This is a two-part series. Click here for Part 2.
I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year and am only now coming up for air on the other side of the process. If you haven’t heard of it just yet, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a book about home organization, and it has sparked followers and fans across the globe. At a glance, it looks like a quick read, an easy little manual for tidying up a space and getting things put in their place. I had read plenty of home organization books prior to this, so I wasn’t expecting too much.
I didn’t expect for it to actually change my life.
But it did.
The changes didn’t come easily though. It was very overwhelming at times, often putting me face-to-face with challenges I didn’t even know I’d face. I struggled with what to keep and what to get rid of. I struggled with letting go of certain things and found myself paralyzed over and over again with certain decisions I had to make. I struggled with some of the philosophies of the author and was challenged to look further into my own beliefs and thoughts. It was definitely a growing process in many ways, but it has taught me so much more about myself than I had ever anticipated.
So, what exactly made it such a struggle? Read on.
In the next post, I’ll share what I learned through it all and why I think everyone should take the time to “tidy up”.
Struggle #1: I wasn’t too sure about using “joy” as a means to decide what to keep and what to discard.
In the book, the author suggested that we hold each item in our hands to see if the item sparked joy. If it did, we would be able to keep it, but if not, we were encouraged to let it go. Filtering through everything that did not bring joy would ultimately lead to a home filled with joy.
As a Christian, I had to step back and ponder all of this a bit more. As I held each item in my hands, it was definitely obvious, which ones I really liked, which ones I loved, and which ones I really disliked. What got me thinking, however, was that almost each item was something I once loved and liked. Was it the item that really brought me joy?
And if so, how was it that something that did bring me joy just a few short years ago now caused me to repulse? The item didn’t change. I did. Or my values did. Could it be that I became discontent with many of my things because the media told me I should? The trends had changed, and so I was expected to move along with them. And if so, was it possible to be content with what I had rather than to be on the never-ending search for more stuff? More joy as it was called?
Yes, all of these questions swirled through my head amidst the piles and piles of things. I wondered what role “stuff” should have in my life if I was supposed to keep my focus on “things eternal.” I wondered if I was placing too much of an emphasis on getting joy from my things instead of recognizing it as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. And if I didn’t use joy as a measuring stick, how was I supposed to go about filtering through the mounds of clothes, jewelry, home decor, picture frames, electronics, coats, shoes, etc. that filled my living space?
Working through the process gave me more clarity in this area, but I found that my view on the items also was different than the author’s.
Struggle #2: I didn’t agree with giving reverence to my things as the author suggested.
In the book, Marie Kondo suggests a parting ritual for letting go of things that no longer bring joy. She encourages her readers to speak words of gratitude to the item in order to thank it for its service. Items kept were also to be given reverence. For example, socks were to be put on their sides and never bunched together out of respect for all the hard work they did, and shirts were never to be stacked on top of each other because of the cruelty the shirts experienced if placed at the bottom of the pile.
This was very much different than the beliefs I had about inanimate objects. For you see, as a believer, I believe that everything was created by God and is to be used for His glory. All that I have, own, and use has been entrusted to me for His purposes. And so, although I did find it necessary to have a parting ritual with some of my more sentimental items, I had to redefine it for myself as I did not feel right thanking my things for their service to me.
My gratitude for it all was first and foremost to God, and I found that as I opened my heart in thanksgiving, I had more peace in blessing others with the things I no longer needed. I was better able to care for the items I kept out of reverence and gratefulness to God for the blessings and not out of reverence for the items in and of themselves.
Understanding where I stood on this made it much easier when the time came to part with items I had kept out of reverence to others. In the beginning, however, making the decisions about what to keep and discard wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I never realized how indecisive I actually was until I began to tidy up.
Struggle #3: I had a hard time making decisions about what to do with the stuff.
Marie Kondo offers a plan for working through each of the items. She suggests working through the items by categories rather than rooms. The least sentimental categories were to be done first followed by the more sentimental items. This would allow practice in decision-making prior to facing the more difficult categories.
I began by typing up each of the categories as she suggested, then went to work on my clothes. I held each item in my hand and began by allowing myself four separate piles, one for things I loved or used, one for things I would like to pass on to someone else, one for things that were no longer useful to anyone (trash), and a “maybe” pile for the things I could possibly re-purpose. The fourth pile was a great big no-no according to the book, but I was determined to make some things work–even if they didn’t bring me “joy” initially.
That was a big mistake. Before I knew it, I had a huge “maybe” pile and found myself doing double the work, picking up each item once again. It was then that I realized that I needed to make some serious decisions or I would never get through everything in our home.
My sister stepped in to help me with the clothes, and she bagged the “no’s” and “maybe’s” before I even had the chance to second guess my decisions. It was like pulling a band-aid off quickly; it was a bit painful at first, but it felt so much better once they were loaded in the car. Instead of a thank you to the clothes, I thanked God for allowing me to use the clothes for as long as I did, and I said a prayer of blessing for the recipients of the items.
And so it went, shirts, pants, shorts, coats, dresses, skirts, socks, etc. One by one, I took stewardship over each and decided whether or not I would commit to using it or needed to let it go so that someone else could. I proceeded without a fourth pile, which made it so much easier, until the items became more sentimental, and then, I began to stall once again. I never knew how much emotion I had attached to things until I had to decide what to do with them.
Struggle #4: I had a hard time letting go of things that were given to me.
I am so visual by nature, and looking at each item brought back memories of the person or the event where the gift was given. I could recall the look on their face, the emotions I experienced. It was almost overwhelming.
As I held each item, however, I had to come to the realization that many of the items in and of themselves no longer served a purpose to me. I didn’t use them or didn’t even like them, but I felt compelled to keep them out of reverence toward the person who gave them to me.
I had to come to the realization that the purpose of the gift was in the receiving of the item and the value it held for me when it was used. Hoarding the item in storage did not do anyone any good, and it did not add any value to my relationship with that person. Keeping gifts just for the sake of keeping them now felt selfish when they could be of use to someone else.
And so, I gave thanks once again. I thanked God for the memory. I thanked Him for the person in my life, and I prayed that the item could now be a blessing unto another. Bit by bit, I removed the emotions from many of the items, and purged my home of the clutter that had made its way into boxes and “pretty bins” in my closets. The baskets and bins left along with the items, and as I neared the very last piles, I felt my home take a deep breath and exhale.
And then, I did, too.
What I came to discover was that “the life-changing magic of tidying up” was so much more about me than my stuff. I learned more than just a simple tip for putting things in boxes. I learned to identify what I truly valued, and it went far beyond the stuff.
Click here for Part 2 where I share all that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up did for me.
Have you gone through the process of tidying up? What were your personal struggles?
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