Creativity,  Discipline,  Motivation,  Organization,  Perils of a Mom Writer

How Marie Kondo Can Change Your (Writing) Life

By Katharine Grubb

Back in 2008, when I first started setting my timer in 10-minute increments to write, I had five children who were 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2. I discovered pretty quick;y that in order to maximize the writing 10 minutes, every other 10 minutes had to be maximized too.

So let’s say I’m preparing a meal when I’m not writing. Wouldn’t it make sense to be as efficient and organized as possible while I was doing it? If I’ve already planned my menu, already bought the necessary groceries, already knew the recipe, already understood the tasks required, already had all of the tools I needed in the right place, then I could prepare the meal efficiently which allowed for me to have more 10-minute increments to write. Right?

Or, let’s look at something even simpler. Let’s say I was doing the laundry. The more organized I was in that task, the less time it took me, the more time I had to write.

Every single area of my life that isn’t writing, has a direct effect on the parts that are focused on writing. The more clutter, anxiety, and disorder in my home, the less emotional energy I have for the things that are important to me.

That emotional effect of disorder is part of the central theme of the work of Marie Kondo, whose show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ has soared in popularity since it debuted in January 2019.

Background images: a stack of books, a cup of coffee, a clock and an antique typewriter. 

Foreground: a beige circle with  text that reads '10 Minute Novelists: How Marie Kondo Can Change Your (Writing) Life by Katharine Grubb"

With every episode of Tidying Up each family concludes that something good, something they long for, some of their control, is sucked away because they are so overwhelmed by their homes. Then Marie Kondo sweeps in and shows them, with her very specific system, how to gain control over their environments. Without fail, these sweet families have a new freedom, fresh peace, and far, far less anxiety.

They are released to pursue the things they want to pursue. I strongly believe, whether you use Marie Kondo’s method or not, that having an organized home is one of the key elements in being a successful and productive 10 Minute Novelist.

But it doesn’t have to be the Kondo way or chaos. There are lots of organizational systems out there.

Way, way back in 2002, right after baby #3 came, I discovered the Flylady. (I totally confess that I appropriated her 10-minute system.) Through her gentle and logical steps, I learned a great deal about keeping order and not allowing my messes to dominate my life.

It really doesn’t matter which method you use as long as you understand that the more disciplined you are in your environment, the richer your writing time will be. That’s motivation enough for me to shine my sink and keep only things that spark joy.

I’ve found that if I maintain order in my home I:

  • Make decisions more easily, like what to wear, or what groceries to buy, or what to do with free time.
  • Feel lighter because having fewer possessions frees me from anxiety about them.
  • Do my daily tasks more efficiently. I know when I plan the menu, when I do the laundry, and when I clean the kitchen.
  • Procrastinate less. I’ve learned that putting things off only adds to my stress.
  • Feel more comfortable saying no. The boundaries I’ve placed on my home and time have become sacred to me and I’m more likely to defend them.
  • Have less guilt.
  • Have less emotional stress.
  • Bless others with my excessive stuff.
  • Can encourage my family to be their best.

Marla Cilley, the FlyLady, states in Sink Reflections, “Your life will work better when you know where things are. You will be more productive.”  

Marie Kondo, the creator of the Kon-Mari Method writes in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, (2014) “From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”

Even though her method is vastly different from the Flylady’s, the end is the same: your order makes you free to pursue what you really want to do.

How do you do this?

Consider these questions:

1. Spend a day or two just thinking about your stuff. What has a hold on you? What would be the biggest loss if you lost it all?  Is your identity wrapped up in any thing?

2. If you were going to tackle one area of your life to declutter, what would you start with?  The Flylady says to shine your kitchen sink. Marie Kondo says your clothing. What makes sense to you? Can you give it 10 minutes’ worth of attention today? What about this week?

3. Do you think that you could communicate with your people to help you? What would prevent this from happening? What can you do to bring it up?

4. Discuss your stuff with your family. Do you need to make some major changes? Do you need to sell? Do you need to start new habits? Do you have aspirations regarding stuff that is causing more stress than they’re worth?

5. Do you have any areas that are simply too difficult to face? Can you ask for help?

6.  Do you think that some of your clutter is there because you are ambitious with your time?

Just like you tackled your words one at a time in 10-minute increments, you can tackle your stuff in 10-minute increments. In the same way that you have been trained to prepare yourself, to be organized, to have a plan for your writing, you can do the same thing with the stuff that is around you.

There is freedom in simplifying your life.

You can do this.

Set your timer and let’s go!

About the author

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.