Raise your hand if you've read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
The KonMari craze is real, and I definitely read it word-for-word, page-to-page, front to back cover.
Out of the pile of unread books on my shelf, I turned to this book for reasons the title suggested: life changing magic. I wanted to become a neater, tidier, less of an overstuffed closet-kinda person. I wanted to stop feeling stressed by the piles of mail, the need to clean so frequently and come to terms with the fact I did not need every single notebook from graduate school anymore.
For several years now, I've gone on telling people "I'm not messy: I'm just creatively busy."
I don't know why I find it shameful to admit, but sure, you could call me kind of...messy. But I prefer creatively busy.
I've always been attached to my things.
At age three, I used to pack up all my stuffed animals, put them in a purse, then put some more in another shopping bag, and then a few more in my pink plastic stroller. According to my Mother, the old neighbor couple that lived across the street would stare at me from their screened in porch and say, "what the hell does she have in all those bags?"
My stuff, my goods, my belongings, have always been important to me. So important, that clearly at age three, I felt I needed them wherever I went (including the end of my neighborhood block).
In elementary school I collected everything from rocks, shells (still do), teddy bears, beanie babies, pogs (yeah who remembers those?), buttons, beads...anything turtle related.
Between my Grandmothers of mine and my Mother: I've grown up in world full of tchotchkes (chach-kies). And tchotchkes quickly add, accumulate and clutter.
Packing for college was not the lightest load, and I definitely had one of the biggest suitcases on the ship when I traveled abroad during a Semester at Sea. Not something to be proud of but...to see the difference of how I travel today (never check a bag when flying)---well, the improvement is impressive.
I do credit my travels across the world for overall humbling several aspects of my life, a major one: shifting my relationship with things. I became very attune to just having enough for my need, not for my greed.
When I moved from the east coast to the west coast seven years ago, it felt like I was letting go of a lot----but in retrospect: not really. Yes, it all fit in my car, but...did I really need to bring three full containers of organized beads, some of which I've had since I was six years old?
Since then, I've moved five times. It seems with every move, I shed a layer of stuff that has traveled with me all these years.
I've been settled in the same place for three and a half years now. Last year, after the reading the Marie Kondo book, I took a stab at a major Spring cleaning. I got rid of about 7 bags of clothes, unwanted books, bags, old craft supplies and gifted things I never wanted, but felt guilty about getting rid of.
I spent an entire weekend + took a day off from work doing the KonMari thing.
Though the purge felt incredible, I found the process to be draining, exhausting and it altogether wiped me out. It wasn't hard, just time consuming and slightly emotional (I save a lot of cards and all that big milestone memorabilia).
SIDENOTE: I live in a studio apartment; to KonMari an entire house would clearly take me at least one month...and put me over the edge.
They say if you do the KonMari method right, you'll never have to clean again----but let's be real: I think that would only happen if Marie Kondo came and did this in collaboration with you or me.
So alas, Spring 2017 has sprung, and Winter is a great time for piles to re-form, craft scraps to loom and holiday gift remnants to hang around.
Add another layer to the mix: my partner Will and I decided it made sense for him to move in with me on May 1st. All of this proved reason enough for another major spring cleaning.
One of the biggest things I learned in reading Marie Kondo's book is that tidying up is NOT about seeing how much you can get rid of. It's about finding value, particularly happiness and gratitude, in the things that you have. Which yes, does eventually equate to getting rid of the stuff that doesn't elicit those positive feelings.
I'm sure many of you have heard the common question that Kondo suggests you ask your things: "Does this spark joy?"
It seems silly to pick up a pair of undies and ask "does this spark joy?" but this question has allowed me to shift my perspective in figuring out which things I own do truly ignite some form of appreciation----or not. Try it, it's fun.
As I started throwing this year's stash of unwanted belongings in a giant pile, I realized I knew a few people that would love my elephant watering can way more than me, a handful of others that would actually use the stack of emoji stickers I thought I would be cladding onto my stationary, and a few more that would fit perfectly into that little black dress that I've only worn once and is sitting too pretty on a hanger.
The list of matchmaking my stuff to people continued in my head. But, I didn't want nor had the time to actually go hand deliver all these things to them.
So I decided what would make this whole experience more meaningful was to host my very own yard sale of sorts. Thus: Declutterville: A Rummage Fair was born.
I set a date, decluttered, did some promoting via emails & social media, decluttered some more, made a ton of chocolate covered matzah, whipped up some deviled eggs, sat on my porch with all my stuff & made it happen.
I'm not sure what Marie Kondo would think of planning a give-away event of unwanted items-
But here's what is did for a "creatively busy" person like me:
1.) Gave me a strict timeline as to when I needed to finish decluttering. It all had to be sorted through and organized by April 14th.
2.) Giving feels good. I already knew that, but it thrilled me to see others get so excited over my used stuff: everything from googly eyes, animal masks, backpacks to old National Geographic magazines. I realized those things served me for a certain time and they would now serve others, and not just go to waste. I also realized a home you can picture your stuff in makes giving it away that much more rewarding.
3.) I got to use my front porch ...which is so underutilized. I should wake up every Saturday morning, sip tea, read, write and enjoy that space more.
4.) I got to meet neighbors I had never met. It's kind of pathetic I've lived here for three and a half years and really don't know my neighbors. I think I know five. I blame it on the fact I live on the 3rd floor and am at work for the majority of the week days, and adventuring on the weekends. I could do better at being neighborly. We could ALL do better at being neighborly.
5.) It was the most productive social event I've ever hosted. Sure dinner parties are great, but this was awesome because I got to hang out with my friends AND get rid of stuff at the same time. I think one of the reasons tidying up is draining for me is that it becomes a very isolating process. This allowed it to be communal, fun, beneficial and gratifying.
Just about a month later, my space feels lighter, Will is moved in...things are feeling good up here. It's not perfect---but it hit the reset button in reminding me how much better life feels when you come home to happy tidings.
Here's a little BEST OF montague of things I finally let go of this round of Spring Cleaning:
>>>Ice cream costume head piece. This actually has not been looming around nearly as long as some other stuff, but I made is from scratch this past Halloween, it took time, and it was tough for me to just throw it away after October 31st. Chances are unlikely I will ever wear it again....so I finally let it melt & discarded it.
>>>Graduate school notebooks. Haven't opened them once; it's been five years. Bye.
>>>First set of plates. When you move to your first place out of college, the first set of plates is a big deal. Not anymore.
>>>First valentine/box of chocolates from from Will. (he told me to trash the turtle)
>>>My favorite pair of jeans from high school that I turned into shorts in college. I was obsessed with these Abercrombie & Fitch babies since they day I bought them at Westfarms Mall. I can smell the scent of the store just thinking about it...and it disgusts me. A final tear in the crotch was reason enough to finally part ways.
>>>My ruby slippers/adventure shoes. This was a tough one. I've had these for 9+ years and have walked everywhere from Baltimore to Bali in these. It's ok, the've been very clearly documented here & here. Also they've started to make my feet stink within 5 minutes of wearing them, which is never good for anyone.
And yes (not pictured), I did finally get rid of my beads that first had a home on a shelf in my childhood bedroom and somehow have made it out cross country with me. -emidobz