Marie Kondo terrifies me.
Not in the sense that a serial killer or a shark would terrify me, but honestly, it’s pretty close. She seems lovely – calm, logical, beautiful and perfectly organized – so much so that I eagerly bought her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and placed it at the very top of the ever-growing pile of books on my bedside table.
That was over a year ago, and I have yet to read a single page. Why? Because the idea of going through my belongings piece by piece, deciding what sparks joy and what I should let go of, is completely overwhelming. My house isn’t even that messy or cluttered – it’s your typical lived-in family home. We have too much stuff, but we aren’t hoarders. Things can go. It’s not the idea of purging belongings that scares me – it’s the idea of committing myself to yet another mentally draining, time consuming task.
With almost zero free time in my life and an overtired, overcrowded mess of a mom-brain, I have no idea where I would even begin. The stacks of paper on my kitchen counter and desk? Well, I’d have to deal with them first, and I’ve already been trying to do that for weeks. The clothes we don’t need and excess household items that could go to Goodwill? I mean, sure…I’ve got an ongoing ‘donate’ box in the garage. I’m trying. A genuine effort is made. But who has the time to declutter an entire house from top to bottom? Who can spend the mental energy on a task that like while working, raising kids, having a marriage and attempting a social life?
I’m no expert on Marie Kondo’s famed minimalist methods (like I said, the book hasn’t been opened) but according to my extensive, five minute Google research, the jist of it is this: instead of tackling small organizational projects around the home, do one massive, epic sweep. Approach things by category and get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose or spark joy. Assign every item a place and stick with it. Essentially, get rid of all the junk you don’t need and avoid mess by living without excess stuff. The method, referred to as KonMari, promises that you’ll clean less and enjoy your home more.
The result sounds amazing – a serene, organized space. Nothing that doesn’t serve a purpose. Nothing that doesn’t bring you joy. Less tidying up thanks to less junk. And yet, my brain shuts down at the idea – the book remains unread.
Then suddenly, it’s clear. I need to KonMari my brain. I need to KonMari my life. Then, maybe, I could actually fathom trying to KonMari my house.
I want to tackle this project, but the roadblock isn’t a physical mess – it’s how overstuffed my life is, and how fast my mind is always moving. When you are running around between work, family and all the rest, there is rarely a moment to sit still, let alone methodically hold a series of objects while assessing their joy-sparking capabilities. Before any major projects can be tackled at home, I would have to declutter the chaos of my brain and my life.
As women and as moms, we often default to yes when asked for our time or energy. Can you come to this event? Join this committee? Volunteer here, make food for this event, pick up supplies for that project? Add an extracurricular to your kids’ schedule or project to your workload? Yes, sure, why not. We’d hate to disappoint, and we’re just programmed to do it all…so we do.
But does it spark joy? Does it serve a function? Do you need it in your life?
If the answer is no, then maybe that’s what we should say.
I’m not advocating that we stop all working or skip doing laundry because it’s a pain in the ass, but more realistically, look at the extras in your life and make a genuine effort to assess what’s worthy of your energy. To be more mindful and more discerning with your time. To volunteer and socialize when and where it matters to you, and politely decline otherwise. To stop defaulting to yes. Let’s focus on what matters – quality time with our families, pursuing our interests and careers, and taking care of ourselves. It’s ok to fight off the beast and burden of mindless obligation that weighs down so many mothers. It’s ok to demand balance.
Sometimes, even seemingly worthy commitments may need to be purged from your life in order to make it better.
You can volunteer at three events instead of five and still be a good person. You can sign your kids up for one activity instead of three and still be a good mom. You can say no to professional opportunities if they don’t fit into the life you want to live. As I recognize this, I’m going to try to implement this advice in my own life. I will KonMari my mind, my life and eventually, my house.
Maybe. Because I don’t know if I’ll ever be cut out for folding laundry like this…but I may as well try.