Ever since Marie Kondo came on the scene, much has been said about her methods to gain some order in our lives. She believes we shouldn’t mindlessly collect but actually consider the relationship between ourselves and our stuff. The expert at organizing, bestselling author and star of Netflix’s hit show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, points out that not everything we accumulate through our lifetime carries the same importance.
Our haphazard approach to possessions may seem harmless. But in the end, we often force someone to try to make sense of what we left behind. Since most people haven’t been living in a house with Kondo’s sense of order, it’s not uncommon for adult children to find themselves bewildered – wondering what to do with all of their parents’ belongings.
Unfortunately, once distributed, boxed up or stored away, these artifacts may rarely be seen or enjoyed again. Until the next generation repeats the process and adds to the pile. I have a friend with a room almost completely filled from just this type of scenario. She came into possession of her grandmother’s things via cleaning out her own mother’s house. Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if we want to continue this ritual with our own children.
Although Kondo generally recommends building up your tidying stamina by tackling more basic items first, if you are the keeper of your family’s estate or have decided not to leave your children to deal with your aunt’s spoon collection of all 50 states, here are five tips on how to tackle the task, inspired from the master herself.
The first step in this journey is to commit to the process before you even start. Whether you’re cleaning out a parent’s home or sifting through your own clutter, this job isn’t for the faint of heart. There will already be many opportunities to become discouraged or distracted along the way. Make a promise to yourself to respect the importance of this undertaking and that you won’t stop until you’re finished.
Before you make a decision on whether to keep an item, Kondo says you must first hold it in your hands, as close to your heart as possible, and then pay attention to how your body responds. If there is a spark of joy, it’s a keeper. But be prepared at how rarely you may actually experience that sensation. It’s joy you’re looking for. Not a spark of guilt at the thought of giving away your mother’s china that you would never use or display. It often helps to find alternative solutions when discarding family items, such as giving them away to someone who could use them or selling them and using the proceeds to create a memory. Most moms would love it if you sold the china and then spent the money on something that made you truly happy.
This is a great way to let go, with gratitude and without guilt. If your grandmother’s jewelry remains in a drawer, untouched and unappreciated, it doesn’t serve her memory or your relationship well. Think of keeping one piece that holds the fondest of memories and then let go of the rest. Acknowledge the love you had for your grandmother and your gratitude for having her in your life. The feeling of mindfully dealing with her possessions can be freeing.
This trick makes this duty seem doable, instead of overwhelming. Decide to only keep what brings you that spark of joy. Photographs are a great place to start. Commit to keeping only those that are good quality, reflect well on the subjects and represent a favorite memory or person important in your life. You won’t need to keep 10 similar shots or those negatives you’ve held onto all these years. When possible, do this as a family and enjoy reliving these times past. Frame a set that you can enjoy in your daily life and change them out during the year.
We hang on to the sentimental because we want to hang on to the person but it doesn’t work that way. Kondo reminds us that we fear we’ll lose those most precious of memories along with the item if we let go, but you won’t. The memories are always yours to keep. Try acknowledging what the item meant to that person and how much that person meant to you. In honoring the memory, you can then let it go.
When it comes to the accumulations of an estate, emotions are easily triggered. So is exhaustion. That’s why there are so many boxes of a family’s history sitting in rooms, basements and closets. It may seem easier at that moment, but it leaves unfinished business that eventually must be addressed.
Kondo’s advice to keep only what sparks a feeling of joy requires us to draw the connection between ourselves and our personal effects. When we live among clutter, it gets in the way of our own sense of order and creates chaos. But once we reframe how we see possessions, it can open up a completely different perspective. And maybe it’s not until we clear out the disarray that we can find the space for what is most important in our life.
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