a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Mar, 2017

The joy of throwing stuff out… gradually.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno

Did anyone else out there buy a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing? I did, annnnnnd I never read it. In fact, it’s sitting in a pile of books by my bed, just staring at me. I get that it’s a best-seller but I just can’t bring myself to read a book about cleaning and organizing the house. I feel like I should (a) figure it all out on my own and (b) just get to it already.

I have, however, adopted a new habit that has been a huge help. I don’t know if Marie Kondo, the author of that book, will agree at all, but for the past while I’ve been getting rid of stuff one day at a time, one item at a time.

For the record I should state that I am not generally the kind of person who relishes taking on big chores around the house. I wish I was the kind who does, who dons the rubber gloves and digs in with glee, but I am not. As a result, things can pile up and get worse with every passing day (think junk drawers, closets, pantries etc). I have thought a lot about this and the kind of person I am. I know I don’t want to put in hours of dusty, monotonous sorting and purging, but I certainly CAN throw out one thing a day, right? That will take me 2.5 seconds! Or even less!

It may sound ridiculous to the domestic engineers out there, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months. One thing gets thrown out or tossed in a donation pile every day. Here’s the thing, it’s been making a difference over time and it has been SO. TOTALLY. LIBERATING.

A lot of my purging happens in the bathroom while I’m poking around the drawers for something I need. I spot something and my internal conversation goes something like this: Hey, it’s a lotion I picked up a few years ago! Hmm, I don’t use it anymore. The bottle is almost empty. WHY AM I KEEPING THIS. Then, OUT IT GOES.

Of course, it’s not always something in the bathroom. Sometimes it’s the stub of a candle in a candle holder, an itchy pair of socks, expired sunscreen, an old magazine… the list of things I can get rid of around here is endless. It is overwhelming. Sigh.

I admit it can be VERY satisfying to swoop in and dump out the junk drawer and spend an afternoon purging and organizing one whole area but it’s not something I have the time or inclination to do every day. Slow and steady CAN win the decluttering race, right?

9 Responses to "The joy of throwing stuff out… gradually."

1 | Alison P

March 19th, 2017 at 11:12 am


Decluttering has (and still is ) a long journey for me. I should try your strategy of one item a day. I like to do pockets of time here and there. But to each their own for the best routine (bootcamp vs accountability partner vs slow and steady etc etc). As long as more stuff leaves that comes in, that is a win.

2 | andrea tomkins

March 20th, 2017 at 7:53 am


Yes! Each person has to find the system that works for them. This one works for me, mostly because it’s zero effort. As an added bonus, if I see ONE item I can toss there’s sometimes a second one very close to it. Hence, the process goes twice as fast on those days. ;)

3 | April

March 20th, 2017 at 9:07 am


I spend 10 minutes tidying up for every hour at home that I lounge around. You can get A LOT done in an hour, I’ve learned. Most of that ten minutes consists of tossing things out. I have a lot of unnecessary stuff.

4 | Jen_nifer

March 20th, 2017 at 2:33 pm


I bought a copy, and haven’t finished reading it yet. I was relieved to read that it should take 6 months to do the once in a lifetime tidying up that she expects.

I haven’t read enough yet to understand how she expects me to clean out the kitchen when I’m not the only one who buys groceries or cooks.

Anyways, I feel like I’ve made progress. I feel relief now throwing out items that I’ve held onto because I spent good money on it. I bought that lotion, but I don’t like how it feels. It hasn’t gone bad, but it’s clutter on the counter, I can throw it out now.

5 | Valerie

March 20th, 2017 at 3:02 pm


You’re doing pretty much what she says NOT to do – she wants us to block some time and PURGE. Which, like you, I find overwhelming. Reading it HAS made me think about things a bit more, and like you, do the “why am I keeping this?” and toss more than I used to. I do little purges, like that pile on the counter or my cubby which is overflowing with both summer and winter hats, etc. Keep it up!

6 | andrea tomkins

March 20th, 2017 at 5:45 pm


LOL, Valerie! I’m not surprised I’m doing it wrong. I will, however, keep doing it until I have the time and energy to do a huge purge. So far it’s working out ok. :)

The “Why am I keeping this” question is a great one to ask as we go. It’s often at the top of my mind…

7 | andrea tomkins

March 21st, 2017 at 10:15 am


It occurred to me that a good place to begin would be the places you feel the highest degree of Household Rage and Annoyance. For me, this has been the cabinet under the bathroom sinks lately. Now I’m thinking of moving on to the pile of stuff that has somehow accumulated around the treadmill in the basement. How long have I been trying to ignore it? (Answer: MONTHS.) If I sorted through this pile one thing at a time it would have been eliminated ages ago. :(

8 | Claudette

March 21st, 2017 at 5:08 pm


I’m like you. I could read all the tips about how to organize better and then I’d just get pissed off that I’m not doing it the fashionable way so I end up not doing it at all.

But that system where you look for something and you stumble across another thing you pick up and know instinctively you don’t need, THAT’S the system that works for me too. So what if it’s only one or two items a day that get chucked out? It’s one or two items a day that wouldn’t if you didn’t do it.

The path to minimalism isn’t the easiest… :) I say this because currently the bedroom is a hot mess and it will take at least half a day to purge it and… I put it off, and off. Time to take the first item I don’t want or need anymore and start the process. One every day for, say, the remainder of March.


9 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive January 2 - a peek inside the fishbowl

January 2nd, 2018 at 2:25 pm


[…] I’ve been cultivating, which is getting rid of one thing every day. I first wrote about it here, and I have to say, it is amazing how such a tiny, easy, action can make me so happy. Whether I […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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