With the lockdown, a lot of us are decluttering our homes, with the extra time at our hands. Decluttering in the traditional sense means removing unwanted things from one’s physical surroundings. We give away what is not needed and throw out the old to make space for the new. In Indian culture, we are encouraged to declutter around certain festival months to give it a community feeling (Sankranti/Pongal/Diwali etc.), to unconsciously instill the habit of decluttering.
Like most of you, for me decluttering meant a superficial activity, where I would choose a day, play loud music and absent mindedly sort my clothes, books, shoes etc., and find excuses not to part with things. I would end up cleaning and rearranging them, not so much of giving away😉, especially books. All this was mechanical, and I never imagined that this activity could be much more powerful on a psychological and energy level when approached in the right way. This was until I stumbled upon the Konmari method on YouTube, created by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing and decluttering expert. Yes, you read it right, she is an expert on organizing things and decluttering, who could imagine that could be a career right? She has her own TV show, books and Udemy course. I read her book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” and it opened a whole new dimension to me, I never knew existed.
I will try to share few key points of this method and most importantly how it directly affected my life.Marie Kondo is not sponsoring this, I must put it out there, I secretly wish she would though.
We might have read or heard that things carry memories, emotions and energy of the owner. That old shawl belonging to your grandmother, that tea set your mom cherished and then handed over to you, that tie that belonged to your father, are all good examples. Now imagine you are visiting your parents in the house you grew up in and in your old room you find a box stashed with your old toys, books- your favorite doll, some WWE cards, a small car etc. and when you hold these in your hands and smell them , you unconsciously close your eyes, at that point do you only see the memories flashing? Or do you also feel the emotions as a child playing with these toys? This is all the proof you need that things carry our energy & emotions intact.
When we hoard things and our personal space is crammed with things and books and clothing and shoes, it clutters our mind, body and spirit as well. Decluttering as an activity should be done not only for the physical aesthetic but for our internal health as well. I know what you are thinking – Pooja always converts everything into psychology and spirituality, how can decluttering impact my life? I have done it so many times over the years and nothing changes? All valid questions, and before you conclude this is all made-up humbug, spare a few more minutes to read this till the end as I now share my personal experience.
3.5 years ago, I was in a bad place in life, I was still recovering from my second knee surgery and dealing with pain and life felt like it was stuck. I was not inspired to do anything and apart from work and home l had nothing else going for me. Life was going in circles and though I had a stable job and a nice home, my mom and dog were with me, nothing seemed to be moving forward. It is then that I watched videos and read the book on Konmari method. Her approach intrigued me, I had a lot of stuff at home and boxes that had been sent over from my hometown as well. I decided to try it out and got mom onboard with it. I am sharing below few key points of her method:
- Start by greeting your house, sit on the floor, close your eyes and ask the house permission and help in this exercise. In India we consider each house as a living deity, the Vaastu Purusha who resides and takes care of the residents of the house.
- Start decluttering in categories, like books, clothes, shoes, kitchen etc.
- When deciding what to keep, only ask “Does this spark joy?”. Not “can this be used 5 more times?”, only does this spark joy? Give attention to the feeling do not use logic while sorting
So, I started by bringing out all clothes I owned and piling them on the floor, all of them, from the closet, from the laundry, from everywhere in the house. The pile blew my mind, it was a mini mountain, how the hell did I own so many clothes? Then I picked each piece of clothing in my hand and asked myself does this spark joy? If the answer was no, the clothing was rejected. I had to fight the urge, to keep stuff because it was brand new, worn only once, or gifted by a loved one. Then from the rejected pile, I sorted which ones to donate, gift or throw.
Addressing all my male readers, don’t give an excuse that this is applicable to the ladies alone, I know you have loads of clothes too and that favorite T-shirt with holes hidden somewhere from your mom/wife ha ha.. Don’t worry you have a valid answer to continue holding on it, it sparks joy 😊. Jokes apart, this needs to be done by everyone for their own items, don’t involve your parents or spouse in the decision to keep or throw your items.
Moving now to books, which are the hardest category, the method says- keep books you would want in your hall of fame, maybe classics or favorite books, the books you haven’t read in ages, trust me you will never read them, so they need to go. If you really like a book, you will devour it as soon as it lands in your hands, all the book nerd will agree with me 😊.
Next came the photos and old documents and copies, mom and I were so engrossed in the exercise, one day we looked at the clock to realize it was 2 AM already. The whole exercise for the house took 10 -15 days, it is an intensive process to complete any sooner. We noticed something odd, our stomachs were cleansing on their own, we were visiting the toilet frequently and as the categories were being dealt with our bodies felt better. Marie mentions this in her book that some people feel it this way that the digestive system reacts and cleanses the colons. It was fascinating as we had not changed anything in out food or lifestyle. I cannot describe the feelings of relief we experienced at the end of this exercise. My mind felt calmer and clearer, a weight had been lifted on my heart and I started getting inspiration to the next right thing in life. We also surprised ourselves that we were able to let go of so many items.
The most emotionally impactful were my expensive lehenga, sarees, and some artificial jewelry from my wedding, after the divorce these things just lay at home. I couldn’t donate them to the poor in an orphanage, some people said they are such expensive clothes, why don’t you repurpose and use them. But the emotions every time I touched or looked at them were too painful. They did not spark joy and I knew I had to give them away. I found a wonderful organization called Goonj, they create wedding kits for brides from poor families. This was the perfect way to do justice to these items, I had them dry cleaned and packed them nicely and prayed that the bride they reach should get a lot of joy and happiness from wearing them and bless her new beginning. It was a beautiful release of these emotions and I felt lighter and happier already.
I also had some fun with this exercise, I handpicked books I had read and enjoyed but didn’t want to keep, clicked nice pics and shared on WhatsApp with my friends and colleagues. It was my mini garage sale, and I sold the books at nominal rates. The reason I didn’t just give them away, was when I put a price, people only picked books they wanted to read. It was super fun, it wasn’t about the money, it was the delight in the tiny activities 😊. I encourage you all to watch the videos and read Marie’s book, try this method at least once in life, it did create an impact on mine. Another thing I noticed was a change in my buying behavior, when I now buy clothes or any other stuff, I really ask myself, does this spark joy? I am not perfect at it and I still end up with stuff I don’t need, but I am much more conscious of what I bring home. This decluttering is not a one-time activity, in our lives we will accumulate stuff and at least once a year need to embark on this mission.
The second part of this whole exercise was organizing, and this was fun too. Finding places for each item to be kept, learning to organize my documents, getting cute organizational baskets, boxes and DIY organizers as well. Ensuring every item has its home, so you find it easily and items stay in good condition for longer. I sometimes felt like Monica from Friends, especially when I started labeling things ha ha ha, it is oddly satisfying 😉.
After the whole experience, I was drawn to learning Tarot and a lot of things made headway like a domino effect. I joined Marie’s course on Udemy for a while thought this could also be a good career option, but I stuck to energy work which is where my joy resides.
Try it out and make it fun, involve your entire family, go by the rules, approach each category in the order she mentions and observe how this affects you personally. Hold a small garage sale with your own friends and family online, they can pick it up post the lock-down. Spark Joy in life and share your experiences with me, would love to hear and share more on this topic.