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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Posted by Tim Stobbs on May 7, 2015

So after hearing about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo a fair bit in the media I borrowed a copy from my library and started to read.  After all I’ve had passing flirting with minimalism over the years so I figured it couldn’t hurt.  But to be honest, I didn’t expect to learn much from the book. Damn I was wrong.

For for being a fairly short book Marie manages to pack in a lot of insightful comments on people’s behaviour to our stuff.  The first one to struck me as being hugely helpful is the average person is never taught how to purge or organize anything except in a haphazard way from family or perhaps friends.  So what happens is our homes (no matter how large or small) tend to build up WAY to much stuff.  Now how messy you are will determine how obvious the problem is, but volume still often exceeds what we can reasonably store in our homes.

Then people try to deal with this huge backlog of things but often try to do it just a little at a time which is like trying to swim up a river a foot at a time.  You might make some progress but you are going to feel exhausted from it all the time and likely give up.  So Marie’s solution is simple…do one monster size purge in your life and then you are done (it may take months to finish).  This isn’t to say you don’t need to do a little purging once and a while afterward, but organizing your stuff if pointless until you get rid of a huge amount of it.

Marie’s method is interesting because she doesn’t focus on what to purge, but rather what to keep.  Her criteria of it must ‘spark joy’  as you handle each item sounded weird to me until I stumbled on the idea of  that means: do you love the item?  So by default there is no maybe pile…you either love and keep it or it gets purged.  It’s a somewhat brutal method, but given the amount of crap people own it is surprising effective criteria.

Then to hone your decision making skills she points out a method of doing it by category of object for the entire house instead of by room.  That way you get practice on the easier decision items and work down to the hard decisions like sentimental items.  Her suggested list is clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and lastly mementos.   Komono is further broken down into CDs/DVDs, skin care, makeup, accessories, valuables (passports, credit cards…), electronics and cords, household equipment (stationary, pens, sewing kits…), household supplies (expendables like tissue, detergents, medicine…), kitchen goods/food supplies and other.  Your stop point for purge is when you feel comfortable with what is left.

After you do your monster purge then you start to organize things .  At which point most storage solutions are not really required since you actually have like 25 to 80% less stuff.  Then the trick to preventing clutter from all from coming back is to keep everything in its place.  Assign a home for EVERYTHING and put it back when you are done using it.  She cautions not to try and organize as you purge as you will lose focus and then stop.

Overall I’m done clothes, books, DVDs and still working on papers…I got side tracked by having to finish my taxes.  I have to agree with the idea of the monster purge idea as once you get going you hit a sort of momentum that makes the effort of keeping going easier.  My motivation for this is the dream of waking up in  house where I love everything that is there…my neglected items are gone and I can FIND things easily.  She rightly points out without some kind of goal in mind the process really won’t work.

This isn’t to say that some of her ideas are a bit odd like unpacking your purse or bag completely at the end of each day after you get back home from work.   Umm, no thanks. Too much work for no real point. Or that she treats objects like they have personality and you should thank them for their service.  So feel free to ignore the really odd ideas in the book…I am.

In the end, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the book and I am finding it useful so far.  It remains to be seen if I can complete the process, but I’m enjoying the results so far.  So have you read the book yet?  Do you think Marie is nuts or brilliant…or perhaps in between?

In and Out

Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 29, 2014

Ugh, Christmas is over.  The presents are unwrapped, you have setup, washed or otherwise started to use your new gifts.  Good for you.  Now on the flip side what are you getting rid of?

Pardon?!? All to often we get new stuff in our lives and don’t even give it a second thought that perhaps this would be an excellent time to also consider getting rid of a equal number of items to ensure your pile of stuff doesn’t grow.  I personally try to get to this the week following Christmas.

In some cases, this is a very easy thing to do.  For example, I got a new pair of jeans and tossed an old pair that I had previously fixed a hole in the pocket of.  The rest of the jeans were also starting to wear out so it was an easy decision to make.  Heck while you are in your closest you could just do a check in to see if you actually wear everything you have in there.

Other things are a bit more complex, like we got a new Keurig coffee maker for a gift.  So does that mean I should toss out my old coffee pot.  Perhaps, but I also use that coffee pot a LOT right now.  So in this case, I’ll take a wait and see approach to decide if I will use one more than the other and if I should get rid of something in the future.

Giving stuff and receiving it is easy to do.  Getting rid of things isn’t always so easy especially if you have problems tossing perfectly usable items (like I do).  So I tend to use the following methods:

  • Give it to a friend. In some cases, you might have someone else who can use something you used to have and they would love it.  When this works out it is wonderful for everyone.
  • Donate it. Nearly perfect used clothes are easy to donate and so are small household goods to some charities.  Other things you have to consider if it would be really useful since it is fairly won.
  • Sell it. Online sites make this significantly easier to do now and you can also give something away for free if you do not feel it would be worth selling.
  • Or if you just can not find a way to get rid of it…throw it away. I hate to do this, but accept sometimes I can not find something a home.

So do you do a post holiday purge?  If so, how you do handle it?

The Wallet Purge

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 6, 2014

I recently got a new wallet as a Christmas present and I used that as an excuse to tackle a long standing annoying issue …my overly full wallet.  I am almost embarrassed to type this but I was utter shocked how much garbage that I never use that I’ve been carrying around with me for years, yes you read that right, years.

To do the purge I took out everything from the wallet and put it into a stack.  It was a stack about two inches high…no wonder my wallet always felt like it was going to burst open on me.  Then I proceed to create four piles: cards that I have to keep on me (either legally or I use them that often), cards I rarely use, cards/paper that I should throw out and cards that should be stored somewhere else.

Here are some samples that went into each pile:

  1. Cards to Keep – Drivers license, health card, bank card, credit card, business credit card, business bank card and a few copies business card from my day job.
  2. Rarely Used Cards – A library card (which I never use since I have a key chain mini card), Areoplan card, bank card for the bank where my mortgage was at, and a few other points cards I rarely need.
  3. Cards/Paper to Throw Out – Old business contact cards I no longer need, points cards for places I no longer shop and I nearly died of embarrassment to see an old Blockbuster member card in my wallet. Yikes!
  4. Elsewhere Cards – I had a few points cards for gas stations that really should be kept in the car itself so my wife can use them too.

What was interesting was the first three piles were about the same size and I only had a few cards in elsewhere pile.  So in summary my wallet is now about 2/3 thinner than it used to be and I’m so grateful that I finally got to dealing with this issue.  I’m actually thinking I need to do this exercise more regularly to avoid this in the future.

So when was the last time you cleaned out your wallet (and/or purse)?  Any tips for everyone on what to keep or get rid of?