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Spark Joy: an approach to decluttering

Spark Joy: an approach to decluttering

My good friend Anna Marie is the most organized person I know. So when she comes across a book about organizing and she recommends it, I pay attention.

It turns out everyone is talking about this book. I told another friend about the book and a friend of hers had already given her a copy.

SPARK JOY by Marie Kondo is a unique approach to decluttering your life. If you have issues with clutter, you might like to read the Look Inside feature of this book on Amazon and see if this is the book for you.

In her approach, Marie Kondo has six basic rules of tidying:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  3. Finish by discarding first
  4. Tidy by category, not by location
  5. Follow the right order: clothes, books, papers, komono, sentimental
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

The process will be as fast or as slow as you choose. Some of us take longer to decide whether or not an object “sparks joy” and we progress more slowly.

The criterion for deciding what to keep and what to discard is whether or not something sparks joy.

Even though it may not look like it, your clutter is finite. If you commit to this process, you will finish and you will achieve that nirvana of a clutter free home.

Don’t confuse temporary clutter with a rebound.

Marie Kondo tells us that anyone who learns to tidy properly should never rebound. Do not confuse “temporary clutter” with rebound. There will be days when you are busy and don’t have time to put things away. But once you have completed her process, everything will have a designated space. Putting things in their designated space takes very little time.

I’ve only just begun. I am going in order, doing clothes first. I had no idea I owned this many T-shirts and I have to admit, they do not all Spark Joy. Still I have that nagging little voice that says I should hold on to some of those shirts I don’t like, just in case I need one for a painting day.

“It might come in handy”

“It might come in handy” is taboo. It is the enemy of tidying.

Marie Kondo says there are some tools and some clothes, that though they do not Spark Joy, are necessary to make us happy in certain situations. We can thank them for that. But only one of my T-shirts will be a painting shirt. The rest that do not Spark Joy will go, and my closet will thank me because I will have freed up space on the closet rod.


Another thing that encourages me is that Marie Kondo says if it brings you Joy, you do not need to get rid of it. She has a name for those clothes you will never wear. That out-of-date evening gown, that costume for the play. She calls those things “Cosplay” or Costume Play. We put them on, and they lift our spirits. So keep them. Wear them indoors. And, sometimes, when we try them on, after all these years, we discover they no longer give us that same good feeling. No Joy. Decision made.  Easy to toss. Again, my closet thanks me for the additional space.

I am starting with my shirts. At first I made the mistake of color coding the hangers these would go on. Then I ran out of that color and had to switch colors. The rule is Discard First. Storage comes later. So, I will carry on. One shirt at a time.

Have you heard of Spark Joy? Do you need to declutter? Do you have any idea how to begin? Do you think it’s possible to go through this Marie Kondo process, once, correctly (discard first, and in the correct order) and then remain forever clutter free?



I got a new monitor and I was getting my wires crossed so I decided to sort out the mess.

First, let me tell you about the monitor. On Tuesday, I brought home a 24 inch Samsung SD390. It had a beautiful display but I didn’t like the stand. I type so fast that I set up a vibration and that was making the screen shake. So the next day, I returned the SD390 and purchased the SD590. It has the same beautiful display but with a more solid stand.

I’ve been using two monitors for some time now. This new one is my main screen and I have an older monitor, also 24 inches, that I use for a secondary screen. Since it’s older, the colours are not as vibrant but, hey, it works.

Why two monitors?

I open Scrivener on my main screen. On the secondary monitor, I  have several WORD documents open: a name chart, a calendar of what happens when, a list of threads to keep track of, and an INSPIRATION mind map that shows my character relationships.

Add a cup of coffee to this setup, and I am in my perfect writing place.

helpful husband

I have a helpful husband. A long time ago, he installed an 8 outlet surge protector under my desk to deal with the computer wires but since then I have found more things to plug in. So yesterday he installed another bar. This one has 7 outlets, giving me a total of 15. I’m only using 11 of them. Maybe I should buy another lamp? (just kidding!)

What’s under there?

I have power for:

  • CPU
  • main monitor
  • secondary monitor
  • speakers
  • USB splitter
  • inkjet printer
  • laserjet printer
  • external hard drive
  • backup hard drive
  • really bright lamp
  • cell phone charger

And this is the final configuration.

computer wires under my deskKudos to Rolf. Gotta love a hubby with power tools!

