Sometime in early 2016 I “KonMari“-ed my life.
I had just been in a car accident, gone through a break up, and moved to a new apartment all within a two-week span. With my room littered with moving boxes and hastily thrown together trash bags of clothes that I was too concussed to deal with, I decided to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to motivate me to eventually organize it all when I could finally muster the strength get out of bed for more than a few minutes.
Although my intention for reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was for sorting through all the random crap I had acquired in my multiple moves since college, it soon became clear that sneaky little Marie was waxing her tidying-up poetic straight onto the lens through which I was viewing my life.
A synopsis for those who may have not read this lovely little book:
The process for effective tidying is simple and two-fold.
During “discarding,” Kondo asks readers to ask themselves if each item they own “sparks joy.” If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it. Her philosophy is that will be less stressed and much happier if you are surrounded only by the things that bring you joy.
- Decide where to store things
Once you get to the point where you’re asking yourself where to put the items that spark joy, you’re done discarding. Next, you categorize. You start with clothes, then books, then miscellany. Lastly, you handle the sentimental (or easiest -> hardest).
Readers are urged to start slowly, even if it’s only discarding one item a day in the beginning.
“PERFECT!” I thought to my concussed self. “I can totally do an item a day with some light head trauma.”
And so, it began.
Over the next few weeks, I slowly began throwing out all of my dingy lab t-shirts, my embarrassingly outdated halter tops from my college partying days, and clothes I bought when I was 15lbs lighter. The thoughts of working tirelessly as a grad student in a lab again, partying in a dingy basement like I was 21, and clinging to someone I used to be did not bring me joy. So, I tossed them.
Next came books. Books I accidentally acquired from ex-boyfriends? Tossed. Old Cosmopolitan magazines that told me I wasn’t [rich/stylish/thin/pretty] enough? Without a doubt, TOSSED. Some weird book on pottery wheels I found at a yard sale? Tossed.
Within just a few weeks, I was down to random weird things and “the sentimental” – which I then realized I had often conflated. Was the free Shipyard Beer koozie I got at a bar one night with my friends really brining me joy – or did my friends bring me joy? Did those same friends even bring me joy anymore? NOPE. Tossed.
I wish all of my decisions to get rid of things were as simple as tossing beer promo koozies. I found that the real sentimental items that passed through my hands screamed to be kept. (For example: I kept a necklace from the grandmother I never met because it’s THE ONLY thing I own that connects me to her.) While other “sentimental,” but not real sentimental items, like a gag gift one of my ex-boyfriends got me that one time, were harder to discern. In the end, they too were tossed.
It was freeing. My room was organized. My brain felt organized. I felt like I buried a lot of my past. There were even quite a few tears shed in the process (though I’m not sure how much of that was the mild brain trauma). Despite the massive changes I had to go through in just a few weeks’ time, I felt surprisingly ok – good, even.
In fact, I was so addicted to this process that I started looking at EVERYTHING in my life that way. Did chocolate bring me joy? Yes. Did eating too much chocolate bring me joy? No. Did running bring me joy? Yes. Did binge eating bring me joy? No. Did lamenting the loss of former friends bring me joy? No. Did reconnecting with old friends bring me joy? Yes.
I had begun my “life tidying.” Almost unconsciously (again, it could have been the concussion), I began weeding things, experiences, and people out of my life that didn’t bring me joy.
After doing this for a few months, not much was left.
About two months in, I had some joy-provoking things like “making myself wine and cheese plate dinners,” “game nights with old friends,” “keeping a routine,” “Alanis Morissette albums,” and a very specific shampoo. I realized that a lot of things that I thought brought me joy were actually things that brought joy to other people in my life and that my own identity was pretty hazy.
So, I spent the next few months on a quest for other things that brought me joy – new music, new clothes, new books, new makeup, new experiences, new people – all the while selecting only the ones that actually brought me joy. There was no categorizing involved (as evidenced by some of my horrific OkCupid dates and questionable wardrobe decisions – they definitely did not have a place in my life), just a lot of trying, followed by accepting and rejecting.
Soon, I had TONS of things brining me joy – long meditative walks, podcasts, books on how to interpret human behavior, new makeup palettes, favorite restaurants, new friends, and even A GUY. It was all so exciting, but so overwhelming! What did I want with any of these things/people? How did they fit into my life?
I was thinking about where to put them. I was done searching for joy and discarding. Now, I had to move to the next step of tidying: categorizing these people and things.
First: clothes (or makeup/shoes/things I put on my body). Easy! I already picked the things that bring me joy. I just sorted them by function and put them away.
Second: books (or podcasts/series/blogs to follow/whatever I liked to learn from and entertain myself with). Also, easy! Sorted and stowed!
Third: miscellaneous items. This was harder. What was I supposed to do with all my favorite restaurants, long walk routes, and fitness classes? What’s a reasonable number of nights a month to go out to these restaurants? How long are these walks? How many days a week do I go for them? Which classes should I actually sign up for?
And so I asked the question: What would bring me more joy?
Yes, going out to new trendy food spots brings me joy. Does my bank account bring me joy after I’ve gone out every single night in a week? Not so much. After weighing some of those decisions in my head, I created pretty solid schedule and budget for myself. Not too difficult. On to the next one!
I now had a lot of new people in my life – new friends, some weird internet dates, and a guy I was admittedly way more into than any of my weird internet dates. How did they all fit in my life? Luckily, the weird OkCupid dates were an easy toss. New friends? Easy priorities and a definite keeps. This guy, though – Ahh! Did I want to actually DATE someone again (like actually, date) or just be a strong independent woman that don’t need no man?
What would bring me more joy?
I chose both because the combination of the two together brings me more joy. I was already an independent woman that didn’t need a man. In fact, I still don’t and that brings me joy. However, that guy did (and still does) bring me so much joy that I chose him too! The two are not mutually exclusive. They both have a place in my life. I just needed challenge those thoughts and bin them accordingly.
I can honestly say Marie Kondo’s tidying magic brought me so much more than just an organized apartment. What started as an exercise in organization morphed into a full-on life overhaul that led me to surround myself with only things that added to my quality of life. I learned that the only “right” way to tidy your stuff and your life is the way that makes sense to you. You can have “this” or “that” or even “this” AND “that” – as long as it brings you joy.
As it turns out, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up isn’t messing around with that life-changing part and that, too, brings me joy.