Who ever thought a book about tidying up would turn out to be a best seller? Marie Kondo has become the guru of tidiness with her new book “The life-changing magic of tidying up – the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” What surprised me in reading the book is that the author managed to make decluttering sound like fun rather than a chore. It has already made quite an impact on my life. She advocates decluttering by category, rather than by rooms and doing it all in one big fell swoop, rather than little by little. She claims if you use her method, you will never have to declutter again. I have followed her suggestions and have done some major letting go, re-cycling several garbage bags full of clothing, four boxes of books as well as a pile of papers.
You may be thinking that this sounds more like a Martha Stewart type column than Street Level Faith. What makes it spiritual is Ms. Kondo’s emphasis on keeping only those things that brings you joy. I went through all my clothing and asked the question: Does this item spark joy in me? I did the same with my books. Once I decided what to discard, I then decided what to do with it. I made a ritual of blessing the objects that had served me well in the past and had fun giving them to people I thought would enjoy them. In most cases my gifts were well-received. Of course, I gave a lot of clothing to the Salvation Army and many of my books went to the Library.
I am by no means finished but already, I feel much lighter. I can also find things much more easily. Paring down my “stuff” has given me a greater feeling of peace. I have begun to feel less possessive of my “possessions” as I send them to new homes. Although I am doing this partly so that my children will have less work at the time of my passing, I am also doing it for me. I want to simplify my space and create more order and harmony.
This trimming of physical objects is part of a larger process of letting go of old habits of conditioning such as worry over the future, regret over past mistakes and inability to say no. Over the last few days I have made hundreds of decisions over what to keep and what to throw away. This is helping me to be clearer over what brings me joy and what doesn’t fit into my life anymore. I realize I have kept a lot of things out of habit, not because I am crazy about them. Ms. Kondo encourages her readers not to feel guilty about giving away things that were given as gifts. This was a revelation to me. I thought I had to keep gifts because the person would be hurt. I have learned that this is not usually the case and that gifts too can be passed on with gratitude to the giver for what it meant at the time.
This clearing of my excess things has been challenging but also satisfying and freeing, far more pleasurable than acquiring things, strangely enough. It is a concrete way of choosing all over again what I want in my life and what to discard. The lesson to be learned is that more is not necessarily better. As sojourners on this earth journey, it helps if we can learn to travel more lightly. Ecclesiastes 3 sums up this wisdom: “There is a time to keep and a time to throw away”.