Why “tidying up” works for me as a mom to a young son

I’ve been on a decluttering kick ever since April of last year after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Following the release of Kondo’s new Netflix series, Tidying Up, the topics of organizing and decluttering are on the tips of many tongues, and I find myself newly embracing minimalism. I had to move a few times, and all of that packing and unpacking inspired my minimalist change. I can’t imagine going back to my previous way of living.

The act of tidying up helps me explore a lot more than just my stuff, and much like Kondo assures, my life has changed for the better. I have had more abundance and growth by having fewer possessions that don’t benefit me.

My interest in tidying up led me to minimalism, a lifestyle practice that helps you simplify your life in various ways. That can mean minimizing your possessions by whittling them down to the most basic necessities you require to live and thrive, or it can mean consuming more consciously and refocusing your beliefs on what is truly important in life. A benefit of minimalism is that, by simplifying your needs, you’re more able to reach a state of calm; you’re no longer focused on attaining all of the things.

Although some minimalists claim the fewer possessions, the better, minimalism can really fit with any lifestyle and conform to each individual as needed. So if you have more possessions than another person, that’s fine. The most important thing is to create a space where each object surrounding you holds meaning. Or, as Kondo says in Tidying Up, sparks joy. It can benefit just about anyone who knows they own too much and wants to grant themselves clarity, in their head space and living space.

When I became a mother to a young son, it became very difficult to keep my house orderly. While I am so grateful to the family and friends who gave us an almost limitless amount of toys, the volume was overwhelming. I began the process of tidying up when my son was about 9 months old, and at the time, it felt impossible.

How could I find time to get everything out of every crevice, look at the piles of stuff, and figure out whether or not they brought me joy?

But I figured out a way. I was able to devote time to organizing when I set my baby down in his play pen, held him in our baby wrap, or even let him join in on the fun by looking through things on my bed. It became easier and easier to to go through clutter when my infant was napping. I realized that there are clear methods to compartmentalize your time and effort, from hiring a babysitter for a few hours to having friends over to help by organizing or by watching the baby.

Through recycling, upcycling, and trashing, I have now disposed of about half of my possessions. I can testify to the peace that possessing fewer things can bring you. Determining what belongs in my life based on the quantifier of “joy” really works for me and for my home with my son. As I go through more things, it becomes easier to determine what I actually need.

Now, my thoughts are much clearer, my space feels grander, and cleaning up is quicker. That means I get more leisure time and can give more undivided attention to my baby boy.

Just this weekend, in the spirit of tidying up, I binge-watched all of Kondo’s first season. Soon after, I whittled down my closet yet again and reorganized my drawers, baby and all. It helps that I am now including him in the process. I’ve even helped him “tidy up” his toys, which we then donated to less fortunate children.

If you’re struggling to get organized, the closet may be a good place for you to start rethinking what you actually need and want. Many of us have clothing that we certainly no longer wear, no longer need, or that no longer fits us to our liking. You can easily determine that all of the clothing falling into those three categories has no place in the closet, forgotten and unloved. Though some pieces might have sentimental value, I’ve learned that value doesn’t decrease just because it is no longer in my space. I’ve accepted that some sentimental objects will live longer in my memory than in my closet because they’ve already served their purpose of bringing joy, for however long or brief. I now see it is an act of reverence to thank that dress or those shoes for the memories and let them go.

With the majority of society in a cycle of thoughtless consumption, I invite you to deeply think about each new possession’s place in your sanctuary. It was hard at first, but determining your needs will soon come naturally. Whether it’s minimalism or Kondo’s tidying up, the ability to cleanse and highlight what’s truly meaningful to you has profound results. Once I reached the peace of a clear and intentional space, no amount of shopping could ever entice me in the same way. With the time and money I’ve saved by shopping more consciously, less-materialistic dreams can rightfully take their place in the center of my life.

Now my self-worth is not reliant on the possessions I own. And with the money I’ve saved by no longer making senseless purchases, I’ve stopped struggling to afford the things I need.

What is around me sparks joy, so joy flows more openly. I am blissful around my most treasured plants, pillows, and furniture. Saving money has allowed me to invest in higher-quality, longer-lasting furniture and clothing, so I won’t need to keep thoughtlessly accumulating things just to eventually replace them.

It’s amazing that decluttering has given me a better sense of what’s most important in all aspects of my life. It’s as if the stressful clutter in my mind has cleared up, too. Now I know exactly what fits into my life and what I can do without.