How getting rid of clutter, tidying up, and keeping only the things that spark joy helped improve efficiency and promote a peaceful environment in my home.
Clutter = Anxiety
When I walk into a room and things are just laying out everywhere with no purpose or reason, my brain goes into high anxiety mode. I can’t think or function. This really only happens in my own house or workspace. I promise I am not a neat freak or an organizational snob. It is probably because my home is where my brain is in gear. I am functioning as a mother, wife, and provider. I can’t think in clutter. I’m not even talking about messes, exactly. It could be a lost shoe on the stair step or an empty dish on the desk where it doesn’t belong. Anything out of place or taking up space without a purpose distracts me to no end.
A disorderly workstation pulls my focus away and causes me to shift between tasks too much. It slows down my pace and I walk away feeling frustrated missing my work goal for the day. Then I have to work harder the next day to make up for lost time which feels sloppy. Not agile at all.
The problem with tidying up is it feels like a waste of time. I know as soon as I clean or organize a space, it won’t be long before it’s out of place again. It’s not only irritating to myself but to those around me.
The Spark of Joy
When I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a light bulb went off. At first, the author seemed overly obsessed with tidying up. Some of her techniques are quite peculiar, but no matter how I’m inclined to resist, she insists if we follow her technique we will never have to de-clutter again. Well alrighty, then.
The KonMari method (which is a play on the author’s name Marie Kondo) is the simple act of holding an object and asking yourself one question: “Does this give me joy?”. If the answer is no, discard it. It seems rather harsh, but it is a proven, award-winning technique that so many find life-changing. The author’s pride seems to leap off the page when her clients discard 10, 20, even 100 bags of stuff.
She has you start off purging items in your house by category in a certain order: clothing, books, papers, misc and sentimental. It makes no sense to organize stuff when you have too much of it, so the emphasis is on the purge first. You must dump everything in a pile by category (not by room) and touch each item, one by one, asking yourself the joy question.
After the purge, she then talks about how to organize what is left. The result? Each room in your house is clutter-free and only filled with items that spark joy. What a concept!
She even goes on how to fold clothes or display certain items. I found it interesting, despite her obsession for neatness, she’s very much a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of person. She encourages her readers to touch the walls when entering the room with a heart of gratitude for what the walls, room, house provides. When folding clothes, she encourages a thankful attitude as we think about the wear and tear we put on the fabric. Let’s just say it helps me hate folding laundry a little less now.
Despite my best efforts at minimalism on my own, I still managed to acquire more junk than I could possibly keep. The biggest issue is the guilt I have parting with certain gifts or memorabilia. Letters from friends in college, pictures my kids made in preschool, old competition medals or hand-me-downs from deceased grandparents. That was a tough one. Mari writes that it’s important to recognize that these precious items served their purpose for a certain time. Now, they no longer serve that role and we shouldn’t be guilted into keeping all of them beyond that time frame. Plus, there’s so much great technology these days, it’s pretty simple to condense files, pictures, and other mementos to digital versions stored on a cloud somewhere.
So I gave it a try. I’ll admit, I couldn’t follow her rules exactly because working mom problems. No, I couldn’t purge all my junk in one day nor did I hit the categories in the right order, but I came as close as I darn well could. Getting my kids on board was no picnic either, but after some tears and practice, we were eventually successful. Regardless of the exact order of things, I still saw amazing results. I managed to give away several bags of clothes and purge two desk drawers full of useless papers. Even the stuff I thought was important turned out to be junk by this book’s definition. I honestly don’t miss any of it.
This technique even helped my son cut down on the number of baskets of toys he had in his room. He tends to be a magnet for every kind of loose object. After showing him the technique, he was honest with himself and realized he didn’t need two Captain America action figures after all. One would do. We cut out two full laundry baskets of stuff. Sure, there were some tears at first. But he didn’t miss a single toy one bit after the bags were hauled off. We even enjoyed organizing what was left. Touching each toy brought a new spark of joy that might have faded for him over time. It was almost like Christmas all over again.
Did it work?
Yes, the method seems a bit unusual, but I can’t argue with the results. Now when I walk into a room, my eyes are not assaulted with a mess of useless stuff but are instead greeted with a beautiful arrangement of items I treasure. Not only that but acquiring new junk doesn’t come as easily anymore. Anything new entering the house is instantly met with the “does this give me joy?” question and the rest is effortless. If it doesn’t pass the test, it doesn’t stay. Period.
The spark of joy is important. It adds purpose to my day, to my tasks. It saves me time looking for things. The stress level is much lower. I mean, what is all this work for if we never stop to appreciate and enjoy what we have?
I highly recommend this book! Give it a try and see if it improves things for you, whether professionally or personally. Get your whole family on board. You will feel like you lost 100 lbs.
For those who prefer the tech savvy route, Mari even has an app. You can tidy up for yourself and track your progress throughout your space.
Have you tried this technique? Did it seem unusual to you at first? What were your results?