(Above: “The limits to pleasure are neither known nor fixed”. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)
Like many people, I have read Marie Kondo’s, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. One of the themes of this book is that as we tidy and create beauty around us, this will also increase the calm and beauty in our inner world. I was curious, I found Marie Kondo’s neurosis about tidying to be quite charming, and I love a motivational reason to clean my home. So I enlisted my family and we started the process.
You Start With Clothing
Last August, my husband, kids and I began the process by going through all off our clothes. We held each item of clothing to see if it “sparked joy” and donated the pieces that didn’t spark joy.
You can learn a lot about your process of buying and wearing clothes doing this process. As a parent, sometimes clothes are bought out of convenience in the isles of Costco. As a person who generally doesn’t enjoy shopping for clothes, sometimes I’ve bought them because I dedicated a couple of hours to shopping for certain pieces, so I chose something whether I loved it or not because I didn’t want to shop for clothes again for a while (cough, cough, until next year).
My husband and I could both identify clothes that didn’t really look good on us, but we wore them because it was easy to not change our pattern of clothes shopping. Marie Kondo’s paradigm helped us shift our process of buying and wearing clothes.
To be fair, another factor that helped us change this process was that we were living in a city at the time where it’s easy to go and shop for an hour. Cities have great stores beyond the box-stores with more stylish choices. Now living in the suburbs, it takes more effort to go to the mall or box stores. The ambience of a city is very conducive to making shopping more enjoyable for me.
If you’re a parent of boys, you may wonder if your kids would be interested in selecting their own clothes. They might not be. I didn’t think my kids would be, but I was surprised when I took them to a store and they enjoyed having a say in the clothes they were going to wear. Afterwards the clothes they had chosen became their favourites.
The Rest of My Home
As we were living abroad, we put the rest of the book on hold until we moved back to Canada. Marie Kondo’s process is layered, starting with clothing, and continuing with everything else in your home. In January we moved back into our house which has a lot more “stuff”. It became a little overwhelming to even know where to start. Mainly it resulted in “half-assing” each room, to the point where I gradually acclimated to living with more stuff around me in a messy way. (That is until we had people over whom we weren’t close enough to feel comfortable to leave it as it was; it’s always good to have a motivational reason to clean)
Recently I visited a friend who had fully embraced the art of tidying up. Each room in her home was decorated with care. Her personality was easy to see in the rooms, and I could tell she took pleasure in choosing and placing the items with care. She also didn’t have kids, so that negative part of me rationalized the beauty in her home to that factor. Yet I felt inspired once again to attempt this in my home.
Combining Tidying With Focus
The other book that helped me with this project was Gary Keller & Jay Papasan’s, One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. The book is written for entrepreneurs, but the message is clear – choose ONE THING and focus on doing that really well. I applied this message along with Marie Kondo’s paradigm to create beauty in my home.
This past weekend I started with my yard and worked hard not to think about the mess in my home. Here’s a photo of my garden a week later – yes there are weeds. But the vegetables and herbs are mostly bigger than them – I consider that a win.
I then moved to my shed and repeated this process. While cleaning the shed, I said to my husband, in one hour we’re having a break and drinking a beer. This was a way for me to shift my pattern of seeking enjoyment after a task has been finished. It was delightful to take a break in 1 hour instead of 4 hours, and I was quite proud of myself for going back to work afterwards. (Reality: It looked like it might rain, so I had to put everything back in the shed and not leave it until later.)
My Home Office
This week I’ve been working on my office. Here is a photo of a small piece of my home office. I actually hung things on the wall – I was proud of myself after my degrees and artwork had been sitting in stacks on the floor for 5 months. And yes, I did unabashedly sneak a photo of my cat into this mix. No apologies there.
This practice of tidying up and creating beauty in one space at a time has been a way for me to create calm and pleasure amidst the noise of life. If I look at my never-ending to-do list or look at the calendar, I start to distract myself with activities or try to do bits and pieces of everything and then feel tired and fairly dissatisfied at the end. The discipline of focusing on doing one thing really well and with pleasure was a gratifying one.
When life gets chaotic, it can be difficult to know where to focus your attention. Try choosing one thing today, even if it’s a tiny space and see how it goes.
P.S. I won’t show you a photo of my bathtub or my kitchen floor and leave them to your imagination. They both desperately need some attention. All in time.
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