Defeating Clutter – Part 2

Defeating Clutter – Part 2

Two weeks ago, I decided to clear my office by devoting 15 minutes at the end of a writing session to declutter.

I’ve learned something since then: It’s easy to put away Things, but not so easy to put away Paper. It’s the Paper that is the Problem. The piles and piles and files and files of paper.

It makes me never want to write on a piece of paper again. But I know I will so I need to learn to deal with the Paper Dragon.

When I pick up a piece of paper, hold it in my hands, and try to decide where to put it, one of these things happens:

  • I start reading it and thinking about it, or
  • I start to make a file for it, or
  • I start to DO what is on the paper (email, phone, buy), or
  • I hesitate, decide to think about it later, and basically decide not to decide.

My sister, one of the Ever Organized People, told me about her method.

Step 1: Pre-sort

The idea is to pick up a piece of paper and place it into one of four categories. Do not ACT on the paper, simply place it in a category. The categories are:

  • File – if it goes to an existing file, or needs a file made.
  • Act – if it requires phoning, emailing, buying, some kind of acting upon.
  • Put away – if it’s a large item like a book that needs to return to a bookshelf, or pad of paper that needs to go where loose paper is kept. (You may need to create that space, but not yet. For now, it simply goes in this pile.)
  • Toss – what a lovely pile this is!

Step 2: Get rid of the obvious stuff

The Toss category goes in the trash. Put the books back, put the clothes and dishes back. Throw out the old magazines. Group like items – the emailing, the phoning, the buy list.

Step 3: Decide

Now we need to deal with all those loose papers that need filing. Or do they really belong in the Toss category? This is the bottleneck, the time where we procrastinate. It helps to have a friend at this point.

Pick up the top piece of paper, and make a decision.

Can’t decide? Have your friend ask these questions. Ask them rapidly. Get some momentum going.

  • Will I ever actually need this?
  • Did I even remember that I had it?
  • If I did need it, where would I look for it?
  • If I did need it, could I find it faster on the internet, and thereby let someone else worry about storing it?

Decide, then write what the action will be on the paper (or a stick-it note). Possible actions could be file in an existing file, create a new file, read, give to someone else, put in a scrapbook, donate, whatever. Don’t do it, simply write it down and put it in the pile of like actions. And go on to the next piece of paper.

Your friend rapidly picks up the next piece of paper. You decide. If you’re slow to decide your friend starts asking The Questions. Sometimes you can’t come up with a good reason to do anything with that piece of paper and you decide to put it in the Toss category. The faster your friend puts each new piece of paper in your hands, the quicker becomes your decision making. You may find that you are often deciding on the Toss category. And that is probably going to be a refreshing feeling.

unruly paper stack from bigstockphotos.com #3476524

Defeating Clutter – Part 1

Defeating Clutter – Part 1

I know I would work much better without the Clutter in my office, but I keep putting one more thing in here “just for now” and I feel like the fish in The Cat in the Hat.

And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!

(thank you Dr. Seuss)

And now . . . my latest attempt to attack the clutter.

This week’s trick is The Timer.

As a concrete step for this new habit, I have placed my timer under my monitor where I can see it.
On the timer, there is a yellow stick-it note that says “15 min” in orange fluorescent ink.

After I have finished writing for the day, I will close down my files, reach for the timer, set it for 15 minutes and use that time to put things away.

Yesterday was my first day with establishing this habit and here is what happened:

  • I set the timer for 15 minutes.
  • I picked up the American Express bill off the floor.
  • I decided to file it, so then I needed to make a label for the file.
  • I found the Label Maker, which was flashing the Low Battery Signal.
  • I opened the back of the Label Maker and discovered that the batteries were last changed in April 2010. I know this because that’s what the stick-it note on the batteries said. (My hubby, the Ever Organized, wrote it.)
  • So, I found new batteries, and then I had to find a stick-it note to say when they were last changed. Because, you never know, the Low Battery signal might flash and it might be for some other reason.
  • But I was out of stick-it notes. (They’re all over the edges of my monitor.)
  • I found the box of stick-it notes. It was under my Kindle, which I noticed needed charging, so I plugged it in.

OK. New batteries. Labeled with a stick-it note. I made the label. Stuck it on the file and filed the American Express bill. Now when the next one comes, I will quickly stick it in the file until it’s time to worry about itemizing these things.

