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The Life-Changing Magic of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, was released in the US in 2014. It outlines the KonMari method of decluttering your home by dumping everything into a big pile and holding each item to see whether it sparks joy. If it does, yay! Keep it. You love that thing. If no joy is sparked, yay! Thank it for its service and get rid of it. You don’t love that thing. The book also contains strategies for organization and folding, but the KonMari method is the part that really took the country by storm.

Yesterday a friend told me she’s reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We talked about the woo-woo ridiculousness of thanking your socks, and the amount of privilege required to be able to say “Meh, none of my things spark joy. I’ll toss them all and buy new ones.” I tried the KonMari method about two years ago, and at the time I thought it didn’t help much. My closet was still full of items I disliked but had to keep. My kitchen was still full of subpar gadgets. Like most people, I can’t pop out for a new outfit or a better toaster at the drop of a hat.

But I did learn some helpful things from the book. I learned that the purpose of a gift or a card is to be given. The moment you receive it, its purpose has been fulfilled. You can keep it if you love it, or dispose of it with no guilt. And I learned that sometimes, the purpose of an item is to give you a little thrill in the store when you buy it. There is no guilt in discarding such an item, even if you never wore it, even if it was crazy expensive, even if someone else told you they like it. Just learning those two things helped me get rid of so much!

But here is the biggest and best thing I learned: healing comes in unexpected ways. Some background: I grew up with abuse and poverty. In my house, it wasn’t safe to have opinions or needs. It wasn’t safe to express any feelings. It was pointless to wish for nice clothes, new music, or really any material possessions. I was raised to subjugate my feelings and desires to other people’s. It goes beyond that, really: I was raised to not even recognize that I had feelings and desires. I was raised to keep myself as small as possible and stay out of the way. I’ve been away from the abuse for many years, and I’ve never been as poor as I was growing up, but the psychological effects have lingered on and on like the smell of your least favorite coworker’s weird lunch.

The process of spending a few moments holding each item I owned, thinking carefully about whether it sparked joy, seemed silly at the time. But in the two years since I did that, my life has changed immensely. It was such a gradual process that I only see it now, looking back. I have removed countless non-joy-sparking things and habits and thoughts from my life! And the empty space where all that crap used to live is slowly filling up with good things that I chose. Yes, at my advanced age, I learned to choose! I learned to deserve, and I learned to want, and I learned to reach for things. I am just now realizing how little I’ve ever done or had because I really wanted it. I am just now seeing how little I ever noticed or cared whether something sparked joy. So yes, healing comes in unexpected ways, from surprising sources.

It turns out that the process of self-actualization can even change the people in your life. Today, I hold the ones who spark joy closer. The people who are good for me are still here, and the people who preferred me small and out of the way are not. My apartment is tiny and somewhat bare, but it’s all mine. I am mindfully furnishing it only with things that I love. Maybe I don’t have a couch yet, but I bought a beautiful painting. I have a real fabric shower curtain with flamingos all over it just because it makes me happy. Turns out, a silly little sock-thanking organizing book is probably the most important thing I’ve ever read.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is available from your library in print, large print, audio (CD and Playaway), and e-book. It really could change your life!

Suggested listening: "Solsbury Hill" and "Big Time" from Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats by Peter Gabriel 

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