When a book has over 100 holds on it at the library, you know something’s up. And I know why.
My own world has been personally and literally turned upside down and inside out over the past six months with a move from the Washington DC area where we lived for over 30 years. It required us to empty out our family home of 20 years. With room after room, and closet after closet to be sorted and boxed, and then the physical labors needed to move these essential and most cherished items into another home (not to mention the emotional elements of it all), it has all been a very big deal.
Enter “The Life-Changing magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. When a friend mentioned being mesmerized by it as we are settling into the new house in Tennessee, a major gong went off in my head. I googled it, watched several fascinating videos on Youtube, and ordered it immediately from Amazon. In the next few days, my sister called in the wee hours of the morning to say, “I’ve been up all night reading the tiniest, most powerful little book … everyone needs to know about it!” And I replied “I know! I have it and I’m in a state of awe! I’m doing all our new house with her approach, and telling others about it!” So yes, it’s true. When my daughter went to get it, there were over 100 holds at her library on this amazing little book.
Though books and approaches on de-cluttering abound, here’s a new approach that is extremely powerful, but much like the still small voice of the Spirit: it will speak to you personally and quietly only when you are quiet and ready to listen. Now I ask you: Whoever thought there could be a spiritual element to getting your house, closets and garage cleared out? Or joy? Or that you could do it once and for all and never get cluttered again?
President Gordon B. Hinckley says: “You have to establish in your life some sense of prioritizing things, of giving emphasis to the important things and of laying aside the unimportant things that will lead to nothing. Establish a sense of justice, a sense of what is good and what is not good, what is important and is not important, and that can become a marvelous and wonderful blessing in your lives.” (Devotional, Salt Lake City Mission, 15 Dec. 2001)
And so it is with cleaning out our hearts, our homes and even our health.
Marie Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is a very tiny, very young little Japanese woman. With her lyrical, sweet Japanese voice, a passion for helping people de-clutter, and her own humility, she has created a monumental movement teaching people how to, as she calls it “tidying up.” She is the real life Snow White in the Seven Dwarves, and Giselle in the delightful movie “Enchanted.” Her very unique and spiritual perspectives on our stuff and our lives is indeed enchanting – and enchanted.
She treats each home and each item as though they have great character and purpose. With intention, she teaches you how to systematically touch each item in your home and ask whether it “sparks joy.”
Although not LDS to my knowledge, she knows that there is much to filling the measure of our creation, and that our belongings are an important, essential part of both developing and hindering our progress.
Though seemingly silly and easy to dismiss, it is actually a practical way to clear the clutter! If a piece of clothing, book or home accessory no longer “sparks joy” then you thank it for previously sparking joy, and send it on its way to either donation or the trash. Its purpose has been fulfilled and it is free to move on … and so are you! Gift that are not “quite right” can be thanked, along with the giver, and given away again, as the intention was always good. It is the same with holiday items, clothing books, kitchen gadgets, and on and on. She has a special section on managing photos and sentimental items.
She dresses nicely for each de-cluttering session because she wants to treat the home and the belongings with respect, and especially if you will be saying thank you and goodbye. It may seem silly until you see it all in action. That’s where the Youtube videos come in with Marie’s lessons on folding, watching her with clients, and followers of her book and method sharing their before and after closets, drawers and homes. Their delight, pride and joy is infectious! They have found their home and lives again, no longer dragging around items that they no longer need or use, but couldn’t find the heart or time to get rid of. (Use Marie Kondo as the search term).
She has strategies for each area of the home, papers, sentimental items, photos, etc.
Here is the important part: the book is just TINY, 5×7 and barely 200 pages, and very unassuming. There are no big-name celebrity endorsements anywhere. The author is just TINY, but the scriptures and quotes that “Out of small things proceedeth that which is great” immediately come to mind.
