[This post first appeared on POPSUGAR, but I wanted to share this journey on my blog as well. It has been slightly edited, and I will be following up with an additional post to show you photos from the before-and-after transformation.]
I have read a good amount of books in my life, but there are only a small few that I would describe as "life-changing." I want to share my experience with my most recent life-changing read, not coincidentally called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." This book has been discussed ad nauseam at this point, so I doubt you're unfamiliar with it, but I hoped to share my personal experience with it. [It's been about 9 months since I read this book haha so please excuse the dated reference].
This book did not have me on the edge of my seat or keep me up all night, nor was it the most beautifully written book I've ever read (no offense to the author, because she is a genius in different ways). But it was life changing in the way it truly began to consume me in every sense of the word. I talked about it to everyone who would listen, I impatiently counted down the days until I knew I could fully begin the process of purging and tidying up my room/life, and then once I started, I still constantly thought about what I could get rid of next, and how free and light and beautiful my new space felt to me.
I won't spend a ton of time recapping what the book taught me - and I highly recommend you pick up a copy for yourself if you haven't already - but I will cover the high-level lessons this book instilled in me. I was originally drawn to it because of other people's glowing reviews, and because while I would like to describe myself as someone who is clean and tidy, the truth was that it felt like I was constantly apologizing to guests for how messy my room was and was always having to "clean up" my room and put things away and it's exhausting to do that week in and week out in order to feel like my space was tidy and pretty. Part of the problem was due to the fact that I've lived in the same house and room for 4+ years now, so I've missed the constant purging opportunities that moving once a year brought me. Don't get me wrong, I am happy as a clam staying put. But that was a definite bonus of moving - getting the chance to go through all your stuff and get rid of the unnecessary excess acquired over the year. Let me tell you though, those yearly move purges have NOTHING on this mega purge I've just completed. So I now know that even a normal move wouldn't have been able to accomplish what I did thanks to this book.
It was clear that constantly tidying up wasn't working for me, and nothing was changing. So the magic part of this book, that she describes in much detail, lies in the purging and ridding yourself of unnecessary clutter before you can truly live a life free of constant cleaning and tidying. Which makes so much sense when you stop and think about it. But I never did, not on this level. I allowed items to follow me from house to house and to sit in closets and on shelves without ever intentionally taking the time to think through each item and what purpose it served and if I truly needed it in my life. The point she drives home the most, and which has guided me every step of the way in this process, all comes down to this one question: "Does this item spark joy for me?" So lovely and simple, right? What a beautiful concept to only surround ourselves with the things that actually bring joy to our being. It was like a light switch flipped in my head and I instantly began seeing everything through a different filter. I would continually scan my room and mentally note all the items I would easily be able to discard now that I had this new revelation. The result was beyond what I could have expected.
I kept track of most everything I discarded so I could see the full measure of my efforts, and the numbers were equal parts terrifying and extremely satisfying. Twelve black trash bags filled with clothes and accessories and shoes: gone. Ten boxes worth of books, makeup, electronics, and extras: goodbye! I tallied up individual items which included 107 tops, 61 pairs of shoes, 32 dresses, 50+ necklaces, and 23 scarves just to list a few categories. And that doesn't include items I trashed (several more trash bags worth) - those were just garage sale and giveaway pieces. It probably goes without saying that I felt physically lighter with every bundle of stuff I was able to get rid of. But the impact on my life has been much greater than just a cleaner room. I've found that this process has seeped into so many other elements of my life, which is why this has truly been so life-changing for me. Here are the biggest things I have learned and taken away from this experience:
1. There is SO MUCH we don't need in life. The amount of things I have accumulated literally disgusted me and was beginning to suffocate me at times. There is very little we need to get by on, and the less we have in life, the less complicated it begins to feel.
2. A clutter-free life creates a clutter-free mind. I didn't used to go around constantly thinking about the mess back at home in my room, or about the drawers of unnecessary paperwork I still had, or about nail art tools I hadn't used in years. But I've learned now that the truth is that stuff is always hanging around in our subconscious somehow. So the more I got rid of things, the more space it felt my mind had to tackle other things I was passionate about.
3. Having less clothes has actually ADDED to the variety of outfits I'm able to put together and the ease with which I'm able to do so. I used to be the type of person that thought more was more. Shopping at Forever21 thrilled me because you could get SO many things for SO cheap. I'm now learning the unfortunate ethical implications behind this system, but have also been surprised by the fact that less clothing options actually makes putting together an outfit every day easier and more exciting. Because now I only have items to sift through that make me happy! And I can actually see everything in my closet because of the way I store things and because of how clear and simple it appears now.
4. The purge emerged patterns of the types of clothes or items that consistently weren't a fit for me. I discovered which style of clothes I really liked wearing, and those that seemed to always find their way to the giveaway pile, so I now believe I will shop differently in the future because of this.
5. The de-cluttering obsession has spilled over into other parts of my life. The mentality of removing all items that don't spark joy has now turned into a discipline that I can't seem to shut off. I've found myself asking that same question about accounts I follow on Instagram, people I follow on Snapchat, things in my car, items on my desk at work, fricking apps on my phone and even files on my desktop haha. We allow so much space and energy for things and people that don't add to who we are. So removing those creates space for all the good things we want to let in.
6. My days are truly more joy-filled. I go to bed happier and I wake up happier too. Falling asleep in a clean, cozy, and good-smelling room thrills me. And when I wake up to a room that doesn't have clothes or random crap strewn about, my mind can go straight to the things that matter. The most exciting part to me is that I'm creating a space and a life for myself that speaks to who I am, and that delights me on a deep soul-level. I'm so grateful for this life shift and hope and pray so many others will be able to experience this joy in their lives as well. You can do hard things! It's always worth it, I promise :)