Family, Home

I’m in Love with the Simple

A while back I wrote to you about my Marie Kondo decluterring weekend, for all the self discovery that led me up for doing it and the actual clean up. I promised to show you the results and here I am, ready to share 😉

Just a warning for those who are considering embarking on this journey themselves – it’s highly addictive. Having everything in order is so energizing that soon the desire for order and minimalism will invade other parts of your life and soon you might find yourself simplifying not just your surroundings but your daily hustle and your social circles. Just like Marie Kondo says she has no repeat customers because once you have done the clean up once you value each item differently and you are extremely considerate of the new things you buy, you will easily start considering do I really want to do this, take on this responsibility, want this person in my life (Facebook friend clean up, hello! have you tried that? best thing ever!), I have noticed myself evaluating very thoroughly who I am and do the things and people in my life support that.

The Results – My closets

This is where I started from and what actually annoyed me so much I wanted to do this. Granted my closets were slightly worse than on a normal day but I wasn’t happy even on a normal day. My life is so hectic, and I am into so many things that I need simplicity and organization at home – I know it’s a control mechanism but I hands off admit I’m a control freak and people laugh lovingly (or at least I like to think it’s lovingly…) of my OCD like behavior. These too views made me physically anxious, well at least very uncomfortable.

In addition to all the handholding my stuff and evaluating if they sparked joy and would they support the person I wanted to be, in addition to all the garbage bags and new folding techniques I wanted my closet to look pretty. Marie is a lover of all kinds of boxes for storage and can’t disagree with her. Boxes and clothes containers are practically science nowadays and oh there are so many exciting options out there. Yes judge me all you can but I actually got upset with my best friend who hadn’t told me there is a store called The Container Store in the US! How did he not understand, this is exactly what I needed in my post-Kondo life?

I decided I needed something calming and earthly, I’m from Finland and we northern girls draw energy and power from the nature, especially forest. There is not much fresh pine forest in SoCal but I could try to simulate some in my closet, surely that’s possible? From the fantastic container store I found these cute linen-cotton blend covered boxes to store my t-shirts, jeans, skirts and pajamas. I love them because they open up form the front, they have a window to see what’s inside and just look fresh and classy. They come in different sizes, I bought smaller ones for my t-shirts, pajamas and sweaters and wider ones for my jeans and thicker sweaters.

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I also found from IKEA beautiful little boxes with compartments, made out of recycled polyester and bamboo. These are great for panties and socks. I also use them for my bras, the box comes with two dividers that divide the box into four compartments, if you only but one of the dividers it creates perfect two longer compartments for longer items like bras.

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Bamboo boxes from IKEA

I also bought little sky blue boxes for random things, such as charger chords, my journaling stuff and other important stuff I need to keep handy, like passports.

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Little blue boxes from IKEA

Here is how my closets look now. You can see I have so much less clothes, the ones I have are now in constant use, save few items I noticed I never put on again and those will be going out soon too. I also upgraded my luggage, mainly because the old one didn’t look nice in the closet. Just kidding, I would not spend money on new luggage to decorate my closet. I mean, that would just be insane… But I do travel quite a bit and the old was falling apart so it was time and well, two birds…

I love my new closet, I love the fact that I’m not missing a thing, it’s amazing how few items I actually use on a daily basis. I also love the fact that I can now see all my shoes lines up nicely (I have so many compared to how much clothes I have but trust me, each pair sparks joy!), it’s nice that even on a day when something in my closet is not absolutely perfectly folded the boxes hide that a bit. I can find everything, I know where everything is so deciding what I want to wear each day is soooo much easier. I also tried to purposely keep clothes that match together as much as possible but that’s another post that I can write later about.

The Results – Kids Room

This place is impossible to keep in order! Anyone struggling with this can be happy to know that I have a full time housekeeper/nanny and my kids are very good at organizing their own room and they are told to do that every day and still it feels like it’s always a mess! Chaos is the natural state of this space and trying to force it into anything else seems to be a crime against the universe that can only be redeemed by returning the order and balance of existence, which means the room becoming messy again. This is the only space I tolerate of not being perfect though, when it’s messy it reminds me to be grateful of having kids in the first place, after suffering several miscarriages, seeing friends battle with infertility and even losing children I do not take my children granted ever. Messy room also reminds me that I have managed to give my children a home where they can play and hang out and make a mess that can then be cleaned up, if they spend enough time in their room for it to become a mess it means they have used the room for what it was meant for – play time. That being said, it was a disaster before this project. We had way too much stuff, so much of it was broken, missing pieces or just buried so deep that the kids didn’t even know what they had!