The last chapters of the book are the most impressive of all as she shares her own experience of not knowing what her life was all about, or meant to be, until she had emptied her home of things that weighed her down, and established simple daily routines to manage the household and personal items that are necessary, and bring joy, to life. In fact, she thanks her shoes, her purse and her coat each day for “doing a great job in helping me today!” She greets her home with a happy “Hello!” when she returns, and of course it delights in serving her. When you are surrounded by clutter, paper, books, gifts that you never enjoyed but feel beholden to, clothing that no longer fits or serves a purpose or and any physical item that does not spark joy on some level, then we’re not free to be ourselves.
Perhaps this is one reason we love the temple and its majestic, simple beauty so much. Cleared of clutter and too many things, we are free to think and be inspired, free to move, free to pray and consider more than just the stuff around us. In fact, as we are personally moving into our new home, with this little book for the nuts and bolts of how to do it, our mantra is to use “the temple as a template.” This is how we want our new home to feel, for both ourselves and those that come here, where we want our Heavenly Father’s spirit and joy and beauty to abound in simple ways.
After watching a video or two and knowing the key question “Does this item spark joy?” My daughter, the mother of three tiny little girls ages 4, 2 and 5 months said, after watching a few videos said, “I went to my daughter’s dresser that was stuffed with clothes. As I quickly went through it, using Marie’s method and simply asking “Does this spark joy?” I realized how many of those things I had kept, although I didn’t like seeing them either in the drawers or on my children.” Out they went, some to donate. Some to the trash. I know what to DO! What a tool! I feel so light and so happy!”
It’s funny, in the early stages of emptying out our home back in early April. I had a collection of holiday odds and ends and toys that I had found charming. We had outgrown them and they were not important enough to pack and bring along so I created a Craigslist freebie “curb alert” posting for anyone to come and help themselves. The Lord, however, had a message for me.
Though rain was not forecast that morning, within an hour after putting things out for people to come and pick through it, a flash storm came and went in 10 minutes, leaving everything drenched and ruined. I looked outside, and my husband and I both laughed. They were all ruined in the rain! Those things had served their purpose, and the message from Heaven was clear. “Carolyn, I’ve got better stuff for everybody. Be brave and throw it away. The world does not need more junk.”
D&C 59:16-19 explains it in spiritual terms. The Lord encourages us to receive his gifts of physicality with gladness and gratitude, but not to excess!
“The fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
“Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
“Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.”
John Tanner in his 1993 Ensign article, “The Body as A Blessing” says:
“In these verses, the Doctrine and Covenants reiterates the lessons of Genesis, God rejoiced in his handiwork seven times over. We are invited to receive the world as did Adam and Eve on the morning of creation: “The fulness of the earth is yours”—beasts, fowls, herbs, and every good thing. (See Genesis 1:26-29) We are also informed of something implied but not spelled out in Genesis: namely, that the Lord ordained this rich plenty not merely to serve the utilitarian purpose of sustaining life but specifically to give pleasure: “to please the eye and to gladden the heart.” The world is beautiful by divine design.
Then the Lord adds a caution: “And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.”
The intense physical pleasure the earth affords is deliberate; God intends food to taste good, landscapes to please the eye, smells to gladden the heart. Such great gifts, however, can be abused. This is the connotation of the telling word extortion—which literally means to “twist out.” Our use of the physical world and the body must not be twisted out of the divinely ordained purposes for which they were given. Physical pleasure is good in its proper time and place, but even then it must not become our god.”
Modern revelation celebrates elemental life, for “the elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples.” D&C 93:35. The Prophet Joseph remarked: “No person can have this salvation except through a tabernacle.” 8 The body is a temple. No wonder our temples of stone serve our temples of flesh. Both are sacred sanctuaries of the Spirit.”
The link between clearing out our homes to honor and live our lives matches intrinsically with clearing out our diet of things that we don’t need that also starve the spirit.
September and autumn are a time of both harvest and renewal, a perfectly delightful time for defining priorities for both our houses and our bodies. Marie Kondo’s book and John Tanner’s article are the perfect guides!
The Body As A Blessing CLICK HERE
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available HERE. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of ten. They have lived in the Washington D.C. area since 1979 and have recently moved to Jackson, Tennessee. Click HERE to learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian!