Before the holidays my husband decided to clean out the pantry. Though he has never seen or heard of Marie Kondo (more on her in a minute), he emptied everything from the pantry onto the kitchen island, wiped down the shelves, and threw out anything that was past the expiration or that he knew we were never going to eat before he put it back in. The results were instantly noticeable, the pantry looked bare. The kids asked, do we have any food left to eat? Of course, we had plenty, but after looking at the pantry one way for so long, the clean and clear shelves were a stark difference.
The topic of cleaning came up again this week when friends on Facebook kept posting about the new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. If you’ve never heard of her, Marie Kondo became a household name in 2014 when her best-selling book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” took the world by storm selling over 11 million copies world-wide. Her philosophy is based on tidying up through decluttering and keeping only those things that “bring you joy”. (A woman after my own heart.) In the Netflix series she visits people’s homes and helps them to organize their closets, paperwork, books and miscellaneous. Some of my Facebook friends were so inspired, they began tidying up their own home as they watched the show. A coworker binge watched the entire series and proclaimed herself “obsessed” with tidying up.
The subject of cleaning didn’t stop there, on Thursday, I was searching for something to listen to on my morning commute. I recently joined an online Facebook community, Luminous, as was paging through previous classes they had posted. I picked a class at random and quickly discovered the topic for the episode was cleaning out your wardrobe and our attachment to clothes. In the class, she talked about how women tell themselves stories as to why they hold onto clothes. Maybe it’s for motivation for that one day it will fit again or maybe you spent a lot of money on it and will feel guilty for getting rid of it. She offered another perspective, those were the clothes for the person you were then. Live today for the person you are now. It’s also likely your style has changed since you bought those clothes, the colors, if they no longer fit your style, get rid of them and make space for the style you enjoy now.
There was something for me to figure out being bombarded with these messages on what seemed to be a daily basis this week. First the obvious, are there areas within my house and my closet that could be cleaned up and cleared out? For sure, message received. I’m going to start with my closet and maybe the linen closet (I know there are some towels in there that have seen better days). One of my weaknesses I have with my closet is getting rid of clothes if they still look nice, even if I haven’t worn it in months. In listening this week, they proposed the idea of giving it away so someone else can enjoy it. This is so true and struck a chord with me. I’ve had my time to enjoy it and if I pass it along to someone else, maybe now they can enjoy it as much as I have.
I also have a few stacks of papers and books, out of the way of normal everyday traffic, that I need to go through. I like my stacks, I know exactly what is there so I can grab something quickly when I need it. It is also my spot where I put for important, but not urgent things I need to follow up on. The more the stack grows, the less I want to do it. Subconsciously it starts to cause a little bit of anxiety, I know it’s sitting there, calling me, but it’s easier to just leave the room and think I’ll deal with it later. The crazy thing is once I go through the stack, and it doesn’t take long, I have an instant feeling of relief. On top of that, every time I walk by the area, I’m again filled with relief seeing it so clear and organized.
The emptiness of the space fills me up with satisfaction and achievement. It’s a bit contradictory, especially given that we all work so hard to get more “stuff”. Is it possible we could be happier with less, if what we have brings us joy?
We are comfortable talking about tidying up our living space and cleansing our body, but as I was listening this week, I realized there’s an area we avoid talking about. We don’t consider our feelings, ideas and beliefs as things we should keep or throw out. It’s more difficult because if I think I am a bad cook, I just can’t put that belief into a trash bag and donate it to the local charity. If I had a disagreement with my spouse, it was not stamped with an expiration date indicating when I should stop thinking about it. How many things are we holding onto because our feelings were hurt? Or because we feel guilty or worried? Or because we have never thought about doing things a different way?
It’s easy to clean out our closets, sift through our stacks and donate things that no longer bring us joy. But if you are really ready for a challenge in tidying up, look inside and see what you can let go of, who you can forgive or what you can stop worrying about. Emptying out those old feelings will create space you didn’t even know you had. Who knows, you may find tidying up your mind even more satisfying than a clean closet.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.