We threw a lot away and below are the results. What was the best thing though, kids were happily humming after the clean up. I could feel the change in their energy, maybe some of it was them mirroring mine but they were calm. Both were in their room playing with their toys, even my 9-year old pre-teen who cannot be dragged away from Minecraft and Fortnite without threats or bribery. My 5 year old daughter spent hours in the room playing with the toys she had left, singing the whole time to herself.

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We also organized their closet. I bought a little kids storage shelf from IKEA, we put this at the bottom of their closet and placed here their every day clothes so that they can take them out and put back themselves. I also bought a similar smaller shelf from IKEA for smaller garments like swim suits, tights, socks and so on. I had some basic plastic boxes we had gotten from the local super market and finally I bought some organizers from IKEA, linen ones for their clothes and basket like cubes for their smaller toys and costumes. I also found these really nice shoe cubes from Amazon. They were perfect for organizing their shoes, which are small but take a surprisingly lot of space when not stacked. The cubes came unfolded and was a bit of a task to get together but was worth it and are very handy.

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The Results – Living Area

The before pics you see here are not how my living room looked on a daily basis, this was a combination of pre clean-up letting go on purpose and starting to clean up so everything is a mess situation. Our apartment is not big, we don’t need much and the open plan makes it just the center of our home, it combines our kitchen, dining area (where all eating happens) and our living room. It is the heart of our home where we eat, entertain, watch movies, play, pack lunches, do homework and just live as a family.

In the after pics you can see that everything is pretty much as it was, just the extra mess is gone and everything is in it’s place. The bookshelf has been organized and books arranged by color (someone mentioned ocd?) and there’s a sense of calm.

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Our home wasn’t that bad to being with, we were not hoarders or anything, we didn’t have stuff from the last 4 decades, we are not big shoppers and we try to keep things organized but the new world order is a breath of fresh air. Everything seems a bit easier, it’s easier to use the space for all the different things it needs to be, it’s easier to keep clean, it’s easier to get dressed, it’s easier to cook, it’s easier to just be.

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Family, Home

For the Love of Simple – Clean Up

In my previous blog post I wrote about how my somewhat chaotic but always rewarding life nudged me on a journey to explore my need to simplify my surroundings and how that led me to try out the KonMari method of tidying up.

Today I wanted to share what Marie Kondoeing my apartment looked like. Before diving into details I do have to say that it was an experience nothing like I expected. I was excited to get everything cleared out and I expected it to be easy or hard depending on the category we would be attacking. I was pretty comfortable with clearing out my clothes (I actually had a pretty good idea what would probably go) but I was sure the kids’ toys would be a problem. I was also a bit worried about how my housekeeper (yes, as a single mom living on a different continent than my family, I need one) would handle this as I thought maybe me sitting down with the kids to hold everything in our hands wondering whether the item sparked joy would seem weird to her. Not that I mind what she thinks but I felt this wouldn’t work without her support, she does live with us most of the week and is the person in charge of maintaining everything in order after the clean up.

How I prepared

In addition to the very important part of the post clean up life visualization that I described last week, I looked for a fairly comprehensive list of categories to attack. Marie lists 5 categories and although many of them are pretty easy to cover I was especially worried about the biggest category Komono a.k.a. Miscellaneous. I was sure I would not be able to figure out everything to go through without a good list of sub-categories. I would end up doing it by room and well, that just wouldn’t work. I found a nice list from Neat Little Nest that really helped us to work through all the subcategories in our home. Luckily our home is not huge, we’ve lived here only a year and I’ve done a few discarding events already. In addition to the list I only got myself three rolls of heavy duty garbage bags and we were good to go!

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Our living room mid clean up – kids taking advantage of the confusion and building an pillow fortress!

The Process – My Clothes  I piled all my things on my bed, I had more than I expected. Just like everyone. I had thought I had few things. I had a lot of things. So I started to sort things out, holding each in my hand. Nothing went as I had imagined. The items that I was sure that would go, mainly did go. But then I got into the items I use on a regular basis. There was a shirt I really liked and used, but I realized it was worn out from the elbows – had been for a long time and it was time to let it go. There was a bag that I used regularly, it was nice, it went well together with a pair of shoes that I really liked but I realized I actually didn’t love the bag. I actually didn’t like the material, how it made me feel and what kind of a person in my opinion would use a bag like that. Out the door! It was so empowering to find a piece of myself through evaluating my likes and dislikes.

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Half of my closet, not too bad but can’t really see everything properly. 

Going through my own clothes took way longer than I had thought. It was fun though, to think who do I really want to be, what kind of clothing does that girl wear and what fits that image of my best self. The only things that I didn’t get rid of yet that didn’t spark joy were my luggage. One big check-in bag from Benetton that my ex-husband got us a long time ago. It was cute at the time and had a pair. The other has broken months ago and this remaining lonely one isn’t in great condition anymore. The zippers as loose and frankly the whole thing reminds me of a life that is in the past. My other piece is a carry-on that my friend borrowed me, it’s a great piece of luggage but it’s not mine and not particularly pretty. So I decided that I will treat myself to new set of luggage, which I btw am getting from Mark & Graham. Once these beauties arrive I promise not only to write a review and a travel organization post but I also promise to get rid of my old luggage.

The Process – Everything Else: The other categories in Marie’s method are Books, Papers, Komono (miscellaneous) and Memorabilia.

Banging through these categories was pretty easy, most books would stay – I only got rid of few that I had gotten from my therapist post divorce (no joy sparking here!). Kids books would mainly stay, we love all of these and having them in my bookshelf brings me a ton of joy. My mom used to own a library (not really but thousands of books) and I feel they are needed to make a house feel home.

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My bookshelf and random stuff everywhere

Papers were very easy, this category was already done few months back. I had, with the help of the great housekeeper, organized our must keep papers such as birth certificates, into a little document suitcase. I really didn’t have to do anything here!

Komono, this one I was excited about. I figured this would be the quickest category as I am definitely not attached to electronics or kitchen utensils. I was thankful about how Marie had tackled this area in her book. Her, oh so practical examples, were really helpful, for example her explaining how there was no point in storing old boxes for electronics in case you would want to sell them later on. I had about 10 different small electronic boxes lying around. All out the door. There was a lot to go through but working through everything on the list I could see we were making quick progress. Finally we came to the point in the list that I dreaded: Kids Toys.

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Kids’ room – kitchen corner

I was so sure this would be the worst part of it all. My kids are not good in getting rid of things. They have stuff they have not touched in months, things that are missing pieces, are dirty because someone smart thought it was a great idea to take them outside to play but nothing can be thrown out. We had gone through this many times and always the result was the same, if I could convince them to get rid of 5 small toys from Happy Meal boxes I could consider it a success. This time, however, was different. My son flat out told me that he would trust me to choose, as long as I didn’t touch his video games. Fair enough, I said and didn’t discuss further. My daughter somehow didn’t seem to care too much either. I told her I would not get rid of her play kitchen, dolls and their things, Barbies and their things or her costumes (she has about 10 different princess, witch, Disney character outfits that she really likes). After hearing that, she told me I had free hands on her stuff too. I didn’t believe what I was hearing. Maybe it was them seeing do this in other categories or maybe I just had my timing right but I quickly got to business before they’d change their minds.

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Kids room – general mess

Wrapping up

In the end, we got rid of more or less 10 garbage bags of stuff. My house keeper took the good items to sell in the flea market but some of the things just went into the garbage. I am happy with the results but I won’t be sharing the after pics until I’ve finished organizing the things we kept. I am still missing some boxes to finish our project.

Everything has it’s place now and I feel much calmer in my own home. It feels more me. As Marie predicts, tidying up your home has usually life changing effects, we had some too and I want to share those with you in my next post when I share our after pics.

Thanks for reading – see you soon!

Personal

For the Love of Simple – Self Awareness

My little chaos

When I was younger I was pretty relaxed about organization. A little bit of clothes here and a little bit of books there didn’t really bother me, I was comfortable in my own little mess. I was never extremely unorganized, I’ve never been a hoarder or flat out disgusting but I definitely was happily oblivious to my surroundings and tried to tidy up when I’d have visitors coming over or things piled up too much. Otherwise I’d just breeze through the piles of clothing and dishes.

When I got older this changed. Maybe it’s the kids that contribute to the mess, making it potentially not so little anymore or maybe it’s just maturity but I really can’t handle clutter or ugliness in my surroundings anymore. I am a single mom of two with a busy job. On one hand I need to take care of our family by making sure our home is a happy place for my kids, by making sure that they have what they need in and from school. I make sure they are able to get to swimming lessons twice a week, and that they have proper food to eat. My son has some special needs and meets with a therapist twice a week, planning and organizing the support he needs is sometimes consuming especially emotionally. On the other hand I have a wonderfully demanding job that gets very busy, involves regular travel and requires me to jump from one area and skill set to another very quickly. I’m lucky to get to interact with many people from all departments of the company but keeping everything flowing can sometimes be challenging. Add to this that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I have a mind that rarely forgets anything meaning that whenever there’s a massive information and stimulus flow it really can get a bit overwhelming and let’s be honest – there’s not a day in my life where there isn’t a massive information and stimulus flow happening.

