Letting Go of Objects
The other day I was at the library and checked out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. In the book, Kondo suggests that we allow in our lives only objects that “spark joy.” I thought it seemed ridiculous. How can a toothbrush spark joy? Or an ironing board? Or a plunger?
I, like other millennials gently approaching middle age, am at the point in my life of reorganizing. I have filled my life with material objects, some of them meaningful, some of them merely occupying space, some of them attached to stories—both happy stories and sad stories.
As ridiculous as the book sounded, I began to follow Kondo’s cleaning method, which she calls the “KonMari Method.”
I feel as though I’ve been hauling around my own past, energetically, and now am ready to let go. That letting go begins with throwing away or donating material objects attached to those parts of my life to which I no longer wish to be connected.
I’ve realized that objects are not merely objects. They can carry a kind of nonphysical weight; they can burden us or they can bring us joy. We collect them, and they inevitably become part of our lives, sharing our energy, our dust. Some objects have been with us so long we may forget they are even there. If we wish to change our lives, one approach is to start by changing what we keep in our homes.
Kondo writes to “…start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely…” before even beginning the process of organizing.
So I did. I would touch an object and ask myself, “Does this spark joy?” If the object did not spark joy, I would donate it to the thrift store, sell it, or throw it away. So many objects, I quickly realized, had been keeping me from enjoying my life.
I am not, I realized, obligated to keep anything I don’t want. I can choose what I want to keep and what I don’t want to keep.
I remembered where the objects had come from. Sometimes they had stories. Faces of people I haven’t spoken to in years.
It’s time to move on, I would remind myself. It’s time to let go. The past is the past.
The process of decluttering is not always easy. It can mean aligning ourselves with the truth of who we are, and that means facing our fears, releasing that which no longer serves us, and learning to embrace that which makes us feel happy. It is a giant risk, but a necessary risk.
What helped me was thinking of decluttering not as a “task” or “work,” which have a negative connotation, but thinking of it as a path to freedom. It was difficult at first, but became easier the more I let go.
Every time I dropped something off at a thrift store or let go of a trash bag, I felt a kind of ease. The sky looked clearer. My mind became spacious.
I’m almost finished with the discarding phase. Now on to the next challenge: organizing. ▼
James Adams Smith works as an English tutor at Delaware Technical & Community College and is studying to become an occupational therapist.