The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up - A Book Review

November 1, 2017

When we honestly confront the things we own, they evoke many emotions within us. Those feelings are real. It is these emotions that give us the energy for living. Believe what your heart tells you when you ask, “Does this spark joy?” If you act on that intuition, you will be amazed at how things will begin to connect in your life and at the dramatic changes that follow.
One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy. A comfortable environment, a space that feels good to be in, a place where you can relax—these are the traits that make a home a power spot. Would you rather live in a home like this or in one that resembles a storage shed? The answer, I hope, is obvious.
. ~ The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Not that long ago, I was friends with someone who tightly held onto things.  She would buy two of the same books - one to read and one to display.  Her house was cluttered with books she never read, appliances she never used, odds and ends that she did not need.  She attached so much meaning into things she never used that it made me sad to step into her house.  As time went on, the clutter started bothering me more and more and I came to realize that holding onto things no longer fits into my value system.  I don’t want to be the kind of person who places more value onto things than people and who looks for fulfillment through possession.  I don’t want to be so attached to any thing so that I would feel devastated if it was lost.  We cannot take any of our belongings with us when we die, so I figure it is better to leave an energy of positivity and love behind than a collection of things for other people to throw away.  I want to leave a legacy of love, not a legacy of stuff.  
I very much have a tendency towards hoarding myself and so being with this friend was a huge wake-up call to me - do I want to live in peace, passion, and joy or do I want to live drained and depressed? 
A lot of people when they heard me complain about how cluttered my house was recommended I read the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo. I was very skeptical and did not believe that any book could be motivating or life-changing when it comes tidying up and myself.
Fortunately, I was wrong!
Kondo is not a pretentious writer, but is very down-to-earth, as she explains her life-long struggle to be tidy and why it is important to her. She makes the case that our home should be our sanctuary, a peaceful place full of joy.  However, we cannot live in joy if our house is cluttered with things that do not really matter to us - what we actually need to keep are the things that bring us joy.
Here is a basic summary of the book:
  1. Clean your house at one time. Doing a little bit every day will mean that you never finish.
  2. You must touch every belonging.
  3. You must inspect it to see if it brings you joy or not.
  4. Clean your house by like items, not by room.
  5. Be in the here and now.  Do not save things for later that do not bring you joy or save things because they brought you joy in the past but no longer - only keep what gives you joy right now.
  6. Every item must have its own place.
  7. Clean out your purse every night and put the items away then.
  8. Fold clothes so that you can see each item.
  9. Do not stack items or you will forget about the ones on the bottom and you will attract clutter.
  10. Make your home into a sacred space - a sanctuary that gives you meaning and peace.
Because of her book, yesterday I was able to donate six bags of clothing and shoes to Second Life thrift store, which gives the money to animal rescue organizations.  
By touching and inspecting every item, I discovered that all of my white leggings had holes in the crotch!  I had been walking around in hole-y pants and I never even knew!  *facepalm* I had so many clothes that no longer fit or that I never really liked and giving them away cleansed my soul.  Now all my clothes fit in my dresser and they are all clothes that I desire to wear.
She was even right about folding clothes - when I get to see my shirts and pants and skirts standing up, my humble bureau transferred into a work of art, so that I actually enjoy folding my clothes up now! I never thought that would happen!  
(Leggings give me a lot of joy!)


(Yes, I am bragging.)
Today I am cleaning my bathroom and it feels so wonderful to get rid of the dirt and grime and things I do not actually want or need.  I feel like I am taking ownership of my house and my life-I am saying that I will not be a victim to preconceived ideas, but will reclaim my life, acknowledging and honoring the fact that I do possess the ability to make my life into the life I want.
Now, does this mean that I am cured?  No.
I still have many diagnosis and I still have limitations, but I believe that everybody has some kind of limitation, even if it is not the same as mine.  Just because I have limitations does not mean that I do not still have value and power - my power is in my ability to make a clear assessment of my life and to decide how can I make it better. 
Over the past few years, it has become clear to me that my overarching value is to experience a peaceful life, filled with joy.  As a follower of the Way, I believe that this is doable but only by using intentionality and mindfulness and gratitude towards the good things/people/beliefs already in my life right now.
However, a peaceful life is not an apathetic life.  I still care about causes; I will still volunteer, protest, make calls and live my life as an outspoken intersectional feminist, but I have come to realize that I can still have an inner peace even while I witness and work against the horrible violence of the world.  I do not have to let social media, the news, and gossip bring me to despair, when I can instead allow myself to cultivate peace with the aim to share that with the world.  
Getting out of that relationship made me realize that I did not want to follow my friend down her path, which has meant some major life changes.  As I have been decluttering my home, I have also been decluttering my life.  When it comes to an obligation, I ask myself if it will bring me joy and if not, then I don’t go.  The same goes with the people that I hang out with and talk to.
Of course, there are some useful things that I must keep that do not bring me joy. I would love to throw my hospital statements away but I will need them when it is time for my next disability review.  How I have reframed these kinds of deals is by saying that while the hospital statement itself does not bring me joy, the freedom that being on disability gives me does.  My medications do not bring me joy when I am tired and just want to go to bed, but they do bring me a lot of joy in the morning, for without them I would be too depressed to be able to declutter my house in the first place.
The news outlets, the politicians, want us to live in fear.  Fear sells and causes us to support those whom we normally would not.  I believe that it is our job to live in peace as much as possible and to try to offer it in contrast to what the media and politicians want us to believe and support.  My blessing is that I am constantly aware of death and so I know how I want my ending to be, which is a life of peaceful joy rather than one of fear and suffering.  
Make the choice to embrace peace and joy with me and to spread it around. Let us infect the hive of fear with something better.

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