Finding Zen in my closet

As many of these things do, it started with a small fire – literally – and has now grown to fully engulf my home.

As many of these things do, it started with a small fire – literally –  and has now grown to fully engulf my home.

In April we had a small kitchen incident involving a hot pot, molten metal, a melted kitchen floor and a few burnt baseboards.

The smoke damage was severe enough to send us packing for a few days, while restoration crews ripped out flooring and cleaned up metal shards. The upshot of all this was the entire contents of the majority of my kitchen cupboards were pulled out and placed in boxes around the room.

After moving back in, serendipity came along in the form of an online book review of a volume entitled, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

In it, Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her method for simplifying, organizing and storing. What resonated with me most was Kondo advocates purging your home, and your life, of all items that are not functional to your daily life and only keeping things that “spark joy” in your existence.

I, like most of us in Western culture, suffer from an addiction to stuff, simply for stuff’s sake. As I looked around my kitchen, I realized just how many things were not needed. Many items hadn’t even been out of those cupboards in nearly a decade and instead of sparking joy, they were sparking frustration by cluttering up my storage space and spilling out of cabinets.

Inspired, I began to sort. And I followed the rules. If it truly wasn’t used or didn’t bring beauty or joy into my life – off it went into the thrift store bin. At first it was easy. I was buoyed on a giddy wave of purging. And yet, there is some part of us that wants to hang on to things, even useless, silly things.

This is where I was particularly taken with Kondo’s idea of saying goodbye to these items, of pausing for a moment and acknowledging them, before letting them go.

It may seem bizarre to pause and give a Tupperware pickle container a moment of respect, but somehow it made it easier to disconnect. It also helped negate my feeling of regret about making so many blatantly useless purchases that really added nothing to the quality of my life.

The small metaphorical fire that started in my kitchen that morning has now spread. Spurred on by the new paint and flooring going in, my purging has moved from room to room. I started  with a small bathroom, so I could get a feeling of success – and I have yet to tackle the kids’ playroom (which as any mom will tell you, is the most difficult, but likely most necessary, place to purge.)

Call it Zen, call it magic, but Kondo is right. With every bin I drop off to the thrift store, or every bag of baby clothes I have given to an expectant new mother, I feel lighter, somehow more free. You might see me soon. I’ll be the lady standing in the thrift store parking lot, silently bidding adieu to the never-used egg cups.

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