Declutter Your Life: Can a Spring Clean Really Spark Joy?
Declutter Your Life: Tidy Home, Tidy Mind?
Posted on April 3rd 2019 by Hollie Pita-Carr
“Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.” These are the opening words of Marie Kondo’s book ‘Spark Joy.’
With spring in the air, now is the time to declutter your life with a spring clean. I had been thinking for well over a year that I need to have a good clear out, but I found the idea somehow daunting and lacked the energy or motivation. However, with Marie Kondo’s inspiration, some of the Marisa Peer team decided to try it out. I feel an excited energy of anticipation to go through the experience and see what happens...
Here are 12 observations from
incorporating the KonMari Method™ into everyday life, including the realities of the challenge to declutter your life, from my own personal perspective.
According to Marie Kondo, the KonMari Method involves “tidying up in a way that will spark joy in your life and change it forever.” It is considered by many to be the ultimate method to declutter your life and appreciate everything you own.
“When you wear and surround yourself with the things you love, your house becomes your own personal paradise.”
“Tidying up is far more than deciding what to keep and what to discard. Rather it’s a priceless opportunity for learning, one that allows you to reassess and fine-tune your relationship with your possessions and to create the lifestyle
that brings you the most joy,” states Marie Kondo in ‘Spark Joy’.
A summary of the KonMari Method:
You are encouraged to sort through you items in the following order:
4. Kimono - miscellaneous
The process involves completing each category in its entirety. For example, piling up every item of clothing you have in one place. You then go through each item, one by one, asking: does it spark joy and do I want to take this into my future? If the answer is yes then you lovingly fold it and if the answer is no, then it is time to thank the item and let it go.
Kondo’s advice is that “sometimes the lack of that spark represents our own inner voice. This shows how deep the bond is between us and our possessions.”
Feng Shui Principles:
Having lived in China and written about ancient Eastern wisdom traditions, I was pleased to find that Marie Kondo’s method aligned with the principles of Feng Shui.
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of arranging your environment so that energy flows. Feng Shui is based on the concept that everything in your
environment has a life force or energy called Chi. When Chi energy is stagnant, it is thought to create blocks in other areas of your life, such as health, relationships and finances. It is believed that decluttering can increase the life force energy of your home and invite change into your life.
It’s a law of physics that nature will fill a vacuum or empty space. In order to allow new energy to flow into our lives, we first have to create space for it by releasing physical and emotional clutter. Letting go of the old, opens up space for the new.
A personal account - putting all of this to the test...
My husband is a firm believer in the saying ‘tidy home, tidy mind.’ I have to admit, I’m much more of a “creative free spirit” (that’s how I like to term it.) I’m very sentimental and love being surrounded by things that remind me of experiences, adventures and happy memories. However, my husband likes “clean lines” and everything put away in its place. As they say, opposites attract and we try to find the happy balance between our two preferences. Living with a small child in a small house has encouraged us to try to figure out storage solutions, but maybe it's time to clear out the clutter and only keep the things that “spark joy?”
Marie Kondo says “tidying up means confronting yourself” and “we can only transform our lives if we sincerely want to.”
Having trained as a certified practitioner of Marisa Peer’s Rapid Transformational Therapy™, I am a firm believer in the power of clearing our mind of that which no longer serves us, so why not try it in my home too?
Could decluttering our home be as life changing as decluttering our mind? Time to find out, let the process begin...
Observation 1 - Preparation or procrastination?
Having watched the Netflix program, read her book, blog, and seeing all the positive case studies, I was ready to put Marie Kondo’s method to the test and find out if tidying really could spark joy in my life and change it forever. I’m excited to release old stagnant energy
and things that may be clogging up my life and wardrobe, that no longer serve me or bring me joy. I’ve done everything I can to prepare. However...
It’s the morning I’m scheduled to start, but it feels like such a mammoth task, such a mountain to climb and conquer. I feel a little fear, nervousness and trepidation at the idea of throwing away all my things. I’ve even got sweaty palms. I notice the physical reaction I’m having to my thoughts at throwing away my beloved possessions and realise how attached I must be. “Every thought creates a physical reaction” - Marisa Peer’s words ring through my mind and I experience how true it is first hand (albeit a sweaty-palmed one.)
Observation 2: Start with the end in mind - picture your ideal future.
Marie Kondo suggests we start by imagining our ideal lifestyle - how we want to live once we’ve finished. Imagine, draw, write or vision board your ideal home and life.
I imagine how good it will feel to have
cleared through all my clutter and only keep the things that spark joy. I imagine the space this will create in my life and my wardrobe for the new and improved. I look forward to inviting new energy into my life.
As reluctant as I may be feeling to release old sentimental items, I tell myself that it is better they go to a new home and are loved and enjoyed anew, rather than sit stagnant in situ and stale energy. The life force energy of Chi needs to flow, to move, to live. This is why the practise of Tai Chi is so beneficial for the body, as it gets the energy flowing in harmony through gentle flowing movements.
