Cottage Life - The Decluttering Continues

A few weeks ago I took my first step toward seriously decluttering our cottage. I wrote about the closet purging and living intentionally here, and shared Mandi Ehman's quote:

"Living intentionally means defining your values 
and making choices that reflect those values."

The wardrobe purge inspired me to get rid of more stuff, and that's when I ordered Marie Kondo's book from the library. (I wrote about that here.)

I've now finished the book, and I have to say there are some things she advocates that make sense to me. There are also some things that just seem plain silly, such as her insistence that we fold our clothes a certain way so that they will be happy (as if cotton and wool have feelings), and thanking them outloud for meeting our needs (which builds up their self-esteem). She repeats herself frequently, which made me want to chastise her editor. And at times I felt a serious case of OCD was the impetus for her career. (Actually, as I think about it, OCD is probably a plus for a consultant that helps people organize their homes and offices.) There's more, but let's get to what I found helpful.

1. Tidy by category and not  by location. 
      Don't tidy by room, tidy by categories:
         Clothes first, then books, papers, miscellany, and lastly
       This means gathering all items from a category from all the rooms and closets into one spot before deciding what to keep and what to discard. Using this method nothing gets overlooked and it's a do-it-once and it's done approach.

She leaves mementos for last because by the time you plow through all the other more practical categories, your decision-making skills will have been perfected and it'll be easier to make decisions about sentimental items.

2. Take each item in your hand and ask yourself "Does this spark joy?" If it does, keep it. If it doesn't, dispose of it.

At first I thought her claim that one must actually touch the item and not simply look at it and decide its fate seemed odd. But then I tried it with my books. I was sure I could tell just by looking at my bookcase which books I wanted to keep, and that's what I did a couple of months ago. But yesterday when I actually took one of my remaining books off the shelf and held it (not read it! She is sure to say not to do that!), I realized I could let it go because it didn't "spark joy". After doing this with all my other books I ended up with 3 additional boxes of books to give away. 

If I find later I want to read a particular title again, I can get it from the library or discount bookseller. In the meantime, I've cleared off three shelves, and that makes me feel really good.

3. What to do when you can't throw something away.
    Think carefully about its true purpose in your life and ask if  it has fulfilled its role. Kondo believes there are only two reasons why we can't let something go: an attachment to the past or a fear of the future (desire for stability in the 
"To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose." -- Marie Kondo

I'm still in the decluttering stage. Next is magazines and then miscellany and so on. When I get through the final category of mementos, then I'll start the organization process.

I won't bore you with more details from the book. (There are some good reviews of the book on Goodreads here.) You can go to Youtube and do a "marie kondo declutter" search and find lots of information about her technique. If you're interested in reading the book, I suggest borrowing it from the library.

Before I go I want to relate a funny conversation I had with my hair stylist last week:

Lisa: So what have you been up to?

Me: Oh, I've been decluttering. I'm on a mission to get rid of stuff.

Lisa: No! No! Nancy, you already live like a minimalist. You've downsized to that darling little house. Stop! Just stop! You don't need to get rid of anything else.

Me: (Laughing) Lisa, it's okay. I just want to simplify and keep only those things that really bring me joy.

Lisa: But. . .but. . .I'm just worried about you.

Me: Don't worry. Really. It'll be fine.

I don't think she bought it. That's not going to stop me, though. 

Stay tuned for more.


  1. I've heard mixed reviews about this book, but it sounds like it's working for you, which is all that counts.

  2. Ha! I think that your conversation with your hair stylist is hysterical. Isn't it funny how attached we are to our stuff...and other people's stuff?? We want everyone to have lots of it. I am not sure that I would've made it past the chapters on happy/ well adjusted clothes. I am having a hard enough time doing that with my kids. Clothes, too? Gosh that's a lot of pressure! I'll stick with my own way of simplifying. Seems to be working so far. Thanks for the the post, Nancy. I have been wondering about this...

