capturing the beautiful calamity of healing in therapy

Tidy Up Your House to Tidy Up Your Life

Tidy Up Your House to Tidy Up Your Life

Here is my confession: When left to my own devices, I’m a relatively hot mess. I don’t tidy up. In fact, by nature, I clutter my surroundings; I collect junk; I avoid cleaning until it’s insurmountable and unavoidable.

We all have shortcomings, and messiness is just one of my mine.

So, when I read the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I wasn’t expecting much beyond an hour of entertainment. Maybe I’m jaded, or I’ve just read one too many therapy resources, but self-help books rarely sustain any real motivation for me.

And, yet, this book, well, mesmerized me for reasons beyond my expectations. The concept of eliminating toxicity and maximizing joy resonated with me.

I embarked on the journey with my husband, holding and evaluating every single object that I own, every single particle of clothing to every single gift ever handed to me, and asked myself, does it spark joy? 

The takeaway? We discarded a lot of things.

What Did It Mean to Tidy Up?

To tidy up my home was to begin the journey of tidying up my life. I know this sounds disgustingly cliched, but stay with me.

We fill our schedules and days with numerous obligations and requirements. We jam-pack our precious days with both physical and mental clutter because we think we must or because society demands that of us.

Every day, I work with clients who hold onto baggage that no longer serves them. And, every day, I sit with clients expressing their fears of letting go.

It’s painful, isn’t it? Holding onto something that’s draining you, and yet clutching onto it for dear life, terrified of what it would look like without it there?

To tidy up is about evaluating your things, but it’s also about assessing your feelings.

What sparks joy for me? It’s not the most realistic or rational things. For me, it was a Disney t-shirt with a hole in it and stains on the sleeve because it’s warm and comfortable and makes me think about childhood. It was also an obscure dish that I liked, one that didn’t really match with anything else, but just felt right when I held it in my hand.

To tidy up with joy is to trust that your body, mind, and soul know what you need. It’s honoring that intuition we so readily take for granted.

When Something Doesn’t Bring Joy

You know all those clothes that you hold onto in case you lose or gain weight? Or the bold makeup you think you’re going to wear when the occasion is just right? Or the document from college you think you need even though there’s no chance anyone will ever ask for it?

I had all of those and more, and I bet most people do, too.

In this method of tidying up, you release the things you don’t need, the things that weigh you down in some fashion.

You trust that it’s okay to let them go, even if there is a slight possibility that future self may need them. Because you trust that it’s not just about what future self thinks it wants, but what present self wants as well.

It’s a strange philosophy, but a freeing one. To me, it’s mindfulness in its ultimate capacity, in both a tangible and metaphorical form. You tidy up your home, but you also learn to tidy up the rest of your life.

You learn to let go of what no longer serves you, even if it feels strange and uncomfortable. You start to embrace happiness and joy because they feel good and because, when it really comes down to it, our stuff and our baggage only carries as much weight as we allow.

Tidy Up Everything

In this process, I believe I have become a better person and a better therapist. Toxic things no longer hold a significant place in my life. Everything has a home, a purpose, and an evoked feeling.

My house is also clean and inviting, and there is joy all around me.

It’s freedom, and that’s not something you can ever buy on a shelf in the store.