Marie Kondo has nothing on me, except two best-selling books about TIDYING UP, some great ideas AND a ton of money. But the solid, basic urge to tidy and keep things in order—well I’ll fight her out for that honor.

MY MANTRA—or, How I Get Things Done  

 From the very beginning, Mom said I would toddle around our house, bend over with my butt in the air—to straighten her area rugs. Then in high school, I became our house cleaner. My mom worked full time and after a while things got a little un-tidy, not her fault. My TIDY-UP GENE went into overdrive and I created my list. It’s simple and has been expanded over the years. I’d love to know what Marie Kondo would say about it.

MY LIST reminds me to do certain things EVERY DAY, and it reminds me to do other things when needed. Here it is:

  1. Loads of wash, linens—includes making beds and tidying bedrooms;
  2. Ironing, odds and ends—not much to iron, this category has morphed into checking items in the guest bedroom: clothing we no longer wear; shopping items that need to be returned; gifts to wrap; it’s a catchall for things I need to make a decision about—”that throw rug that really doesn’t work.” Marie Kondo might say it’s the room for things that no longer “spark joy.”
  3. Grocery shopping—ongoing whether it’s a major order or a gallon of milk. Preparing meals goes here, but my husband now does most of the cooking. I cleanup.
  4. Cleaning—my husband helps, but I’m the duster, the tidier, the * see more below.
  5. Yard work, plants. When I lived in Iowa and Chicago this could be forgotten for many months!
  6. Correspondence and projects—this last is where I am now. When the above five have been mentally checked off or completed, I spend the rest of my day here. At the moment I’m writing this blog post; then I’ll take up other writing projects.


I run through the list twice a day—once to see where I am, and at the end of the day to satisfy that I’ve accomplished something. Of course, life intrudes, the list goes away when we have visitors or travel or the general chaos of life takes over. But I can always start fresh the next day or whenever my days are more normal. And I always strive to catch up. That blessing is called peace and calm and I wish it for everyone.

KONDO’S FOCUS:  What to Keep    Not What to Throw Out

Psychologist Emily Deans, MD, read Kondo’s book and was impressed with her method that states that we should PURGE FIRST. Deans stresses that it’s much better to focus on what to keep, instead of what to throw out. She writes:

By building her method around that simple decision with the goal of having a house filled with only those things that bring you joy, all the sudden you are purging very large and meaningful amounts…it puts into place a whole new life philosophy about getting more stuff. Unless you *love* it, don’t bring it into the house. I’m hopeful the children (of our society) will pick this up so they don’t fall into the trap of clutter, and that they appreciate having a few well-loved items rather than lots of whatever. I hope they spend their money (in general) on experience, not things.


I love the quote from William Morris, a famous English designer, and discovered I have used that quote before! He founded the business of Morris, Marshall & Faulkner in 1864, a business dedicated to the decorative arts. Morris created and designed tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics, stained glass windows and furniture. His designs would often crowd a given space with undulating lines, colors of all hues and flora and fauna.  Below is a wallpaper he designed which he named: Strawberry Thief.


But again, his quote is one that Marie Kondo might have been thinking about when she created her SPARK JOY concept.

Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. William Morris



My husband and I have moved six times. Our first home was a small townhouse that we rented and filled with second-hand furniture. Then we purchased a track home. When my mother moved out of our family home, she generously gave us a piano, book cases and helped us purchase a dining room set from an old friend. Bottom line, what we have always surrounded ourselves with are old and used, treasured and sturdy—they have to be. They are very useful and they SPARK JOY.


I find it fulfilling to be able to realize that I no longer need a thing and that someone else may need it. That supports my tidy-up gene and after the fires in our area, we donated bags of clothing and kitchen items.

My bottom line might now live in the words of William Morris. The last move we made from Iowa to California demanded we give away probably a third or more of what filled our large home. Sometimes I realize that I gave away something I wish I’d kept. My husband likes to say IT’S JUST STUFF.

Yes, there’s truth in that, and having people in your life to love is truly what counts. But like Marie Kondo, I believe if we are able to have and to keep some things in our rooms our homes that Spark Joy, we should. As Keats wrote in his poem, Endymion: A thing of beauty is a joy forever. 

I’ll hold close the words of William Morris when trying to decide what to give away. If an object does not possess beauty or usefulness to me, it just might offer that to someone else.

Photo credit: Real Simple Magazine and William Morris site.

7 thoughts on “WORKING MY TIDY-UP GENE

    • I know. It’s hard when you live with someone who doesn’t want to clean stuff out as fast as you do. Loveable, but pack rats. Thanks for posting.

  1. Growing up in a small apartment in New York City and not liking clutter, I’ve become totally the opposite over the years. For a few years we moved every several years, but have now lived in the same house for nearly 32 years. And then, on top of it, when my mother in law had to downsize in a hurry (twice), we ended up with enough of her stuff. My husband finally had enough. Now that he’s retired, he is working on the clutter. I must mend my pack rat ways.

    • When we moved from Chicago to Iowa, we filled a basement and a two car garage with stuff. (we had two garages) It was awesome. But when it was time to downsize, it was heart-breaking in some ways to give away, sell or trash so much stuff. I do remember and miss some things I once had, though I can see them in photos. It’s odd how we attach our lives to things. But I think Morris’s way of downsizing (save what is meaningful) works. Thanks so much for reading.

    • Hi Leisa, I don’t mean to. Just running through the list doesn’t mean I actually do ALL THAT MUCH, but it does remind me what I need to do! Thanks for reading.

  2. I hadn’t heard William Morris’s quote before. All I can say is it’s a good thing I’m a minimalist because only having beautiful or functional things is easy. I will say half of my garage is still full of unpacked boxes I got out of storage. I’ve about decided I don’t need anything in there. Part of me just wants to call someone and have them haul it away, but I’m missing some pretty, antique hand towels, so when the weather gets warmer, I’ll unpack the boxes. I seriously hope there’s nothing else in there I want. I like my minimalism. It makes my daily clean list easier. xoxox, B

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