Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Setting Your Joy Free From the Clutter

Several years ago I did a challenge called The Compact.  Basically you don't buy anything new for an entire year except things like toilet paper and soap.  You can still buy stuff though, it just has to be used.   It was a great experiment and I enjoyed the thrill of finding just what I needed, or even a fun surprise in the shelves of the thrift store or garage sale.   I bought all kinds of stuff, some I needed, most I did not.   So now, fast forward seven years later and I am still in the habit of shopping mostly used.  It doesn't feel wasteful or excessive because it wasn't purchased new.  I am not adding to the excess world of consumerism... right? Except maybe there is a down side to thrift shop mania.

  I can't find what I am looking for in my house half the time.   My shed is packed so tight that I missed using one of my favorite Halloween decorations because I forgot it existed in all the junk.  I pile stuff into my garage and shed and rarely do I ever need anything there except gardening tools and camping gear.  Entering the shed feels overwhelming, even finding a rake is a burdensome and I exit with a knot in my stomach from all of the mess. Somehow I feel that we need all of these things.  I have "nothing" to wear because the few clothes that I love are hidden in a jumbled mess of other clothes I thought I needed.  Usually instead of taking time to look for my favorite shirt I put on something "meh" and rush out the door feeling junky.   My house is constantly covered in clutter and takes forever to clean.  Rarely do I "deep clean" (It's an ancient art I have heard about that was invented before maids...why don't I have a maid?) because I am so busy just keeping up with moving the clutter from place to place that I am exhausted long before actual cleaning is done.     Even my spices when cooking are overwhelming, they fall out of the shelf and the one ingredient I need takes 10 minutes to find. Cooking dinner turns into a treasure hunt and now bedtime will be even later.   It turns out that having tons of neat finds, and impulse buys, or even keeping that sweater that you ordered and then found out it was itchy, but it was expensive so you can't just get rid of it, and it's past the returning window...is actually sucking away your time.   That gift you received from your friend that wasn't your taste but reminds you how much you love her... even that is taking precious space and emotional energy.  

I was introduced to a book by Marie Kondo, called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. and I was invited to join a super rad secret group full of ladies also reading the book and getting rid of their junk.  I have tried reading organizing type of books before.   I even tried an organizing book for people with ADHD and soon even that seemed too much.  The reason being... I was never done.  There is so much stuff to organize that it's like a little hamster wheel.   You run until you collapse and then you have to get right back to it again.   This is different, I feel like this will have an end.   Basically, you get all your stuff one type at a time, put it in a pile, pick up each item... and if it doesn't spark joy.. BAM! It's gone.  No looking back, no showing your partner or mother or anyone what you are getting rid of... you just donate it.   It feels scary, but as soon as the box of unjoyful stuff leaves your house you feel amazing.  

I have gone through my clothes many times and usually find things to get rid of but this time the pile was huge because the bar was different.  If the sweater I picked up brought feelings of guilt for never wearing it and for how much I spent on it, then it went in the goodbye pile.   I would have kept it before, telling myself I would wear it someday.  But each day I didn't choose to wear it, when it caught my eye in the closet I would get a tiny wave of guilt.   The same goes for the unwanted gift from a friend.  I feel guilty for not using it.  My friend did not give that to me so that I could feel guilty.  She gave it to me because she loves me and wanted to bring me joy.  If it's not bringing joy then I shouldn't keep it.  Joy was the intended purpose of the gift and in that moment when I received it that was the feeling I had.  Joy that my friend cared about me enough to think of me and give me a gift.  It served it's purpose for that moment and now it can go to the mission and serve a new purpose.  
Some things are easier to go through, like medicine cabinets and spice racks.  Others are harder like photographs and artwork.  She has a list in the book of the order to go in.  Never start with photographs or sentimental things.  First you have to master the art of knowing and sensing that spark of joy.  Then when you go down the list farther it will be easier.  Also you will have the joy of freedom from clutter already starting so you will have extra motivation.

I am still working through all the categories but I have had a pretty good start.  My closet now only holds clothing that brings me joy, Even my socks and underwear! I may wear the same shirt frequently but I can always find it and I always feel amazing when I wear it.  When my daughter needed medicine a few days ago instead of digging around the cabinet, I simply opened it and there was what I was looking for in plain sight.  Yesterday I spent most of the day gardening because it was beautiful outside.  I came in an hour before dinner to a messy house and had it looking clean in no time because there wasn't the extra clutter to distract me from my intended task.

I am hooked on getting rid of things! I am also careful not to get rid of the things belonging to my family members.  Although I have considered a blow torch once or twice (husbands pile of electronic random on the kitchen counter, ahem.)  The truth is that only they know what sparks joy for them, and unfortunately for me the collection of empty kleenex boxes turned my little pony village taking over my daughter's room brings her extreme joy.   They have been catching the de-clutter bug though.   An entire trunk load of stuff has gone out from my children's rooms.  Stuffed animals that they would never get rid of, suddenly when the joy criteria came up they only kept a few.   If you try this and you have children, I suggest letting them see and hear how great you feel about getting rid of your stuff.  I also talk about how now my things get to bring someone else joy.  We donate most of our stuff to a shelter for houseless people who one day will have a house again and our items can help furnish it or cloth them in the between time.

We were never meant to hold on to possessions like we do.  Shows like hoarders might make us feel better, like we aren't so bad.  Those shows portray the extreme, people with a variation of OCD that is clinically not normal.  Just because we aren't "that bad" doesn't mean we are fine.  I feel so much lighter now, I have more time now that some of the tiny moments of looking for things are gone.  My closet has no subtle feelings of guilt as I start my day in the morning.   It initially is a time consuming process but it's also freeing.   This doesn't mean I won't ever buy something again, in fact I actually bought a few things, but they all spark joy.   Imagine yourself living in a home where everywhere you look you see things that bring you joy.  Imagine less cleaning up time and more time to DO things that bring you joy.   READ, DANCE, PRAY, SING, MEDITATE....FIND YOUR SPARK OF JOY!

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