When I first learned Marie Kondo was going to have a new show on Netflix, I was ecstatic! She has been my organizing idol since I first discovered her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, about five years ago. This book has impacted my life in truly drastic ways (which you can read more about here). That is why I am so excited to share the first of a three-part series focused on life-changing lessons I learned from this organizing queen.
Kondo is best known for her “spark joy” method, through which you hold every object you own and determine whether or not it sparks joy for you. Though some people question this method, I have found it to be incredibly effective, especially when it comes to sentimental items. If you have ever experienced the heart-wrenching grief of losing a loved one, then you know exactly how difficult it can be to face the belongings they leave behind. And you’re not alone.
I lost my father about ten years ago. After suffering from COPD for years, he hung on long enough, much to the amazement of his Hospice caregivers and doctors, to meet me at the end of the aisle on my wedding day. He passed just before my 25th birthday.
Several months after his passing, I received a package in the mail from my mom. Since it wasn’t a birthday or holiday, I didn’t know what I would find inside. After fighting with the packing tape, I pulled back the cardboard flaps, and there inside the box was my dad’s brown leather traveling case.
My mind was instantly flooded with memories of family vacations and visits to see relatives. Before every road trip, my mom, sister and I would pile our luggage into the trunk of the family minivan: eight changes of clothes for a five day trip, make-up, hair dryers, curling irons, stuffed animals, games, books, snacks, art supplies—everything we might need.
And then just as we were about to leave, my dad would walk down the steps of the front porch, stop near the trunk and set his one tiny piece of luggage on top of the pile. Along with a few pairs of underwear and a clean undershirt, this leather satchel was all he ever took with him, whether we were going for a weekend or a week.
The traveling case in many ways represented some of my dad’s most defining characteristics.
Steady. Consistent. Minimalist.
As a product of the Depression era, he was a minimalist before the term existed. As long as there was food on the table and a roof over our heads, he wanted for nothing more.
Feeling grateful that my mom had thought to pass his travel case on to me, I unzipped the pouch and a wave of emotion hit me like a ton of bricks.
Inside of it my mom had placed the tie my dad wore on my wedding day. Unlike his satchel, the tie filled me with immense sadness. As much as the worn and loved traveling case represented the best in my dad, the tie represented all of the experiences yet to come that he would not be present for. I puddled to the floor and cried for a very long time.
Like the experts say, time helped to heal the wounds of my father’s passing, and eventually I was ready to face these items again.
The brown travel pouch, I kept.
The purple and gray striped tie, I donated.
I knew I would never be able to look at that tie without crying. I was choosing to be surrounded by memories that made me laugh and smile and shake my head, rather than those that brought me crippled to my knees in grief.
Sometimes we have to give ourselves the permission to let go of our pain in order to embrace the joy.
Now, I know these examples are not the same as choosing which of the seven spatulas in your utensil holder spark joy and which ones don’t, but I do believe there is power in freeing ourselves from the bonds of our belongings, be it spatula or the tie your deceased father wore on your wedding day.
Are you holding onto items in your life that spark grief? fear? guilt?
Is it time to give yourself permission to let go?
If you are ready to face your belongings, but aren’t sure how to start, I highly recommend trying Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” method to see if it works for you. And if it does, I’d love to hear about it. Because here’s another bit of magic: when you share with others, you build a community of support that can help you up when you fall back down.
I’ll be back again next week with another lesson-learned: passing on guilty clutter.
Until next time, keep enjoying this one & wonderful life,