Last January I picked RELEASE as my word for the year. Usually, my word for the year or “keyword” works in the background; I go about my business and my word goes about its business and we meet again to review at the end of the year.
This year’s word has proven to be a bit more … noisy. It seems to require attention and action.
(Perhaps because it is a verb?)
When my neighbors moved earlier this summer, I was reminded that it has been over a decade since my last move. When you move often (I used to do it annually), you review what you own in the context of “Is it worth lugging this to my new place?” And, you actually go through all your possessions when you pack them.
When you stay in one place for a while, stuff accumulates. As the trucks full of my neighbors’ boxes came and went, it occurred to me that I hadn’t assessed (or greatly reduced the number of) my possessions in a while.
Then one of my students mentioned a book on tidying during one of her lessons.
When I stumbled across a YouTube video by the author of the same book a couple of weeks later, I could see that my keyword was trying to get my attention.
To date, RELEASE has been mostly a change in mindset. I have been practicing letting go of things I cannot control, being less particular when it really doesn’t matter and releasing opportunities that I don’t really want.
Still, I always knew I was going to need to release some actual stuff. (It is part of the reason I picked the word in the first place.) I have experienced before what happens when you let go of things you don’t really want or need to make space for the things that you do.
Back to the book.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo outlines a method for organizing and de-cluttering your home.
Now I struggled a bit with the book’s title – I think of tidying as a small and oft-repeated task, but the author repeatedly explains that her tidying process only need be done once. (Once I resolved to think of the process as de-cluttering, everything was fine. *smile*)
My first de-cluttering project followed Kondo’s recommendation. Sort by category (not location), starting with your clothes.
I admit to feeling some trepidation about taking the first step – gather all the clothes from everywhere in your house in one place. Once they’re all in one place, then you can sort them.
It took me about an hour to sweep and mop my dining room floor and empty my closets onto it. Despite Kondo’s repeated exhortation to work quickly, I suspected this process would take me a while so I wanted to make sure the floor on which my clothes were lying was clean.
I was right; it took me a whole weekend. Over the course of two days, I handled each item and, as Kondo directs, asked “Does this spark joy?”
Well, it wasn’t long before I began to feel silly asking this question and that it made it hard to get a read on the item’s “answer.” So I added two more questions: “Does this still make me happy?” and “Is it time for this item to leave?”
For many items, I knew the answer the instant I picked up the item. Others spoke less clearly.
Soon I had three piles: keep, discard and … question mark.
Kondo’s book says nothing about a question mark pile, but I have been practicing being less particular about things that don’t really matter so I let myself make one. (Besides, I am pretty sure the question mark pile was a result of my extra questions.)
I pick up a sweater. I ask myself, does this sweater spark joy? Yes! Does it still make me happy? Absolutely. Is it time for it to leave? Yes … ? I pick up the next item. Sparks joy? No. Still makes me happy? Not really. Time to leave? Nope.
(And the question mark pile is born.)
As I mentioned, this sorting took time.
More important, it took a lot of energy.
The reason it took so long is that I could only sort for about an hour before my clothes stopped “speaking” to me. I began to see another of Kondo’s points; the stuff we own/keep has energy.
(Her first point is made when you see all of your clothes in one pile on the floor. Knowing or suspecting you have a lot of something is one thing. Seeing it all piled in one place is another. *rueful smile* My immediate reaction was “I don’t need all these clothes.”)
After I sorted the entire pile of my clothes, I set the question mark pile aside and returned the items in the keep pile to my closets.
Within the week, I dropped off items in the discard pile to a donation center. I know from past experience that getting donations out of the house can be a stopping point for me. As I loaded them into the car, I wished them happy new homes and thought, “Release.”