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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.

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  • Loretta Polaski

    Wow, this looks fantastic! I keep my house pretty tidy too but housework seems to always come before writing. I can’t seem to focus if there are dishes to be done, clothes to wash, or if things have accumulated on the dining table, which seems a regular event at my house. The Roomba helps a lot! I’m going to get this book. I’m not a pack-rat. I’m a thrower-outer. And maybe I’m not so wrong after all! Congrats on finishing your novel! I’ve put a deadline on mine and I’m at about 50k and happy!

    • gw_admin

      Loretta, that’s so great to hear you’re getting close to the end! And I’m a thrower-outer too! I find that the less material stuff I have, the easier it is to stay on top of the tasks/get them out of the way so I can clear my head for the (good) creative work I’d rather be doing instead!

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