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 ย 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 โค



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 ๐Ÿ™‚


The way I keep my shirts now! ๐Ÿ™‚



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. ๐Ÿ™‚


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.


Let’s talk TOYS


For a 3 year old girl who helped “KonMari” her own room. These are the toys she chose, in addition to two baby dolls and a basket of plush toys. This is still a lot by many people’s standards. But KonMari Method is not necessarily about becoming minimalist, though some do. It’s about JOY. And for us, functionality. She can put all these things away herself.

It’s the middle of the night. Your child or dog wakes you. You have to get a glass of water/tissue/clean set of sheets/thermometer from another room. You get up, walk three steps, only to impale your foot on the wing of an airplane. Or roll your ankle on a ball. Or the worst: stab yourself in the middle of the tender part of your foot with a LEGO.

You are now hurt. Probably swearing. Adrenaline runs through you and getting back to sleep is only a wish and a dream. And you vow: tomorrow, we are taking care of this toy mess!

But tomorrow comes, and your child insists that EVERYTHING is precious. EVERYTHING is loved. They couldn’t possibly donate a single toy. **sigh** Is it worth the battle?

It doesn’t have to be a fight. What if we simply re-frame the issue of toys. Go from “what can we get rid of” to “what do we really love and want to keep?”

It takes some courage to do this. Because it means that we parents might have to get out of our own way. Most children are remarkable clear about what they love. A client was traveling last year with her kids and they had been away from home for several weeks. On the way back, she asked her child, “What toys are you looking forward to playing with at home?” He named two things. That’s it. He couldn’t think of any of the hundreds of other things he had at home.

I’ve had this experience with my own children. When away from their home, and asked to think of toys they love, about 2-4 things is the most they can come up with. I don’t believe we are wired to keep a tally of “things.” We know and catalog experiences, people and emotions. Less so with stuff.

But we have so much fear about letting go. What if we need it? What if they change their mind and cry for the thing? What if interests change? What if we have another baby? What if my child is hurt that we discarded things?

These questions and many more are all things I’ve gone through myself and have helped my clients to work through.

What I will say is this: The payoff is worth the process. To feel more calm as a family unit, to have more time to go out and play, spend less time picking up stuff- these have been huge for me and my clients.

So give it try. Ask your child, when you are away from home next time, “What are your most favorite toys?” Then listen carefully to what they say.

Aloha, and Happy Tidying ๐Ÿ™‚


The Magic


What is the “Magic” of Tidying up?

I recently attended the KonMari Consultant Training in San Francisco and heard from a room full of consultants-to-be on their own Tidying journeys as well as those they have been helping already as clients. And it is AMAZING. You’d think we were in some kind of spirituality or overcoming addiction retreat with all the life-changing magic that was being spoken! But this is powerful stuff- especially when you enter this journey with a positive energy and an openness for what is in store for you. Here are just a few snippets:

“L” was working with a client on clothing. ย While working on joy-checking each item, client Jay talked about feeling very lonely and that friends and family seem to have forgotten about them. After removing many bags of clothing that did not spark joy, Jay felt an urge to start tidying up in the garage. While removing old items, the grill was uncovered. Jay started the grill and within about 45 minutes, several neighbors saw Jay outside and stopped by to say hello, share burgers and talk. Tidying up clothing one day had turned into an impromptu party the next! The gatherings have continued on a somewhat regular basis as Jay has continued tidying through the other categories and now feels very happy to invite neighbors into the house also.ย 

A writer, suffering from writers block and hadn’t written so much as a paragraph in weeks began tidying clothes. That went very quickly and she was able to move on to books. After one session tidying books, her writers block lifted and she began her writing and research once again. By the 4th session, she was working on a book proposal.ย 

Mary, a single mother with a large home, had been working on her tidying process for several months. As she returned items to her ex-husband, discarded things that didn’t spark joy and continued through the categories, her home space was opened more and more. One day, while working through miscellaneous items and discarding many things to the curb, someone in the neighborhood stopped by to talk to her about her home. This person knew much history of the house and was invited in to tell stories and share. They are now friends!

After struggling with communication for months with her husband, Sylvia started tidying her clothing. After she completed her books and began working on papers, things started changing. It took nearly 3 weeks to finally complete the task of tidying many years worth of papers and eventually eliminated two filing cabinets full. She and her husband’s relationship improved dramatically and they are both happier than ever.ย 

During our training seminar, we were reminded that KonMari Method can’t solve ALL your problems! However, we witnessed that it improved people’s lives in ways they didn’t expect. Some themes that emerged were things like ending relationships that were unhealthy; improved relationships with loved ones; new jobs; promotions; opportunities to buy property; weight loss; sense of peace around previously difficult issues and overall sense of clarity about one’s life and goals.

Let the Magic come into your life. Aloha


Consultant seminar class San Francisco. Marie Kondo’s army to #organizetheworld (photo credit KonMari Media, Inc.)





Begin with Clothing

Part of the success in utilizing the KonMari Method is to follow the rules. ๐Ÿ™‚ Even when you have many other things you could start with- begin with clothing. You will be amazed at how much progress you make, the space that is created and the momentum you gain. I helped a client do this room, starting with clothing, in addition to two other dressers in the home that also contained clothing. We worked hard for 4 hours and discarded 7 bags of clothing that did not spark joy! At the end of the session, the client had removed so many pieces of clothing that all that was kept could be stored in the laundry room. This made the client very happy. Let me help you get started.


We started with the large pile, including two other dressers not pictured. Hauled every single item out of the room and went through piece by piece. The result is that this client now loves the space, has only the clothing they need and other precious joy-sparking mementos are visible.


shutterstock_432166855Sorted Home Organizing can help you discard, create systems and an ongoing method for handling all the “stuff” that family life brings. Would you like to be able to get to a place that you can tidy your whole house in about an hour? We’d like to help get you there!

Let’s Get Started.

Sorted Home Organizing is a small business born from a real need to get my life together. Household moves, having children, loved ones passing away- all created stress and no time to attend to the day-to-day “stuff” that seemed to accumulate. I have a background in counseling, program management and youth development- a unique combination to help people get organized and stay organized! It all begins with the categories: clothes, then books, then papers, then other items as we choose. As we move through your home you will feel lighter, more productive and things that previously had no home finally find a place as together we work to identify what truly makes you happy- the things you should keep- and what is just taking up precious life space. Don’t worry if you think your space is too challenging. Let’s get started.