The only thing worse than the end of a vacation is coming home to a messy house. That’s why I consistently frustrate Tom and the kids each year when I refuse to leave for vacation without all of us pitching in to straighten up the house first.
They barely tolerate it as I whip around from room to room in a last-minute frenzy, giving each person a different chore so that, once the trip is over, we can come home to peaceful, clean surfaces instead of a disaster that makes us want to race back to the hotel room we just left.
I insist on this pre-vacation ritual mostly because I love coming home. No matter how fun the vacation or how pretty the hotel was, my inner homebody loves the day when we come back to our own space. And now – five days and seven loads of laundry later – we’re home again and I, for one, was happy to see an empty sink when we got here.
While we were away, I sat by the pool and finished reading a book that shed some light on why homebodies like me have this need to straighten things up. I don’t normally read self-help books on vacation but this one had been getting so much buzz in the media that I had to see what all the fuss was about. It’s titled “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo.
A No. 1 New York Times bestseller, the book has a four and a half star rating on Amazon with more than four thousand reviews posted and more than two million copies sold. Those kinds of numbers wouldn’t be so remarkable if we were talking about a juicy novel. But a book about cleaning up the house? I had to find out what was causing so many people to turn pages about something as mundane as folding socks.
Now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve got a theory about why this topic has become so popular. Our homes – and by extension our lives – are stuffed full. Too full. And we’re suffocating under the weight. This simple little book about “tidying up” is actually more about “lightening up.” By helping people figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, she helps us shed some of the stress we feel along with much of the clutter.
The author’s main tip for helping people decide what to keep or not to keep is to pick an item up (not just look at it) and ask yourself if it “sparks joy.” If it does, you decide where to keep it. If it doesn’t, away it goes. She also has specific guidelines on the methods and order in which you should tackle this massive one-time-only decluttering project.
I haven’t put all of the book’s advice into practice yet, and to be honest, some of it is a little extreme. The author treats things as if they’re people and tells a story about how horrified she is to see balled up socks rolling around in a drawer. She thinks socks deserve time to “rest” and they can’t do that if they’re balled up in lumps. (To that I say, “Calm down. They’re socks, not tortured kittens.”)
I do, however, plan to use many of the lessons learned in this book, especially when it comes to letting go of things we tell ourselves we should hang on to “just in case.” Because whether we’re coming back from vacation or just another day at the office, we all want the blessing of a home that “sparks joy.”
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.