Tidying Up Craze: Toss Clutter, Forgive People

When decluttering, assess carefully what you plan to let go.

Posted Jul 19, 2016

Source: wikipedia.org

The tidying up craze seems to be a different approach to feng shui, the minimalist movement that promotes harmony in one’s living space, relationships, and life.  As a long-time devotee of “Feng Shui Your Life,” by Jayme Barrett, I have not yet read, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo.  Here’s why.  Some people I have been talking with are taking the tidying up movement a step too far. They make the decision to eliminate friends, relatives, and even family because these people do not “spark joy.” 

While it can be important to steer clear of toxic relationships, when deciding to bring harmony into one’s life, creating an atmosphere of serenity should be the goal. To do so often requires finding a place within your home for expressing gratitude, for meditation, for prayer.

Decluttering has its merits. Kondo and Gretchen Rubin have different thoughts. For me, when it comes to objects, I often refer to Barrett’s clutter-clearing questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I use it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Does it evoke a positive feeling and make me smile?

In commenting upon why she disagrees with the Marie Kondo concept of joy, Gretchen Rubin pointed out: 

"She recommends asking yourself whether an item 'sparks joy.' This is a terrific question, and can be very helpful. But I don’t think I can realistically expect to have a joyful relationship with every item in my apartment. I find it exhausting even to contemplate having an emotional reaction to so many common objects. It’s true, though, that for many people, 'spark joy' has been a revelation. Know yourself."*

Stephanie Land’s opinion piece in the New York Times, on July 17, 2016, highlighted an interesting aspect of  tidying up in “The Class Politics of Decluttering.”  As Land pointed out: 

“But minimalism is a virtue only when it’s a choice, and it’s telling that its fan base is clustered in the well-off middle class. For people who are not so well off, the idea of opting to have even less is not really an option.”

Indeed, I am one of those people in a position of acquiring too much. Her article was timely for me because last week I decided to take a trip to Goodwill with my sister. I owned too many suits with pencil skirts that, despite a multitude of diets, did not make me smile. But since many of the clothes were still wearable and of good quality, I put everything on hangers and in plastic bags so it felt to me as if I was sharing rather than tossing. And I hoped that those who selected the clothes to wear would enjoy them.

As for the shoes, there were too many classics that were taking up an entire trunk waiting to be paired with the right outfit for the right occasion. And of course, there were handbags. And so I put these to the clutter-clearing test and filled two bags.

When we arrived at Goodwill, I was distressed to see how many paper shopping bags were tossed into piles at the front of the room. When I told the woman that everything I was donating was cleaned and washed, someone came over, took all the clothes on hangers and brought them immediately to hang on the racks. And that gave me joy. 

I frequently go through a decluttering or downsizing stages. Each time, I access carefully what should stay and what should go. I discussed this in two posts linked under Resources: "Confessions of a Repeat Mover" and "Create a Solitude Space and Find Your Gratitude." 

What about eliminating people? That is a tricky question and subject for a follow-up. But in brief, when people in our lives are dragging us down, oftentimes we have no choice but to tolerate them. The people could be colleagues, needy friends, or family members that stress us. However, what we can do is take a good look at ourselves and ask, “Are these people a reflection of my own shadow side, that part of my personality that I wish would remain buried?

Oftentimes the answer is “yes.” The way to tidy up that relationship is to forgive ourselves and those who irritate us. Then wish those people blessings because we do not know what heaviness they have in their hearts.

Copyright 2016 Rita Watson


Confessions of a Repeat Mover (Rita Watson - Psychology Today)

Create a Solitude Space and Find Your Gratitude (Rita Watson - Psychology Today) 

Class Politics of Decluttering: Stephanie Land, the New York Times, on July 17, 2016 

Gretchen Rubin Disagrees with Marie Kondo