When my 73-year-old dad mentioned he'd purged a mountain of clothes that no longer "sparked joy" after watching Marie Kondo's show on Netflix, I knew that a revolution was truly happening. People of all stripes were clearly being moved by this petite, demure Japanese author's message to pare down, not out of recklessness, but out of true consideration of what was worth carrying through life. I, too, folded my clothes just so, and placed my hands on the floor of my house, offering gratitude for all of its provisions. For a moment, I felt pristine. But after that initial rush of physical purification, I still felt mucky somehow. And so, I decided to KonMari my life, not just my house.
My environment was more organized, but my head, it seemed, wasn't. My days seemed littered — too full of the extraneous; so many habits and distractions that no longer sparked joy, filled my mental "drawers," if you will.
The KonMari Method dictates that you organize by category rather than room, in the following order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous stuff), and then the sentimental. I began by considering what the intangible versions of these items were, how I could approach this project with the same respectful, systematic plan in a way that addressed the abstract instead of the concrete. I came up with the following:
Instead of clothes: I KonMari'd my everyday routines, and the things that "outfit" my time.
Instead of books/paper: I KonMari'd the ways in which I take in information —social media, news, conversations, texting.
Under komono: I considered everything else, all other elements that populate my life, especially since, speaking in the abstract, the miscellaneous stuff of life often is sentimental in nature.
Here is what unfolded.
Routines That Survived The KonMari Blitz
As a stay-at-home mom, I spend considerable time making food from scratch for my family; I value the health and financial benefits of making my own food, and also think it's valuable for my daughter to see both how food is made and that it takes time.
I also exercise almost daily at a bootcamp that provides childcare, which has proved instrumental for my sanity both in the opportunity to build physical strength and the guaranteed break in mom duty.
Other things we do regularly that feel vital to me are reading books, playing with friends, going to the park/enjoying nature, making regular visits to the library, writing, teaching, and participating in family yoga classes, as well as just allowing for free play — unstructured time to just be together.
Routines That Went In The Trash
Both of the things I let go of, I technically only pared down, but felt I was really able to approach them with a perspective of "Does this spark joy for me right now?" The first was naps. And the answer was: for my daughter, yes! But for me: heavens, no. During her naps, I found myself — at now 17 weeks pregnant — collapsing almost daily on the bed. Many times I really do need that rest, but many times I also wake up groggy and heavy-feeling like suddenly I'd had too much sleep (I realize that saying that as a parent is probably borderline offensive).
What I really needed, I discovered, was often to just slow down and enjoy some quiet time. So whether I read a book or did some gentle yoga, I found an opportunity to skip the routine exchange of nap for nap and really checked in with myself, daily, about what I actually wanted and needed (and if that was a nap, so be it!).
Social media turns dark for me very, very quickly. I feel checked out of my own life and pretty darn frantic.
Similarly, I scaled back on cleaning. Any parent knows that if you aren't basically doing dishes/laundry/scrubbing toilets/vacuuming up food particles 24/7, your house falls into a state of irreparable chaos. So I clean. A lot. To the point that often my husband is irritated with my constant, semi-frantic buzzing about, as I act like any moment Martha Stewart herself will breeze through my doorway and white-glove test my shelves.
I still cherish a clean house, but I streamlined this aspect of my day. I make beds first thing in the morning; quickly throw the dishes in the dishwasher after meals; do a quick sweep of toys and the stuff that is everywhere just before nap and bedtime; throw in laundry on the way out the door to the gym; involve my daughter in the chores, themselves; and generally focus on tidiness, not perfection.
What ended up working well was, when I felt overwhelmed by the house, I set a 15- or 20-minute timer and just quickly hemmed up what I could in that time. When the alarm went off, I let it go.
Information Purged In The Great Spiritual KonMari
While my daily routine seems pretty full, the influx of information I both receive and seek is on another level entirely. I am absolutely, over the top, constantly seeking input from the outside world, most often in the form of social media usage and texting with any number of people. As a stay-at-home mom with a husband who travels over 60 percent of the time for work, I can rationalize this. I love my daughter immeasurably and would choose to stay home with her again and again, but being with a toddler 24/7 can also be mind-numbing and isolating. I can only read Black Cat & White Cat so many times as my daughter chants "Book! Book! Book!" before I feel like my skull is full of soup.
