I have been hearing of Marie Kondo’s book and it’s overwhelming popularity for some time now. I wasn’t too interested in reading it because my home is not cluttered, I’m minimalist in everything except my library, and I am very happy with my life and house.
But I picked it up anyway. I had a gift card to spend at Barnes and Noble and along with a leather bound journal and some note cards it caught my eye.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Apart from some cheesy personification of objects and a vague sort of spiritualism about them, her advice resonated deeply. She encourages owning only things you love (which has long been mostly my philosophy) and requires that everything have a place to be put away (which is also what I do). But what was most charming in her book was her encouragement to be grateful to your possessions for what the are doing or have done for you. For years I have dealt with feelings of restlessness and discontent by stopping and remembering to be grateful to God for all that I have in my life. I have found it easy to care for my home over the years, despite being an essentially lazy person, because I am so grateful to have this beautiful space and the peace and security I experience here.
But…my home is already minimally furnished. My wardrobe is already made up of only clothes I love. My shelves already filled with books that “spark joy” every time I hold them. But…the boys’ bedroom!
There is one place in the house that has always been cluttered, messy, and chaotic. I have frequently gone up there and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I have thrown stuff out, organized, dusted, vacuumed, and then three months later done it all over again. Marie Kondo emphasizes again and again that the process of decluttering is very important for her clients. They simply must make the decisions of what “sparks joy” as a way of training themselves to know their own desires. Her book gave me the idea of leading my sons through the process instead of trying to do it for them. How much better to teach them to care affectionately for their possessions by allowing them to choose what they love owning rather than telling them what they can and cannot keep?
And it seems to work. On Tuesday I spent about 3 hours with Alex and Luc in their bedroom. We took everything off the shelves and out of the drawers. We first went through their clothes and, other than their school uniforms, I had them choose what clothes they love to wear. We donated a bag full of their discards. Then they decided they wanted to keep two categories of toys (Star Wars toys and Dinosaurs) but put them away for a while, so we bagged them up to put in the attic. Next I had them choose what pencils, crayons, etc they wanted and we designated a drawer in each of their desks for the ones they kept and I threw the rest away. Likewise papers they had colored on were either thrown away or put into a designated drawer. Legos were picked up and a couple of shelves designated for their storage. Beds were made. And then we sorted through all the miscellaneous stuff. I gave them each a basket and asked them to put their “treasures” in them. Then we looked at all the stuff still on the floor and I asked them to go find every single thing they absolutely loved owning and we would find a place for it. When they said they were done we threw every other thing out. They then hesitated over a few items but I reminded them that they didn’t love owning it and so it wasn’t worth keeping. They both found that standard easy to identify and to hold to. Luc is more of a packrat and so he had more of those hesitating moments but we had no arguments and no grief over any of the process. In all of this “tidying” I didn’t buy a single organizer or tote or tub. In fact, I threw three out!
The strength of this process is in training the decision-making faculty. I am sure that I will need to remind and guide my sons further, but realizing that this was something I could teach them to do for themselves and not something I needed to continue doing for them was a nice breakthrough. We’re a few days in and their room is still clean (other than the blankets strung up around their beds making a fort – they are still kids). When I tell them to pick up, it only takes a few minutes both because they have much less stuff over all and because they know the place for everything. And not to oversell the “magic” of tidying, but with a tidy bedroom Alex and Luc have both been re-energized to work on some of their creative projects (making their own trading card game) and haven’t been having even less than their usual low-level of brotherly conflict.