Clean your closet, change your life

Unknown-1I know I am late to the party on this one, but I did know about it for a long time---I just didn't think it was for me. I first heard about it a year ago when a friend mentioned Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying  Up: A Simple Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever book to me while we breakfasted on French Toast, "I think you might like this book," my friend suggested. I nodded amicably and responded in my head in the same way as when acquaintances suggested that I might want to come to their Amway presentation.  A book on tidying up was not for me. Don't get me wrong, I love a tidy house; my house is clean and neat and, I suppose, was even tidy---that is with a few key exceptions. My drawers, shelves and closets were, shall we say, less than what Martha Stewart, my mother, or anyone who frequents Containers R Us might approve of.  Yes, I knew I could benefit from organizing, but I was a busy woman and color coordinated containers fell extremely low on the priority list. I simply wasn't interested. I had a particularly bad day where I felt ick, ennui, and like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. And there was a sense of feeling not as appreciated as I might in a situation that was totally out of my control. A friend of mine who has been  a fanatic clutter buster for decades and has long tried to get me to convert to her personal religion, suggested  upon hearing of my feelings gave me the following assignment as a means of ameliorating my agitation, "Get rid of ten things that you don't appreciate." On that particular day she could have suggested drinking pickle juice, doing the Hokey Pokey while listening to polka versions of the best of Metallica and I would have done it. So, I did it. And as soon as I got started I started to notice just how much stuff I was holding onto that I didn't like, that didn't resonate with me and that I no longer appreciated. It was obvious that there was some unciounsess and psychological issues in why I was holding onto much of this stuff. Just ten items and I could feel there was  a lot more to be done.

Five minutes later I downloaded Marie Kondo's book. An hour later and I was watching videos on Youtube on how to master Kondo's unusual folding methods, a half hour after that and I had learned to turn my tee-shirts into adorable little vertical packets and I liberated my socks from the cruelty of their cramped constraints. Two days later and I had touched everything in my closet to test, as Marie Kondo suggests, if each and every item "sparked with joy". The core of Marie's text is that we need to stop holding onto objects that we no longer love. She wants us to engage with each item and only keep things if we really-really-really love them, and not because "they were expensive" or they are a good basic, or maybe some day we will need them. As I engaged in this spark test I was astonished to see how attached I was to keeping a pair of pants that were itchy and made me feel frumpy and the reason I didn't want to let them go were that they were designer and that they weren't cheap. However, the offending pants were never ever worn and just took room in my closet, and their presence in my closet made me feel sort of guilty and bad; into the bag of things to donate they went.

7453bf147169f856ccf49d30ebf5e43dI will admit that I didn't follow Kondo's methods to the letter. I didn't take everything out of my closets and drawers and put them all on the floor. I didn't dress up as I tidied. I forget with great regularity to empty my handbag at the end of the day( Kondo believes handbags are happier if we let them breathe empty at the end of the day. Yes, I know, it sounds a bit wacky---but I know I am much happier if I take out receipts, rappers and deitrus that I accumulate during the day) and my shoes very often go unthanked( Kondo also believes in thanking our objects for their usefulness, which I can get behind as a kind of symbolic awareness of being grateful for what I have created in my life and not because I believe my shoes will be any happier or unhappier if I thank them not---I don't believe my shoes are capable of happiness. However, I do believe I am happier when I am appreciative of what I have). And, countering what Kondo says,  I don't really believe I will never have to do this again. Kondo says if you do this once you will never have to do it again, however, I believe as we evolve, change and grow what sparks joy in us will change and so we will have to keep asking the question. In three short weeks I have found some that things that sparked joy when I initially did this and now they spark something more like ambivalence and hence they have gotten the ax too.

the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up_quoteMy results that came from following the advice in this book were nothing short of magical. I easily donated 30 bags of stuff to Goodwill and got very clear on why I am holding on to things that I don't like( fear, guilt, and scarcity). My closets and shelves are so gorgeous that I have been accused of being a pod person and that perhaps the real Tracey has been captured by aliens. It has been almost a month and each and ever closet, drawer and shelf is as pristine as my first day of Kondosizing.  I cleared out my garage( a full day ordeal in 95 degree weather in which I let go of tons of stuff from childhood and pervious relationships that absolutely do not sparkle with joy), my kitchen, and bathroom and all that remains are things that I really-really-really love.

imagesPlease don't get me wrong, this is very hard work. Engaging with your stuff and facing your past and seeing how you are holding onto stuff you don't like is not easy. It was emotional to go though almost five-decades worth of stuff and be brutally and unflinchingly honest about what really brings me joy. The challenge, however, was totally worth it. The real magic that comes after all this tidying and spark testing is so extraordinary that I feel unable to adequately communicate my passion or enthusiasm for it( a second blog post on the topic is necessary, in which I will make the point about how in a way Kondo's  book is sort of a Next Happy book and that both books get you clearer about what you really really want and make you face why you are holding onto what isn't working. Stay tuned for a post on that) isn't about being tidy or having shelves that look like you have magical cleaning elves at your disposal, no, the real magic is that after I did all of this I realized that I was letting all kind of things into my life, my home, my closet, and even my mind, that didn't really spark for joy.  I had a lot of stuff that was making me feel the opposite of joy.  This process made me aware of the scarcity, anxiety, and fear that made me settle or say yes to what I didn't want.  And it made me want to only surround myself with things that I really and truly love, and to not say yes out of ease, expediency, or convenience.

Whether or not you decide to Kondosize your house, I do hope that you think about only letting things in your life that spark joy and letting go of what isn't working for you so you can get to your Next Happy.