I've always had a problem.
Some may call it resourceful, this knack for seeing a use for pretty well any piece of torn or tarnished clothing and every tidbit destined for the recycling bin. I have a certain desire to figure out how to save things and make them useful again, and after becoming an Early Childhood Educator, pretty well anything really could have some crafty purpose. What seems like a harmless – perhaps even inspiring – habit of salvaging and re-purposing, however, can become a very hard habit to break. Things start piling up, and I never seem to get the time to spend poking around through the bins and boxes of random things to renew. So they sit, and they wait, and they take up space – both in my home and in the “what-do-I-need-to-do?” part of my brain.
To make matters worse, the stock-piling didn't end in my craft room. My desire to save carried through to my wardrobe, my kitchen, my pantry, my bathroom… everywhere. Gosh, you don't want to see our “workshop” (where no work could be done). Stuff, stuff, stuff. Everywhere. And why? Because it was on sale. Because someone else was getting rid of it. Because it was given to me, even if I would never use it. I wanted to save money, save the landfills, save, save, save.
But what was I doing? Making myself miserable with the excess of stuff.
My house was full of the clutter of too much stuff. And likewise, my brain was overflowing with the bits and pieces of my life I was desperately trying to keep track of, and finding it hard to manage. I couldn't possibly find any time (or space) to take on any more creative projects, to collect any more “supplies”, or to stock my closet, and was doing a terrible job of managing what I already had on my plate. But I still needed more. I liked to go out and collect new things to bring home, to find great deals on “fabulous” (and often mediocre) finds and squeeze them into a space with the rest of my possessions.
I knew something had to change, and I started trying to purge some of my belongings. The purging worked to a small degree, in a couple of categories of things, but really, I just couldn't find it in myself to let things go. Nor could I keep myself from bringing in more. As serendipity tends to happen in my life, during this prime reflective time of understanding I had a problem I needed some help with, I accidentally found myself reading a book that would help me detox my life from the addiction to all of this “stuff.”
Pouring through the pages of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I began to notice my mindset shifting about all of the things I knew I didn't need (or even want). I immediately started following the advice of the KonMari method. Kondo's philosophy is that it's not about the stuff, but rather about what's going on inside of our minds beyond that old tee or the present from Old Aunt May that you still haven't unpacked (five years later). So to clear away all the mental clutter, I made a vision board which helped me focus on the kinds of things I wanted in my life and to help me live that lifestyle I wanted.
Then came the purging.
Using the KonMari method, I started going through my belongings. As I moved through each category, handling and paying attention to every item to determine which ones sparked joy – which ones made me truly happier by being in my life – it became easier and easier to make the call. I started to notice a pattern in the things that I immediately loved. At first, I kept my vision board close to remind me what I wanted my life to be like, and what reflected that way of living. The ones that made me light up when I noticed them and felt comfortable and empowering to wear and with which to surround myself. Soon I was chucking things out here and there, and before I knew it, I had filled my hallway and the “disaster room” of my house with things that I wanted to let go.
That was a big piece of all this for me. Learning how to realize what things no longer served me, even though they may have been gifts from friends or belongings of loved ones now gone, and allowing myself to let go of the things while still treasuring the memories and intentions. Also, recognizing that not every item you own (most specifically, clothes) is meant to leave you when it's worn out with use. Sometimes things are perfectly lovely, but they just don't spark that light inside you that I want to have lit as much as possible. Doesn't living a life where anywhere in your home your eyes rest, you see things that bring you happiness at their sight sound perfectly wonderful?
One thing I've been concentrating on in defining the way I live, and thus removing a ton of excess, is choosing to fill my home with products that are healthier and more eco-friendly. In a way, you could define a lot of what sticks in your life for sticking's sake as toxic to your lifestyle, and it's amazing how many literal toxins I noticed I had been hanging onto for reasons that weren't even practical. In particular, expensive and chemical-laden personal products that I didn't want to “waste” (but didn't ever actually use), and back-of-the-pantry finds. So many things shocked me as I threw out bag after bag of stuff that made me sick to read the labels. Life really will be much healthier by simplifying to cleaner, greener products I love.
I've already realized so much about myself and the benefits of removing excess through this journey, and I still have so much more to go. Some big and tough categories of purging are going to be craft supplies and memorabilia. I'll keep updating #MyKonMariLifechange project on my blog when I can. I can't wait to have been through every item I own and downsize my life too much simpler, more joyful terms. I can't wait to keep figuring out what I love and where I want life to head, and focus on making that happen.
Have you decluttered your home to spark more joy in your life? What has the experience been like for you?