Have you heard of the KonMari method of downsizing and de-cluttering your home made famous by Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Can her methods work for those of us on the homestead? What about those of us with kids and real-life messes?
The following book is featured in the Green Living text and resources section of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. Have you ever thought of cleaning up as “green living”? We expanded the information here into a full section of the book complete with goals, DIY challenges, further reading and personal experience. For a sample of that chapter, just shoot me an email. To simple learn more about the book, click below:
Downsize and De-Clutter
I know how it can be, believe me. With five little kids, food storage, homeschool stuff and just the normal items that families collect, we were fit to bursting. We started to realize that something was terribly wrong with the “stuff as we filled out our 4,000+ square foot house.
Not all of it was ours. We lived in this house with my mother and the “stuff” from her own home. We also lived with her parents with 60 years worth of house “stuff.” To that was added our family, like a cherry on top, which included homesteading “stuff.” Stuff was coming out of our ears.
When we decided to sell our urban homestead, my grandparents and my mother purchased another home not far away, taking their belongings with them. We stayed behind to manage the property until it sells, but the dynamic of our “stuff” had changed by then as we prepared for another move.
Create a Tiny House Mentality on the Homestead
Even if the house you live in can’t be considered a tiny house by the modern “Tiny House” movement, making wise use of your space is a healthy way to live. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to maintain. And that can get draining, especially on a busy homestead.
I encourage you to keep an open mind as you read this article, especially if downsizing and de-cluttering is NOT your forte. I promise you will feel cleaner, lighter and happier the more you build a “tiny house mentality” of appreciation for space and using it well. Green living is so many things, but one thing it creates is peace of mind.
What Do We Actually Need?
When I was young, we moved quite a lot. In one 18-month period, we moved nine times, and we weren’t even a military family! Needless to say, I got used to going through my possessions and figuring out what I really needed, and what I could live without.
Although I’m not a huge Disney fan, the words from the song “Bare Necessities”, written by Terry Gilkyson, that Baloo the bear sings in the movie Jungle Book have played in my mind through many a move:
“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities. Forget about your worry and your strife! I mean the bare necessities, old Mother Nature’s recipes that brings the bare necessities of life….
And don’t spend your time lookin’ around for something you want that can’t be found. When you find out you can live without it and go along not thinkin’ about it, I’ll tell you something true: the bare necessities in life will come to you!”
Downsizing the Homestead Household!
So, I’ve never been a pack-rat but with anticipating this move to a new homestead something in my husband and I just snapped. We looked around at our stuff, and were irritated by how much energy we had to put into:
- and moving it!
We’re both extremely practical most of the time and so we decided we’d had enough. Thus began a process of sifting and selecting that we repeated several times before we moved.
What we did to prepare to downsize the homestead household:
- We carefully selected only items that had been used in the last year, and donated everything else.
- We went through movies, tools, clothes, books and supplies.
- Then we went through them again.
- We waited a few months, and went through them again, each time finding something we didn’t truly need.
For more inspiration, I recommend this extremely thorough article from Happy in the Hollow called The Power of the Habit Snowball.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
It was about this time that I was sent a book* to review called, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. It’s small book but, wow, does it pack a punch. Marie teaches the Japanese art of de-cluttering and organizing.
Plus, we’re at very different phases of life – I have five kids and I do NOT have time to fold my socks. Period.
Having said that, though, there is so much of use in this book for anyone who lives in a home with anything other than themselves and their underwear. Because, the truth is, we all have too much stuff! I find this especially true for homestead families with all their various equipment, livestock and projects. Also, many homesteaders also home educate their children which can lead to more equipment, books and projects.
Let me share some ideas with you here on KonMari for the homestead and see what you think.
KonMari for the Homestead
#1 De-Clutter All At Once
“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”
Marie teaches in the above quote from her book that you need to de-clutter in one shot, despite the oft held notion that tidying here and there is a better approach. Why? Because until you feel the results, the effects, of getting rid of unnecessary items in your home, the desire to de-clutter won’t become part of your way of thinking.
For example, take my homestead kitchen counters. Everyone, including me, has used our kitchen counters as a place to deposit various items on our way in and out the door. It’s become a dumping ground for school work, cookie cutters and fermenting foods. I used to poke at it here and there when I had time, and ineffectually mention to people that maybe we should deal with some of the stuff making a home there.
It wasn’t until we had to really clean the counters, once we started showing the homestead after listing it for sale, that I realized it was possible to keep it clean – at least, cleaner. I cook from scratch, and we eat all our meals in, so there will always be some trace of that reality on my counters. What is missing is an acceptance on everyone’s part that the clutter is part of the “normal” when we look at the counter.
Now, cleaning forty to fifty things off the counter, from washed plates to school work, is an almost daily chore on our chore list , and everyone expects that the counters should be tidy. We all needed to see that it was possible, by just getting down and getting it truly clean and clear of misplaced and unneeded stuff!
#2 Exercise Self Control – De-Clutter!
Ms. Kondo writes,
“Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination…
Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved…
This is why tidying must start with discarding.”
I love, love, love the connection Marie draws between our stuff and our state of being. She connects the tangible symbols of who we are (the things we choose to possess) to the inner person. She makes the point that what we’re really trying to create is the homestead lifestyle we want. We want to be free in our own home to be and live in a way that is true to ourselves. We can’t do that if we’re surrounded by possessions taking up space in our homes, as well as our minds and souls.
The Blue Willow Dishes – A KonMari for the Homestead Example
As an illustration of this point, her criteria for deciding whether or not you should keep something is simple. You pick up the object and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” What an awesome way to figure out what you truly need! Take me and dishes.
