January Summary

Here it is! My summary of how things went with my January goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge, complete with my life story, crappy iphone pictures, and endless gushing. Ha!

...But seriously, don't say I didn't warn you. This one's a doozy!

(February's goal announcement is coming soon! Though I'm proud to report that it's going very well so far. Yessss!)

I wasn't born organized.

My natural talents tend toward the creative and contemplative. And throughout my life, I've reinforced all stereotypes of having an active imagination: head in the clouds, idealistic, and messy. My surroundings often mirrored my thoughts: scattered, with the details overlooked, and hyperfocused on the beautiful.

I really tried to be organized. I made heroic and desperate (and occasionally successful) attempts to control the chaos in my environment. Despite a natural disposition toward being a little scattered and spontaneous, I actually thrive in a simple, clean environment and love the structure of a schedule. But it has always been a constant battle to keep it that way. And if anything "extra" entered my life/house/schedule at all, it just all came crashing down. Hand me a new baby? MESS. Influx of Christmas gifts? MESS. Sleep deprivation? MESS. Particularly busy week? MESS. And then I'd kind of recover and mostly get it under control again...until the next big thing, like, three hours later. EXHAUSTING. And I always felt in-over-my-head, with everything.

I always wondered if it was supposed to be SO hard. I knew I wasn't the only one who struggled with housekeeping and keeping my junk in order, some even moreso than me. But I also knew that there were also many who didn't struggle nearly as hard as I did. I've long suspected a mild to moderate struggle with ADHD, but still. I am a Special Needs Education teacher, by trade, and I know what kinds of strategies I needed to implement to manage it...I just couldn't find the time and space in my head and life to actually DO it.

Momentos, the process. Kleenex needed!

I read about decluttering and organizing often. No, A LOT. I liked paying attention to my family's habits and coming up with organizational systems that worked for us. But there always just seemed to be SO many things and people and demands ALL the time, I would get overwhelmed easily and everything would fall apart. And when I get overwhelmed my defence mechanism is avoidance. Soo...I ignored all the stuff until I couldn't anymore, then went nuts---decluttering and organizing like crazy!---until I burnt out and ignored it again. It all felt so ineffective and futile!

Vicious cycle.

Living simply and 'minimalistically' appealed to me, but I needed a bigger purpose than just "getting rid of everything for the heck of it." There just seemed to be some weird disconnect for me between having less...and the how and the why.

I often spoke about this kind of thing with a close friend of mine...who discovered, read, and then let me borrow her copy of "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo about a year ago now. I was hooked from the first few pages and read it in two days. 

THIS WAS IT. I could feel it.

Part of Marie Kondo's method includes decluttering by category, and in a certain order. So I started, and got through clothing, books, papers, and my kitchen stuff before we had to move houses. Even just that much felt SO good! Those categories were the things that affected me most on a daily basis so the difference in the way I felt was immediate. Packing those things up didn't even feel like work because they were all things I loooved and wanted in my life. Moving them to my next home was actually enjoyable, not the usual moving torture of omigosh-we-have-so-much-stuff-whyyy-do-we-have-so-much-stuff??? 

At least until we got to the things that I hadn't gone through yet; in which case it was utter torture again.

Once we moved, I had a baby and just didn't get around to finishing the process. The "too-much" feeling started creeping back in slowly in the fall, and I had a few painful realizations. I started noticing that I had lost sight of parenting goals I always wanted to accomplish, and generally the kind of parent I wanted to be. I just always felt too busy, or too drained, or too overwhelmed to do things that had always been so important to me to "someday do with my kids." And it was chronic, not just a short rough patch.

Failing miserably at my December goal was the straw that broke the camel's back. Clearly, if I didn't have enough whatever (time, energy, focus, sleep, etc.) to fill my soul up like I knew I needed to, then there was just too much going on in my life, period. To be fair, December is always a busy month, but still. It was just glaringly obvious to me I needed to clear some things out. I knew I had the tool: the Konmari process had already shown great promise in my life for proven change and results. I needed to finish it through to the end to make room for the things that mattered to me.

I am an excellent procrastinator. This I know about myself! If I didn't feel the pressure of a time crunch, it wouldn't get done all that quickly. I also knew that the first few categories theoretically wouldn't take too much time since I'd gone through them already once before. So I decided to officially make it my January goal: finishing the whole process in one month.

I knew it was kind of crazy...which was the point, really. I figured it would give just the right amount of pressure to encourage me to work on it every chance I got. BUT it was super-crazy! My head is still spinning from the intensity of it all. BUT WOW. It was totally worth it.

