Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One Life Changing Question...

Three weekends back I was not feeling well enough to go out but not bad enough to stay in bed so I traveled down a rabbit hole on Pinterest and found myself becoming obsessed with The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I began to tell my sister the story the Monday after and she mocked me and asked how could there be anything left to declutter in my place since I've been talking about decluttering for years. But alas, all methods before kept resulting in reoccurring clutter because they were missing a clarifying question... and there lies the magic!

Marie, who refers to her method as KonMari, is a best selling author with a cult-following overseas and is now making a name for herself in the U.S. Her book is pretty plain and although I did get a lot out of it, the life-changing part is one simple question. Here's how it works: first you take all your clothes and gather them in one place and then item by item you take them in your hands and ask yourself:

Does This Spark JOY?

And if it doesn't you put it in the discard pile and move on to the next thing. Once you have all the things you love sorted you can then decide how to organize and store them. She's known for her folding method- but I digress...

Normally with decluttering you decide what to get rid of which leaves us with only chucking the bad horrible stuff leaving a lot of stuff that we just put up with or are "fine" but really are just in our way of really getting to the good-joyful-stuff. I know it sounds fantastical but I swear it has completely changed my life in the last few weeks and I am now surrounded by more joy and less stuff. Imagine your closet with only items that make you look great. Wouldn't you rather feel awesome in a few outfits then be rummaging around a packed closet where you forget what you even have.

You can read about the rest of her philosophy in her own summary and on my Pinterest board but it's actually not even the organizing that brings the change. It is about asking yourself what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What brings you joy?

Sure I'm happy my sock drawer is so organized, but the big point I took away is that we surround ourselves with stuff that ties us to the past or weighs us down with expectations of the future instead of stopping and enjoying our life right now. Even though I thought I had understood this, clearly I was only big-toe-in before and couldn't make the full dive into letting go of what was just cluttering my life and what was really available to bring me joy.

And after you go through your clothes, then books, papers, and mementos you begin to realize how much freer we feel when we let go of things that are unnecessary in our lives. Sure we need to keep some things that are not necessarily joy-evoking but actually once I got going I even got rid of my heavy desk tape dispenser because I realized when I use tape I really just like to use the pre-cut strips that come in the little handband one. Tape-joy, who knew!

KonMari: vertical folding lets you see what's in your drawers 
I did get really stuck when it came to books, but it occurred to me I was keeping most of the books I read as trophies and markers of how much I had learned and educated myself on vs a real resource for knowledge that I would ever re-read. I ditched half my books, a third of my clothes, and probably eighty percent of my paperwork. I get giddy when I open my drawers but even more helpful is that the sparking joy philosophy is a choice that we can use for any area of our life. 

Friend not bringing you joy, then stop hanging out with them. Job not bringing you joy, then start transitioning to something new. Not everything we do or have is going to bring us joy but it should lead a step closer to it or we need to ask ourselves is this aspect of our lives working for us? 

I didn't adopt every suggestion but one kooky recommendation did actually work even though it sounds nuts at first. She talks about thanking your discardable things for their service to you as you get rid of them (even the shirt with the tags still left on it, for teaching you yellow is not your color). I admit it sounds ridiculous but it really did make me feel better about throwing out and donating my stuff. Don't laugh it off until you try it :)

Of course I love the term "sparking joy" because, well... you know. But really, what better measurement of our stuff and our lifestyle then if our end result is it makes us happier?

A friend asked: but how do you get over the guilt of getting rid of stuff people gave you or the feeling you are wasting? Here's the thing, if someone cares about you they want you to be happy more then they need to see their doohickey on your shelf. The gift is in the giving and thought not in you storing it forever (you can always take a picture to capture the memory before you release it). And it is not wasteful to get rid of things by donating what someone else would be thrilled to have -that's actually good karma. As for items that are too worn to donate, they have done their job so let them go. Of course after thanking them first ;)   

Being distracted by possessions and clutter is a huge problem which leads to a vicious cycle of being drained so trying to fill up our lives with things, which then need to be paid for and cleaned and organized and stored. The less we have the more present we can to be to what's truly important in our lives. And if it brings us joy then go ahead and buy and keep it. But if it doesn't, let it go, and go find your joy elsewhere. 

I'm not going to lie, there is a pang of nausea that hits when you first see how much stuff you have surrounded yourself with, then a wave of guilt bagging up the stuff you've spent money on, then a tinge of regret when you drop off bags and bags of items you are only 99% sure you'll never need again... but then you come home to your decluttered space and there is JOY!

And that my friends is what makes it all worth it. Happy sparking :)


Anonymous said...

Well written Joy...thanks! Going to try this out ASAP. :-)

Anonymous said...

Love this concept! I am going to try this!

Vickie said...

As you know, Joy, I have been reading this book, too. I came to a screeching halt when the author talked about how our socks should NEVER be balled up because they need time to rest and relax in the sock drawer. However, after hearing your point-of-view which I always honor, I'm going to continue reading and will do the exercises based on your rave review. You've already led me to the land of Me-Mapping which includes de-cluttering, so this is just the next natural phase. Can't wait to report the joy it sparks as I thank my clothes/books/stuff and bid them adieu!

Beth Finke said...

My favorite part of this post is where the author asks whether or not an article of clothing "sparked Joy." I see a new career in all of this for you -- we'll hire you, Joy, to go through our closets, and if any article of our clothing doesn't spark you, we'll get rid of it!!