I couldn’t spark joy in the rain. Marie Kondo’s sparking joy strategy, while beautiful and well meaning, is so very hard if it’s raining in your home. If you’re overwhelmed, start with what doesn’t spark joy.
I want you to do a funny little exercise with me. Look around your room and listen to your belongings. Ha. Did I lose you there? Seriously though, do it. Each and every item we own holds stories and memories for us. And we are consciously and sub consciously responding to them all the time. This is what Marie Kondo is referring to when she talks about keeping items that spark joy. But, much more important than what is sparking joy, is what isn’t.
Pick an item and pay attention to your thoughts. It can be anything. I’ll demonstrate with a fork – here is a sample of where my head goes: I bought this set of silverware in Vancouver, that fact spurs a flood of snapshot memories of the years we lived there, from mundane things like the sunny weather the day I bought it to the rainy weather most of the time to the heavy emotions remembering the struggling home I bought it for, hold up, que a mom guilt punch to the gut there; oh and speaking of buying things, que another guilt punch. Back to the fork. I should clean out that drawer. I should clean the whole kitchen. Its gross in here. Upper-cut. How is it so gross in here when all I do is clean? Failure, right cross. Does Sawyer use those baby spoons anymore? Plastic is bad, I shouldn’t have bought them in the first place. Slap. His sippy cups too. There is a lot of Tylenol dispensers in here. More plastic. That’s not good in the garbage. Why are there so many? I’m over drugging my kids. Jab. That can’t be good for little livers. I should let fevers run their course? Or should I? Is that bad? I should ask my aunt. I have three kids, why do I have to ask that question again? I’ll google it, where’s my phone? And down, KO.
That is too much to process. It’s absolutely absurd really. I just wanted a fork, now I’m beating myself up about the mess, doubting my parenting and stuck holding the weight of heavy emotions and guilt from the past? I just wanted a fork! And that? That happens continually, all day long, every single day.
If your things aren’t being nice to you, silence them or get them out of your house.
Here’s my forks now. Same forks.
Now this, this would make Marie Kondo proud, this sparks joy. More importantly though, this quieted the noise, this removed the guilt, the bad memories, the self-doubt. I’ve changed what I respond to. And, in doing so, I’ve changed the interaction. Now that same fork, what does it say? It still holds the memory of where I bought it, but the memory of the Christmas gift of that tea kettle from my husband is much louder. It’s rusty on the inside, so it makes me happy that I figured out a way to repurpose it. The silverware is also sitting in a mason jar inside the kettle, which reminds me of canning pickles with my Dad last fall. And, that’s it, there is nothing else there.
I’m not forking kidding you guys. The opposite of joy is far more important to identify and get rid of! Simplifying is about your mental and emotional load. It’s about reducing the clutter in your head and heart, and the physical space is just an added bonus. I’m trying to squeeze another “The Good Place” reference in here, but quite simply, the same space can be heaven or hell. Even a fork.
I discovered this little trick when my son was 5, I realized I was having mini panic attacks that seemed to be surrounding the memory of when he broke his femur years before when he was nearing 3 years old. It seemed so strange, to be reacting so strongly years later. It was an incredibly traumatic time for all of us, a tough season even without the addition of a toddler in a body cast, but why now? I was googling PTSD wondering what the hell was going on. Then the punch to the gut pointed it out. As my grown up 5-year-old baby came racing around a corner wearing a superman sweatshirt, I knew what was happening. Because of his body cast, when we brought him home, none of his clothes fit, so we had bought him new clothes a couple sizes bigger. Those clothes, once the cast was off, had been put in storage. I brought them out years later when they fit his 5-year-old body. And, I couldn’t handle the constant subconscious reminder. I went through my house and boxed up every single item of clothing or toy that reminded me of that time. And, it felt amazing! I’ll warn you of one thing though, I hadn’t yet learned that the abundance of stuff was also an issue, so I replaced the things I removed. Don’t do that. Just remove.
Give it a shot. What is one of the loudest things you own, what is yelling at you? It doesn’t matter if it’s a fork or a broken femur. Remove it and see how it feels. A photo you don’t like? Clothes that don’t fit you anymore? A cluttered counter? Something that makes you feel like shirtballs? A toy that reminds you of your nemesis mother-in-law? If the items in your home are not being nice to you, quiet them, or get them out of your life. I’m giving you permission to remove that thing that is sucker-punching you, get it out of your house. And, take a breath. It’s a start. It will help.
Broken femurs heal.
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