How tidying up changed my life

When I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I found the author’s assertion that cleaning up your stuff could have life-altering effects quaint and quirky. I wasn’t a total skeptic — I believe in the relationship between our outer and inner lives, and I could see how synchronicity could cause mild changes to occur in both worlds at once. However, as I began to bring more consciousness into the realm of my possessions. I did not expect huge tremors to shake my soul and alter my life beyond all recognition.

Until they did.

Over the course of about six months, I tidied up in the order suggested by author Marie Kondo: clothes, books, and papers. (I still haven’t quite gotten around to the next catch-all category of “everything else”.) I was not a fanatic follower of her guidelines. I didn’t discard all the books I haven’t yet read, and I don’t talk to my clothes when I take them off at night or always put my handbag in exactly the same place. But I followed the main idea, which is to proceed methodically by category, take each and every item in your hand, and feel whether it “sparks joy.”

The progression was from my bodily need for protection and comfort, through the reading matter that has so strongly shaped my soul, to the spiritual realm of organization and finance. As I slowly went through all of these, the foundations of my life, my work and my marriage, began to tremble. Hidden layers of my mind and emotions were revealed along with the dusty, neglected articles I was weighing in the balance. As I chose to only keep possessions that sparked joy, I was challenged to take a stand for joy in my relationships as well.

This was not always a pleasant, innocuous process. There was a moment when it seemed I would quit my job — but I didn’t. There was another moment when it seemed I would be divorced — but I wasn’t. Instead, the opportunity emerged to create real, authentic relationships in place of habitual, largely unconscious ones. And with the courageous cooperation of my family and my coworkers, this has begun to happen.

The changes brought me to the edge of exploding sometimes, and it was not easy to handle that volcanic energy. I needed a lot of support to get me through the transitions, which led to another change: in the past, I have always been very reluctant to reach out and reveal any weakness or need for help. But out of dire necessity I did, and the connections that formed thereby have become some of the most joyful results of the whole process.

With tremendous gratitude for all I have received, I now recognize that I need to move on to a new job and a new location. Together with my family I’m contemplating next steps and a big move. This will entail yet more tidying up, but I believe that I’m much more prepared for the changes to come, and even excited to see what will emerge next.

Have you ever found that transitions in your outer and inner life coincided? Has tidying up changed your life — or would you like to see what will happen if you try it?

Sweeping
Interior with a Woman Sweeping by Cornelis de Man – 1666

30 thoughts on “How tidying up changed my life

    1. I should make it clear I really do not think tidying up CAUSES our lives to change. But when one is ready to create change in the physical world, one should be ready for other kinds of change to take place as well. I was very surprised, woefully unprepared, but extremely grateful in the end for all these necessary transformations!

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  1. I relate. My husband and I went through a tidying up and making a few renovations this past fall, following a huge change in our life style. (We went from being a homeschooling family, to the girls in school for the first time, and me back to work). We needed to put an end to a season in life, and start the new by cleaning and tidying, -because the house was pining to be decluttered from the past, and brought to a new beginning-. I also follow this method without the spirituality and religion attached to it, which to me it’s not something appropriate.

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    1. I think when you make the decision to go into the process, you find whatever degree of courage you need. Seems as though most people find it a good thing in the end, whatever chaos it may temporarily cause.

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  2. Whew! Sounds like you’ve gone through a mild earthquake! I agree that the Kondo-ization of your life didn’t lead to the big changes (new job/location), but it must be true that applying the Kondo system requires a certain openness to change that allows the need for other changes to become apparent. (I hope that last sentence is clear.) I was hoping to visit your bookstore at some point — looks like I’m going to have to hurry!

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    1. I did find it a useful principle, though “joy” was sometimes not so easy to pin down — does it give me joy to have mundane things like hammers and paper clips? If not, I would end up without a lot of things that I actually need.

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  3. I have checked this book out from the library twice now and still have not read it. After reading this post, I now have a hold on it again! This time I will read it and hopefully start the process of tidying up my own life. I hope your potential change in job and location moves you closer to us. πŸ™‚

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  4. I am so attached to inanimate objects, filling them with such emotion, memory and life that a project like this gives me the willies!

    But I am aware of the connection between when cleaning the outer parts of my life my inner life feels freer and sometimes more vulnerable. It’s as if giving myself physical space calls me to look at where I need spiritual space as well.

    I am so happy for you that you came through all of this in one piece and that you had and have family support to carry it through to the next level.

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    1. If you have many objects that fill you with joy, that’s wonderful! What I found was that I had so many things (and thoughts, emotions etc.) that I was holding on to for no good reason, and letting go of them was incredibly freeing…if rather disorienting for a while. I am so glad to have come through, too!

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  5. I’m doing exactly this, now! I haven’t read the book yet, but I am planning to, and similar ones, for a blog post discussion. I already culled over 125 books to go to our neighborhood community center’s Little Free Library and the library’s used book sale, last month. ✨

    The other thing I have been thinking about, as far as future purchases, is I had one grandmother whose house was crammed with cheap to median priced trinkets and collectables and another who had a few really great pieces of art and well made furniture. It was always more pleasant to stay at the less cluttered house, and when I think of all the time wasted on dusting and rearranging, and cleaning around QVC collectables my one grandmother had to do, I am sad about the more meaningful activities she could have been doing instead. πŸ˜•

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. πŸ‘

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    1. Our consumer-driven society has led to an unhealthy accumulation of meaningless stuff. Returning the focus to meaningful activity is a task for our time, I feel. Good luck with your process!

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  6. WOW! This was not at all what I was expecting. So many reviews and discussions of this book/process I see are in the vein of “Yeah, it feels so nice to have a clean and uncluttered house”. What a journey for you! Thank you so much for your bravery and honesty in sharing, you’ve got me thinking so much differently about it ❀️

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    1. Certainly, not everyone has such a dramatic experience as I did — perhaps fortunately for them! I’m glad you found this worthwhile to read, I so much appreciate this space to share our thoughts.

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  7. I love the “sparks joy” question! I use this one a lot. I want to check out that book at some point! I always seem to be trying to sort out our stuff to make a bag for Goodwill. πŸ™‚

    Great post!

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    1. Honestly I think that is the most useful idea in the book – along with organizing by category (vs. by room). I’m always amazed how much stuff I am constantly accumulating, but it helps to try to not acquire things that don’t give me joy in the first place.

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  8. It sounds like it was quite a journey! It also sounds like you developed some meaningful relationships along the way. I wish you the best with your future plans. Whatever happens next, I hope it brings you joy!

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  9. Although I haven’t read Marie Kondo, I have read about her, and did “declutter” a few years ago. It did help me feel more peaceful. Strangely, I HAVE become impatient with the sheer number of books I have. I’m not as strict as a friend who reads a book once and then sells it, but I have gotten rid of many, many books I liked very much but never got around to rereading. Books CAN become clutter if you accumulate too many, and much as I love books, I had become that person1

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    1. I’ve kept so many books I wanted to read again, and I never have. Now I think, “Am I really ever going to get to this?” If only I had a crystal ball for that question!

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