Sparking Joy: Jumping on the Marie Kondo bandwagon
I admit it: when it comes to TV viewing, I’m a follower of the masses. From the “Must-See TV” of the 1980s to the Melrose Place/Beverly Hills 90210 dramas of the 1990s to the turn-of-the-millenium original reality shows like Survivor, I’ve always enjoyed jumping on the bandwagon for a new fad.
So perhaps it comes as no surprise that when I was recently under the weather and stuck at home on the sofa, I found myself binge-watching TV’s newest craze: Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or are just not as easily suckered into a fad as I am, Marie Kondo is the Japanese “decluttering” expert who is all about “sparking joy” as she helps a family that—while falling far short of the folks featured in the “Hoarding” TV shows—has too much stuff and needs some assistance in getting organized.
Because some of her methods seem a little “hokie”—for instance, she likes to talk to inanimate objects to thank them for their service before letting them go, and she insists that the owner holds every article of clothing, book, etc., in their hand to gauge whether the item “sparks joy” before deciding whether to toss it or keep it—she’s become the subject of many internet memes. Mommy Bloggers love to hate her, with many an article devoted to why her trademarked KonMari method of tidying up would never fly in their home.
Believe me, I’m as skeptical and sarcastic as any Mommy Blogger out there, but I must admit, after watching 6 of the 8 episodes of Tidying Up so far: I am here for Marie Kondo and her joy-sparking decluttering ideas.
First of all, she’s just so darn NICE. So petite and smiley, she shows up at a family’s house with her faithful interpreter, and she never, ever judges them. She gets downright giddy when she sees their piles of junk, literally jumping up and down with delight, saying, “I love messes!” She sweetly coaches the family through five categories of decluttering: Clothing, Books, Paper, Komono (miscellaneous items) and Sentimental Items, leaving them plenty of time (like, at least a week) to tackle each category.
The biggest drama you’ll find in every episode is when one spouse tends to have a harder time letting go of stuff than the other spouse, so there’s either one tearful on-camera confession or a long moment of lip-biting tension between the two. This is as predictable as the moment that comes in every single episode of Extreme Couponing, when something goes awry at the cash register, and for a scary minute there it looks as though the extreme couponer is going to go over her limit and the world will end. But ultimately, it all works out; the spouse sees the light and learns how to let go.
Marie drops by to visit the family several times throughout their journey, which generally lasts about two months. She teaches them how to fold the clothing that remains neatly into compact rectangles that she lines up in drawers, and brings them boxes and other storage solutions for the rest of the “stuff.” Then she oohs and aahs over their progress at the end. Now, honestly— these people had much bigger messes to start with than I do, so most of the “after” scenes look like my “before” situation. But Marie is always cool with the results, as long as things are stored correctly and the owners have thoughtfully decided that each and every item they’ve kept “sparks joy.”
At various points during each episode, Marie presents a little lesson from her immaculate home, where I imagine her drawers are filled with nothing but white sweaters, black tights, and colorful flare skirts. She admits that she sometimes has a hard time keeping things tidy with two toddlers in the house, but we, the viewers, never see any evidence of this. That’s probably what offends some of the haters.
But me? I’m a lover, not a hater. I find myself inspired every time I watch the show—not to the point of taking on my whole house over a 6-week period, but on a smaller scale. Marie recently inspired me to go through 10 years’ worth of photos, toss the doubles, and finally put 2009 and 2010 pictures into albums. (Only 8 more years to get caught up on!) She inspired me to purge two boxes of books from my nightstand and my kids’ rooms. She taught me how to fold my socks into squares so they won’t take up as much space in my sock drawer. And, incredibly, her lessons spill out into other areas of life. Do those social media accounts you follow spark joy, or are they upsetting? UNFOLLOW. Does that TV series you’re currently binge watching spark joy, or do you just feel like you are obligated to finish it? STOP WATCHING IT. Does that annoying couple that keeps inviting you to dinner spark joy, or do they just cause you anxiety? DECLINE THEIR INVITATION.
