Okay, the KonMari method did not literally save my life but it did, and is, helping by changing how I look at “stuff” and I’m in a better place emotionally and, believe it or not, spiritually because of it.
For those who are not yet aware, Marie Kondo is a proponent of what she calls the KonMari Method (named after herself) and what she calls the art of decluttering and organizing. She has written four books with the first being published in 2014, named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2015 (according to her Wikipedia entry), has her own “reality” television show on Netflix (I loved it), and has become something of a world-wide celebrity as well as the face of a growing movement to simplify, declutter, and embrace pleasure from your possessions.
I first picked up her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a couple years ago. I read it and then added it to my ever increasing stack of books with hints and ideas on how to clean. At the time, I thought it was interesting but I didn’t really embrace what she was saying. However, one word of advice did stick and slowly I started to make decisions about what to keep in my house and what to through out on the “joy” standard. In other words, I asked myself when debating to keep something “does this thing bring me joy?” For that’s the key principle of the KonMari method. If you don’t like something, why in the world do you want to keep it in your life?
The other concept, which I found revolutionary, is not to tidy up by room but make your clean sweep by category. She uses clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous utilitarian items, which she calls “komono,” and memorabilia. I recommend going to her website or better yet buying her books for more details.
Now understand, that I’m something of a pack-rat by nature (as many of us are) and I come from a long line of pack-rats. Not quite a hoarder by nature (which is what I tell myself so I can sleep at night), but certainly a “oh, I can’t throw that out I might need it SOMEDAY” person. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons that clutter accumulates is SOMEDAY.
Then things in my life health-wise went sideways, backwards, and upside-down (see previous blog posts if you’d like the details) so I lost track of trying to declutter and paying attention to my belongings. I was not open to change and if anything, I was actively fighting it. Emotionally I was in a, if not dark, dim place. Each day seemed to be a challenge to get through instead of a miracle to be amazed at.
Not that other people didn’t try to help me along. One in particular, a wonderful visiting nurse, along with a friend went so far as to prune and rearrange my dying house plants while giving me an infusion! She suggested ways I could use my space – a new area rug, hang up the dozen or so pictures that I had sitting around on the floor, etc. – and by the time she left I could see clutter strewn floor again and even walk through the room without tripping.
But still, I resisted change.
Then one day, a local furniture store was having a sale on La-Z-boy furniture and in my living room I had a recliner, not a La-Z-boy by the way, that refused to recline several years ago and that thought kept coming back to me “if it doesn’t bring you joy, why are you keeping it?” So, off to the sale I went and before you know it I was coming home with not one, but two recliners. One to replace the broken one and another to replace the worn out couch I had purchased more than a decade ago from my late grandmother’s estate. In a matter of days the couch and chair were gone, the new recliners were in place and I had something in my living room that I hadn’t had in a long time. SPACE.
But still, I resisted change.
Until this past holiday season when my sister and my niece volunteered to help me clean house. Youy see I was in the habit of hosting a small New Year’s Eve party each year and with that came an annual “purging” of papers, clothing and other stuff that filled my house. For various reasons, I hadn’t been hosting the event in a couple years and frankly, my annual “purges” weren’t as effective. But, by bringing in two pairs of fresh eyes (which were opened wide in awe and horror at the mounds of clutter) I knew I was on a path that would lead to me being found one day under a pile of comic books. Crushed to death by the very super-heroes I idolized and aspired to be like.
We shredded I don’t know how many old and worthless documents, swept and scrubbed, recycled broken electronics, moved furniture, bought new shelves and hung up the pictures and the posters. A very good weight bench that has sat unused for years was moved out to the home gym that I and my brother-in-law actually workout in. It’s been used more in the past two weeks than it has been in the last eight years!
The result? After years of neglect I actually have usable space and room to move and breathe. The pieces of furniture I have now have use beyond expensive clothing racks and I can see what I own.
There’s still more to do. Furniture inherited or given to me by relatives now long gone is also going away to be replaced by items that reflect my style. I still have papers to shred and on average about three bags of junk each week for the past month has gone to the dump, even more has gone to Goodwill and other charities.
My biggest challenge still lies ahead of me. I’m a bit of a bibliophile and the number one item in my house taking up space is the printed word. I have more books than just about anyone I know. Shelved, stacked, and piled on every flat surface. Books that I won’t read again. But, books that at one time or another brought me some joy. So, I’ve decided that I will donate or give away as many as I can so that others can also get joy from them. Sell the few that have monetary value, and then keep only those that I re-read on a regular basis or have true sentimental value (signed copies, gifts). If I can get it at the library I don’t need it on my shelves. If I know whodunnit, I’m not likely to read it again. Will I get down to the 30 books that Marie Kondo recommends? Doubtful. But I bet I can cut the number of books I have in half.
So, how did Marie and the KonMari method save my life? Simple. I find that without all the clutter around me every day that I spend more time enjoying the space in my house, the big windows, the floor with plenty of room to exercise and do yoga in. My mood has improved and I’m open again to the possibilities of things instead of always focusing on the clutter and how I need to clean it up, things are going back in their place and I don’t have to think of them at all.
So Marie didn’t really save my life, but she did play a part in my reclaiming my life and, yes, my joy. For that, I’m thankful.