Our external environment is a reflection of our internal environment, and I could feel that my home of one year was starting to clutter and the energy within it was not as vibrant as before. My home felt heavy and stuck. Sure enough, this was a reflection of my inner state. So when a friend recommended a book called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was intrigued. Life Changing. Magic. Tidying up. Cool! I couldn't wait.
Before I looked at the picture of the author at the book's back cover, I imagined such expert imparting wisdom on housekeeping and life would be someone resembling Martha Stewart. How wrong was I. The author of the book - Marie Kondo, with twinkles in her eyes and a fairy aura, is a surprisingly young Japanese cleaning consultant. In her New York Times best-seller with three million copies sold, she explained how you could get your life changed with her amazingly simple tidying method - the KonMari Method.
The KonMari Method in a nutshell
To succeed in anything, it pays to visualize the end result at the beginning. So before you start the tidying process, visualize your ideal life in your home and search in your heart why you want what you want. Then start by discarding - keeping only the things that spark joy. Only after a thorough and complete discarding of each category of possessions, with increasing level of difficulty, should you store your chosen items of that category. When you store, keep things of the same category together and lay them out in a way that you can see them all at once. What follows was how I applied my understanding of the KonMari Method on my first day of life-changing tidying. (For details and the most proper way to do it, read the book or consult Marie Kondo directly - if you don't mind the three-month waiting list.)
Call me old fashion, but I love writing things with pens on paper - grocery list, schedule, daydreams, goals, ideas, notes, messages... The magic of manifestation happens as soon as we write something down. We make it real. And it stirs up something deep in our subconscious mind that helps bring whatever we write down to life. So I wrote down my dream life in my lovely home and made it as vivid and specific as I could - this process itself was already fun!
Marie Kondo said that tidying is both a celebration and a special event of having a dialogue with one's self. Therefore, to honor this occasion, I put on one of my favourite dresses - a simple but lovely long indigo cotton dress and diffused an earthy and grounding essential oil blend. To keep ourselves focused, Kondo recommended not to play any music. She also advised to start the process in the early morning as the energy was most suitable. I totally agreed with her but 10am start-time on a Sunday morning was as much as I could push it.
Starting at 10am, after an energising breakfast, I began to collect every piece of clothing - tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, socks, underwears, scarves, belts, bags - EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, from every drawer, closet, and surface, and laid them all out by subcategories on the living room floor. At first, the gathering was smooth but when I got to that half-way point, I began to feel heavy, Oh my god, I’ve still got so many clothes! I didn't remember how long it took but they were finally all laid out.
Starring at these piles, I became momentarily speechless. It’s a bare and weird feeling to look at all the clothes I owned all at once. Somehow, just this view put a lot of things in perspective even though I didn't know to articulate.
Oh well this is the easy part, I suddenly wondered because the big chunk of my long-term possessions were still in my family’s home where I grew up. But as Kondo advised, it is important to start easy so we can boost our self-confidence and hone our intuition in the tidying process.
So how do you decide what to keep and what to discard?
For a lot of people like me who have had any experience of discarding stuff would have experienced similar train of thoughts:
oh wow what was I thinking when I bought this? But it's such a waste to throw it away.
I've never worn this since I bought it five years ago but the tag is still on and it's still new! I’m sure I will wear it later. I'm sure... I'm sure...
These jeans are now so uncomfortable but I used to look great in them!
This is so worn out but I've just worn this last week …
This is not really my style but I saw it on who and who and she looks great in it!
I don’t like this gift from xxx at all but it’s a Hermès! WHO THROW AWAY A HERMÈS?
On we went with all those logical reasons, or, excuses for not giving up our belongings. And we ended up only letting go half-heartedly.
The KonMari Method is simple at its best - keep only those things that spark joy NOW. So I got myself grounded and centred with a short meditation and breathing exercise before tackling piles and piles of clothes. Going through each subcatergories of clothing in the order recommended by Kondo, I simply held each piece in my hands and asked “Does this spark joy?”. That was it.
Some sorting was easy - as soon as I touched it or even laid my eyes on it, I knew I had to let them go; those that had been being with me for years with heaps of memories attached but no longer sparked joy were of course difficult. So I had to clarify my feelings and intention and asked, “Am I happy with it NOW? Or was it the memories that I’m attached to?” For those that I loved for the memories we had together, but they themselves no longer sparked joy, I recounted our time together, thanked them sincerely for their service and memories, then wished them Bon Voyage (yes I talked to my clothes). It felt like breaking up with someone that you truly loved but you both knew deep down that you had to set each other free. This kind of break-up reminded me of what zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”
During the sorting, I found a dress pants that I hadn’t worn for years but definitely sparked joy as I ran through the subtly shiny satin in my hands. I had to wear it tonight. And wear it I did. To match it, I even put on a pair of brown leather ankle boots with heels. People who know me well knew that my daily wardrobe consists of only yoga tops, yoga pants, flips flops, sneakers or TOMS. I was completely overdressed for our casual dinner and my friend, in shorts and sneakers, even joked that if he should buy a pair of pants to match me. I didn’t care what my friend wore or whether I was overdressed. I was simply happy to wear whatever I felt like.
Kondo warned again and again in her book that we must finish discarding before storing and must only keep those things that spark joy. That made total sense - why should I surround myself with things (or people!) that don’t spark joy? So I adhered to her advices.
Like people, things like to be with their friends. Before storing them, I followed Kondo’s advice to fold every item into a rectangle that can stand vertically (I recommend going on Youtude to see how). Then I grouped them in categories and arranged the items on hangers in a rising order from right to left while items in drawers from darker shade at the back to lighter shade at the front. After a whole day of tidying up, this was part of what resulted.
This once-and-for-all tidying process, which could last for six months, will indeed be life-changing but challenging at the same time. It is like an upheaval of my life where I must face those things that I would rather ignore. But I have chosen to live a great life and fulfil my life purpose, so this kind of soul-searching and reflection, no matter how daunting it might be, is necessary.
Simply a day of tidying up has put some part of my life in perspective:
comfort and simplicity is what I love and enjoy
quality matters big time
I really don’t need that many clothes
I already live in abundance. Thank you God.
I am now more confident with my decisions and intuition
To set both myself and my possessions free, I must let go when it’s time to let go
I am learning to see the truth
I am happy to be true to myself
Still to be tackled in the clothing categories are my accessories and shoes. Afterwards, I can up my game to deal with the next category - books. As a nerd, I love books so I could fathom the tricky road ahead. But as the late Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama always said, “proceed with courage and self-confidence”, and proceed I will.
On a side note, if it wasn’t for starting this decluttering, I wouldn’t have finally sat my butt down to resume writing. Talk about life-changing!