Organization

Why Decluttering Your Space is Gut Wrenching

I have been trying to purge my belongings for the past four years.

I have thrown out at least ten trash bags worth of clothes, donated heaps of books, sent packages to my nieces, and all of that. I have been gifted the "The Art of Tidying" by Marie Kondo twice. I am now reading it for the second time. 

I tend to breeze through books as I am an especially fast reader. But do I actually internalize the information? Yes and no. The thing about the KonMari method of organizing your house once and for-all forever: it's nothing complex. It's actually just a really simple method of curating your space with the author's common-sense details to help you avoid the most common snags and energy-draining traps in the process.

I am about 1/5 through the second reading of the book. I am now reading it more slowly and have unearthed so much emotion in myself that just writing this sentence makes me want to pass out. 

What do we keep?

What Marie Kondo says is that when we clean our spaces we should do it drastically and thoroughly by category over a relatively short period of time (say six months), and that we should think not about what to throw away but what to celebrate, what to keep,  what brings us joy when we hold it in our hands. 

All of the images I share in this post are from Pinterest, where dreamers spend more of their time making inspiration boards than actually getting rid of anything. This house looks so zen but also unrealistic for us New York apt-dwellers. 

All of the images I share in this post are from Pinterest, where dreamers spend more of their time making inspiration boards than actually getting rid of anything. This house looks so zen but also unrealistic for us New York apt-dwellers. 

I am a group-oriented person, or at least I was one for most of my life until recently. What that means is that I shift my personality so that those around me can get along, I become a connector, a smoother-over, an entertainer, whatever the whole requires. I'm genetically predisposed to this behavior. I was born in the Philippines where the mentality of operating as a whole especially amongst the females of the group is in our bloodline. (You think we can't carry behaviors in our bloodline, just watch your cat's behavior and tell me she wasn't once a huntress.) 

That means I think of myself as a sister, as a daughter, as a girlfriend, roommate, ex-girlfriend, etc. These relationships form the core of my identity and so the objects from each of these are like artifacts of myself. I have poems I wrote in the seventh grade when I used to watch The Doors movie way too often and subsequently wrote poems about turtle blood, and moonlight. I have the cassette mixes my friends made me when I was 19 and belts and old headbands my mom gave me. I hold these things in my hands and think about 1) how one day I could become this person again and miss this thing 2) how will this person feel if I discard this ? 3) and this is the heartbreaker for me, what if I forget a memory forever when this object no longer reminds me.

Marie Kondo addresses these issues. She says, you can think of when you got something and why you got it and how it has served you. And then to trust  and know that it has served you and wants to be released from its purgatory as much as you would like to release it. And she also addresses the objects we keep because they are heavy with guilt, sentimentality, memory and of course, the symbol of unlimited time and potential (after all we DIY types can basically make something out of anything.) 

So what does this mean for us? Why does it break us when we go through these objects? Well for one, we have to confront all of the change we have been through, and we are so prone to think of our lives in terms of loss rather than in terms of evolution.

From my Pinterest Board. I just want to get the point where my Inner Grandma looks more intentional than accidental. 

From my Pinterest Board. I just want to get the point where my Inner Grandma looks more intentional than accidental. 

I look at these shot glasses at my house, all mismatched and I remember we used to host parties. We used to have trays of shots on a red silver tray as our friends sat in our cozy living room and have since then slowly over the next ten years we watched our friends move out to Rockaway or the out of state to the south or to the west coast. We watched them opt to live in places that don't require so much of your heart, soul, and body. And as for me, I have since then become embarrassed that I don't have a cleaning lady or live in a West Elm catalog or that the soft spot in the floor has a tear in it, or that there might be old mouse traps lying around from before we got the cat. 

So we become stuck in these nostalgic loops of how we have lost that beautiful time of nonjudgmental obnoxious youth, and yet we do not have enough faith in the fact that we are responsible capable adults, and we hope with all of our hearts we will one day entertain again in our homes, either because we will have evolved past the point of embarrassment or because we will have enough money someday to redo the floors with tile like Chip and Joanna Gainesville on Fixer Upper have done two thousand times. 

And so this is where being in the present moment comes up. The more I go into myself the more I unearth cliches. And the things is how does a cliche sound when we hear it? It sounds trite, it sounds obvious, it sounds familiar. But just like we begin to feel about our mother's advice when we turn about 30 or have our first child, it sounds true, it hits a nerve, it stays in our heads. 

I have been looking at this shelf for a year and a half off and on. Decisive, I am not. 

I have been looking at this shelf for a year and a half off and on. Decisive, I am not. 

I recently watched these videos that stylist and business coach Hilary Rushford offered after doing some self-analysis during her four-month sabbatical, and found one of her exercises echoed sections of the Marie Kondo book. 

In this particular exercise Hilary recommends we sit in our own silence for ten minutes. We can be walking, but no headphones, no phone, no magazines, no books. She says the silence might help us realize what the anxious thoughts we are avoiding actually are. Similarly, Marie Kondo recommends that when we sort our belongings we turn off the music, the tv, the everything and actually confront the object in front of us. That we confront the feelings that rise up. 

It's easy to say who we were, and its easy to say who we want to be but who are we right now, at this moment? What are we living in and living with? How many of our belongings symbolize who we would be when we have more time, have more money, lose more weight? If we can get ourselves to continuously ask this question I am not sure what the outcome will be, but I am certain that something will happen, whether we tap ever-so-lightly at the jenga piece of our identity, or quickly see what happens when we shift swiftly if our gut tells us to.