It’s Not Magical If You’re Not Ready.

Sometime in 2013? Maybe 2014? Donnie and I finally started openly talking about how much we hated our house. In 2010 we had bought a 4,200 sq ft house that needed some work but had enough space to give our oldest child his own suite (which we felt he needed with an 11-year gap from his siblings) and gave us enough room to have another child or two. We had done a lot of home improvement things on our first house so all of this seemed reasonable and we called it our Forever Home.

But then I had another miscarriage and we decided my reproductive nightmare was not worth suffering through any longer – even for more children. We also started adopting new hobbies that took up the “home improvement” spot in our schedules and suddenly we found ourselves in a much too-big house with too many projects undone and we finally started openly discussing that our Forever Home was not the Forever we had imagined.

Over the next 2+ years we worked on downsizing our possessions and trying to sell our house so we could find something smaller. We did this in phases, many of which are documented here on this blog, and it was NOT EASY. But we did it with the help of Marie Kondo’s book, and so of COURSE I had to check out her new show on Netflix.

But here’s the thing…I still have the same complaint about the show as I did about the book…there’s no real acknowledgement that this method, and decluttering in general, is not for everyone. BECAUSE IT IS NOT. And there is no focus on how to cope with those feelings that will arise when you one day feel sad you got rid of that one thing. BECAUSE YOU WILL.

She also seems to only value that SPARK OF JOY that you feel touching your possessions but that doesn’t give value to things like COMFORT and PEACE that many people feel in keeping things they no longer need or use. Those feelings are valuable too and need to be accounted for.

Now, I always say that Donnie and I have no regrets…and we don’t experience regret as a constant state of mind. But I’d be lying if there weren’t days where I had fleeting moments of sadness remembering something I had given away, or frustration when I remember I used to have that thing I need for that project that I now have to buy again. THOSE THINGS DO HAPPEN and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar.

For Donnie and I – the burden of the house and the stuff was SO GREAT that simply pausing and reflecting on the joy in our lives without that burden is enough to move past any regret or frustration.

BUT THIS MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU.

AND THAT IS OKAY.

Do we maybe have a problem with consumerism and possession and clutter in our country? Do we have a problem with waste around the world? Are we harming our planet by throwing away so many things that still are useful to someone? YES. YES. and Very much YES.

But decluttering YOUR house RIGHT NOW is not going to solve that and you are a product of this commercial world and if you have built up emotional support in those things in your house, it is dangerous to rip them away.

Here’s the question I ask people: Have you ever regretted getting rid of something? How long did that regret last? Do you still think about it? Does it still make you sad? Then you are not ready for Marie Kondo, and that is OKAY.

But if you are worried about the hold your STUFF has over you? Then start first in trying not to INCREASE it. Every time you buy something that has a counterpart already in your home that serves the same purpose…spend some time really reflecting on that.

Are you buying a new frying pan because your old one keeps sticking to what you’re cooking? Then get rid of the old one before you use the new one.

Are you buying a new dress because you put on weight and can not fit into the one you wanted to wear? Then ask yourself: If I lose the weight to fit in that dress, won’t I maybe want to celebrate by buying a new dress? And is this smaller dress in my closet causing myself to think negative thoughts about the body I’m in now because it won’t fit into it?

Spend a few months or a year REALLY thinking about the new things you bring into your home and see if you can get rid of matching counterparts that are already there. OR! Maybe you’ll even re-think the purchase to begin with. Spend a year or so reorganizing and maybe putting things in storage you’re unsure about. If after a year you haven’t touched the things, THEN ask yourself questions about whether you could/should get rid of them.

But don’t be too hard on yourself if this is not for you. It’s like we’re all suddenly self-righteous about STUFF and we’re shaming people who don’t want to get rid of their stuff and that is counter-intuitive. Maybe my piles and piles of books created a negative burden in my heart but for you? They bring you peace and comfort, then who am I to tell you to get rid of them? I don’t think that “Spark of Joy” that Marie Kondo talks about should be the only thing we consider. For many people, especially people with anxiety, comfort and peace are important factors too and they are not to be ignored.

In a perfect world, we all use less stuff and take up less space and value EXPERIENCES over ITEMS. But we are also all products of this culture and this programming and so there may be layers to dig through before we can get to that kind of peaceful existence in a pared down state of living. It is unrealistic to approach decluttering without acknowledging the effects of that cultural programing on our mental health and our coping skills.

For us? At that moment in time? It was perfect. But we had hit a type of rock bottom and our house was an emotional drag on our souls. Not everyone has that motivation or that drastic impetus to allow them to pare down as much as we did. And not all partners are on the same page in the adventure at the same time. We were ready TOGETHER, which made it that much easier.

But don’t add guilt to your life if you’re not there yet. If you want to be? Then start with not adding more clutter to your life. Start with boxing away stuff you MIGHT could someday part with and ask yourself a year later how you feel about it. Maybe accept this and budget for a storage unit so you can have the peace of knowing the things exist in your life, but also enjoy some freedom in decluttering. But do acknowledge that those decisions TODAY ripple and they should be TEMPORARY because those piles of boxes grow and consider what TOMORROW looks like if you just keep increasing the storage without decreasing the clutter.

But right now? Don’t let her or anyone pressure you into getting rid of your comfort items before you are ready.

(Spoken by the girl who can still see her 30-year old stuffed Ewok in her closet because she will die before anyone takes that away from her.)

2 Comments

  • Marty

    30 year old Ewok. I love you. When you asked if there was something we regretted getting rid of, I immediately went to my teddy bear. He was falling apart, but I still wish I hadn’t thrown him out. He deserved a box in my closet.

  • Michelle

    This is a great perspective – we’ve taken a similar approach as our kids outgrow their “kid” stuff. They don’t want their toys/collections in their rooms any more, but they’re not ready to part with them. So we box them up & stash them away. Then, months later, I ask if they want to pass it on to a younger counterpart, and they usually say yes.