For two years I had been adamant that I’d never own too much stuff.
As a coach, it is important to always dig deeper and ask wait, but why?
In October 2013 I was 9 months pregnant and working on wrapping up my Mum’s home & estate (she passed away from cancer when I was 6 months pregnant.) Possession was just a few days before my due date.
One morning I was sitting in the garage, running a final HUGE garage sale with a bursting belly and looking out upon a lifetime of accumulated items from our family home.
It was incredibly hard to let things go. I think it is particularly hard when you lose someone, because you want to hold onto everything of theirs tighter. I caught myself lovingly picking up a few items, gazing at them, smelling them to see if I could smell her perfume, then talking my way through which few pieces to keep. People probably thought I was nuts.
Though it could have been a tragic day of garage sale-ing, that day wound up becoming strangely humorous. An aggressively pregnant female, equally aggressively hawking everything like the best of street vendors. All the poor unknowing shoppers having their car loaded up with extra free items by a waddling pregnant lady.
I so clearly remember standing in the middle of the garage, when EVERYTHING was gone, with a coffee, and I yelled up to the sky “HOLY SHIT MUM YOU HAD SO MUCH STUFF!” and then collapsing into my chair laughing and shaking my head.
I spent the rest of the afternoon gathering old papers from her super organized filing cabinet. SO organized in fact, she had documents perfectly arranged from the mid 1970s onward. I prepared the fire pit in the back yard and started to go to town on getting rid of the documents. Funnily enough, that is also the day I just about burnt our family home down before possession. I learnt that burning large quantities of paper on a gusty day is a terrible idea. Let’s not tell my firefighter husband about that day, ok?
One thing I want to do with the Great Maternity Leave (GML) is share with you the books that I learn from and show you the unique ways that I incorporate them into my life, by building habit loops from them. I believe this is one of my first “book study” posts. So here we go!
On my second maternity leave, I picked up The Life Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo, whose method is called the “Kon Mari” method. It was part of my project to let things go and in the process, declutter. It wasn’t even that I had this picture in my mind of a perfectly organized, clean home. I just hate owning too much stuff. I get irritable and stressy.
In economics, there is a concept called “the point of diminishing returns.”
As you accumulate more things, you go up the bell curve. At the top, the returns neutralize, then begin to decline. I know exactly how that translates to the home.
You forget you even own items, you can’t find them, you value them less, you don’t remember to use them, etc.
What I was feeling, was some kind of strange psychic clutter – but addressing physical clutter seemed to me the most logical place to start, before I used my own coaching skills on myself and dug deeper. That’s for a later post.
As began to rapidly accumulate boxes of outgrown clothes with two babies, I could feel my irritation building up. Finally, on a luxurious child-free excursion to Chapters, I picked up this book, which called to me with its simple, clean packaging and fonts. I often let books choose me, and this one sure did.
In the Rock Tumbler Essay, I discussed the fact that we are exposed to so much information – to the point where is hard to remember (or implement) all of the lessons we receive each day. I believe that you should just stop worrying about your baby brain, all the “Shoulds,” all the information and relax – relax with the confidence that a few of those many river rocks will tumble out as semi-precious gemstones which you will always remember (if you are reading this thinking, WTF, go read the Rock Tumbler Essay!)
I want to share with you the semi-precious gemstones that came out of my brain’s rock tumbler as I read this book. These are all things I have done since reading the novel.
Everything should have a home. When an item has a home to return to, after serving its duty, you will remember where it is. Think about it. Why do we ALWAYS lose car keys, remotes, sunglasses? Because they are constantly changing locations. Create a home base for them. A basket, a designated drawer. Whatever works and is obvious.
Let me tell you, calling down the hallway “they are in their drawer!” rather than spending 15 minutes helping someone search for car keys *cough* husband *cough* is preferable.
Ask yourself if the item has given you joy lately. Remember my “Hell yes or no” essay? Same principle applies here. If you let a “meh” item go and regret it (unlikely) – guess what, there will always be a thousand stores nearby with even better versions of that original item. Reassure yourself with the thought you can buy another if you miss it. Rest assured, I never have. I honestly didn’t trust Marie Kondo when she told me I wouldn’t regret letting things go.
Since then, I have ruthlessly been letting things go with this mindset and it has been absolutely liberating. My day to day functioning is not affected by a few pieces of wood, metal, glass or plastic.
When I have trouble with items because of some kind of attachment, I line them all up on the bed and choose one, and decide to transfer all of the meaning and memories into that one object. I take photos of the others, to save. Then let them go. For the special items I have been letting them go to people who will be deeply touched. Letting them go to a loving home rather than collecting dust on a shelf is incredibly rewarding. You’ll love it.
Treat your items with kindness; they have performed a duty for you. Honestly, this stuck with me, but I’m still working on it. Last night I put BRIGHT Sparkly blue nail polish in with a white load in the laundry machine. Yup. I wouldn’t say I’ve nailed it. Please feel free in the comments to help a lady out and let me know if there’s a way to salvage my white laundry.
Employ the Kon Marie folding method. At first, I thought, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” but I’ll tell you what… first, nothing wrinkles. Second, it is incredibly easy to pull items out of the drawer without wrecking everything else. Third, you can see every item right there in one go. It’s lovely once you get used to it and the time investment is minimal once you get good at the folds.
Tidy by Category instead of location, and do it in bulk. Lots of little tidying, luckily, never worked for me anyways. It’s pointless with small children. Instead of working on each room, decide on days for certain things. When you think about it, our grandparents often did this. Sunday, laundry day. Boom. All done for a week or so. Then you can forget about it. No picking away at it all week. Remember how I said I started this project to address psychic clutter? I promise you the tidying by category really helps reduce psychic clutter.
And my own piece of advice after working letting a lifetime of objects go:
Work on your mindset. Think about it, we don’t own anything. The objects are here on this planet, for much longer than we are. We are just humans passing through in that object’s life. We are temporary blips. Temporary caretakers.
All of the meaning we place on an object, we do with our minds. Just as easily as giving something meaning, we can take it away, or transfer it.
Remember, we are simply temporary caretakers of wood, plastic, metal and glass objects.
The Kon Mari Method is quite revolutionary. Everybody takes a different piece away from the book. For me, the book offered a profound opportunity to let items go easily and declutter both physically, and mentally.
Though I’m nowhere near a the minimalist home I envision (I have too many travel trinkets and books for that!) my entire mindset around tidying up has changed.