The Forty Bags Challenge & The Magical Art Of Tidying Up

This Lent I’ve decided to do a few things to “get my house” in order . A sort of major spring cleaning for my body, my house, and my soul. So needless to say, I haven’t been sewing a whole lot lately, because I’ve been busy trying to learn new habits.

I’ll start with a little story of my house and how it has gotten completely out of my control since I started sewing at an insane pace. Lots and lots of sewing…… I’ve always sewed, but not on such a regular basis as I started to after I started blogging. It seems like somehow the chaos grew around me as I sewed, but I didn’t notice it until recently, when I looked around and was like.”How did this happen?” It was like I just woke up out of a fog, and saw the mess around me. Maybe it was the sewing, or maybe it was just me not wanting to deal with my stuff.

We’ve lived in this house for ten years, longer than any other place that we’ve lived together since being married 22 years ago. And there are lots of places to store stuff. Old sheds, two garages, a 30 foot shipping container hidden behind the garage. There’s been some serious storing and squirreling away of things going on here. When my mom moved out of her place and stayed with us for a year, she brought all her stuff here, too. Then she moved into a small, furnished  place with a room mate that didn’t have any room for her furniture, so all her stuff just stayed here in the shed and container. That was two years ago.

Then there is my stuff…Boxes of handmade clothes no longer worn, but that I can’t get rid of, costumes I may need for school plays in the future, boxes of art projects made by five kids in all their life stages, old dishes, old curtains, and furniture I can’t bear to give away, because I feel it’s too valuable to just give to the thrift shop, and I want to sell it instead, but then I never do. More old furniture and paintings that the kids might want someday when they get their own places. Just typing this out makes me realize that yes, I am a pack rat. But somehow, I manage to clean it up before I have company, so people who come over often don’t realize I have trouble keeping things tidy. Sometimes!messykitchen

I’ve tried purging lots of times. I just did a major purge of my closet and sewing space last year, but things fell back to the old ways after a few months. The stuff just started piling up again. A few trips to downtown, some estate sales, and a few bolts of fabric given to me, and bang! My fabric hoard had grown out of control all over again.

I was reading through my Bloglovin posts last week, and somehow I ended up on The White House Black Shutters home decor blog, not sewing related at all. I do read lots of types of blogs. It was there I read about the 40 Bags In Forty Days Lenten Challenge.40bagsdecrapgraphic-700x700

I decided I’d join in. So far, I’ve filled about 4 bags to donate or throw away. There are lots of tips in the Forty Bags Challenge Facebook group.  I’m taking my spring cleaning a step further. Because I’m pretty sure I have more than forty bags to donate!

Who would have thought, say back in the 1930’s when people had to be frugal and before cheaply mass produced everything came into existence that having too much stuff’ would be a major problem for their future ancestors’ lives? As my friend Patty would say, it’s a quality problem. It’s an embarrassing thing to admit as well, because it make me see how wasteful I’ve been to have had the luxury to to haphazardly accumulate things I don’t really use.

Then this week I found out about this little book . I’m having so many light bulb moments and am really excited to share the book with you. It’s called The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, a thirty year old organizing expert from Japan . And I have never been so excited to tidy up my house than I am after reading it. Marie Kondo just manages to make organizing with her Kon Mari method sound fun! I am hoping that yes, IT WILL CHANGE MY LIFE, too! Maybe I can become a tidy person,after all.tidyingup

The first step in the Kon Mari method is to start by going through all our clothing. I’ll be going through not only my own stuff, but my husband’s stuff and the girls’ too. I had been ‘organizing’  all wrong! Just folding and sorting and getting rid of things I hadn’t worn for more than a year, or storing and folding fabric I might use someday, but not really getting to the heart of the problem of having too much everything. fabric beforeFabric before I started phase one of my fabric purge.fabric afterFabrics after a small purge.

This is still going to get messy and won’t stay this way long. I just have too much fabric. But can I actually give away fabric I like, even though I may never use it? We’ll see……

 I have a big plastic bin of different colors of crochet thread I bought at a rummage sale a few years ago, just in case I decide to learn to crochet someday. I have two plastic bins of thrifted cashmere sweaters I’ve been wanting to make into a blanket for three years , but have never gotten around to doing. Oh, brother.

I’ve also made some progress on Gigi’s stuff. Following the books’ instructions, I took everything out of the dressers and put it all on the floor…keeppileMade a keep pile because she likes these things and they fit her…..giveaway pileWe decided what we would give away and what we would throw away because it was too junky or stained to give to someone….hangingupAnd we got her dresses out of the dresser and hung them up on a rack from Ikea. And then we realized we don’t need this second dresser at all, so I’m giving it away.dressersWhich is kind of hard because I really like this vintage dresser. But I don’t need it anymore.Gigi'sBed1A peaceful and clean corner.

Now before I get too smug with myself,shed I need to remind myself I still have tons of work to do…… my shed.

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  1. says

    Coming from one “who can not throw stones”, I do understand your situation. I find myself not being able to make decisions about what to get rid of too. I’m doing better, but I still have a long way to go too. Wishing your much success!