There’s nothing left for it. I’ve got my tea, my water and some lovely organic dates to keep my blood sugar up (I've found these work as a great substitution for chocolate, as they give you that juicy natural sugar hit, yet are also good for you.)
Observation 3: You have to create the mountain before you can conquer it.
My initial instinct was to approach my spring clean the way I do any daunting task that threatens to be overwhelming, by breaking it down into manageable chunks and taking it step by step. However the first task of the KonMari Method is very clear on how to
declutter your life. You have to pile up ALL your clothes in one go. Kondo says “do not skip this part it is very important.”
The pile begins... after emptying just one wardrobe I’m completely worn out. The pile is already to the top of the sofa bed. I need a lie down. I don’t think it’s going to be possible to do all my clothes. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to cope with the chaos. I’m very, very tempted to give up and just to do this pile before emptying anything else. Then I think back to Marie Kondo saying how important it is to do ALL of it in one go. I decide to go with it, to try it and see. I’m kind of curious (and a bit terrified) to see the sheer volume of all my clothes. My nose is going crazy with dust as I bring out old piles of clothes, which haven’t been touched since my last clear out. Whoops.
The feeling seeing ALL my clothes piled up is a mix of hilarity, embarrassment and triumph. How have I got so many clothes, yet nothing to wear? There are things I’d forgotten about at the bottom of the pile and am pleased to see some old faithful friends again.
Observation 4: the reality is never as bad as the anticipation.
As I get started I realise it actually isn’t too bad. I spot a few things instantly that I thank and pass on for a new home. Then I have some jackets, virtually brand new, which I love but haven’t worn all winter. I have a practical raincoat by the front door that tends to be what I grab without even thinking. I guess it relates back to how we operate from our subconscious 95% of the time, running on autopilot. Time for a new home, for someone else to wear and enjoy. It’s no good just sat in a wardrobe unworn.
As I progress I’m feeling much better. I make little piles of all different category items and feel a sense of calm as I sort everything. I work in little bursts with breaks in between. It may take me days, or even the rest of my life, but it will get done and sorted, which is somehow a comforting thought that takes any pressure away from it.
Observation 5: Occasional and seasonal clothes.
I seperate the summer clothes and winter clothes and I thank every item on the pile for a new home, which is growing. I decide there are some things I’m not sure about, so I create another pile to take more time considering or try on later as Kondo suggests. With so
many different seasons to contend with in the UK, we really do need a lot more clothes and layers for all eventualities (I justify to myself.)
A challenge I face is what to do about occasional seasonal clothes? For example, I have holiday clothes, like beachwear and kimonos that are perfect for lounging around a pool, but not everyday wear and certainly not suitable for our cold winters, so haven’t been worn in a while.
After some consideration, I decide a good storage solution for holiday clothes is to pack them in my empty holiday suitcase. The suitcase is taking up space regardless, so it might as well also have clothes in it. As an added bonus, if I suddenly got invited on a holiday of a lifetime, I’d be all packed and ready to go at the drop of a hat (although not any of my hats - as they are now all packed away!)
Observation 6: What about when it sparks joy, but is not part of my future?
When I got to my recent bridesmaid dress I froze, unsure of what to do? Does it spark joy? Yes absolutely, very happy memories. Is it part of my future? Probably not. As beautiful as it is, I cannot imagine an opportunity to wear it again. So what do I do?
I believe Kondo says it’s OK to keep things of sentimental value as long as they are appreciated. She has some great ideas for repurposing special items in new ways, such as decorations. I’ve kept two items I love the fabric of to make cushions or a bag with. I decided that for now I will carefully put my bridesmaid dress in the loft with my other wedding and special occasion dresses. Sorry if that’s cheating, some things I just cannot discard, even if they serve no practical purpose in the future. I think to myself that I’m sure Marie Kondo wouldn’t mind, she seems so lovely and understanding. I will get to experience the joy of seeing these dresses again in the future and perhaps my daughter will even get joy from dressing up in my wedding dress one day.
Observation 7: I think I may have a problem!
Clothes are my biggest category and in particular, floral frocks are my weakness. I love beautiful bold colourful dresses, they spark a lot of joy and I would like to see them in my future. However they are not particularly practical. I tend to pull on the same old clothes for school runs and play dates, which pretty much seems to be the extent of my ‘occasions’ these days. However, as we spring into spring, I may just start to wear my dresses for no reason other than I love them. I make a pact with myself that I will wear my dresses more often and for no special occasion, just because they spark joy (and they have to earn their place taking up valuable wardrobe space.) I look at all the colours and patterns and feel pleased with how much colour I have in my life and wardrobe.
Back when I worked in the corporate world, I used to have a very black wardrobe. I always remember someone (from ‘the outside’) once commenting in a business meeting that it looked like we were all going to a funeral! After I had my daughter for the first few months I also lived in identical black yoga pants and black cotton tops, as I didn’t have the brain power to choose clothes. I was in sleep-deprived survival mode, where I was living more like a milking, nappy changing machine, rather than my former flowery frocked self. However if it brings happiness to life then it can’t be bad.