I finished everything up to the photos/momentos category! I didn't get it all completely done in my one-month deadline. My house, however, looks and feels completely different.

I never would have been able to take this funny picture (and show it publicly) of my rolling baby getting stuck under the couch. There simply would have just been too much stuff around and I would have been too embarrassed to show anyone!

Besides my not-so-little stack of boxes labeled "Photos" and "keepsakes" and "momentos" (which I keep chipping away at every chance I get), everything else has been touched and questioned as to its joy-quotient. I have furniture I've given away and some still to sell because I no longer have the stuff to fill the drawers and shelves(!!!). I'm still tweaking where I think things should belong, and I think I'll probably do one more pass through and let more things go now that my "joy-detector" is more fine-tuned and sensitive than when I first began. Then I'll take pictures and show you!

The biggest change has just been the space...physically (because less stuff = more space, duh), time-wise (less time spent cleaning up all the stuff) and mentally (less time thinking about all the stuff and what to do with all the stuff and how to ignore all the stuff). I have more space in my life! I'm surrounded by the things I love. And I suddenly have the time to pursue---wait for it---the things that bring me joy. Ha.

I mean, I still have four kids 6 and under, and I'm still (happily) not a perfectionist...so my house is not neat as a pin all the time...we actually live in it, you know! But the words "this house is a mess right now!" describe the exception, not the constant state of things. And it takes less than a half hour to bring everything back to ground zero, even at its new "worst." It feels comfortably tidy most of the time and that feels unreal and amazing.

My kids play better with fewer toys. I honestly enjoy tidying up (in the traditional sense) at the end of each day, putting our loved belongings back in their places. I can sit and read in a clean house often, and don't feel so overwhelmed with my "to-do" list that I can't fathom taking the time to do soak up my kids. My routines for myself actually stick. I can embrace the creative and beautiful messes that life hands out...without feeling like it will take over my whole life or push me over the edge. And I have the space to work through the challenges I inevitably face.

But I think the biggest lesson of the whole process, the thing that makes it life-changing, is learning to listen to that inner voice within yourself that lets you know when something is going to bring you joy, and when it is not. It starts with things...(Which clothes make me feel great? Which books do I truly need on hand to read again and again? Which photos uplift me and act as soul-filling reminders of happy memories?)...but it extends to things like which activities/hobbies to pursue, which social engagements to embrace or turn down, which people to invest your time into, and what thoughts don't belong in your head. It is not easy to be faced with all of the reasons certain things make you uncomfortable, or sad, or weighed down with guilt...but the wrestle and resolution is worth the 'heart work.' Think of it like the best conversation you've ever had...with yourself! A little difficult, but honest, revelatory, and healing.

I know now that how I 'live with less' and manage the things in my life is by always asking myself what brings me joy, what I love. I hold and cherish those things close, and kindly and gratefully dismiss the rest with a remembrance for the lessons I've learned from their presence.

And why live with less than 'too much?' Because surrounding myself with joy, and finding joy in the things around me, sounds like the kind of life I want to be living. 

These two were keepers. Joy-sparkers for sure.


  1. I LOVE this! I read the book last summer, a year AFTER I had packed all my torture items and they were already in storage. I am now in our new place and just DYING to go through everything. I honestly think it took me to having a baby, and finding the faith to give myself to God so He would guide me to be the parent i knew He wanted me to be, that I realized that all the STUFF I had piled around me was just stuff. And stuff isn't what builds up strong families and special memories and happy moments and quiet peace. Oh man. It's all still downstairs in my basement. And as soon as the upstairs is done, I will attack those torturous boxes of stuff! And I'm like you! I have to do it in a crazy month! AH! I'm so excited!

    1. Oh I loved reading your thoughts on stuff just being stuff! GOOD LUCK!!! With the going-through-everything, I mean!

  2. This is amazing! I have heard of the book, but never known anyone who has actually done it. I am a neat freak but I have still been feeling lately like I have to much stuff. You are totally inspiring me to want to go read the book and try this.

    1. I would be so curious to know what you think after reading and trying it! I am interested in what it's like for someone who is naturally tidy, whether it's as transformative...let me know when you do get around to reading it and trying it out!

  3. I've heard so many great things about that book, but I haven't actually read it myself yet. I really like the ideas behind it though, and have tried to implement them here and there. I should probably read the full book though.

    Kristi | Be Loverly

    1. I liked that she talks you through all the common roadblocks in the book...and I liked reading her anecdotes and examples! I thought it was worth the read, but it's true that the principles work whether you read the whole book or not ;) Haha!


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