Life, Death, and Tidying

It’s about to get personal, friends. I have told many of my clients bits and peices of my own tidying journey, but I’m going to tell everyone a whole lot more. Because I need to reach those of you out there who are overwhelmed, stressed and can’t see a way out of where you are.

It’s been 4 years now since we moved into our current home. We bought this 3-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom approximately 1200 square foot space to house our family of 5 humans and and 3 canines. We were moving out of a rental house that was much bigger- more like 2000 square feet, with a large shed, a carport and a huge yard for all our outside toys, gardens, pots and extra stuff.

The day the moving was finished, I left our rental home for the last time and drove to our new home where a few treasured friends and my husband had moved everything and my mom was trying to direct traffic. When I walked in, I burst into tears and couldn’t stop sobbing. There was no room to even turn around. In any room. The moving boxes were stacked from floor to ceiling, our couches had to be turned on end to fit inside. The kitchen  was buried. The bathrooms and shower even had to be used to hold the boxes. The double carport was filled from top to bottom with only a small path. This was not the usual mess and flurry of moving. This was excess. HUGE excess. For a family of only 4 (I was still pregnant) it was WAY TOO MUCH. How was I ever going to dig out from this?

Six months later, there were entire boxes we’d never even touched yet. Stacked in corners, stuffed in closets, we’d purchased a shed to hold more stuff. We were barely functioning in this space. It was so cramped and full. I have almost no photos of our home from this time because it was so depressing.

The photos I do have of our pre-tidying up life are when I started to make a change, about 3 years ago. Some really major things happened, pretty much all at once, in December 2013. I gave birth to a baby girl, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, I left my job of 5 years and my husband returned to sea duty.

My mom had been taking care of me in my late stages of pregnancy (I couldn’t drive at the end!) and my 4 year old son. When she went from caregiving to needing care herself in the space of one week, it was a total shock. Not only was there now a calendar full of doctors appointments, but she had been my helper and support. Everything piled up everywhere.

In this bizarre and crushing time, I felt like I had to get a handle on something- anything that I could make better. So during my newborn daughter’s nap times I started digging through our stuff. I started taking boxes to charity and began to regain a tiny bit of sanity.

My mom passed away May 2014. It was only 5 months since her diagnosis, and 5 months since our daughter was born. After a trip to the mainland for memorial services I returned to our home. Still cramped, but with a little hope that my tidy, organized mom could push me to get things done from the Other Side. She had been training me for this all along.

Late in 2014 a Kindle version of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up became available. It was the first book I ever downloaded. I read it in two days. And that was it. I knew I didn’t need any self-help books, home organizing containers or 1-800-Got-Junk. I just needed to do the categories, follow the instructions. It was so clear, so simple and so attainable. And I saw myself and my mom in Kondo’s writing. The way she talks about finding the right container that you already have to organize (mom used to cut cereal boxes) or sorting by categories rather than rooms- mom always did this when we moved.

But it was the mindfulness, the joy and the gratitude that set this process apart from what I had been trying to do on my own in the year before. And it is THIS- MINDFULNESS that pulls me back today when I find our life starting to slip back into a version of chaos that I already know and recognize coming. Shopping habits changed. Our diets changed. Our routines changed.

So does our house still get messy? Oh yeah. Right now, my counter tops need attention. But here is the major difference: I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. I don’t get paralyzed anymore. Because I know everything does have a place, even if it’s temporarily not there at the moment. I also know that if I start to recognize that familiar chaos creeping back, all I have to do is stop moving, use mindfulness, gratitude and joy to discard some things until we are back to where we need to be. We are not a minimalist family. We still have lots of things. And we might discard more as time goes on. We are ok for now.

You too can get there. Your own “click point.” If I can do this- you can too. Aloha ❤



Clothes piled for tidying, but this was typical because there wasn’t room in the closet for everything so I was often living out of a basket on the bed.


Pile of bags! I had 30 at one point.


Our bedroom now 🙂


The way I keep my shirts now! 🙂



Our hallway before tidying was a storage area and baby changing station because there was no other place to put my daughters clothes and diapers. The big plastic garage shelf is also filled.


After tidying, our hallway is a little calm oasis. I burn a candle here and the kids can ride their little cars all the way down. 🙂


Piled high kitchen countertops- this was very typical pre-tidying. And even if things start to get messy now, it only takes a few minutes to stop and put things away.


We had so many dishes that we didn’t have to wash them regularly! Now, with few dishes washing them is required to eat again.


Our kitchen now. If I batch cook or skip a few days cleaning up it takes about 30 minutes to get it here again.


The biggest change in our home happened here. This was my mom’s room. And when she died it took a long time to address these things.


Her stuff from our shed and other parts of the house got piled in here for many months.


Now, this room is my son’s bedroom. He helped KonMari his own things and picked the paint color.


The other bedroom was also super full. Stuffed with toys so that the changing table had to be in the hallway.


My daughter’s room now. She enjoys playing in here.


Our dining room pre-tidying!


Various stages of piles in the dining room.


I love our dining room now. It cleans up well, things go in the cupboards and we can eat together and even play games.


PAPERS!! OMG we had papers. I discarded an entire 4 drawer file cabinet and two file boxes from closets.