Spring is a time of renewal and a time to clear out what’s not working in your life. The start of any season is another opportunity to transform your life, recommit to your dreams, or change bad habits. With this transformative spirit in mind, I started reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. The book offers a way to transform your life by transforming your closet.
For many people decluttering is not a fun topic, but did you know that clutter can cause stress and even make you less productive and creative? According to Psychology Today, clutter is excess stimuli for our brain to process making it work harder. It also makes it more difficult to relax as it sends a message to our brain that your work is not done.
Marie Kondo came up with a decluttering system, which she named KonMari Method (a combination of her first and last names), challenges you to focus on what you want to keep, not on what you want to get rid of. She suggests that before you begin throwing or giving things away to first create a vision of the lifestyle you want to live. For example, perhaps you want to live a healthy and natural lifestyle that would include doing yoga when you come home and cooking organic meals. Once you’re clear on your vision then you ask yourself why you want to do these things or have certain things in your life. Maybe you want to do yoga because it relaxes you so ask yourself, “Why do you want to relax?” You keep asking yourself, “Why?” for three to five times to get to your core motivation for decluttering. When you actually begin to declutter Kondo suggests touching every item that you’re considering giving away and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”
Why is this decluttering system different? It helps you clarify what you want in your life. I started decluttering because I was beginning to feel trapped by all my stuff. And by “stuff” I mean not just my material possessions, but also my old ways of thinking, regrets, bad habits, unfulfilled dreams and even ex-boyfriends. I think I started to declutter my home to get some peace in my head and heart.
I often complained about the stuff I wanted to get rid of and tried unsuccessfully to get rid of them. I was very clear on what I didn’t want, but I was less clear on what I wanted in my life. I think our culture trains us to be champion complainers, but piss-poor dreamers. It’s also quite easy to settle for mediocrity. We think it’s perfectly acceptable to answer, “I’m fine” when someone asks us how we are. I didn’t realize how much I was living in the land of “just fine” until I decluttered my closet. Using the KonMari Method, I tried on every single piece of clothing and asked myself if it sparked joy. I was surprised at how few pieces of clothing met that criterion. When I finished going through my clothes, I had more than 10 bags of clothes to give away or sell. Now when I get dressed I get excited because I know that every piece of clothing in my closet makes me feel happy and looks great on me. I feel a freedom that I didn’t feel before. I’m strutting around Oakland like a new woman!
I also realized that I settle for “just fine” far too often in other areas of my life and that there aren’t enough times when I experience real joy. As I began to envision and create the lifestyle I wanted to have in my home — global, artsy and feminine, I became aware that this lifestyle only existed in my mind. If I want original artwork on my walls I need to go to art galleries or cultural events to meet artists or go into my studio and make my own. If I want to decorate my home with items from around the world that’s a clue that I need to travel more.
I want to extend this global, artsy and feminine feeling to the rest of my life. Homes should reflect the people who live in them, but what I wanted was my life to reflect my home. I’ve already started to make choices and plans about how I can reorient my business to bring me more joy and I’ve decluttered some personal relationships that no longer fit me.
What areas in your life need decluttering? Is there some ex-boyfriend in that back of your love closet that needs to be given away? What about a job that you’ve outgrown or a client that drains your energy? Or maybe it’s some outdated perceptions that you have about yourself that you need to ditch? This spring, I invite you to start again and decide to keep what brings you joy or go on a journey to find it.