I recently read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. The book isn’t about cleaning, it’s about decluttering (the photo is from a house I visit upstate -I chose the photo because I love it, everything about it, and it expresses the beauty of essential things – just the essential things – the joy of simplicity and the elegance of the space around things).
It’s about having less stuff, having only things that bring you joy.
I approached this book with probably more than healthy skepticism. I always run into trouble with the word clutter. I get defensive and protective – that’s my important stuff, my important special stuff- and I need it, I need all of it, I need choices.
But do I? Do I need all of it? Do I even know? Have I truly looked closely enough or listened to myself and my things enough to know? Do I really understand what having it is costing? Because there is a cost – things have weight and shifting that weight around requires time and energy. And that’s what I do – I shift it around.
“Putting things away creates the illusion that the problem has been solved.”
I have all sorts of organizing schemes, I love the container store and ikea. I love them. I put it all away, make it lovely and it feels so good. For a while. Until everything I squirreled away starts to creep back out and I need to do it all again. It doesn’t really work or last because there is just too much. Too much that isn’t meaningful, too much I don’t truly love, more than what is essential. Slowly, it reemerges and I feel the weight of it.
At the center of Marie Kondo’s system for decluttering, for relieving yourself of “the burden of owning more than one needs” is this question:
Does this spark joy?
Look at everything (and she means everything) and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Her system for evaluating and what to do with the things you decide to keep gets detailed, really detailed (she almost lost me at sock folding) and there is an undeniable wisdom in the system, even the order she directs you to tackle things in makes perfect sense and sets you up to succeed. The goal is to create a lasting change, not a chore or exercise to be repeated at intervals – a system for assessing and dealing with possessions, keeping what you love, disposing of the rest and ultimately being surrounded by only what you love, what you choose.
I have begun, as directed, with clothes.
Some sparked joy, that was the smallest pile, some did not. A lot sparked a desire to lose weight. The pile of “doesn’t fit but I love it” was depressing and motivating – lots of “goal pants”……. And she talks about the pitfalls of “downgrading to loungewear” – it was like she was speaking directly to me – vast, VAST and cumbersome sections of my wardrobe were “paint clothes” and “things to wear around the house” – enough for a couple life times.
The book continues through each category of possessions – tackling them head on, anticipating where one might fail or waiver with remarkable insight.
There is art, science and spirit in her system – you need to be able to embrace or at least have some tolerance for the idea of having a spiritual relationship with your things and the idea that things have energy. I’m so glad I read it, there were revelations in this book for me and it has made me think differently about things and how to take care of them.
I’m going to continue to work my way through each category (they get progressively more difficult) and I’ll let you know how it goes. What’s your relationship with your stuff like?