Karen L. Kehler, MA,  MSHA - Private- Professional- Affordable Counseling Services
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Kehler Counseling Blog

Life changing magic of tidying. . . continued

This is my 8th weekend of tidying. . .   I learned immediately that this process requires dedication, motivation and blocks of time that I can only find on the weekends.  It is also a messy process so you can't have the public strolling through, clients arriving or family interrupting with 'why are you throwing that out??' or 'why are you doing that now. . . I'm going to let my kids do it after I die' . . . 

I decided after going through the heart wrenching, physically and emotionally draining experience of downsizing a parent after the death of another - that I would never do that to someone I loved.   No one seems to realize that the process is drenched in grieving.  You don't downsize without it.  Even if both home owners are alive - they are still going to grieve the loss of their sense of 'place' and the history spent in it.    Sure I would be dead and not care - but having gone through it - one item at a time - without the guidance of this process - it was not 'fun' at all.   It was demanding and required an entire summer's weekends. I had the advantage of being 'single' without the demands of children as well as having accomplishing losing 50 pounds by working with a physical trainer the prior year - so I was very fit for my age of 50.   Most aren't.  I was able to lift 150 pounds without pain. I could climb stairs the hundreds of times required.   I was also healthy.  Many adult children in their 60's or older aren't that fortunate.   

So the idea of tidying appealed to me because it would help guide me through my own 'sort' that I could control.  It's simplicity based in JOY makes it a wonderfully thoughtful experience.   It is also very invigorating, stimulating and reflective.  You can't say that about going through a deceased person's items.   Most I have talked with waited as long as possible before completing the task - knowing they were avoiding and dreading it.   Marie (pronounced MARee) Kondo's process starts with the most visible items and as she encourages in her book -the life changing magic of tidying - as you see your spaces transform and the assignment of 'place' really work - it really is 'life changing magic'.  It is very hard to express how powerful it is.   

I will share that my clothing has been maintaining the experience of 'joy' that I had the first few days.  It has been 6-8 weeks since I completed their 'discarding' process.  I have not missed a single item.  Mornings are notable in their ease of 'what to wear' - as everything visible fits, I love, or is appropriate for the day.  There is no 'sifting' through numerous 'bad' choices, no frustration of seeing lots of items that won't fit, are not attractive or no longer suitable to my age, lifestyle or activities.  I still have a plentiful selection but it's a collection of favorites not an assortment of nightmares.   

My bathroom offers the same.  All the useless, dated, or overdone creams, potions, lotions, sprays, beauty, cleansing or medicinal items are gone.  There is no sorting through multiple places.  Each category has its place.  I just grab, without hesitation and return it to the same place when done.  Both rooms are staying obviously neat to not just me, but anyone who may walk in.  

The last 2 weeks were spent on 'paper' and 'documents'.   I already shared about the volume and the new way to look at the physical side of accumulating volumes of paper.   I already shifted how I conduct my business.  Printing ONLY when I need an actual piece of paper for someone else to read.   Anything that can be read from my numerous drives, sites or computers doesn't need to be put on paper.   I have also become a real advocate and fan of 'Evernote' - that saves anything in categories  right off the Internet with a single click of the mouse.   Again, no reason for paper printing, just save it and read it or refer to it later.   I'm using it to collect ideas and actual items to order when I get to the real decorating of my place once I've gone through the entire process.  

In going through this very personal process I will share the following tips:
  • It is really about clearing by CATEGORY -not place!!  That's 'organizing' - and a whole different approach - which will lead to a relapse of old habits.   I would encourage starting each category with a real plan - go through your entire home, office, car and storage units/totes/attic/ basement to remove as much as possible of the assigned category to ONE place to sort.  I made a list of all of them before I started.  You need to do this so that you really include everything in the category.   The 'magic' is due several different experiences:
  • When you focus on one category at a time - you don't get sidetracked or derailed.  It's much easier to stay on task and stick to the category assigned.  You simply put other categories aside or on hold until its their turn.   The decisions of 'joy' are distinct to each category as well - I sorted clothing much differently for 'joy' than I did paper or even books.   I found that outside 'joy' and being able to give them freedom to give joy to others was incredibly empowering.  With paper it was about freeing up space, letting go of significant pieces of history, closing doors on chapters of my life and reviewing incredible decisions that I was part of.   The volumes of paper were evidence of a life 'well lived'- 'worked'- 'volunteered'- 'advocated'-'changed the world' and 'paid' her bills.     Shredding became a physical redemption.   I am saving my journals that condense it all! 
  • Clear off and out the 'place' that you stored/kept the category.  Remove clothing from the racks, shelves, drawers, totes or containers.  You must experience the empty place. Initially I thought that the  experience of the mountain of clothing and the visual of abundance was the most important step.  Now I'm seeing how allowing the storage areas to breathe, be seen clear, clean, empty and open is also part of the 'magic'.   You look at the space differently.  You don't return the items to 'fill it up' again.  You begin to understand the sacred act of joy - by NOT just 'putting it all back'.    Each item is chosen, audited, selected and joyfully returned to its new assigned place.    Even its positioning should be joy filled.   I moved more items to eye level - so that I would see what I enjoyed even easier.  
  • After finishing books I decided to 'colorize' their bindings.  I already had them arranged on each shelf by category but they still looked 'busy' - and distracted me -as I face them all day.  So I decided to follow the same approach as I have done with my clothing (for years - due to working in Retail clothing!) and the difference in my 'view' is remarkable.  It is literally easier on my eyes.     I encourage trying it.   I have also seen it done where each shelf had one assigned color - but I wanted them sorted by category - as that 'works' for me.   
  • I started "Komono" this week.  I went through my entire house and emptied out every drawer that was filled with a mess of items, junk drawers, office supplies, household odd and ends, tools, fasteners, all the 'dumb' little stuff that we forget we own, collect over decades and rarely use.   I had hundreds of pens, thousands of staples, paper clips, tacks, screws, coins in every nook and cranny and odd ball parts to stuff I tossed already.   It was a big 'mess' on my table.  My cats loved it.  Lots of 'shiny stuff' to catapult to the floor. . .  This 'discarding' is being decided by 'can I get it at the Dollar Store if I tossed it.'   The 'joy' for this category is eliminating storing it, finding it, and even trying to recall if I had one.    There are now Dollar Stores in almost every small town - so if -God forbid I needed what was tossed - chances are - a simple $1 will solve the problem!    
  • To top it off - you will find coins on this journey - I was laughing that you find so many that you cannot attribute it to lost relatives or friends trying to communicate to you!    Assign one place for them all to 'gather' and reward yourself at the end of the process with a trip to a local "CoinStar" machine or bank and buy something that gives you joy!    As Marie encourages - put them in your wallet and USE THEM!   

Next I'm going to continue filtering through the numerous 'small' categories.   I got through all the 'junk drawers' and office supplies - now I'll be attacking my kitchen  - that thankfully is very small!     I have no real storage but even with only 4 hanging cabinets and 1 floor cabinet I can see that I will be discarding dishes that I never use, odd ball utensils and items that have gone through their trends and phases that changed as I did. . .  So hopefully I haven't scared you away from this very profoundly 'magical' book!   I'm getting a kick out of those who are initiating their own experience and sharing the fun that they are also having with it.   And YES it is CONTAGIOUS!   Several are reporting husbands and kids who are wanting to do it too - without a single demand by a hopeful parent or spouse!   It happened in my life - hopefully it will in yours too!! EnJOY!


Karen 





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