Even if you don’t embrace the entire process, like talking to your house and thanking your old overcoat, Marie Kondo’s overall message goes much deeper: Eliminate the stuff in your life that does not spark joy, and learn to appreciate the stuff that does. That’s a life lesson that even the biggest cynic should be able to get behind.
Resolve to Beat the January BluesIt’s the new year, and by this point you’ve probably been celebrating Christmas for almost two months. That’s just the way we do things in modern America, where each year the Twelve Days of Christmas seem to inch closer to becoming twelve WEEKS of Christmas. I don’t know about you, but as much as I’ve enjoyed the parties, the treats, the gifts, the music, the family time, etc., by the time January rolls around I am more than ready to ditch the tree and the wreath and all the remnants of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. However, once the trappings of the season are put away and life resumes its normal schedule, I often find myself slipping into a post-holiday funk. Sure, January is the month of new beginnings. But that includes the beginning of a long, grey winter with no more colorful lights to brighten the darkness. Any of that cold white stuff that may have seemed so magical when it fell in December quickly turns dirty, brown, and ugly. Bundling up several times a day in frigid temperatures to do simple things like walking the dog or checking the mailbox becomes a major chore. Hibernation is starting to sound like a viable option.
Make a New Year’s ResolutionYes, I’m afraid the January doldrums are setting in already. But I’m hoping to distract myself from this by adopting a meaningful New Year’s resolution for 2018. Like most people, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I like the idea of starting a year with a goal of some sort. But I dislike my usual inability to follow through by the time February rolls around. Nonetheless, I’m thinking I may have come up with a realistic one this year — and one that I think can make a difference in my whole family’s life. Instead of making a resolution to get by body in shape this year, what if I make a resolution to get my HOUSE in shape?
Replace holiday decorFirst of all, part of the post-holiday blues comes from taking away the pretty decorations and returning the house to its normal “blah” status. What if I could find a way to spruce up the living room with accessories that could brighten up the place for the other 11 months of the year? It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Maybe all it takes is a potted plant to replace the Christmas tree, or some colorful throw pillows and non-Christmasy candles to add to some of surface space now vacated by holiday decor.
Schedule small purgesSecond, and maybe most importantly, having a clean and relatively tidy house definitely helps to brighten my mood. So as part of my resolution for this year, I think I will promise myself to set aside 20 minutes each week to purge a cabinet or a closet or a drawer. That’s totally doable, and the results will add up to a huge difference if I can keep it up for 52 weeks. I’m also going to enjoy having my home professionally cleaned, without feeling one ounce of guilt about it. I know that cleaning is not my strength, so leaving it to the professionals ensures that it will get done right. My home and my family deserve it. If you feel the same, be sure to check out Immaculate Clean’s New Year specials, starting as low as $92! Text “New Years” to 410-549-0727.