  3. So funny about your conversation with your hair stylist. I get it Nancy. I am at the same point as you and I want to declutter life around me too. As I get ready to sell this place and move again I will do even more than I did with the last move. I just find as I get older I need less space and less stuff. I too just will keep the things in my decor that give me joy and I feel connected too. Hoping to find a cute little small sq. footage cottage in the next move. Have a great rest of the week.

  4. You are GOOD! I went through my books on Sunday and had such a hard time. I filled three bags but still have three full bookcases. I think I need help!

  5. Nancy, this is so timely. My sister passed this book on to me after she had finished reading it, doing it, living it! A true believer. But timing is everything and we had just finished downsizing so much when we moved to TN to FL. I was not ready to let anything else go, regretted leaving so many of my books. And now we're in this 1300 sq ft house in TN and I started thinking I'll get the book off the shelf and try again, after I finish unpacking and settling in.

    But you've done the summing up for me, saved me the trouble, skipped to the essential part. By Category--that seems hard to me, I've never done it that way. Which is exactly why I probably should, right?

    As I said, very timely post. Thank you!

  6. I've heard of this book and I'm glad to get your mini review. I, too, notice when a writer repeats themselves or uses the same word over and over. Be creative and proofread!

    I feel as if everything I own has a cycle of use in my life. Perhaps what made me happy a few years ago doesn't now. Clothes, book collections, kitchen tools...I keep finding that I can edit so much more as the years go by and I need less.


  7. I too read her book and thought much the same things. I do like her idea of decluttering by category. I helped my daughter declutter her pen/pencil collection(s) by finding as many of them as I could all over her house and putting them all in one spot (after downsizing the pile). I learned many years ago to store in categories too--all yarn in one place, for example.
    Happy decluttering to you!

    1. I'm going through the categories in the sequence she suggests. I can't wait to get to the paper category. I'm going to unload a lot of clutter with that one!

  8. I think your decision is a very wise one, Nancy! A certain family member on my husband's side is in dire need for MAJOR decluttering; she is in California and my husband has decided that we need to fly out there this summer, help with the sale of the house and to help sell many of her antiques but to get rid of a lot of JUNK collected over the years as well. She is aging and both my husband and myself feel that if we are blessed enough to live a long life, we cannot live in clutter. I started my decluttering over winter break and I started with magazines that were cluttering up my now neat and spacious tea cabinet! Clothing I stopped wearing and junky reproductions I enjoyed for years have been taken to the Goodwill. Now, I literally smile and do a happy dance when the sunshine streams into my open, spacious living room in the front of the house. The way to make a room feel new however, is to add fresh flowers or rearrange pillows or small items of furniture. There is a trick to enjoying a fresh look without adding more!

    I'm with you my friend!

  9. I got this book to review, and it had some good tips, but I didn't agree with the whole concept.

    Love your conversation with your hairstylist.

    Since losing my dear husband, stuff just doesn't have the appeal it once had, so I do not go out looking for new things to bring home, except for plants. :-)

    Today, my plan is to tackle my bedroom which has become a bit topsy-turvy lately and needs a good straightening up. I've procrastinated long enough.

    Happy decluttering as much or as little as you want to do ~ FlowerLady

  10. Such a timely post. As I go through boxes and unpack I try to declutter but it isn't working to well. This home has about the same square footage as the condo but no closdet space so hiding my horde of fabric and books is not going to be an option. I like the idea of categories so I think I will unpack, place in categories and the purge. I have a lot of unread books from mininistry I need to donate, I just do not know where. Thanks for the timely post my friend and good luck decluttering.

  11. You made me laugh with this review, Nancy. I didn't connect with much of the mambo jambo as well but ultimately this book worked for me and I'll admit to feeling joy once the whole declutter was done :-) But the stuff is coming back!

  12. Good for you Nancy!
    Sometimes others can't visualize or comprehend living simply. I understand. In fact, I'm heading to the linen closet right after I click "publish".

