My Home is KonMari-ed…Now What?

handsholdinghouse.jpg

Disclaimer: Okay, let’s get something straight. This is first and foremost a taekwondo blog and will continue to be, but since taekwondo has taught me so many valuable life lessons and has so profoundly shaped the way I think, react, and approach life, I inevitably will address other topics that pop up. Today it’s that question of what to do after you’ve gotten your act together in one area of your life.

Like everyone else in the world, I jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon at the beginning of 2019. Disclaimer #2: To be fair and to give myself back a little street cred, I had been aware of Kondo’s de-cluttering (or “tidying”) method for many years and didn’t learn of the Netflix series until after I’d purchased her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” on a whim over the holiday break. Whatever, maybe the collective energy of scores of people wanting to clean their lives up at the beginning of the year subconsciously inspired me to make that Amazon purchase. Either way, I read her book in one sitting on New Year’s Day and got to work following her “KonMari” method of tackling one category at a time: clothes, books, paper, miscellaneous, and sentimental items.

The whole process of de-cluttering my two-bedroom/two-bath 1100 square foot condo took about a month. On the surface things don’t look much different, but they FEEL new and refreshing. I didn’t pile all my clothes into one giant mound as Kondo suggests, but I did fill up a donate bag, and I diligently folded all my shirts into those funny little rectangles. The supplies and containers artfully tucked into the nooks and crannies of my tiny kitchen aren’t jumbled into stressful clumps in the cabinets anymore. My financial and medical paperwork is in order and easily accessible to me or to loved ones who may need those records. After organizing my jewelry drawers I feel like I have a new set of treasures to accessorize my outfits with. I have a new skin care and makeup regimen thanks to paring down old stuff and committing to using what I have left before I buy anything new.

The discipline of sticking to one category at a time kept me on track and quelled the urge to get distracted with several mini-projects. I was so thankful that I followed Kondo’s suggestion of saving sentimental items for last during the height of my fevered desire to purge and re-organize, which happened about halfway through. (Luckily, I had a box of industrial-size trash bags in my now very organized storage closet.) That doesn’t mean I still hung on to tons of stuff; I just didn’t get rid of things in a rush to de-clutter only to find myself deeply regretting it later, which is something I’ve done in the past.

Going through the sentimental items felt like a reward after a month of meticulous hard work. I spent about a week methodically assessing, weeding, and placing carefully selected photos, memorabilia, and cards into several scrapbooks and was surprised and delighted at the emotional benefit of this process:

  • I had fun (and some laughs) revisiting high school band and theater moments, college shananigans, and family gatherings and giving them a new, neatly packaged place to live.
  • I FINALLY took the time to read a history of my Lithuanian ancestors, which was about a 5-page typed document that had been stuffed in my desk for years. I was tickled to find out that my great-great grandmother liked to make wine from berries that grew wild in the area of Pennsylvania where they lived (“moreso than doing housework,” according to our family historian). I saw the variety of professions covered by my extended clan. I learned the names of the relatives in my treasured photo of my great-grandparents’ wedding.
  • I was deeply moved by a high school graduation card I had saved from my third grade teacher. She died several years ago, so it was nice to revisit her life in her beautifully penned words.
  • Through re-examining photos in Christmas cards I was able to appreciate how my little cousins have grown into sweet, funny, and interesting young girls.
  • I was able to let go of heart-wrenching guilt I heaped on myself a few years ago after I did a major, manic purge of sentimental items and mementos. Those departed things no longer haunted me, and I felt a peaceful sense of emotional distance from the items I chose to keep.

The Verdict: I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book and method. (The Netflix show, on the other hand, got a little repetitive and seemed like a scaled-down, less interesting version of “Hoarders.”)

Disclaimer #3: 
I am very fortune to have the time, space, and energy to maintain a high level of organization over my personal and professional life. That’s always been how my mind works. I know many people don’t have those capabilities or think the same way I do, so I’m not going to tell you how to live your life or organize your time. Surprises, emergencies, and last-minute opportunities still happen in my controlled realm. However, I feel like being organized has given me the capacity to shift my attention to quickly deal with these things and keep a sense of calm. Now all I have to do as far as housework is usual maintenance cleaning and upkeep. Everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—has a home.

So Now What?

I feel a little bit of a loss now that my big project is over. I had something productive to do after work and on the weekends for a few weeks.

Now I have time. Possibilities. Opportunities.

The only thing left to de-clutter is…me.

And that’s what I’m asking my fellow fans of tidying to join me in doing: after you’ve gotten your home in order, examine, reflect, and decide what you can do to “spark joy” in your life. What can you let go? What can you gain? What destructive habits can you break? What new activities or ways of thinking can you commit to? How will you change your life for the better?

Let’s have some fun.

Advertisements

Last Leg

“So how many months is it between red belt and black tip?” asked a young blonde girl, tilting her head and narrowing her eyes at me. She was sporting a brand new red belt, still stiff and shiny and creased from her Friday night color belt promotion.

“Four,” I said absentmindedly, grabbing my foot and bending my leg at the knee for a quad stretch.

“Four months. It’s four, four, six!” piped up an adult blue belt at the back of the room.

“See, he knows too,” I said, nodding and raising my eyebrows. I wanted to tell the little red belt not to get too wrapped up in rushing from one test to the next. There was a lot to enjoy in simply being a red belt…and black tip…and bo dan. I hoped she would slow down and savor the moments and the little joys that I have since I donned a red belt over a year ago…but sometimes people need to figure things out on their own.

The same blue belt looked up at me as he was doing a butterfly stretch and said in a slightly sarcastic tone, “So…are you going to quit when you get your black belt?”

“No way!” I replied. “If I quit what would I have to write about? I’m in this for life until my body or my money gives out.” And it’s true. I found my niche and I found my second family. They’re stuck with me.

It’s starting to hit me that I will test for black belt in about three and a half months. I didn’t even think about black belt when I first re-entered the taekwondo world. I just wanted to be there. Finally after years of searching I’d found something that quieted and focused my mind and opened my heart. I became more nurturing and loving with the people around me than I ever had during half-hearted friendships that died out or sporadic attempts at connecting with people of my same religious faith. I found acceptance, friendships, and a newfound faith in myself that I’d never had before. As long as I can find a place to practice martial arts with other like-minded people I’m happy.

A black belt is just gravy.

First degree black belt is by no means the pinnacle of the taekwondo student’s journey. It just means you’ve completed basic training and your instructor trusts you not to kill the little kids in sparring class. You keep growing and changing and uncovering more and more layers as the years go by. You get to see taekwondo through the fresh eyes of new white belts and learn nuances you would have never discovered on your own without the guidance of seasoned black belts. You get back what you invest in it a hundred fold.

It’s not that I’m not excited about my black belt test. I think about it often and look forward to it eagerly. But I also don’t want to take these last few months of being a color belt for granted. If I’m just cramming for a test and not appreciating the present then I’m missing the point entirely.