Cleaning has always been stressful for me. Last on my to do list, the activity that gets avoided or pushed off until my brain finally says “I CAN’T THINK IN THIS MESS!” and then I clean like a mad woman. After the cleaning rampage, I feel accomplished, I make a promise to myself that “this will never happen again” and my home stays decluttered for 24-48 hours before the avoiding method sets back in again. This tired, old pattern has followed me from grade school, to my college dorm room, and both apartments I have lived in through my 20’s.
When I transitioned to working from home, this avoidance pattern became INTENSELY draining. Because, here’s the thing: when you live where you work, avoidance is pretty impossible. Any time I would sit down to focus on work, my mind would remind me of all of the things I was neglecting: the week’s accumulated clutter in the living room, dishes and clutter in the kitchen, boxes of random items hidden in closets and under beds that needed to be dealt with.
In March, we began a journey to experience “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” through the KonMari method. At first, I was quite skeptical of the “magic of tidying” phenomenon. But three months of 6-8 hour weekend tidying sessions and one truckload of donations later, our lives are dramatically changed. Here is what we learned from the experience:
When you detox your home, you detox your life.
Before tidying, nothing in my home had its own space; several rooms were dedicated for storage of ‘random’ items that I had no idea what to do with or how to even begin to sort through them. I created such a small space for myself by choosing to ignore these objects and avoiding these rooms that had become ‘no-man zones’. Your living space affects all aspects of your physical and mental health. Being surrounded by physical reminders of failed promises to yourself takes its toll. I didn’t realize just how heavy this was in my own life until the first few steps were complete. Creating more physical space helps you to expand. I no longer feel the internal dread or heaviness from what I “should be doing”. By creating more physical space through tidying, I was also decluttering my every day life of the overwhelm and stress of unfinished tasks. As Marie Kondo says, “When a room becomes cluttered, the cause is more than just physical. Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder”. You can see any issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them. In essence, this process was an act of restoring balance internally, with our possessions, and our home.
Better decision-making and more self-confidence.
Previously, I had very little self-confidence about my ability to change my cleaning behavior patterns after attempting this method about a year ago and failing/rebounding miserably. As a rebel tendency, I tried to do things my own way instead of following the procedure as written (please don’t do this-it’s a method for a very good reason). The KonMari method requires you to gather a category of items, taking each one into your hands to ask one question: does this spark joy? At first, the process felt quite strange. After repeating this process hundreds of times, I honed my decision-making skills; I became crystal clear about what I want to make room for in my life and what I need to release. The process helped me to understand how our pattern of holding onto items and objects is an expression of the values that guide our life. You see, this method teaches that the biggest resistance we face when letting something go is because of an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.
“I haven’t used it in awhile… but I might need it sometime!” (fear for the future)
“I really used to love this thing!” (attachment to the past)
Think about it: when we hold onto objects for this reason, we are choosing to keep them in our lives out of fear. This fear pattern translates not just to the objects we own, but our relationships with people, our jobs, our passions.
A new appreciation for what is truly precious in my life.
By releasing items that were attached to my past but no longer served me, I created space for so much MORE in my life. I feel more in touch with what truly brings joy in my life; not just the objects I have chosen to keep in my home but the people in my life, the activities I engage in, and how I want to show up in the world.
When you make the choice to surround yourself only by the things you love, it is transformative.
Learn more about the KonMari method here or in her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing”.
Note: Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” is also quite cute, but the book is a godsend during this process!