  2. says

    you can do it! Don’t lose focus. Concentrate on one small task each time you work in it. Sometimes I get overwhelmed if I look at the big picture…I’ve got all the barns and outbuildings too so I definitely feel where you’re coming from. I’m excited for you!

    • says

      Keeping focus is key. I’ll be sorting and see something else, like a photo album. Next thing I know I’ve spent an hour looking at it!

  3. says

    There must be something in the air, we too have been decluttering our lives. My husband has got rid of his collection of cassettes, he has been holding onto since the 80s. I too have been strong, all my fabric has been bagged and labelled and put away. For us I think it will be a slow process, but I wish you luck. And enjoy the letting go feeling, its a good one.

  4. judy says

    thank you for sharing this book, and your work.. I just spent this entire week, going through my entire sewing room.. I was just amazed at the stuff, I had.. some I didn’t even know I had.. Not just fabric, but notions too.ha.. I threw away
    3 large bags, and had a couple bags to donate.. It has been hard, but I knew, I needed to do this.. I have not been
    sewing much, due to the fact, I had TOO much stuff. I am now going to do one closet/one cabinet at a time, until
    I have went through each area of the house..
    It is time for a fresh house cleaning and getting rid of..
    SO my sweet friend, its not just you..but me too..
    Best wishes.

  5. Chris says

    Go for it!
    I read Marie Kondo’s book a couple of weeks ago and she is so inspiring. She says to purge the whole place at once for momentum, which makes sense, but I work during the week, so I just couldn’t. I did do one room pretty ruthlessly and it feels fantastic. I get a little rush of happiness every time I walk in there, and the room is totally functional now. I no longer have to move anything to reach something else, because nothing is stored behind anything else.

    I live really close to a big thrift store (downtown Ventura). Every time I filled up a couple of big garbage bags, I just took them to the thrift store to eliminate the danger of second guessing myself and digging things back out to keep. Worked like a charm…

    Now I want to do my other rooms and may have to read her book again. I already have it on hold at the library.
    🙂 Chris

    • justine says

      Is it the thrift shop on Main Street? I love those! I’m trying to stay away though. Only dropping off.

  6. nothy lane says

    I’m in… I have tons of stuff to get rid of and donating feels so good. WHat a great new tradition to start too….

  7. Patty says

    I came upon the “Forty Bags” challenge last Lent, and made a feeble attempt at it. My roadblock was my fabric/yarn/crafts closets….too overwhelming. At the start of this year I changed things up a bit, and am leaving those overwhelming areas for the last, and knocking out a closet about every other weekend. 2 car loads have gone to Salvation Army already. This weekend I cleaned the pantry and tossed all those expired(!) canned goods…..we are eating cleaner and don’t eat from cans much anymore. A couple more closets/cupboards to go, then I will be ready AND motivated to attack the stash. I think I am at the point now where I can donate some of that still lovely fabric that just doesn’t interest me in sewing up anymore.

    • justine says

      I can totally relate! I was doing fine with my clothes, even tossing old and little worn handmade outfits in the giveaway pile until I got to my sewing stuff. Suddenly I felt paralyzed, so I’m leaving that until later, when I’ve toughened up a bit.

  8. Justine says

    I just requested Marie Kondo’s book from my library. I want to join you in the Forty Bags Challenge! 🙂 🙂 I have gotten so busy, researching and writing, and raising teenagers, these past several years, that it has left catastrophic piles all around my house, in my wake. I so appreciated and related with what you said, when you mentioned how you recently saw how the chaos had grown around. Me, too!!!

  9. Joen says

    I spent last weekend in my room – 5 trash bags of clothes and one paper ream box of shoes and boots . . . Sewing room organization is next – but that’s a never ending project. I am trying to use my stash fabricsand stop waiting for the “perfect pattern” for my “perfect fabric” that will never get used if I don’t just dig in a use it!! But I believe the basement is calling my name too . . . 🙁

  10. Carolyn B says

    Wow I’m glad I’m not the only one whose house has slowly fallen around them as they obliviously sew the weekend away! I have resolved to clean and tidy this weekend instead of muslin my Granville – sigh. I am sure seeing a tidy environment will de-stress me and make my sewing time all the more satisfying.

  11. Kathy Russell says

    I read that book last year and it was very inspiring. I got thru each and every corner of my house. A pack rat no more. I also did some inner reflection on the over consumption and waste I had done. What really changed for me is that before it was hard to make those type off changes . Letting stuff go was hard. But after all the purging the more i got done the lighter I felt inside ! In just my craft room alone I was buried in : I want to learn to knit, crochet, needlepoint, stump work, wool rug hook , glass kiln stuff, sew home decor, sew my own clothes, mosaic, jewelry making, multi media art, bead weaving, gourd art…. I finally let most of it go. I was never going to get anything done with all that stuff. For myself I realized I was spending a lot of time in the pursuit of finding hobbies but not enough time in the learning of them. I picked several and donated all the rest. Let the guilt go as well. Have now been doing the mosaic stuff, and needlepoint, and have made it my goal to learn to sew and build my skills !

  12. says

    I can totally relate to everything you say.Having too much sewing and craft stuff can just be too overwhelming!