I still had time left, so I cleared off one shelf of the bookshelf and wiped down the dust. Then the timer went. I left the books on the floor and had lunch.

I think it’s important to not overdo a new habit. Do the 15 minutes and then quit for the day.

Have you ever tried the Timer Approach? Does 15 minutes seem like a reasonable amount of time? How would you like to commit to 15 minutes/day for at least 4 days this week, and then report back next Tuesday?

The Cat in the Hat from Dr. Seuss
Timer from istockphoto.com #000009443672

Taking pictures, keeping memories

Taking pictures, keeping memories

This is a Panasonic LUMIX ZS25 Compact Long Zoom. It takes 16 MP pictures, has full HD video and has 20 times zoom. All that and it neatly fits in my pocket. Settings include Intelligent Auto and manual exposure and scene modes for everything from portraits to sports to a starry sky. And there’s a self-timer.

I’m still familiarizing myself with what this camera can do. But, while I know it can capture memories, I know it can’t keep them for me.

Long ago, my Uncle Lawrence had a Kodak Brownie and a passion for taking pictures. Not only did he capture the moment, he had the film printed and he wrote in pencil on the back of the picture. Sometimes it was only the date. Sometimes it was more.

“1937, taken from the Thames River near the lighthouse”

Nowadays we don’t need to worry about dating a picture, except to make sure the camera’s date and time are set correctly. But we do need to record more than the picture. Ironically, there are so many pictures taken, that the story behind those pictures can be buried. There is a saying in the scrapbooking world: Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be jpegs.

Of course, there is photo software to organize and write about your pictures. But as long as the pictures are digital, it can all be lost in a shuffle of electrons. The rule of thumb is that the photo does not exist unless it is in three places: your computer, an external hard drive and the cloud.

But we need to do more than that. We need to print a few. Just a few. And put them in an album of some kind and give them some words. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but give the picture at least some little caption.

We are trying to figure out who is in this picture. We have an idea of the town. keeping memoriesBut wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone had thought to scribble a date on the back?

My mother framed a lot of pictures. Her walls were lined with framed pictures. She wrote notes on the back of each frame. Without the words, you are left with a pretty frame and an interesting picture, but no idea of your connection to the people in that picture.

How about you? Do you take a lot of pictures? Do you have a system for recording the events and the people in your pictures? Are your memories buried in jpegs?

photo of camera from panasonic.com

January – Setting Intentions

January – Setting Intentions

After all the activity of December, there’s something refreshing about turning the calendar page to January, even if it is the coldest month of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere).

January is named for the Roman god, Janus—the god of gates and doorways. As we pass through this figurative gate, January becomes a time for reassessing what worked last year and what you might do differently this year.

Last year I didn’t make any resolutions. Well, I made Un-Resolutions. This year I’m going for Phased Resolutions, which means I’m not making them all at once.

My resolution for January is to finish at least 250 Final Draft words a day. It can take ten times as many First Draft words to get the 250 Final Draft words, so this is a good goal for me. Sometimes I’m lucky and the first draft words equal the final draft words. That doesn’t happen often so I treasure those days. In my phased approach, if all goes well, I will increase that goal to 300 final draft words for February. And so on.

For organization, I may approach this by cleaning one closet on Saturday. Maybe I’ll begin with one shelf. Maybe, half a shelf. As they say, a job started is half done. Or I think the original quotation is: Well begun is half done.

That reminds me of a quotation Aunt Net has on her bathroom wall:

Never start a vast project with a half-vast plan.

This year, I’m also learning about Setting Intentions.

At the end of November, I started yoga class. I am still a major newbie, struggling to achieve at least a semblance of those poses and I have much to learn. One of the things I’ve learned is that yoga is a lot more than poses. It’s a way of Being. At the beginning of class, I hear the phrase—set your intention. Different intentions come to mind. This morning, the word Strength came to mind. I want to be stronger. On another day, my Intention is Calmness.

I like this idea of setting intentions far more than the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions or Setting Goals. Goals by definition are future-oriented and often end up being unrealistic and undoable.

“Setting an Intention” is very “In The Moment”. When I think about it, I KNOW what I need to do. And I am learning to trust “my knowing”.

 Do you Set Your Intention at the beginning of the day? Do you prefer the more future-oriented goal setting? Or do you like to simply go with the flow and be surprised by what actually gets done?

ice crystals from photos.com #177585546