  13. I **get** it. you know i get it!
    and i'm applauding your journey
    for it parallels my own!

  14. I have to tell you that I went to the library and got the book after your last post. I agree there is some silliness in there but most of what she says makes sense. I have started to declutter and I feel so good already! I actually started with Food. Yes, dry goods in my kitchen cupboards and "pantry" that have been there forever. I won't tell you what some of the expiration dates were but I threw 3 large bags away! Next will be clothes. I have a hard time with them! I like the different perspective she has given me on decluttering and I am not even half way through the book. I bought a large box of large garbage bags and warned my husband of the overabundance of garbage there will be. I can also now give back to Goodwill, since they have provided me with lots of thrifty items!

  15. I went to my local library (10 miles away) to get the book after reading your post and a few reviews. Although I will never talk to my purse, I have found the book inspiring. I stopped to type this while sorting cookbooks. I'm moving to Texas in a couple or years when my husband retires and I'm determined to move only half the belongings I currently have and then live lean from then on. I'm so excited that my thinking has changed in just a matter of days. I'm ready to let go. Thanks for recommending the book. It's made a difference in my life.

    1. I'm so happy you found it helpful. Thank you so much for taking time away from your sorting to leave this thoughtful, encouraging comment. You made my day! Best wishes for happy decluttering! xo

  16. I find the concept of decluttering and simplifying very freeing, but to begin to personify those things which need decluttered takes the concept a bit way too far, lol! Yay for you, to get so much done, books are a hard one for me to let go. When we downsized over 2 years ago, I got rid of a LOT of books then, but somehow... seem to have accumulated more in the process. It is easy to declutter, but the continuing process is hard, lol. This spring we have plans to deep clean and organize again... it seems to be an ongoing thing!

  17. PS... and your conversation with your hair stylist was hilarious! Many people just cannot wrap their mind around this concept, at all! LOL!

  18. I loved hearing your progress and your evaluation of the book. I bought both of her books and they sit unread. I've started decluttering but fear I can't go exactly by categories. Because of moving some things from my mother's home to mine I have to deal with rooms instead. It's a slow process because life keeps happening but I have begun and you inspire and motivate me. Love the conversation with your hairdresser!

    1. It's hard enough dealing with my own things to declutter and organize. I can't imagine adding another household to my tasks. Hope all goes well for you, Adrienne, as deal with each room. Hugs.

  19. Great book review, Nancy! Well, that ordered list was overwhelming to me. I would never get to papers, and I don't now, so that would have to move to first place. Clothes are easy to get rid of. I have been decluttering too, because I have way too much, and it annoys me. I always start at the beginning of the year, and leave the home in the summer decent for my niece, and then I start over! My flight attendant sister came over a few weeks ago, and said the suitcases are gone! But soon it will be time to get them out again! xoxo Su

  20. I am a decluttering advocate and help others as I have time and they are willing. Right now--I have more to do as my papers are overwhelming me again. And the books have started jumping from their shelves and landing in odd places!

    1. Papers are next on my list. I am actually looking forward to it! :)

  21. I think I would just hand Marie Kondo's book to your friend. Kondo helped me even before I read a word of her book. I was reading an article about her in a magazine and she said people who love buying organizational products (books, baskets, bins...) are organized hoarders. That slapped me in the face with the truth! I bought her book for $10 at Costco and ordered one for my daughter from Amazon. Kondo scared both of us straight. We both are hoarders even though our houses are neat and orderly. We accept that. I've been slower to release things than my daughter, but I'm getting there. I re-read Kondo's two books when I feel myself slipping and the best part is I now buy very little when I go shopping in thrift stores and home goods places. My goal is to get rid of half of everything I started with when I read her book. We even sold our two vehicles and bought a new pickup to share since we're retirees and go most places together. I'll be watching your progress and cheering you on.

    1. Oh, good! I need as many cheerleaders as I can get. This is truly changing my life, though. In a very good way!

  22. Interesting Nancy. I'm enjoying reading about your journey with this.


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