I read a lot. It’s my favorite thing to do, and I wish I could do it even more than I do now! I have lots and lots of favorite books (you can see them all at Goodreads), and only a few of them have changed me after reading them. Only a very few have had a huge, long lasting impact on me. And this book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is one of those books.
I’m a pack rat. I save everything. I save mementos and knick knacks. I save things just in case I may need them again (even though I haven’t used said thing in years.) I collect(ed) books because I love them. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up made me change the way that I think about “things” that I hold on to. It gave me a different outlook on why I keep them and made me realize I no longer need them.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up focuses on Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo’s step-by-step method for simplifying, organizing, and storing. She challenges you to ask yourself whether each object you have is achieving a purpose. Is it propelling you forward or holding you in the past? In most cases, my things hold me in the past because there are memories attached to them. She also says you should ask yourself a very big (and for me, this is the life changing part) question: does it spark joy? If it doesn’t, get rid of it. It’s that simple.
Except when it’s not that simple. Some things, especially mementos and things that are full of sentimental value, are harder to let go of. Kondo’s advice is to ask yourself “Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?” You’ll be surprised how easy it is to answer that question, and then figure out if you should keep it or not.
Instead of going room-by-room like most organizing people tell you to do, she suggests going category-by-category (according to Kondo: clothes first, then books papers, miscellany, and lastly mementos.) So if you are going to clean out the kids’ closets/clothing, get all of their clothing (for all of the kids) and dump it all in the middle of the floor. Hold each and every item and feel its energy. See if it still “sparks” joy. For me, this was a little too “woo woo” and very impractical. So while I took the room-by-room approach, I did actually ask myself if things sparked joy. And what I found was that no, most things I was holding on to did not spark joy! Each time I decided to let something go – even if it was something that I had had for years – it got easier to quickly realize there was no joy.
I was holding on to things out of guilt. Let me explain…
Let’s talk books….I had books upon books upon books. I kept them because I “collected” books. But after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and asking myself if all those books sparked joy, the answer was no.
You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it. There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. – Marie Kondo
I kept them because I felt guilty about giving them away. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I had all of his books. I’d be a terrible fan of I just let all of those books go; I was holding on to those books out of guilt. So I let them go – except for Stephen King On Writing…that one sparks joy and I look through it often.)
One thing I read somewhere long ago was that if you hold on to things (like clothing, etc) because it was so important to you long ago, why not take a picture of those things and then get rid of them. I mean really, how often do you get out those old things and look at them? Probably not unless you are trying to clean.
Kondo also talks about how you should fold your clothes and how to give them positive energy. Again, too woo woo for me, but her folding techniques really are simple and make your clothing look nice in the drawers. And her explanation of why you should fold does make sense – if you take good care of your “stuff”, it will last longer and take care of you.
I have started using the concept of sparking joy in other aspects of my life. When I shop for things, I take a second to see if whatever I’m considering purchasing sparks joy, or is it just something I feel like I want/need (even if I don’t.) Asking myself that life changing question has made me stop buying things just to buy them.
Same with invitations, volunteering, being asked to do things. Am I saying yes simply because I hate saying no and upsetting people? Will what I’m being asked to do spark joy? If not, I say no.
Even Jason “gets” this new outlook on life. No, he didn’t read the book and I don’t see him passing positive energy to his socks, but he agrees with the concept of sparking joy. The other day, he asked if he should keep something that we had had for years simply for sentimental reasons. I asked him if it sparked joy – if he really enjoyed the feeling he felt when he looked at it. He looked at me weird, and said no. So I said get rid of it. That easy! Then I explained about the book and he said, well that makes sense. And it does.
I highly recommend that you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up…it was truly life changing for me. I read it almost a year ago and still practice many of the things I learned. I still think about the book a lot. In fact, after writing this, I think I’m going to read it again!
Did you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What are your thoughts on the book? If you haven’t read it yet, do you plan to?