There are things I have known intuitively, and things I have learned that have brought me closer to living a happy, authentic life. The book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is definitely now in my top 3.
I’ve never thought of myself as having a hard time letting go of things, in fact, it has gotten me into trouble in the past with my husband. Like when I tossed his old leather jacket that I didn’t realize was passed down to him. I’m still sorry for that over a decade later. The fact that my husband was more the ‘accumulator’, and myself the one convincing him to overhaul our home all the time (or buy a new one!), it was lucky how this experience all came about.
Change is most difficult when it is thrust upon you, versus you seeking it out. My husband stumbled upon this book and let me in on the whole plan. This created a great dynamic as he had retained every ounce of the book and counselled me through each step. This gave him the alpha role in the process which felt more natural to me than me nagging him through it (which only creates resistance, resentment and tension).
We called 2018 the year that we took our health back.
Even though I had worked in the nutrition and fitness world for my entire adult life, this year was a necessary level-up. I am so very grateful that despite a tumultuous two years (parenting challenges, health issues, stress and work woes), when I told him that I needed to do whatever it took to heal myself, he was all in, no questions asked.
This incredible shift after we have been through so many peaks and valleys over our 18 years together, is in part thanks to the influence of my friend and her course, “Couple’s Tune-Up” that we were privileged to beta-test.
I think it was important that our year involved first getting united as a couple, secondly taking control of our health, and then finally, reclaiming our home. Though, I could see how it could be done in a different order, starting with your home, I found the health aspect important because there was a time in my life where I simply would not have had the stamina, the calm mind, and I would have frankly been in too much pain.
If you are dealing with health challenges, I recommend you take more time than I did (6 days of extreme intensity with 5 hours of broken sleep per night, is what we did). Give yourself at least two weeks and maybe up to a few months depending on the state of clutter you have to tackle.
If you are in the post-partum period, please don’t. Or at the very least ask your best friend or mom to do the bulk of it while you nap with your baby. I know temptation can be high to reclaim what once was, but I urge you to hunker down and soak in this important time and ask people to feed you some warm soup and tea. I love you!
OK, so assuming you are of sound mind and body and want to take on the KonMari Method, your first step would be to buy the book.
She even has a companion book now with visuals for how to fold clothing, sheets etc. I highly recommend this. My husband has an incredible memory for information retention, but I was lucky. I had a million questions and would have made a ton of big mistakes without him to tell me, “Marie Kondo would say…” in response!
The main premise is to not clean/purge/organize by room, but rather by object. First clothes, then books, then papers, then “komono” (miscellaneous, the largest category which includes all your kitchen items, toys etc.) and finally, mementos. There are spiritual, psychological and practical reasons for this approach, and I just LOVED it. When you begin each category, you collect all of it and dump it into the centre of the room. Then you discard. You resist the temptation to organize and put away, and just purge, and purge and purge some more, until you are left only with what you need and what brings you joy.
Because, “owning only what we love and what we need is the most natural condition”. This is where my intuition gets happy! I always knew that what children need most is our attention, empathy and space. They need room to run (indoors too!), places to jump (if you can’t safely jump on your couch, fix that, or forgo the couch and have bean bag chairs or do like the Japanese). What kids don’t need is mental clutter and over-stimulation of too much “stuff”.
That said, you need to respect and read their cues. My youngest son adores his toys in a way my eldest never did. I am a big fan of “strewing” which is putting out books, toys, objects, supplies or tools in places to spark their joy and inspire play and creativity. This is especially important as a parent who home-educates. I am not sure Marie Kondo would approve of how many toys we kept, but we are all thrilled with how our spaces look and function now.
And our kittens too! I firmly believe even our pets are much more content when there is less clutter.
The biggest surprise for me was how I felt when I came across my box of old letters, photos and diaries. I had this in the “papers” section, but in retrospect it would have been better to be done last, with “mementos”. I felt like my soul jumped out of my body and travelled back in time to another dimension. When I saw a photo of a boyfriend, I could feel the texture of his shirt, smell his cologne and remember the mixed emotions I felt about him, sometimes infatuation, other times disgust. Teen angst all came flooding back. It was very intense and strange.
The reason we are supposed to deal with this last, is because by this point you would have become more disciplined and emotionally equipped to part with more and not be as affected. Dealing with this during stage 2 was out of order, I now know.
I was most pleasantly impressed with how the kids dealt with it all. In the past, they would have been incredibly stressed out by their world being torn apart and re-configured. This time, they were better than OK with it. There was not one tantrum, tear or upset. Even when the dining room and kitchen was an explosion of possessions including all their toys.
I feel there was two reasons for this. First, back to the nutrition piece, they are more centred little beings these days through improved food choices. Secondly, my kids are the best bullshit barometer, and it was as if they knew this method was in alignment! Sounds crazy, I know, but a mother just knows!
Most importantly I think, I learned about how the deep the depths of consumerism run through this experience. How culturally we are raised to split apart as a family and fill the voids created through processed food and THINGS. So. Many. Things. I didn’t think we were too bad, but I was just about to buy new nail clippers, and after our KonMari work, I learned we already had FOUR. Four nail clippers, 3 boxes of baking soda, 4 bottles of hydrogen peroxide, an entire “new” wardrobe for each kid, and at least 50 hair elastics.
I noticed how, in the past we would have totally ordered pizza for dinner, convinced we had to for time efficiency because we were “so busy” and because we “deserved it”. At around the point I was looking through the box of mementos, I suddenly wanted a chocolate bar. Not the 85% cocoa kind. I observed that, and moved through it meditatively with curiosity instead of judgement. This process is in part to appreciate slow living, and understand we do have time, and what we truly deserve is far better than a pizza.
This brings me to the concluding lesson, which is about my work. In 2018 I had to make some difficult choices saying “no” to some things and “yes” to others. Moving past what others expect of you can be incredibly hard. I appreciate Marie Kondo’s direct yet loving approach to her method, and I am gleaning from that the strength from which one’s message can be delivered when they are really confident. Marie says, “Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.”
My favourite change of all has been that my desk has been taken from the basement and brought up to the front of the house by my favourite window. I still have too many pens, but that’s OK. We are committed to doing KonMari again in the spring, and we are never looking back. Through this experience, I am clearer on everything. On what kind of wife, mother and business-woman I am becoming. I feel lit up, excited, and receptive. What I receive will be carefully curated and aligned with my higher purpose. I am ready!
P.S. Marriage is as much work as parenting. Our relationships deserve a support system too! This course, the Couple’s Tune Up led by my friend, psychologist Allison Villa, has played an instrumental role in my partnership with my husband Neville, and has helped countless other couples. If you’re wanting to get clear on your values and re-connect with your spouse or partner, you’ll definitely want to check it out: Couple’s Tune-Up.