Embracing Joy

In the midst of a lot of family drama that’s been going on, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into getting rid of things I don’t need and reorganizing the house. Cleaning isn’t just physically tiring when there is a lot to do–it’s emotionally draining. There has been a lot of “letting go” lately as I go through old things and decide what stays and what goes. It’s hard not to consider the people that could be offended if I choose to let go of something they gave me, or something they might have wanted. What’s makes things hard for me is that in my family, these things could be as small and pointless as a piece of paper.

After a recent trip to the library, I happened across two of Marie Kondo’s books:  “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”  and “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.” My biggest take-away from reading these books is that my stuff isn’t sparking joy: it’s sparking guilt for the most part, and in some cases sadness. Very few things are actually important to me simply because they bring joy. These things are simple: mini tea sets and tiny glass dragons and unicorns. That’s right, I’m basically an old lady about my knick-knacks.

I’ve found joy from selling creepy dolls on the Facebook marketplace: these are much better in the hands of someone else than stored in a box and hidden in a closet. I’ve also been opening collectors edition Barbie’s and giving them to my daughter. You know why? Because it’s a flipping toy. Oh, and the same thing with Beanie Babies. MOST people from my generation that were guilted into keeping all these have come to realize they are basically worthless–not worth a dime more than they were the first day they were purchased. Don’t get me started on the special McDonald’s editions…these got for max $5 each IF they come form a non-smoking home and have no damage. Coming from a smoke-house, I didn’t even try to sell em. Out of the package they came, and to my daughter they went. Also, as a teacher I’ve found that these are great props for learning animals. As a mom, I find joy in letting my daughter smile and play with these things that got stored in a box for years and never used.

I mentioned finding sadness too. I didn’t have a bad childhood, overall. My grandparents spoiled me and I enjoyed going to school. However, the reason I enjoyed school so much was that home was full of constant yelling and my mom worked so much that I felt like she didn’t want anything to do with me. Though I remember finding some peace in going to school, I struggled to make friends.

I stumbled across a box of paperwork from my elementary days. It was not uncommon for me to be voted as “the shyest” or “the quietest”. As an adult looking back, it’s a little frustrating that there really wasn’t much to me as a person besides being “the shy and quiet” one–at least, not that anyone else noticed.

For the longest time my mom held onto all of this paperwork: old report cards, pointless rewards and certificates, and ugly art projects. Eventually, as she got older and away from my grandma (the prime guilt-tripper) she passed all these things onto me. The reality is: how many generations of school work do you even need to save? No one is going to look at it. No one is going to enjoy it. The only person who will actually find any value in these things will be the one who experienced it. Clearly, it’s all trash now.

Throwing these things away was more than just decluttering–it’s letting go of the past. For too long I told me self I would LOVE to tell off that 1st and 2nd grade teacher who always yelled at my best friend and incorrectly corrected my pronunciation of schwa ‘a’. Even though she tried to make me hold my pencil like a right-handed person and made me hate reading, I eventually made it to better teachers who re-instilled a love of reading and learning. I held this grudge for so long because it made me angry that there was such a dark spot on my safe haven–the only break I ever got from being home.

There it is. A large black trash bag full of useless things, and I am happy to let this go. As I think about the concept of things that “spark joy”, I find that I really don’t have an issue with wanting things–I have an issue with not wanting to offend people. Therefore, I’m done! I’m off to make a whole bunch of people cry because I’m throwing it all out.

More by Marie Kondo

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