Thanking Stuff and Sparking Joy

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I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing a little over a year ago. I was inspired and motivated…to a degree. I jumped into it full force and plowed through my dresser and closet, thanking my old underwear for its service.

No! Seriously? I didn’t do that!

She Does Have a Point

But I do see what she means now that I’ve worked through most of my house. What’s left are the sentimental things packed away in the back of the closet. It is helpful to pause and make a conscious choice to say goodbye to the items from my past.

Like a notebook of poems that I copied as a preteen. Yes, copied. I was searching for my own voice and it helped to express myself with others’ voices. So, yeah. I took a moment. I appreciated the comfort that notebook gave me when I was eleven. And while those poems of teenage angst spoke to me at eleven…not so much at fifty. I appreciated them and then chucked ’em.

Some things are highly valuable, irreplaceable and special and we need to make sure there is room in our lives for those things. Some things are just clutter and need to go straight to the trash. And lots of things fall somewhere in between. But honestly? Most of them can go away as well. But maybe our hearts need just a moment to remember that item, remember the times that it brings up – yes, remember the joy it sparks! And then we can say a fond farewell to the heart shaped candy box that our seventh grade boyfriend gave us.

Freeing Up Space

While working my way through the house, I’ve experienced some changes not just in the feeling of the physical space around me, but also my mental space. Since we are embracing a new phase of life, our priorities are changing. For example, we plan to move in the next year or so into a newer house with less upkeep that is one level. We are thinking about the knees (feet, ankles, hips, and  back). I find myself asking if I really want to pack, load and unpack this junk into a new house.

Thanks, Columbia House…

We have over four hundred music CDs thanks to the Columbia House one cent deals from the 80s and 90s. Are they REALLY going with us? Hell no! They are not! What a giant pain in the ass! Right now, they are stored out of the way and we never, ever use them or even see them! Yet they are taking up storage space that something else could live in…and all that music is digital now… and CDs slide around when you move them…and it’s annoying. So…away they go!

I’ve asked myself the, “Are you really going to pack, load and unpack this?” question over and over, and sometimes the answer is ‘no’ just because it doesn’t fit into the new phase of my life.

For instance, somehow we have managed to collect forty-one water glasses. There are two people living in my house right now. That’s just stupid. Despite them being perfectly useful, sometimes sentimental, very functional items…I just don’t need forty-one of them. I chose my favorite two sets and the rest didn’t spark joy so they were thanked and sent along to the Salvation Army.

Same with doubles of things. I had four meat forks. You know, the really long forks with two long tongs on the end? Yes, I had four. I have zero now because despite having four, I honestly can’t remember ever using one.

I had two egg slicers. I mean, I just use a knife and it works fine. In fact, I didn’t even realize the slicers were in there. Easy decision. I didn’t thank them for their service because I never used them! Away with them! I’ve found a ton of duplicates and find that’s one of the easiest ways to get rid of things. Oh, and don’t even get me started on coffee mugs!

Take It or Toss It?

As I’ve practiced letting go of the stuff that I’ve lugged around for thirty-five years, I’ve found it easier to let go of emotional baggage that I’ve lugged around too. It’s become a way of thinking that has spread to other areas of my life. I find myself asking if I really want to carry the weight of that rude co-worker around with me or just chuck it?

I’ve gotten pretty good at the quick, unemotional process of keeping or eliminating things and my brain has learned to transfer the skill to other areas of my life. I find that not only is my house lighter, but so is my mind and my heart. I’ve really learned to narrow things down to what is truly important, valuable, special, meaningful…and the rest – I let go of.

Bugging Benton!

But for all the good advice and the changes that have come from “Marie Kondo-ing” my house, I think my favorite thing is the lingo. I love saying ‘thank you’ to the various items as I chuck them into the trash. It’s weird and fun and mildly disturbs the spouse. And when he asks, “Now why are we getting rid of this chair? It’s in good shape and kitchen chairs are expensive,” I love watching the range of emotions and thoughts flash across his face when I reply, “Because it doesn’t spark joy, that’s why.”

He sighs, shakes his head a little and patiently loads yet another round of junk into the car. I doubt he will ever thank our stuff as he hauls it to the donation center but he knows you can’t argue with joy.

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