Toggle Close
Kondo-ing and Creativity*

I’ve reached a point in life where I’ve become a proponent of living small. My husband and I own an 1,800 square-foot ranch and I’m convinced I may never want a larger home.

Mainly because living small frees up the part of my mind that would otherwise be occupied with a need to keep up with the Jones. Also, housework. (I can clean my house top to bottom in an hour. Adding a second story and basement? With all those extra bedrooms to sweep and commodes to scrub? Shudder.)

It’s this part of my brain that’s allowed me to channel my creative energy into writing. Fueling the connection between living small and holding tight to my dreams of becoming an author?

My recent obsession with paring down.

In the past 10 months, I’ve gotten rid of everything that’s made me pause—even for 30 seconds—to wonder “Where does this go?” The fewer times I have to ask myself this, the less time I play referee with my imagination, blowing the whistle on whatever plot I’m dreaming up.

This spring, when I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up, I realized this theory—how living a tidier existence was helping me get my butt in the chair and write a book—wasn’t mine alone. 

Marie believes in it, too.

In her words: “Put your house in order and discover what you really want to do.”

As I look ahead to begin researching my next book, I rest easier knowing the work I’ve invested into Kondo-ing (yes, her method has its own verb!) has freed up precious pockets of my brain I’ll need to focus on the characters I want to create (pockets that might otherwise be devoted to stressing about clutter).

In the final pages of her book, Marie writes, “You can put your house in order now, once and forever. The only ones who need to spend their lives thinking about tidying are people like me who find joy in it … As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.

It may sound silly, but I know exactly what she means.

And I’ve got a finished draft of a 70,000-word novel to prove it.


What about the rest of you—do you work better when your desk is a mess? (Studies show many creatives actually prefer it!) Or are you like me and feel drained by it?

Related: A psychologist writes about the mental cost of clutter (I would agree with all of her top 8 points!)

* One exception to this rule: When I’m in a heavy drafting mode, working as much as I can on a project, housework DEFINITELY takes a backseat to my writing. But overall, when talking about the day-in, day-out rhythms of life, it’s this kind of tidiness that keeps me on track and my creativity train running.

What I’m Loving: June 2016

Hello? Is this thing on? I’m like a comedian stepping in front of the harsh spotlight of a stage and a hot mike because guys, it’s been a LONG time. Like, this-blog-has-dust bunnies-under-its-covers long. But I made a promise last fall to focus on finishing my second manuscript and now that I’ve done it, I finally have head space again to write some fun content for my website. Topping that list are these round-ups of books, films, pop culture kernels …

Read More
My Essay for Women Writers

A few months back, I had a burst of creative insight on a topic I’d been mulling for a while—what creative forces had motivated me to finish my second novel. Shortly after, I came across a particular passage in #Hamiltome that crystallized the topic for me. So I sat down and put some thoughts down on paper. My first instinct was to hit “Publish” and share them on my blog. But I stopped myself, knowing I might be able to get it published …

Read More
What to Read Now: Summer 2016

Another season, another What to Read post for Jen over at As quiet as I’ve been on the blog, the great news is that it’s in large part the result of having finished my second manuscript (which is now out with some critique partners/beta readers for that revision stage that is both so painful and necessary and wonderful all at once). My hope is to pick back up with some content here now. I’ve got an essay coming out …

Read More
What to Read Now: Winter 2016

So thrilled to share my latest What to Read post for Jen over at And in even more exciting news, I was thrilled when she asked me to formally join her as part of her outstanding editorial team!     Here’s my Winter Reading List and for a long view, check out my picks for fall 2015, summer 2015, winter 2015, fall 2014, and summer 2014.

Read More
Keep up with Gail
Contact Gail