacos on a Tuesday, so this is BIG), I don’t lose things as frequently, and I don’t forget things when I leave because I have to actively seek out what I need before I go. I used to forget little things all the time, because maybe I’d take it out of my purse for some reason, then I’d either forget to put it back or I’d forget that I’d taken it out in the first place. Now? None of that. I know where things are, I think ahead, and more often than not I’m proactive, rather than reactive.
It’s still becoming habit, making myself some printable chore charts and menu planning tools has helped IMMENSELY. It’s nice to just write things down every now and then, so feel free to download and print them out for yourself!
What I’ve learned in this process
There are 3 takeaways from this whole process that I think have reshaped my life.
- Lay off the conspicuous consumption.
- Let things go.
- Be appreciative.
We live in a culture of trends that come and go, and there’s an expectation of keeping up with them, constantly buying, buying, buying, filling our homes with stuff and things that we forget after their season has passed. But they’re unimportant, and to keep surrounding ourselves with them is a disservice to our own happiness. Similarly,
They’re just things. The memories are there, whether or not the corresponding item that you acquired alongside that memory is. I held onto far too much for far too long, and it left me miserable, burdened. Let. It. Go.
It’s not such a hard thing to do once you’re surrounded only by the things that give you joy. Show that appreciation by taking care of those things, displaying them in a way that lets them shine More importantly, though, be appreciative of the more important parts of life – the people, the good times you share, the quiet moments you get to hear your own thoughts and get to know yourself better. Once you’ve let go of the extraneous, you’ll have made so much space and time for these moments. Don’t let things hold you back from memories you could be making.
This is the conclusion of my decluttering series, based on the KonMari method outlined in Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Read the whole series from the beginning:
Part 1 – How I Decluttered My Home in 1 Week (and you can too!)
Part 2 – Decluttering 101: What Kind of a Life Do You Want?
Part 3 – Decluttering 101: The Art of Discarding
Part 4 – Decluttering 101: A Place for Everything, Everything in its Place