I’m such a girl when it comes to dishes and linens; I love them all! I had a good set of sturdy dishes that were for every day, and my nice, trousseau dishes that we use on special occasions (we do use them and they do bring me joy). Then I had a knock-off set of Blue Willow dishes. I love the Blue Willow pattern, and these cheap-o versions were all I could afford. I had them for years into my marriage, and we used them all the time.
However, one day recently it occurred to me that I was washing way too many dishes on a daily basis. We would let the dishes pile up because we could – we had different sets, after all.
A De-clutter Revelation
I was laboring over the blasted dishes, which thing I do NOT enjoy in the least, and picked up one of my fake Blue Willows with an almost irresistible urge to throw it. I suddenly realized, that this lovely dish had become a burden, where once it had been a blessing.
With Marie’s advice fresh in my head, I washed each dish and placed it in a box. The next day, I sent out an email to some ladies from church, asking if anyone needed a nice set of dishes, tea set included. Right away I got an email from someone who was so excited to get them since she, too, was a Blue Willow lover. I was sure I was going to miss them, even if it was only a little. But we brought them over to her and wished her well.
Until this moment, I haven’t thought of those dishes. Why? Because they were no longer bringing me joy.
Let it Go – A Homestead Ballad
Homestead living is a constant experiment – we’re always trying new ways of doing things. Sometimes we find they work; sometimes we find they don’t. It’s imperative that we learn to let go of what’s not working on the homestead so we can continue to grow. This is just as true inside the home, as it is on the land.
We can thank the things we own for the service they’ve rendered to us, and the blessing they’ve been to us and then, peacefully, pass them on to someone else.
Marie talks a lot about throwing things away, as in discarding them. So much so that I actually started cringing. This reflects a difference in culture, I guess, but if that starts to bother you, too, as you’re reading, just insert the word donate. Gather up those things that no longer spark joy, thank them and then pass them on in the form of a donation to someone in need. You will feel so free, I promise.
Whether you’re preparing to downsize to a tiny house or whether you’re simply ready for the freedom you can feel through truly cleaning and de-cluttering your living space, I believe this little book can help you the way it’s helped me. You may not adopt every suggestion, but even if you only absorb half of what Marie Kondo is saying, you will be able to feel the magic of tidying up.
To Do KonMari for Homestead Families:
Here’s a to-do list for today and this week to implement some of the ideas we’ve discussed. This is really more of a mental change, but we begin with tangibles. You will start to KonMari your homestead family with yourself first – you’re the grownup, so you’re used to that.
- Pray or meditate before you begin so your mind can be clear. This will also help you emotionally detach a bit from your “stuff,” if that can be a problem for you.
- Make notes as to which clutter pile has been flashing into your mind as you’ve read this. I’ll bet there’s something that immediately sprang into your thoughts when you read the word de-clutter. Was it clothes or media or knick knacks? If nothing came to mind right away, let’s start with clothes.
- In your homestead journal, write down a day this week to gather all your clothes together in a pile. If you happen to The Do It Yourself Homestead Journal, there’s a specific place for this KonMari section in the “Green the Homestead Chapter” part of your Journal. For this first experiment with de-cluttering, let’s just stick with your personal clothes. You’ll work with other areas later this month.
- Gather boxes, bags and a dark marker for organizing.
- Make a spot for what will go to charity, what will stay with you, and what you still need to think about.
What To Do With KonMari This Week:
- On the appointed day, make a pile on your bed of all clothes, scarves, underwear, shoes and ties for every season. Follow the process described in this article – touch it all, ask if it sparks joy or is truly needed and sort it accordingly. You can change your mind at any point.
- As you sort, organize what you have into either charitable donation, items to keep, or those you’re still pondering. Be sure to take breaks, if it ends up taking a while.
- If letting go of possessions is hard for you, plan a big reward for when you’re done. I am deeply motivated by chocolate and reading and will often use them as rewards for when I’ve accomplished some big goal. Whatever reward you choose, I promise the whole process will feel worth it when you’re done.
- Once your clothes are seen to, schedule a time to move on to your family’s wardrobe sometimes this month. Or the barn, or your sewing supplies. The best area to begin KonMari on your homestead is the place that seems to be sucking the life out of you.
Free KonMari for Homestead Families Download
For a free download of this check-list (plus information on accessing a free e-booklet on the topic of green living),
simply click here or click below on the sample picture:
Further Reading on KonMari-Type Ideas for Homestead Families:
If this article sparked some serious thinking, here are some suggestions on what to read next:
- Our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead – remember to email me for that free sample!
- Angi at Schneider Peeps wrote a great article entitled, “Does Simple Living Really Matter?” – a thought-provoking read that I recommend.
- Ever heard of gleaning? Connie at Urban Overalls wrote a great article on the topic – click here.
- Both of my green living gurus, Attainable Sustainable and Small Footprint Family have fabulous articles on eco-friendly habits and sustainability – check them out by clicking on their names.
- Our FREE e-booklet, Green the Homestead, is a modest offering of green living ideas (including those you’ve read today) with some further ideas to contemplate. This book is available for free download as part of our Newsletter Family Library to which you gain access when you sign up for our newsletter. After you sign up, the access code is emailed to you. There are several titles and downloads in that library, not just this one. We hope you’ll find our newsletter valuable and we look forward to welcoming you to the newsletter family – simply click on the book below to sign up!
**Cover photo gratefully attributed to this Pexels user.