Time to Let Go of the Stuff of the PastFor the past year, I’ve been paying $187 per month on a storage unit. Based on the number of storage places around town, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one wasting money to keep old junk we just can’t seem to part with. But, enough is enough. It’s time to let go of the past. The past means something different to each of us. For some, it’s memories of our own childhood. We’re not ready to give away our high school varsity jacket or the single bed we slept in. Others of us are holding on to baby items from our children who are now in their 20s. While some of us are holding on to a life that no longer exists. I recently dragged my son and a few of his former football-player friends to my storage unit. There wasn’t much left. Mostly just the big stuff that I couldn’t throw in the back of the car during one of my frequent visits to the unit. This time I had a truck and brute strength with me to get the job done. The boys—or should I say, young men—filled the truck with the items. I let them organize everything, not wanting to micro-manage the situation. Nothing was so valuable that I’d cringe at it getting damaged. So, I let them have at it. I knew the toughest item would be the large, wooden desk/hutch that sat in the middle of the unit. It had taken five other young men to get it in there. I wasn’t sure three were going to be able to manage it. Then again, it’s not as hard to move things when you don’t have to worry about their well-being. And, for the first time in 20 years, I wasn’t worried about what happened to this particular piece. I remember when we bought it. It was one of the first “fine” pieces of furniture my ex-husband and I had shopped for. We found it at a store outside of Denver. It was the perfect thing for our new house. Back then, computers took up a lot of space. You needed a shelf for the monitor and one for the keyboard, as well as a place for the awkward hard drive tower that had to be attached. I didn’t have an office space so I wanted something that could hold everything but also hide it when company came. This piece did exactly that. It had shelves and drawers for everything, but doors to close and cover it all up. It was perfect. That furniture followed us everywhere we went; one house after the next. It eventually morphed from a desk to a television cabinet that was kept in our bedroom. And, when I moved out during our divorce, it was one of the first items loaded on the truck. Since then, however, I’ve moved again. My current house is too small to hold such a large item. And, so, it sat in the storage unit along with all of the other items that would never find a place in this new home. Until recently. When I lifted the door of the storage unit, it all of a sudden hit me. It was time to let go of that desk/hutch/television stand/oversized item. Fantasies of posting it on Craigslist to find a new owner vanished. It finally appeared as it actually was—a large pile of wood that needed to be disposed of. When the boys started inspecting the item for how they would carefully get it on the truck, I suggested we get a sledge hammer and break it to bits. They looked at me a bit bewildered and then one of them said, “Well, if you don’t care what happens to it, we can just scrape it along and push it into the truck.” “That’s fine,” I said. “We just need to get it out of the unit.” They got it onto the truck rather quickly after that. We drove home and I backed the truck to the edge of the curb. “Just drag it out and put it there,” I said, pointing to the curb. “Someone will take it.” And, they did. I was out for the evening and came home after dark. I didn’t notice it until I got out of the car. That piece of furniture that I had held on to for all of those years was gone. Taken away by some faceless, nameless person. I had no idea where it went or what would happen to it. It was just gone. Strangely, I didn’t shed a tear. In fact, I was relieved. Somebody else could deal with that huge, heavy item from now on. It was gone from my life. It was in my past, and my future seemed that much brighter. As for the rest of the items, they will hopefully be sold in a yard sale. It’s the perfect way to get rid of a lot of junk at once. And, with no more storage unit, I now have an extra $187 per month to spend on a cleaning service. Life really is good.
5 Cleaning Habits for a More Organized HouseholdLet’s face it, not everyone is born with the “organizing gene.” And even those who do manage to keep their homes neat and clean, often spend hours and hours to achieve this, taking precious time away from other activities. As a Maryland cleaning company, we love to help people get their freedom from cleaning back, whether it’s by lending a hand or by offering some tips. Today, we’ve put together a list of 5 essential cleaning habits that can help you fight the mess more efficiently.
Identify Your Biggest MessesEvery family has their own patterns and cleaning pain points. But if you know yours, it becomes clearer where you should focus your efforts and what will make the biggest impact. Look around your home for areas that consistently get dirty or cluttered and make your home look messy. For instance:
- Do you let your junk mail pile up high?
- Does your coffee table get covered in crumbs, cups and snacks because kids like to watch TV after school?
- Do cardboard boxes from received shipments tend to sit on the floor for weeks before getting put into recycling?
Clean as You GoCleaning as you go is one of the best ways to not end up with a mile-long cleaning to-do list to tackle over the weekend. Cleaning as you go simply means taking some time right now to do things you are tempted to put off till later. Here are a few examples:
- Once your laundry is finished, fold it as you take it out of the dryer, so that you can take it straight upstairs and put away.
- As you get out of your car, grab any trash that’s there and throw it away.
- After you’ve finished drinking your tea or coffee, rinse the cup off, so that you can reuse it later instead of taking out a new cup.