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Therefore, I guess as an attempt to control my life, the busyness and overflow of just everything, I’ve started to feel a burning need to simplify and calm down my mind. This has started to slowly invade every are of my life but I’ve found that one of the biggest noise factor that I can control is my physical surroundings, more specifically my possessions. Having a steady job allows me to afford more things than ever before (college times and entry level jobs with a baby helloooo!) and being able to choose makes me do just that, choose. I nowadays find myself thinking about not what I can afford as much as what do I really want. Just because I can afford it doesn’t mean I want it and on the other hand I want to take care of my hard earned money as I do not take it for granted. I still remember what it was like not to make ends meet and having to ask parents for help. Not fun. I also feel anxious when I buy things I really don’t need or when I have things that don’t, as Marie puts it, spark joy. It’s money, time and space not well spent and when it’s not good for me I feel disappointed with myself. In a very similar way to overeating unhealthy foods. Not only do I feel physically bad fo overeating I feel bad emotionally for not having taken care of myself. It’s a double whammy.

The research

Paulo Coelho can be very insightful. Once I had recognized the need to simplify my surroundings I started to notice articles, books and podcasts about minimalism everywhere.

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. – Paulo Coelho

In addition to number of articles on the topic I read and watched on Netflix about The Minimalists, read Joshua Becker’s Simplify, Genevieve Parker Hill’s Minimalistic Living, and listened to Minimalist Mom Podcasts. I had heard about Marie Kondo but didn’t really pay attention to her message until I had worked through my mental transformation through the many resources I studied. This was more than anything a trip to myself, my values and how I wanted to live. Funnily enough I now realize that Marie asks you to do just that before starting: Think about what you want your post tidying life to look like. Without knowing this would be crucial to the process I had been unconsciously figuring that out for a long time.

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The main things that I realized about myself during this time: Excess of anything makes me anxious and unhappy, I don’t like shopping or spending money, which means I’d rather have few (even if more expensive) quality items than a mountain of things that don’t last, are not pretty and don’t make me happy (i.e. spark joy), and I like to have beauty in my surroundings. These thoughts were on my mind for weeks if not months, brewing up in a wonderful little ball of self awareness.

Photo by Toa Heftiba

My Mom the Master Minimalist

During Christmas I visited Finland, and home, for the first time in over 5 years. It was a wonderful two week trip to a winter wonderland where we had the precious opportunity to spend time with family and friends, many who didn’t know my daughter who is 5 years old at all.

While visiting my mother’s apartment I noticed something amazing. She had very little stuff. She had everything, but there was so little of everything. Funnily that was my first thought: “My mom has very few things”. When going outside to play with kids I took my jacket from her entryway closet and noticed she had only couple of handbags, maybe two winter jackets, a hat and a set of gloves – maybe two. When I went to her small bathroom I couldn’t help notice she had so few bottles, snooping around more carefully I noticed she had everything. The magic was she had only one of everything! So brilliant! I was amazed. I felt frankly a bit stupid of ever feeling I’d need more than one day cream or night cream or shampoo or conditioner at the same time but yet I had to admit her way still felt brilliant. Something clicked. Of course you don’t need more than one of any item at any given moment. It’s not like you’re going to put on two winter jackets at the same time or two sets of gloves on top of each other (though I might have done that when it got really cold, come to think of it…).

Once you realize you don’t need more than one of anything, you can think about what you really want while keeping it simple and avoiding clutter. So between the money and the clutter I had come a full circle. I want less items of better quality that play well together. Clothes that combine nicely to make different outfits with less items in the closet to take space, pretty classic makeup, shoes that look good but are timeless and for the love of simplicity only one shampoo bottle in use at any given moment. Besides, I think once I get my basics nailed down I can add some special items that are trendy at the moment or just add a little spark.

Decluttered Mind

Having realized what I want and having seen a real life master example of what that can look like in practice I felt like I had decluttered my mind and learned something new about myself. I lived in an unhappy relationship for a long time where I didn’t feel free to explore who I really was and wanted to be. After my divorce I’ve truly enjoyed opening my mind bit by bit to what my ideal self and life might look like and training my mind to understand that nothing is off the table and anything is possible. There is nothing that sparks more joy than finding something that resonates with your being in a way that you just know what to scream “YES! Why didn’t I realize this before?”. Realizing how I felt about owning stuff, the space I want as my home and spending money has been extremely gratifying.

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Marie Kondoeing My Apartment

With the above journey behind me and with work getting more hectic than ever in January, I decided it was time to give Marie a go. I started to listen to her book in audible and just couldn’t help but feel so excited! I absolutely loved her stories of her childhood and how she was obsessed with organization since she was a little child. Or how she got into trouble by organizing her family members’ private spaces and throwing their stuff out without permission. My favorite part of the book is definitely when she gives advise on how to properly fold a pair of socks so they can get a proper rest after working so hard all day! This girl is a total whack job but I think genius never comes without a hint of crazy and I really love Marie’s crazy. It’s happy, it’s positive and it’s unapologetic.

Totally inspired I started to get ready, I searched for a category checklist from a fellow Marie fan, I bought two packs of super strong garbage bag rolls and announced to my kids and their nanny that this is happening.

Read next week how we did it!