Tidying Up and Wellness
As someone who is a huge fan of decluttering and cleaning, Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been on my reading list for some time. Last week, while on vacation, I finally read it along with her other book, Spark Joy. The idea behind both books is that tidying up using the KonMari method, can dramatically transform your life.
I happen to be someone who absolutely loves to organize, declutter, and tidy up so while I was excited to read the book, I didn’t think there was much more work for me to do in my own space. And I have to say I was completely wrong. Now I know that some people, ok most people, don’t get as excited as I do about these sorts of things. But even if the idea doesn’t excite you, I can say with confidence that everyone has something to gain by trying her method.
Right about now you might be asking yourself how tidying up is related to wellness or creating the life you want. The answer is that there is often a connection between the possessions we are holding onto, where we are in life, and where we are longing to be.
Kondo asserts, “The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely, in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered…When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear of the future…if you come across something that doesn’t spark joy but you just can’t bring yourself to throw it away, stop and ask yourself why. It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.”
I have read a lot about the concepts of minimalism and decluttering and while trying other methods has brought me some satisfaction, I haven’t felt any profound changes. I have felt a small sense of accomplishment and a freedom in coming out from under the weight of having things I didn’t need or use, but the mental benefits haven’t come close to the feeling Kondo’s method has left me with. Taking the time to work though my home as she suggested has left me with a lightness, a sense of order and peace that I frankly didn’t expect to experience.
With the KonMari method of tidying, your feelings are the standard for decision making. The criteria for deciding whether or not to keep an item is that we should feel joy when we touch it. Tidying in this way helps us to notice the feelings that our possessions evoke in us. This practice gives us a sense of connection to our intuition and confidence in our decision making. If you take an item in hand and you don’t feel joy but find you are trying to talk yourself into keeping it, stop, notice what you’re doing, and ask yourself why you are having difficulty letting go of that particular item. Notice if you do this in other parts of your life. Do you talk yourself into things even when they don’t feel right for you?
I followed the order of tidying up that Kondo suggests and began with my clothes. I put them all out, touched each one, and was soon experiencing a feeling of joy or lack of joy with each item I held. In some of the instances where I didn’t feel joy, I found myself trying to rationalize why I shouldn’t be getting rid of something even though it didn’t feel right for me — I’ve only worn it once, I really like the color, I didn’t buy this that long ago. And then I realized that I do this in life. I have moments where I experience the feeling that something isn’t right for me and instead of allowing that feeling to be enough and listening to it, I try to talk myself into doing something else or I minimize my feeling by telling myself things like plenty of other people have done or lived with whatever doesn’t feel right for me and so I shouldn’t be bothered by it.
I hung the clothes in my closet the way she suggests — longer items to the left so that the overall line of your closet goes up and to the right. I didn’t expect that to make a difference but it did. Something about the look of things makes me feel happier when I look at my closet. I also folded the clothing in my dresser drawers as she recommends. In some instances, it gave me a bit more room but mostly it’s just pleasant to look at. I then moved on to my books, papers, what Kondo refers to as komono (miscellaneous items such as cosmetics, and other household goods), and mementos. When I came across something I needed to dispose of, I acknowledged the role it had played in my life, thanked it for its service, and moved on.
This has been a valuable exercise for me. I highly recommend both of Marie Kondo’s books. As she puts it, “Tidying up means confronting yourself…Our relationships with other people are reflected in our relationships with our things, and likewise our relationships with things show up in our relationships with people.” Essentially, when we detox our homes it has a detoxifying effect on our minds and bodies as well. Think of this as one more tool for your toolbox if you are feeling stuck in any aspect of your life. And feel free to let me know how it’s going!