My little chaos
When I was younger I was pretty relaxed about organization. A little bit of clothes here and a little bit of books there didn’t really bother me, I was comfortable in my own little mess. I was never extremely unorganized, I’ve never been a hoarder or flat out disgusting but I definitely was happily oblivious to my surroundings and tried to tidy up when I’d have visitors coming over or things piled up too much. Otherwise I’d just breeze through the piles of clothing and dishes.
When I got older this changed. Maybe it’s the kids that contribute to the mess, making it potentially not so little anymore or maybe it’s just maturity but I really can’t handle clutter or ugliness in my surroundings anymore. I am a single mom of two with a busy job. On one hand I need to take care of our family by making sure our home is a happy place for my kids, by making sure that they have what they need in and from school. I make sure they are able to get to swimming lessons twice a week, and that they have proper food to eat. My son has some special needs and meets with a therapist twice a week, planning and organizing the support he needs is sometimes consuming especially emotionally. On the other hand I have a wonderfully demanding job that gets very busy, involves regular travel and requires me to jump from one area and skill set to another very quickly. I’m lucky to get to interact with many people from all departments of the company but keeping everything flowing can sometimes be challenging. Add to this that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I have a mind that rarely forgets anything meaning that whenever there’s a massive information and stimulus flow it really can get a bit overwhelming and let’s be honest – there’s not a day in my life where there isn’t a massive information and stimulus flow happening.
Therefore, I guess as an attempt to control my life, the busyness and overflow of just everything, I’ve started to feel a burning need to simplify and calm down my mind. This has started to slowly invade every are of my life but I’ve found that one of the biggest noise factor that I can control is my physical surroundings, more specifically my possessions. Having a steady job allows me to afford more things than ever before (college times and entry level jobs with a baby helloooo!) and being able to choose makes me do just that, choose. I nowadays find myself thinking about not what I can afford as much as what do I really want. Just because I can afford it doesn’t mean I want it and on the other hand I want to take care of my hard earned money as I do not take it for granted. I still remember what it was like not to make ends meet and having to ask parents for help. Not fun. I also feel anxious when I buy things I really don’t need or when I have things that don’t, as Marie puts it, spark joy. It’s money, time and space not well spent and when it’s not good for me I feel disappointed with myself. In a very similar way to overeating unhealthy foods. Not only do I feel physically bad fo overeating I feel bad emotionally for not having taken care of myself. It’s a double whammy.
Paulo Coelho can be very insightful. Once I had recognized the need to simplify my surroundings I started to notice articles, books and podcasts about minimalism everywhere.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. – Paulo Coelho
In addition to number of articles on the topic I read and watched on Netflix about The Minimalists, read Joshua Becker’s Simplify, Genevieve Parker Hill’s Minimalistic Living, and listened to Minimalist Mom Podcasts. I had heard about Marie Kondo but didn’t really pay attention to her message until I had worked through my mental transformation through the many resources I studied. This was more than anything a trip to myself, my values and how I wanted to live. Funnily enough I now realize that Marie asks you to do just that before starting: Think about what you want your post tidying life to look like. Without knowing this would be crucial to the process I had been unconsciously figuring that out for a long time.
The main things that I realized about myself during this time: Excess of anything makes me anxious and unhappy, I don’t like shopping or spending money, which means I’d rather have few (even if more expensive) quality items than a mountain of things that don’t last, are not pretty and don’t make me happy (i.e. spark joy), and I like to have beauty in my surroundings. These thoughts were on my mind for weeks if not months, brewing up in a wonderful little ball of self awareness.
Photo by Toa Heftiba
My Mom the Master Minimalist
During Christmas I visited Finland, and home, for the first time in over 5 years. It was a wonderful two week trip to a winter wonderland where we had the precious opportunity to spend time with family and friends, many who didn’t know my daughter who is 5 years old at all.
While visiting my mother’s apartment I noticed something amazing. She had very little stuff. She had everything, but there was so little of everything. Funnily that was my first thought: “My mom has very few things”. When going outside to play with kids I took my jacket from her entryway closet and noticed she had only couple of handbags, maybe two winter jackets, a hat and a set of gloves – maybe two. When I went to her small bathroom I couldn’t help notice she had so few bottles, snooping around more carefully I noticed she had everything. The magic was she had only one of everything! So brilliant! I was amazed. I felt frankly a bit stupid of ever feeling I’d need more than one day cream or night cream or shampoo or conditioner at the same time but yet I had to admit her way still felt brilliant. Something clicked. Of course you don’t need more than one of any item at any given moment. It’s not like you’re going to put on two winter jackets at the same time or two sets of gloves on top of each other (though I might have done that when it got really cold, come to think of it…).
Once you realize you don’t need more than one of anything, you can think about what you really want while keeping it simple and avoiding clutter. So between the money and the clutter I had come a full circle. I want less items of better quality that play well together. Clothes that combine nicely to make different outfits with less items in the closet to take space, pretty classic makeup, shoes that look good but are timeless and for the love of simplicity only one shampoo bottle in use at any given moment. Besides, I think once I get my basics nailed down I can add some special items that are trendy at the moment or just add a little spark.
Having realized what I want and having seen a real life master example of what that can look like in practice I felt like I had decluttered my mind and learned something new about myself. I lived in an unhappy relationship for a long time where I didn’t feel free to explore who I really was and wanted to be. After my divorce I’ve truly enjoyed opening my mind bit by bit to what my ideal self and life might look like and training my mind to understand that nothing is off the table and anything is possible. There is nothing that sparks more joy than finding something that resonates with your being in a way that you just know what to scream “YES! Why didn’t I realize this before?”. Realizing how I felt about owning stuff, the space I want as my home and spending money has been extremely gratifying.
Marie Kondoeing My Apartment
With the above journey behind me and with work getting more hectic than ever in January, I decided it was time to give Marie a go. I started to listen to her book in audible and just couldn’t help but feel so excited! I absolutely loved her stories of her childhood and how she was obsessed with organization since she was a little child. Or how she got into trouble by organizing her family members’ private spaces and throwing their stuff out without permission. My favorite part of the book is definitely when she gives advise on how to properly fold a pair of socks so they can get a proper rest after working so hard all day! This girl is a total whack job but I think genius never comes without a hint of crazy and I really love Marie’s crazy. It’s happy, it’s positive and it’s unapologetic.
Totally inspired I started to get ready, I searched for a category checklist from a fellow Marie fan, I bought two packs of super strong garbage bag rolls and announced to my kids and their nanny that this is happening.
Read next week how we did it!