For this one, I will start with what I let go of, because it actually made space to keep several things more precious. I began by, cold turkey, letting go of social media. Honestly, I don't think this is a long-term change. I do keep in touch with many friends and family via social media in a way that feels healthy and productive. It is when the scales tip too far in the other direction and I find myself in some marketing black hole, certain that I need a $285 maternity dress and my life is garbage because I can't afford it, or I'm responding to every single post in one of my Facebook moms' groups instead of paying attention to my daughter, that I realize I've been enticed by the social media serpent.
Social media turns dark for me very, very quickly. I feel checked out of my own life and pretty darn frantic. When my screen time monitor told me one day that I picked up my phone every seven minutes, I turned off notifications for all those semi-irrelevant groups, unfollowed anyone I don't actually know (even the people I swear don't somehow make me feel bad about myself), and at least temporarily deleted the apps from my phone. I haven't missed it for one minute.
One of my aunts and several friends commented that they missed seeing updates about my daughter. I intend to return to posting with the same plan I started using for cleaning: set a timer, indulge for that period of time, but when the alarm goes off, let it go.
Information That Continues To Spark Joy
Mostly, books! In the gaping absence left by an abandoned, terrifying number of wasted hours on social media, I read books again — not, for once, sleep-training books or self-help books, but novels that transported me to different times and places. I read so much I again became the just-one-more-chapter book fanatic, who pushed my normally rigid 9 p.m. bedtime, because I was just that excited.
Maybe worst of all, I gossip. Again, very hard habit to break.
I also kept the occasional text exchange with friends (though I focused on being mindful about when/ made sure to put away the phone during meals and other quality times of togetherness), the perusing of news, since this has never been a point of obsession for me, the evening episode of whatever on Netflix with my husband, and, of course, daily talks with my mom, because, hello, we all still need a mom!
Sentimental Habits I Binned For Good
I use old, unhelpful language to describe myself; I call myself "crazy" often, which, especially in an era of burgeoning awareness of mental health, is totally not accurate or appropriate. I made sure to catch myself doing so and replaced it with appropriate words.
I was having such a truly fun time, when I looked at her and wondered, 'Did she get cuter and happier all of a sudden?'
And... maybe worst of all, I gossip. Again, very hard habit to break (and not quite as simple to discard as throwing out an ill-fitting sweater), but I really focused on skipping the indulgent drama and turning to more constructive conversation. I know that the more I focus on the negatives around me, the more negative I feel, plain and simple. And basically, I would like to have a happy life.
Sentimental Habits I Clung Onto
I kept my impetus to write and draw; that drive is what makes me feel most connected, most focused, most relevant, especially in my chosen "career" field. I kept my love of music, my willingness to always be available to friends to listen, my compassion, my weird sense of humor, my inclination to cry or laugh extra big, to emote. I tried to cultivate even more: humility and forgiveness. I strived to keep, basically, me at my essence, my most authentic self, the way my best friend would describe me. I strived to keep her.
The Big Reveal
I sifted through this all pretty quickly, which Kondo actually advises rather than chipping away at it. A few days into my timer-using, pretty-darn-mindful, social-media-blackout revolution, my daughter and I were being silly, gliding around on a few foam rollers and laughing during that stretch of time before bed that's often torturous. I was having such a truly fun time, when I looked at her and wondered, "Did she get cuter and happier all of a sudden?" She legitimately seemed so present and funny and easygoing; I mean, she's usually a pretty easy kid to be around, but I really felt at ease and joyful like I was just out having cocktails with my girlfriends. And then I wondered, "Am I cuter and happier all of a sudden?"
Because I really did feel cuter. I felt happier. I just felt easier, less frantic, less... cluttered, if you will. Physical clutter is an albatross, to say the least, but the mental stuff is too, and just like clothes in the corner, it can build up, quickly. So every once in a while, it's time to shake it all out and discard the routines, the habits, the mindsets that no longer spark joy.
In the end, I pressed my hands to my legs and expressed gratitude for this home of a body and mind that carry me through it all, because it truly is pretty amazing. In exchange I will work to continually be mindful about how I use it, and what I let in; let it all have a place, let it all be a choice, let it all spark joy.