Lessons Learned from Letting Go (of Things)

I shared this photo on my Facebook page this week, and got a lot of virtual amens. ūüėČ

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Can we add a¬†#truth?! I cracked up at the “Watch YouTube videos” slice of the pie chart because I had just stayed up past midnight cleaning out a closet … all because of a YouTube video. (Okay, maybe 3 or 5 videos.) But they were some of the most helpful videos I have watched to date, and I actually didn’t feel too bad about procrastinating taking a break from writing. ūüėČ

I had stumbled onto an article while I was surfing the net (aka. research for writing) that¬†described¬†a life-changing way to¬†clean. Life-changing, really? A few more articles later, and I had started to buy into¬†Marie Kondo’s “KonMari method”. Instead of buying her book for more information though, I¬†decided to go the el-cheapo route and turned to¬†YouTube.

Jackpot!

If you search for “konmari” on YouTube, you’ll find about 15,200¬†videos(!) on how to clean your home, KonMari style. There are some amazing vloggers on there who opened up their homes to share their before and after room¬†makeovers. These people seriously inspired me. But what inspired me more was the KonMari method and its¬†simple and refreshingly different perspective on things. We’re talking about clothes, books, paperwork, electronics¬†– any non-living thing that is taking up space¬†in your home. When you’re cleaning up your things, Marie Kondo’s advice is to not ask yourself, “Will I ever use it¬†again?” or “Is it worth keeping?” Instead, all you need to ask is this: “Does it¬†spark joy?

Hm? Hm!

Yup, it’s as simple as an emotion. Joy.

I’d been going about it all wrong. In the past when I’ve attempted to clean the house, I would get caught up in my head. More specifically, the cheap part of my brain that would be afraid to let go of something. Even if that something was old or broken or worn. But more often than not, that something was still functional but hiding under a layer of dust waiting for the “someday” when it might be used again. And the longer these things sat around, the¬†more cluttered and messy the house became.

We had gone over to my parents’ place last weekend and when we got home, hubby commented, “Their house is so clean.” Of course I immediately replied, “They don’t have two kids living there. And you didn’t look in the closets or under the beds (my dad’s favorite hiding spot, haha).” But in the next breath, I thought to myself,¬†Those are just excuses.¬†If I really wanted to tidy up our home, I needed to change my attitude and get my behind movin’!

So I did. I went through the closets and took all the clothes that no longer sparked joy when I looked at them. It was a good reminder that I need to cut down on my impulse purchases (ie. do not buy a tank top that is too big for you even though it is only $0.25!). I came away with several bags of clothes (one for recycling at H&M Рyou get a 15% coupon for every bag you bring in!; and two bags of gently worn ones for donation), roomier closets and a happier attitude.

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Next, I tackled two boxes of papers that I had kept hidden in C’s closet for years. I’m talking about report cards from elementary school, homework assignments, college acceptance letters, prom pictures, and letters from friends since childhood. Part of me couldn’t believe I had kept all those things; the other part of me understood¬†why. Those boxes held the identity I had developed¬†for myself, someone who based her self-worth on academic achievements and social status. Once upon a time I had looked at those papers with a certain amount¬†of pride and happiness, but that night as I went through them, I felt a sense of wistfulness. Those papers didn’t possess the same value to me as before. Or maybe, I didn’t need¬†them to define myself anymore. I ruffled through them and set the majority¬†in a to-be-recycled pile (which eventually filled a large garbage bag) and¬†kept some of the letters and other mementos that made me smile. Best of all, I breathed a little easier when I was done because there were now two empty shelves in the closet, something I had never seen before in our house.

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That’s another thing Marie Kondo advocates – empty spaces! Don’t feel like you need to fill up every single shelf or cabinet to the max. Open spaces give you room to breathe and move around and feel free. Ahh, just the picture¬†of this empty shelf makes me happy. ūüėČ It also inspired me to rethink how I fill up my time. If you could see the rest of this closet (a sight I will gladly spare you from), you would probably feel your shoulders tense up. That is also a good analogy to how our bodies¬†react when we fill up our lives with activity after activity and leave no empty “shelves” for rest and relaxation. Cleaning out this closet made me see how my “Martha nature” keeps me wanting to be on the go and overly-productive. I’m learning to make some room in my life just to be and to feel.

I hope this post inspires you to not only tidy up your¬†home, but more importantly, to make time and space for joy in your life. Here’s one more picture I’ll leave you with – the muchkins’¬†homework table – that totally makes me happy every time I look at it. (I wish I had taken a before picture of it, as well as the shelf behind it, but you’ll have to trust me that it was scary!).

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Just one more note about tidying up: Be patient, especially if you have little ones and also big ones in the house who may not be fully on board with the process. While I was cleaning up the bathroom, I told E, “I’m throwing out your old toothbrush, okay?” He answered, “But it’s for my collection!” Aiya. Before I would have said, “But it’s old and you’re never going to use it again!” This time, I replied, “Does it make you happy?” ūüôā I got silence for an answer, and promptly tossed the toothbrush in the trash. (If he had said, “Yes” though I may have had to respect his answer, haha.)

Here’s the perfect song for this post,” I’m Free”, which I totally remembered when I found my old Jon Secada CD while cleaning out the CD/DVD/VCD¬†cabinet. I love the lyrics: “Things are only as important as I want them to be.”

What things are you holding onto that bring you joy? What things do you need to let go of to experience joy?

2 comments

  1. Amy Graham says:

    I’ve been trying to motivate myself to go through my closet, storage room, and art room…and the cabinet in my bathroom…and my kids toys! ( and then the overwhelm sets in and I end up doing nothing.) I loved your post–thank you! You’ve encouraged me. I’m just gonna start in one spot, and only think that far. First: my storage room!

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