Like everyone else on the planet, and at the urgent suggestion of my friend Mackenzie, who came over for dinner with her smart and kind husband two weeks ago and informed me that everything in my apartment appeared to “spark joy” (YES!), I’ve been watching the new Netflix series on cleaning and organization expert Marie Kondo. The editing/production of the show is horrible in my opinion — they repeat segments too often and don’t show enough of Marie Kondo in action. (And she is ELECTRIC! I love her! What a doll!) I also can’t figure why they tend to only show lessons 1 and 4 without featuring (even in a montage-type view) 2, 3, and 5? Or why they don’t say at the outset: “In this episode, we’re focusing mainly on lessons 1 and 4.” (But then why do they focus on 1 and 4 in all of the episodes?) It’s confusing to me. The redundancy of the show is bizarrely irritating to me, especially when House Hunters and Queer Eye are pretty much the same show over and over with mild differences and yet I can watch dozens of those without batting an eye.
Quibbles aside, of course I enjoy the show. Marie is a gem, and I’ve picked up more than my fair share of tips, including (importantly) her observation that including children in the folding of laundry and the tidying of the home is important. She notes that her children get excited about the prospect of cleaning because she gets excited about it. How true this is; when I make a big deal of something in front of mini, her little face lights up and she makes this funny little Santa-like chortle: “ho ho ho ho ho ho he he he he he.” And I do like organizing. And I do spend a monstrous portion of my day tidying. In the first episode, a mother illustrates just how difficult it is to get the basics of housekeeping done with two little ones at her heels. And I hear that. I am finding it especially difficult to quickly tidy the kitchen and dining room table after meals because mini always wants to play with me then, and she has this heartbreaking way of following me into the kitchen, taking my hand, and telling me: “Come.” Then she marches over to the play area and tells me, “Sit.” And sometimes she pats the sofa or the stool with emphasis to ensure I know what she means. And then she wants to “cook” for me (usually coffee, noodles, or oatmeal, which she curiously calls “oat-note”), or lean on my legs idly until she figures out what interests her, or hurl a book at my foot. And it is hard not to say, “Well, the dishes can wait.”
But I am also one of those type A people for whom dishes-in-the-sink is something akin to leaving-the-front-door-wide-open-with-the-keys-in-it. I just feel exposed, incomplete without standing up and closing the door (er, cleaning those dishes). And so I am thinking now I might start bringing mini in to “clean the dishes” with me, whether just with a small bowl of water and a little soap and sponge for her, or something like this.
Another thing that stood out to me while watching this show is just how many marital/domestic disputes and grievances take shape over the topics of laundry, organization, and cleaning at home. These have always seemed like such frivolous things to argue about, but but but — this show makes me realize how tied they are to so much else in our lives: to our ways of thinking, to our emotional wellbeing, to our relationships. How we organize (or don’t organize) our homes and what we surround ourselves with shape our experiences of life. And so often these things are afterthoughts — “oh, I’ll just shove this here for now” or “eh, that closet can wait” and “we’ll just let the dishes soak.” In and of themselves, these decisions or non-decisions seem trivial, but they are linked, and deeply, to who we are and what we feel about ourselves and our lives. Wow! These are not topics to be taken lightly after all.
I encourage you to watch this show with your significant other — it’s brought up many juicy conversation points between Mr. Magpie and I.
