Two Rules for a Tidy Home

happy housewife

I remember books. Not reading them, of course, but owning them. I used to have stacks of jagged-edged first editions and dog-eared paperbacks covering my coffee table and overloading every bookshelf in the house. It was a rather impressive collection that undoubtedly made me appear to be quite the intellectual.

I remember books. Not reading them, of course, but owning them. I used to have stacks of jagged-edged first editions and dog-eared paperbacks covering my coffee table and overloading every bookshelf in the house. It was a rather impressive collection that undoubtedly made me appear to be quite the intellectual.

But that was before I changed my life by tidying up. I discovered there are only two rules to creating a tidy home:

1) If you don’t need it, throw it away.

2) If it does not bring you joy, toss it.

I loved my discombobulated library, but these two infallible rules made me realize that there was not one book, on its own merits, that brought me particular joy. So, the books had to go. All of them. Today, a sleek e-reader is the only item that sits on the side table in my living room. There is no longer any evidence of the depth and breadth of the vast literary interests I always fancied myself having.

I used to have piles of magazines, too. These days, I allow myself only one magazine at a time. That means no subscriptions. I will only purchase a new edition after discarding the previous one.

Consequently, before I invite anyone into my home, I spend hours at the newsstand selecting the perfect periodical which I set on the coffee table next to a jasmine or mahogany-driftwood scented candle. Typically, I select the New Yorker to subtly let my visitors know that I might possibly be the type of person who attends poetry slams. Every now and then, however, I’ll choose Goop Magazine if I believe my guests would be intrigued by my budding interest in DIY medical care.

I also remember sweaters. Before I magically transformed my life by purging its excesses, my dresser was loaded with sweaters I hadn’t worn for years. That rumpled muddle of bleached-out cardigans and over-stretched pullovers once carried memories of romantic fireside snuggles and late night cram sessions in my frigid dorm room. But I have come to understand that an armoire full of ripped collars and soy sauce stained sleeves may have signified a rich past but barred me from living fully in the present or looking ahead to my future.

Now my drawers are pristine. I own only two sweaters. I wear neither. They remain neatly folded, perfectly centered, one sweater per drawer. I will never be able to replicate their flawless placement, so I leave these two garments untouched.

On one too many occasion, my husband remarked that I had taken this minimalism thing too far.

So I got rid of him.

I miss my husband from time to time, but overall, it is nice to have his side of the medicine cabinet empty and his hulking shoes out of the foyer.

Along with my sweaters, I chucked my goose down parka. I prefer for there to be a one inch space between each hanger in the front hall closet. That puffy coat was so bulky it spoiled the ideal hanger configuration and therefore had to be cast-off.

I used to bundle myself in that warm coat and take long meandering walks through the park. But the joy of an orderly life far outweighs the pleasure of fresh air and exercise on a crisp winter afternoon. These days, I almost never look wistfully out the window after a storm when the skies are cobalt blue nor do I long to run outside to be the first person to leave footprints in the freshly fallen snow.

One upshot of rarely leaving my home between the months of November and March is that I have plenty of time to prepare gourmet meals. I love spending time in my de-cluttered kitchen. I have never felt better than when I ridded the cabinets of every chipped dish and mismatched mug.

It was exhilarating to let go of the never used pizza stone and the over-priced blender that failed to live up to its promise of producing mouthwatering ice creams and rich velvety soups. I felt an indescribable sense of euphoria when I cleared the place of every unessential pot, pan and cooking utensil. All that remains in the kitchen is one cast iron skillet and a spatula.

And cooking has never been so easy!

Now, my diet consists exclusively of pancakes. At this point, I have gotten so skilled at flipping the pancakes by simply holding the pan and flicking my wrist that I am seriously considering ditching the spatula.

At first, my children were thrilled to eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. But soon they began to mention that they might like something else to eat.  When I finally realized that their constant grumbling about our streamlined meal plan brought me no joy whatsoever, I had no choice but to pack their belongings and send them out to the garage with their father.

My kids are great and sometimes I do miss their laughter and little butterfly kisses. But to walk past their bedrooms every day and see the beds perfectly made and every toy neatly housed in its designated toy box fills me with a sense of calm that I have never experienced before.

It is astounding to me that the humble act of getting organized has had such a dramatic impact on my life. By adhering to those two beautiful rules, I have magically transformed my home into a serene and relaxing oasis. What a relief it is to know that the rest of my days will be filled with peace, tranquility, and pancakes.

This article originally appeared in OTV Magazine. Click here to see it there.

One thought on “Two Rules for a Tidy Home

  1. Oh, do I know the feeling when it comes to having TONS of books! Twenty years ago, I had so many books, even the textbooks going back to college (who wanted books about broadcasting and radio and television programming?). I had an “office” in my basement back in 1997 that resembled any veteran college professor’s disheveled office. I did have many “autographed” editions and those still remain very neatly on the shelf of my current home. I’m not giving up my books autographed by Jane Yolen, Josepha Sherman, Sandy Asher, Esther Hershenhorn and many, many others.

    When my wife and I moved last year, we had to hold the dreaded garage sale. It was a two-day garage sale, Saturday and Sunday. I put a few books out. That included those awful college textbooks about electronic media. Outside of the treadmill that we sold (after I got injured on that thing a few years before), several came by and actually bought the books I had out there. What was more interesting was that I sold all of those books about broadcasting. At least those books found a new home. I did keep one book from my college broadcasting days, the Associated Press Stylebook.

    Once I have an autographed edition of any book, it stays with me! There are still several books (a lot of them YA) which I kept and all of my children’s picture books I had as a child back in the 1960s stays with me! I have a new audience to share them.

    I had a dream once where my wife and I were locked in a library overnight. Trish used to work in a college library before I met her. So instead of panicking about trying to get out, there were all of those books to read. There are times where I wanted to stay inside a Barnes and Noble until they locked the doors. It almost happened to us at a Borders years ago.

    Now on pancakes, BRAVO on being able to flip pancakes with the skillet! The last time I saw that being done was at a tailgate party before a high school football playoff game (with a noon start time). That easily draws crowds, even from the opposition! I admit that I am more of a sucker for a good omelet.

    On clothes, I don’t give up my running outfits unless they are totally shredded. There are certain shorts and long thermals I want to keep because I want to be prepared for most of the elements. But I have lost 40 pounds in the last 18 months and have gone from a 42 to a 36. The running clothes fit better. But the dress clothes, does anyone have a smaller belt?

    Excellent piece, Jillian. Don’t ditch the spatula. You might need it for the grill.

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