The magical art of silence

I’m late to the party of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The author already has written a sequel to her first book. Luckily, the quietude of our new surroundings (and the fact that exterior home improvement has to wait for a better month than January) is now allowing me to catch up with things I’ve meant to learn more about. This is Marie Kondo’s answer to excess: Toss almost everything and keep only what sparks joy (which may or may not spark joy tomorrow, so more stuff to toss). For many, it seems draconian. Really, it’s common sense. Her best advice is to start with culling your clothes and move up the chain of possession sentimentality; I actually think that’s smart because I lived it last year without even knowing I was practicing “KonMari.” 

Try to keep your kitchen this clean. I dare you. Our former kitchen, Olympia, April 2015.

I think “KonMari” is essentially practiced best by people who know how to stage homes. I inadvertently learned this process when I started studying how to stage rooms in a home sale. You basically eradicate everything that would remind the buyer that someone lives there. The goal is to use timeless details so it doesn’t look abandoned, but mostly think modern art museum aesthetics. That is what we aimed for at our former house while it was on the market for the few weeks before it sold.

I should probably add here that it pays off in the end for buyers to see how sparkling clean your house can be, but you quickly become OCD about every last detail as you look at your house through someone else’s critical eye. We vacuumed our way out the door each morning just in case we had a showing. Sinks were cleaned hourly so as not to show one drop of water. And the predominant interior color in our previous home was white on white on VERY WHITE. Think Pottery Barn catalog photo backdrop level of white with silver handles everywhere. This is not an area where “progress not perfection” works. Perfection is where the bar is set.

Quick aside: I don’t think it’s a coincidence our new home was staged in pale gray, green and brown tones. Much more forgiving when the earth tones of actual dirt come into play, which is more the norm here since we are in the middle of a forest.

To get the rooms at the Olympia house to a sparse lived in/not lived in level, we boxed up easily 60 percent of our belongings and stored them in the garage. That in itself is still mystifying to me. We’d grown to fill in our 3-bedroom house, but we were able to live without 60 percent of it AND THEN 95 percent of it when we went through the two-week vacation/not a vacation time in hotels waiting for our new home purchase to complete. When faced with schlepping belongings into a room at a Best Western, you really get down to toiletries and clothes, some food for lunches and snacks in a cooler, paperwork for the home transaction and our laptops and tablets, plus Jim’s guitar and a speaker so we could listen to our iPods in the hotel room. It was 2 carloads, with the rest in storage. It would have been more lean had we had pets (which was our last big move from Missouri to Washington state that included us and two cats and one litter box in one car).

So to get to that stripped down level of living in a short amount of time, we had to go full on “KonMari” without time to even think about it. Instinctively we started throwing out clutter. I was putting furniture up online for sale and making endless runs to Goodwill, which luckily was not even a mile from the house. And it is true, the more we got rid of, the easier it became to lose things. Our motivation was twofold: Declutter our old house to the point of no return, and this would allow us to not feel so cramped on the other end of our newer and SMALLER house. It also would cut down on the storage bill. I kept my eyes on the prize of downsizing for financial and practical reasons.

Our new cozy living room in Lakebay.

So this was the move where I got rid of things I’d carried since Missouri and in some cases since college. Old coats, cookware, books. Because we framed it in strictly financial, practical terms, it took a lot of the sentimentality out of holding on. I also made myself have a reckoning that for every box packed, I’d have to move it physically myself in the unpacking phase. As someone living with RA, that also kept me from loading up 20 boxes of books and vinyl albums I’d never listen to because Goodwill already had our turntable. Instead, those went to Half-Price Books for money. After years of carrying things, you realize no one probably will want them when you’re gone since most of these things have special meaning only to you. Yet after all that, I still have a cabinet filled with handmade quilts from my grandmother and an aunt, who had her own collection she was trying to cull the last time I saw her. Yes, they still spark joy for me.

In the meantime, kudos to Marie Kondo for spreading the gospel in her streamlined organizing industry.  Now if only I can have some of my old cabinet space back for my new kitchen …. On the plus side, it is a snap to keep clean!

Note the white cabinets. We can’t seem to get away from them!

Speaking of RA: I am doing very well. I take Minocycline as needed, which is not very often at all, typically one week a month if that, and have had only one major flare since moving here last July, and that went away in 24 hours. The only supplement I take now is B12. So plant-based living does pay off in the end. I am SO EXCITED about getting to start a garden here.

If you want more info on Marie Kondo to help inspire you to achieve full clutter-busting, watch this:


5 thoughts on “The magical art of silence

  1. Hi Debbie,

    I am drooling over your clean rooms…I just put the book you mentioned on hold at the library! After helping my in-laws move from a house into a small apartment this past week, my husband and I face all our weekends in the foreseeable future clearing out all their boxes of worthless junk. I don;t want to do that to anyone else! Time to get rid of everything! haha

    Glad the RA is still under good control. My psoriatic arthritis is as well. (I am Nicole O’Shea from the McDougall boards). Looking over your post about Renoir from a couple of years ago, I was struck by how similar I felt: how can something so simple and easy be so effective??? It’s miraculous.




    1. Thanks! It is good to hear from you. I plan to write more about my RA. My blog muse is back, seemingly! Moving was a good motivator to ditch a lot of stuff and my husband, Jim, has been a great coach and helper when we had to keep the Oly house pristine. No way could I have done it alone. Marie Kondo is interesting and I really like her get it all done at once approach.


  2. Nice to have a “helper”. Looks like everyone loves that book – on hold for months at the library! The idea of getting it all done is great; something wonderful about completion. Looking forward to reading more and hearing more about how your RA is going. Moving is a huge stress, such a testament to the power of diet that you are still doing OK.


  3. Your home is beautiful! I wish I had your eye for design and decor.

    As for “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I found it really difficult to get through. At first I thought it was because she was so “woo-woo” with all the “thank your belongings for a job well done” and “thank your clothing for teaching you what your tastes are” and that sort of thing, but then I realized that she was describing, on many pages, a problem that’s exactly the opposite of my problem. She was telling me how she fit everything that sparked joy into a tiny Tokyo apartment. My problem is the opposite — I’m a typical suburban American living in a house that’s MUCH too big, and therefore, I have all this space, which makes it easy to just put something aside, and then something else, and 20 years later, I have a house full of stuff I’ve been meaning to get rid of “someday.”

    Your description of what it’s like to have your house on the market shows why I will probably never put this one on the market, unfortunately. I could never get it looking good enough.


    1. You can do it! I am fascinated by Marie and the way she says just to plow through all of it. As for interior design, Jim gets the credit for organizing our rooms. I just refine it 🙂

      We had way too much space at our old house and we didn’t do much purging at all until we started putting in new floors and had to empty out rooms for carpet installation. I found that taking everything out of a room then putting stuff back in one item at a time was essentially KonMari because I was too lazy to move most of it back in!


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