Jump Start This Year's Spring Cleaning by "Kondoing"

"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."  -Marie Kondo

You may have heard of the incredibly popular book by Marie Kondo entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  (If you haven't heard of it, then maybe you are living under a huge pile of clothes that Marie can actually help you to organize.)  I've been eager to share my thoughts on the book and the concept primarily because I'm a big believer in the energy of a home, and yet I'm also one to keep things that I really don't need (how often have I looked at or used that palm tree key chain that I got on a family vacation 15 years ago?).

I was intrigued to start "kondoing," as Ms. Kondo's followers say, and many of the things that I learned have actually been life-changing in helping me figure out how to surround myself with more joy and less clutter at home.  The book is based on Japanese values, including the spirit of Zen.

I now clean out my purse every night so I can be organized for the next day.  This makes my morning routine so much smoother!  I try to be more mindful of always putting back the things I use in the same places.  My keys now live in a basket by the door, rather than a coat pocket or the kitchen counter.  Perhaps my biggest feat of all is that I have learned to release the guilt I used to feel at throwing out or giving away items that were gifts but that I no longer use or need.  Marie says that they have served their purpose: The item gave the presenter of the gift joy in giving it to you, and in turn brought you joy in receiving it.  "Let go with love," she says.  I told you: life-changing.

If you need any more inspiration to dig into the book, dig into your spring cleaning, or just dig into even thinking about tidying up, here are some great reasons to do so:

  1. It improves your focus: Clutter can actually hinder the brain's ability to handle information.  You probably don't need a scientist to tell you that a clean kitchen or an organized storage closet just plain feels better.
  2. It gives you good karma!  Giving away bags of old clothes or home items that you don't need anymore but that somebody else could use may make you feel lighter while helping others.
  3. By focusing in on the items that give you joy, you're resetting things and embarking on a new lifestyle.

So here's how to make some small shifts in your life that could make you feel lighter, more energized at home and at work, and (beware!) may spark joy:

  • Place your hands on an item and feel whether or not it sparks joy.  It may seem kind of "out there," but once you actually do this you'll notice just how many items you're still holding onto that really bring you little happiness, and lots of clutter.  When you have something that you deem unnecessary, thank it for its service an then discard it or give it away to somebody else who may use it.
  • Tackle categories, not rooms: Marie explains that things tend to creep room by room, so start with your clothes, which may hold less of an emotional value than something like old pictures or letters.  Once you actually pile all of your clothes up into one space, you may be shocked at just how much you've accumulated.  Think about your belongings with respect--do your sweaters really want to be balled up in a corner of your closet?  Or can you purge those things you don't wear to make more room for the things that you truly love?  She also goes into detail about how to fold your clothes to get the most bang for your buck, space-wise.  You can find lots of tutorials on YouTube or read the book to learn how to fold your clothes to stand up!  This has given me lots more room now in my drawers and easy access to know exactly what it is that I have, which makes getting dressed in the morning much simpler.
  • Don't get too wrapped up in the rabbit hole of going through old cards, photos, and ticket stubs of concerts, plays or sporting events.  Once you open up that (Pandora's) box, it's hard not to lose hours and hours just sifting through memories.  So try to set an actual time limit for your trips down memory lane and perhaps save the most sentimental things for last.
  • Ditch the paperwork!  This one is super hard, I think.  I'm always afraid that the minute I shred something, I'll need it.  But Marie points out that most things can now be stored electronically or are accessable via a website, like your credit card statements.  However, you may want to keep things like contracts (employment, mortgage, lease, etc.) and insurance policies.  Another Kondo tip: Store the papers that you do end up keeping in an upright holder to avoid big messy piles of papers.
  • This next one speaks directly to me: How many times can one person go to the Container Store hoping that a pretty box will actually make them more organized?  Marie says that a "clever" storage solution never actually solves the problem.  A new box or organizer won't make you tidy!  Instead, she says "pursue simplicity."  This is a hard task for a girl like me who enjoys moving her "get rid of" pile to "loungewear."  Who says T-shirts with holes aren't great to hang around the house in?  In reality, though, Marie says that the only item really useful in storage is a good, old-fashioned shoe box!

As with most things in life, try not to let perfectionism get in the way of any of this.  It's not just about tidying up, it's about having major gratitude for the things that you are consciously choosing to keep in your life.

To read more about how to spark joy with your belongings and find Zen in your home, buy Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  Also, since many people had questions after this book was published, she has since written a follow-up illustrated manual called Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

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