Discover: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
When I was 27, on a whim, I packed a bag and moved to Maui. I packed one bag and moved to Maui. Prior to this I had been living in Philadelphia for eight years, driving distance from the house I grew up in. Driving distance meant that every time I visited my parents I was able to bring back another cool knick-knack I found in the shed. I also loved thrifting and collecting. Moving to an island forced me to leave it all behind. Sure, it was safe and sound in the basement of my parents' house, waiting for me to collect it if and when I returned. But still, it liberated me of my possessions. It helped me see that I didn’t miss a single thing I didn’t take with me, because those things weren’t the things that made me happy.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a book that I didn’t feel I needed to read because I’m pretty conscious of the things (and people) I surround myself with. I like to surround myself with things that make me feel good, that are of value to me. It turns out Marie Kondo’s on the same tip. Her message is one of joy. She tells you to pick up your belongings, one at a time, and feel if each one brings you joy. If not, part with it. It’s as simple as that.
As someone who is constantly inquiring, I deeply resonated with Marie Kondo’s approach to tidying. She tells you to ask why. Then why again. Then why again. And again. And again. She says, “As you continue to explore the reasons behind your ideal lifestyle, you will come to a simple realization. The whole point in both discarding and keeping things is to be happy.”
What I happened to find most useful were her detailed instructions for going through various items like books (near and dear to my heart), mementos, and gifts. Here are some of my favorite snippets from the book:
- Putting energy into clothing
When you are folding your clothing it’s important to handle each garment carefully and lovingly. She says, “As you run your hands over the cloth, you pour your energy into it.”
- Letting go of gifts
Gifts are a means to convey someone’s feelings. The gift is the act of giving, not the item that is given itself. As someone who has a difficult time letting go of items that have been given as a gesture of gratitude, this has helped me see that the item itself is not where the meaning was held.
- Attachment to mementos
Mementos are the most difficult items to deal with and should always be saved for last. She says, “We live in the present. No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are important.” I know your mind is reeling with excuses to keep every single one of your photos, notes, and cards in dusty boxes on shelves for that one day. I’ll let you read the book to discover her full method on memento detox. I will leave you with this powerful quote though, “It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure. This is the lesson these keepsakes teach us when we sort them. The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” Powerful, eh?
- Talking to your phone, take it or leave it
There are some things Marie Kondo shares that leave me wondering if she’s attached to her belongings in an unhealthy way or if she’s on to something beautiful. She tells a story about a cell phone she was basically obsessed with. When she had to get a new one she texted her old phone, “Thank you for everything” and added a heart symbol. Yes, quirky, but can you ever be too grateful?
- She gets deep: it’s all about attachment
She says, “Discard anything that doesn’t spark joy.” But then she goes deeper, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” Boom. And then she says, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
So yeah, she believes your socks are really tired from all the work you put them through and that you should never roll them because of it. And she believes you shouldn’t stack things because the things at the bottom are strained by the things on the top. And she sends her cell phone love messages. She anthropomorphizes inanimate objects, but she goes deep into the core of our hearts and minds. She’s got me folding my clothes differently, honoring my objects a little more, and my stack of books (yes, I still stack) represents who I am now.