I’ve found that even when you feel awful, if you put on bright, happy colourful clothes, people think this reflects how you feel. I’ve discovered that if you want people to think you’ve got more energy than you have, put on bright energising clothes and this will create the illusion of vibrant vitality! It may also make you feel better too...
Observation 8: Dress for success: how does your ideal future look and feel?
We know that our physiology can change how we feel (I like Amy Cuddy’s TED talk: ‘your body language may shape who you are’.) Like music and power poses, I also believe that clothes can change how we feel and the energy that surrounds us. We’ve all heard the expression ‘dress for success’ and the job/role/future you want.
It has been stated that 93% of people’s impression of credibility is non verbal. Therefore what we present to the world visually, including the clothes we wear, can hugely influence how a message is received or perceived. For example, when I gave my TEDx talk on what makes you happy, I chose to wear a ‘happy’ dress - a bright bold colourful print to reflect the subject matter.
How we dress not only influences how we feel, but also other people’s perceptions. Research proves that we associate white coats with a knowledgeable doctor or scientist - someone you can trust with your life! We are more likely to follow instructions given to us by someone wearing a white coat, even if it goes against our own judgement. This is because our mind likes shortcuts and we know how powerful our subconscious mind can be, outside of our conscious control. As Marisa teaches, our mind is always listening and watching what we tell it - our job is to give it clear instructions on what we want and how we would like to feel. It’s like programming the desired destination into GPS, if you don’t know where you want to go, it makes it much harder to get there!
I like Marie Kondo’s principle that you should start the process by visualising your ideal future, how you would like your home, life and self to be. This then gives you a benchmark to check against when you ask ‘do I want to bring this into my future?’ Gaining crystal clarity on what you want is also a powerful technique used in Marisa’s Rapid Transformational Therapy. The classic question is: If you had a magic wand what would you want? Knowing what you want is the first step to achieving it.
Observation 9: Books.
Once I had conquered clothes, following the KonMari Method, I was onto books. As an author I love books and dream of one day having a library of books in my office. I therefore thought I’d find it much harder than it actually was to let go of old books. I kept my favourite fiction and realised I had quite a few books I’d yet to read, which is a bonus. I kept my reference library of relevant non-fiction books as these are very useful and often consulted. However I felt an unexpected
ease of passing on other books I’d already read and didn’t plan to read again. Books are there to be read not hoarded gathering dust. I felt a sense of satisfaction seeing my new tidy bookshelves all categorised and easily accessible. It did feel like everything was starting to make sense, neatly filed away for future reference - hopefully in my mind too.
Observation 10: Paperwork.
I had a box full of my paperwork to sift through and a mountainous pile of my daughter’s delightful artwork to sort. Thanks to my parents-in-law we had a brilliant new idea for some of the best artwork. We laminate the pictures and use these as placemats for the dinner table. It's a wonderful colourful way to enjoy the art. We also laminated pictures to decorate the kitchen, creating a colourful art gallery on display. I value Marie Kondo’s point that it’s much better to have things out on display and appreciated, than tucked away unseen, unvalued and unloved.
Observation 11: Kimono - miscellaneous.
We have a few of these little pockets of miscellaneous draws and cupboards full of everything and anything. In our old London home I used to call one of these spaces ‘Bob’s draw’ as it housed all the bits and bobs that didn’t otherwise have a home. When we moved we tried to re-home things, such as getting an actual tool box, which was proper grown up behaviour! However, I still do struggle to know where is the best place for light bulbs and the such?
As painful as it was to pull all the junk out and try to categorise what we wanted to keep, once it was done it felt refreshing. I loved the new arts and craft box my daughter and I made, with little compartments for bits and pieces. I was amazed how much stuff we got rid of and how much better it was to be able to see everything organised and easily accessible.
Observation 12: Clarity succeeds chaos.
Whilst the process did feel a little chaotic, getting everything out on the table (literally!), it was a very cleansing experience and I loved the end result. I felt much calmer with a clarity that came from having everything tidy and in order. I felt a new lightness, although I still don’t feel fully finished. However, Marie Kondo says that once you’ve gone through her method it stays with you for life. I can believe that. This is a lifetime process, not just a one-off. I find myself looking at things differently, I see things clearer and am a lot less sentimental now that I have the powerful questions to ask: does it spark joy and does it belong in my future?
So can a spring clean really spark joy and transform your life?
I would recommend having a good spring clean to everyone and am interested to hear how others found it. I can see how the process would be enhanced with expert guidance and trained consultants. It’s not just tidying up, it’s getting your life and mind in order and yes, I believe that really can be life changing.
I’ve found this spring clean a great practise to let go of that which no longer serves and is not aligned to the energy of the future. By clearing the clutter, we focus on what we want and attract new energy into our lives.
Marie Kondo states “success depends 90 percent on your mindset,” which is exactly the reason why Marisa’s Rapid Transformational Therapy is so phenomenally powerful. Marie Kondo’s method declutters our house, whilst Marisa’s RTT method declutters our mind. Ultimately this is an empowering and transformative process to declutter your life.