It’s also made me realize we are in pretty good shape: everything has it’s home in our house, and we really hung onto very little that we did not need when we downsized from our Chicago home to our New York one. I have been fairly ruthless in shedding the surplus in the months intervening. There are truly only three areas of my home that this show has made me determined to get sorted:
- Our utility/pantry closet. It’s trying to do too much. I need to bring some of the excess bowls/serving wear and paperwork we keep on the very top shelf of this closet down and evaluate whether we truly need any of the dishes (as they’ve not been touched since we’ve moved here) and whether we can shred the majority of the paper — which is probably the case, as I have absolutely no clue what’s in there right now. I’m determined to keep only what I need for the current year and then shred at year end from here on out. (I keep those current-year documents in a Bigso box at my desk.) Then I am buying one of these for the inside of the closet door and turning this shelving rack (<< strongly recommend this brand; super sturdy and durable for the price!; I also use their shelf risers in nearly every cabinet in our kitchen!) sideways so that it’s against the right wall as you enter (it’s a deep closet) and items are easier to find. Otherwise, I find myself digging through a handful of coats and pushing brooms out of my face to get to the back. Things I’ve done right in there so far: organized all spices into identical spice jars and labeled the lids with a labelmaker, then sorted them into three white bins labeled: A-G, H-Z, and OVERFLOW. I keep our flours and sugars in these and these. (I strongly prefer the Progressive brand products to the OXO ones and would buy all Progressive if I could do it again — I find that the “pop” tops on the OXOs do not actually offer an airtight seal.) Finally, I keep certain bulkier spices (like bay leaves and peppercorns) in these.
- Mini’s closet and dresser. These will soon need to be a shared space for two children, so I’ve taken the first step of sorting through all of the overflow clothes that I’d been putting in decorative bins, donating what I don’t want (I feel I can now be a bit pickier with what I keep since we have a boy on the way, though who knows if we have a third) and storing what I do in these Ziploc space bags, organized by size. I intend to buy an inexpensive shelving unit for the back of mini’s closet (probably this) and will use the bottom-most cubbies for overflow diapers and wipes and then the two top sets of cubbies for bulkier clothes (sweaters, coats) and linens (crib sheets, towels, changing pad covers, swaddles). If I can swing it, I might add this closet rod (reviews!!!) to double the amount I can hang if it won’t interfere with the shelving (need to measure again), as baby clothes are so itty bitty! I also already took out some of the miscellaneous lotions and ointments I had cluttering our top dresser drawer and affixed this to the wall right next to the changing table to house them all. This has freed up more space for diaper storage (will soon need two sizes on hand depending on how quickly mini’s toilet training goes) and socks. (P.S., I use these to organize her diaper/sock drawer efficiently.)
- Our medicine cabinets. These are actually pretty tidy in general but I realized they weren’t optimized for ease of access. I had grouped things together more or less by size, which was the wrong way to think of things. I started by taking everything out of both of our medicine cabinets and ordered a ton of these and these. Then I sorted things into “use daily,” “use weekly,” “use monthly,” and “use sporadically.” This meant I was able to group my contacts and skincare and dental hygiene products together and then place them on lower shelves in our master bath. I graduated up to the top by placing things used weekly — face masks, lip scrubs, etc — on the tallest shelf. Then anything I use monthly or sporadically I placed in the guest bathroom medicine cabinet, organized loosely by category (pain medication, overflow/back-up contact solution and toothpaste, etc). Finally, I had a huge bin under my sink of overflow cosmetic and trial size skincare products that I use only rarely. I created a big bag of unopened trial-size products and gave them all to my nanny. Then I organized the rest by function (i.e., travel haircare, travel skincare, excess makeup palettes only used sparingly, etc) into these inexpensive and CLEAR (!) cosmetic bags, which means things will be much, much easier to find from here on out.
Whew. That’s a lot. The only remaining area for me to grapple with is our closet and dresser. They’re organized and doing the best they can, but the fact is we just have too many clothes for our apartment. And I mean it when I say that I am ruthless about donating things that no longer “spark joy.” I am hoping that when we move this upcoming fall, we’ll find ourselves in a space with more closets in the master bedroom…
Any other tips/observations/tricks?!
+I have no insight into the quality of this brand, but I LOVE THE STYLING OF THIS AFFORDABLE BOOT. The color, the suede, the shaft length, the heel height. Perfect.
+This dress is…everything.
+Love the color and boxy fit of this affordable puffer.
+This simple and chic leather tote is 30% off RN (and can be monogrammed!).
+Laughed when I reread the big fat asterisk here.
+This, with leggings and booties, has become an easy weekday pregnancy lewk.
+These spacedye leggings are on sale for under $50 and I love the ice blue color!