I have cleaned out and organized a lot of drawers and cupboards in my 39 years, but when I started my latest cleaning project I really had no idea how much it would change me. I knew it would make my house less cluttered; I certainly didn’t realize it would bring such peace and harmony to my personal life.
Let me explain.
Last fall, I began to “Kon-Mari” my house – that is, I read and applied the tidying principles outlined in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Kondo’s approach is unique enough that it warrants its own term – The Konmari Method. Among the distinctive techniques described in the book are such tactics as tidying items by category, folding and arranging items vertically to maximize storage space and visual appeal, and keeping all items of a certain category in the same storage place. The pinnacle of Kondo’s approach, though, is her emphasis on keeping only items in your home that spark joy. In short, you’re supposed to gather all of your household items together, touch each one, and decide if it sparks joy or not. If it does, you keep it. If it does not, you thank it for the time it spent in your life and you toss it, sell it or give it away.
Okay, a lot of people think that part is kind of hokey. Touch an object and see if it sparks joy? What the what? I admit it’s a bit touchy-feely, and that can turn some people off. I happen to be pretty darn New-Age-y so I was on board with feeling sparks of joy in my dish towels, and in fact I found it to be the cornerstone of the entire process.
By the end of the process, I was a pro at feeling joy – or not feeling joy – in my personal belongings. It took about six months, but now I legitimately enjoy perusing my closet and seeing only clothing that I love, finding rubber bands or ink cartridges in my office in less than 20 seconds, and enjoying my treasured childhood trinkets that were previously buried in storage bins with no rhyme or reason.
The immediate change in our house was a sudden expansion of space. Suddenly, there was space on the shelves. There were empty storage bins in the basement. There was even an entire empty drawer in my bedroom! The space was liberating. I felt like I could breathe in my home again! I didn’t even realize how suffocating the clutter was until it was gone.
It felt so good that I decided to clear the clutter from the rest of my life, too.
First, I cleaned out my house, keeping only those material items that sparked joy and only buying new items that truly sparked joy or had a clear use.
Then, I became pickier with what I ate, choosing only nutrient-rich or truly delicious food at meals.
Next, I began to be more discerning with my calendar and commitments.
Then, I started to clear out the difficult, challenging and outright toxic people from my life.
Now, I’m looking at everything in my life and determining what I am truly willing to spend my energy on.
From a simple house decluttering project, I’ve now pruned my entire life and the result is that I finally have space for the things that matter. Today, I don’t just have a tidy silverware drawer. I find myself with more time, more energy, and better relationships. I’ve even lost a few pounds!
|Before Konmari||After Konmari|
|Material Objects / Money||“A 30% off coupon from Kohl’s! Hmm, what should I buy? Maybe a new throw pillow. I could use some sunglasses. Or a cute new dress for Thanksgiving. Or did I want to wear the navy dress? Well, it would be good to have a couple options. I’ll have to bring Huck with me – he can get a toy for 30% off. Cool, I’m going to save so much money!”||“A 30% off coupon from Kohl’s! Do we need anything? Hmm. No.”|
|Food||“Kids are in bed. Time for a snack. Are these pretzels stale? Hmm. Kinda. I’ll just eat them right out of the bag. Might as well finish them – no one else is going to want stale pretzels.”||“Kids are in bed. What is there to snack on? Pretzels? Oh, those are so old. Yuck. You know, I’m not even hungry. Maybe I’ll just make some tea. Yum, Bedtime tea. My favorite.”|
|Time||“We were invited to three birthday parties on Saturday. 10:00, 12:00 and 2:00. But Michigan State is playing and I really want to watch that game. And I promised The Professor that we’d go to the park. And I need to go grocery shopping and finish the laundry. Ok, here’s what we can do … I’ll take Huck to the first party, then swing by home and get The Professor for the second, and then I’ll take both boys to the third party and go grocery shopping on the way home. And then the park. And Lancelot can record the game for me. And I can fold laundry after bedtime. I need to get presents. Do we have wrapping paper? Where’s my coffee?”||“We were invited to three birthday parties on Saturday. Hmm, both boys are invited to Jasmine’s at 3:00! Sounds fun! I can still watch the Michigan State game at 10:00. I’ll let the other two families know we can’t make it this time.”|
|People||“I’m cooking dinner – who’s calling? Matilda. I don’t have time to talk to Matilda. I bet she’s calling because I said no to her candle party. We just talked about this yesterday, and I just bought candles. Can’t she take no for an answer? I don’t need candles. Gosh, I feel really bad but I don’t want to talk to her right now. I don’t even like Matilda. She’s so pushy. But what if she talks to Ethel? I don’t want Ethel to think I’m a horrible person, too. They may never invite me to anything ever again. Hmm. I guess I could buy a candle or two. Ugh, deep breath. Hi, Matilda!”||“Who’s calling? Matilda. Good God, that woman is relentless. I’m cooking dinner. She’ll leave a message if it’s important.”|
|Energy||“Oh look, Phoenix posted another meme about how global warming is a hoax. That guy drives me crazy! I can’t believe he thinks that! I can’t believe that a LOT of people think that! Maybe it’s not entirely man-made, but to deny that global warming exists … I just can’t even imagine the thinking … What can I do to get through to him? I wonder who else thinks this? Anyone else I’m friends with? Who else liked his meme? Oh my gosh. Blaise. Him too? This boggles my mind. What else to do they think is a conspiracy? How can I change their minds? Is there a meme I can put up about how global warming is real? I should do that. First, I’m just going to dislike Phoenix’s meme. Then maybe I can find a link to Al Gore’s documentary. Seriously, Phoenix is a loon.”||“Oh look, Phoenix posted another meme about how global warming is a hoax. I think he’s off his rocker. Crazy guy. Now, where’s the link to the recipe I need?”|
I used to think there wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted to do or see all the people I wanted to see. Now that the clutter has been removed, I can see much more clearly.
I do have the time! I do have the energy required to get through the day! I’m no longer wasting all my energy on the superfluous activities that used to drain me. I can’t get rid of all my obligations, of course, but paring down even one event a week, or not eating one dish that I didn’t even enjoy eating, has freed me immensely. I feel lighter, clearer, and at risk of sounding totally cheesy – I really feel more joyful.
And all because I wanted to organize my closet.