Tidying Up: How I Traded Mountains of Stuff for a Life of Joy

I thought I was tidy until I met Marie Kondo. It turns out I was disrespecting my socks in an awful way, I had an unhealthy obsession with storage containers, and my joy was buried under mountains of stuff. 

My foray into discovering Marie Kondo and her KonMari method began like many relationships. I threw myself into everything she wrote and said and hung onto every bit of the method like it was magic. And as her aptly titled book proclaims, my journey from excess stuff to a life filled with only what sparks joy was every bit as life-changing as you could imagine. 

But did it last? With the newly released Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and the recent surge in popularity, this is the question KonMari newbies all seem to want to know. 

I’ve gone through many, many cycles of cleaning, decluttering, purging, and organizing, as by nature, I appreciate having my house in order. Cleaning out my closet and ridding myself of excess clutter always feels amazing, like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders and I can finally breathe. That is, until the clutter and disorganization creeps back into my house mere days or weeks later.

It’s been almost four years since I began my journey to tidy up my home…and life. Back then, I had a three-year-old and a baby, and we lived in a beautifully decorated, well-organized 2,700-square foot home with a big backyard. And so much stuff. I spent my days living the rat race of a stay-at-home mom: laundry, dishes, clean up toys, repeat. I was exhausted and never felt like there was time for really playing with my kids or spending time with my husband; there was always so much to do. 

Marie Kondo tells us that tidying your home should not be done every day, but instead be treated as a once-in-a-lifetime event. A festival. A marathon. Tidying up isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. If you watch the first few episodes of the Netflix series, they demonstrate the “magic” so well. 

“From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order,” she says. 

Photo by Laramie Serrano Photography

How can cleaning out your closet be life-changing? How can cleaning out your garage profoundly impact the course of your life? How can tossing some of the kids’ toys make you a better parent? 

The KonMari method is about finding what sparks joy. It’s looking at your life, and your things, from a place of deep appreciation and respect. When everything in your home sparks joy, your things deserve to be cared for and given a worthy resting place inside the walls of your home. It’s about loving what you have and where you are instead of always looking for the next best thing. 

It was about six weeks into my KonMari “festival” when my husband and I sat down one evening after the kids went to bed and played Scrabble. We hadn’t played a game together since our oldest was born four years prior. That night was a big a-ha moment. 

Our nights were usually spent catching up on laundry, getting my husband to work on his honey-do list, prepping food and cleaning the kitchen, talking about our budget and how I could spend less on clothes and food, and doing everything we could to get ahead but never actually doing it. 

Tidying up magically created more time. Suddenly what used to take hours would only take minutes. What used to be a big weekend project could be accomplished during the day while my kids napped. What used to stress us out and cause arguments became a collaborate effort through a shared mission.  

Tidying up is a transformative experience. It reveals your weaknesses and opens your eyes to struggles you didn’t even know were there. It makes you declare in a tangible way what your priorities are and what you hold dear. When you stop hiding behind stuff, you life can be anything you desire. 

So how did my life change after tidying up? Well, I’d like to think I’m an extreme example, but after tossing out more than half of our belongings my house suddenly felt cold and huge. We downsized and lived a quaint, joy-sparking life in a smaller home for about eight months before ultimately deciding that we wanted to live on acreage in a larger house with more kids. 

And that’s where you’ll find me today: cooking in my tidy kitchen with the one wooden spoon that survived my KonMari festival almost four years ago, sitting on the floor reading from our curated selection of children’s books that make heart sing with joy, watching my kids deep in play with quality, open-ended toys. 

Tidying up led me to a life I never knew was possible. There are still laundry and dishes, and I still want to toss the LEGOs out the window every time they’re scattered on the playroom floor, but that is the reality of life with children. And that, I’ve realized, is what truly sparks joy for me. 

Meghann is a mom of three little ones, proud lefty, and unexpected country dweller who lives in the Texas Hill Country on 6.5 acres with too many animals to count. Meghann is the creator of Rooted Childhood, a resource to inspire families with young children to create and connect through meaningful, seasonally inspired activities. She can be found online at www.rootedchildhood.com.