You've been meaning to do it for months... possibly even years. But somehow it always ends up at the bottom of your To-Do list: cleaning out the closet, the spare room, the garage, your whole house.
What we tend to forget—and maybe don't even know—is how tremendously fantastic we'll feel when we have finally dealt with our stuff. Perhaps we think of de-cluttering as relatively trivial, like a nice thing to take care of someday, and not as the huge leap forward it can be. Or perhaps on some level we do know how profound it could be, which is exactly why we avoid it!
This is one of the reasons we love the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The author clearly understands the power that our stuff exerts over how we engage with our lives and ourselves. You've heard the expression "You are what you eat." Well, the following is equally true: "You are your stuff."
We are not going to reiterate Ms. Kondo's insightful and field-tested principles of tidying up, which she so beautifully outlines in her book. We will say that her approach is radical, and we think that is a very good thing. She is radical in terms of pointing out the spiritual and energetic side of our belongings and our relationship with them. We find her perspective a particularly welcome counterbalance to our culture's mass consumer tendencies. She's also radical in terms of suggesting just how few things she thinks we need to feel fulfilled, which is what makes her approach to de-cluttering so incredibly life changing. But she's not a minimalist; rather she's a sensualist who seeks enjoyment from every aspect of material life.
When we did our own de-cluttering à la Kondo, we were tempted to disregard some of her very precise recommendations because they seemed so extreme, so personal to her (or so we thought). To our surprise, we found the results were much more satisfying when we actually did it her way, all the way. For example, our clothing drawers have never been messy, but now they are beautiful because we took the time to fold things and arrange them the way she recommended. We felt a bit silly about this until a friend who had Kondo-ed her belongings texted us a photo of how lovely her drawers looked. It is only good taste and the fear of unintended consequences that keeps us from posting our photos here now.
In our previous lives as green home designers we had occasion to help people de-clutter. In one instance, it was the second time we came across a piece of plastic that had been mangled into an unrecognizable form that we learned how hard it can be for some folks to throw away even a dog's old chew toy. In her book, Ms. Kondo addresses what to do with all these meaningful objects in your life.
Another time we worked with a client to clear out a bedroom and closet. We focused mostly on the tightly packed closet, given that the room was not much bigger than the queen bed and nightstands it held. We learned later that when the client's partner came home that evening, he stepped into the darkened bedroom, and before even turning on the light exclaimed, "What did you do in here? It feels completely different. It feels great." Ms. Kondo describes how you can perform such miracles in your space as well.
For some, this book will be a sufficient motivation and map for action. Others may need the additional support of a de-cluttering buddy. This can be a good task to share, with the right friend. (Qualities of the right friend include: non-judgmental but discerning, an ability to focus and be supportive, and a good sense of humor.)
When should you begin? The sooner the better! De-cluttering is one of those investments that pays out dividends in saved time and energy and a better quality of life over time. Schedule it for when you know you have enough mental energy, and for about 2 to 4 hours at a time. Make it a priority for a month: build up momentum and see your world transform before your eyes. Don't delay—the magic of tidying up awaits you!
Marie Kondo's book is easily available from your local bookstore, library, and probably even a friend. Spend 30 minutes with it and see if it is a good fit for you.
Choose a tiny section of your home—a shelf or a small drawer. Clear away everything—everything. Now only put back what you love or what brings you joy. It may be nothing. It may be only a few things. What does that feel like? Imagine your whole house feeling this light, clear and joyous. You can do it!
Wishing you the pleasures of a clutter-free life,
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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