Many of you may be familiar with Marie Kondo’s books which guide us to declutter our home enabling us to simplify and organize our living spaces once and for all. She offers this simple question to help us purge — “Does this item spark joy?”
I’ve recently had a big garage sale in preparation for my upcoming move and I found it pretty easy to part with items I have been dragging around for years by honestly answering that one question. Admittedly, there was a strong sentimental attachment to some items like my wedding china which has been moved 5 times over the past 18 years and were used maybe a dozen times. It was stored in padded covers in closed cabinets. The china didn’t spark joy — the memories of how Skip loved to shop for it is what really sparked my joy!
Those memories take up no space and do not have to be carefully transported once again to yet another dark closet. My kids didn’t want the china and neither did my closest friends. Seeing the joy that it brought to a woman who yearned for good china all her life and who entertains her large family quite often made parting it with it all the easier.
What has happily surprised me is that I feel happier, lighter and freer now that I have parted with a lot of “stuff” and am enjoying a minimalist approach to my living space. My reward for accomplishing this daunting task was a huge bouquet of freshly cut, fragrant flowers.
Being completely candid, it is probably easier for me than most to pare down like this. After all, I foresee myself living in a small apartment and traveling often over the next 5 years or more. So from a practical standpoint, it just makes sense to simplify my possessions.
Now picture me sitting in my uncluttered space and asking myself one more very serious question. If I can declutter my home and part with possessions that are not sparking joy, could I also declutter my mind and part with well-worn habits that are not serving me well?
When I start to ruminate or recall a painful memory, could I stop myself and ask — is this helping me live in the present moment enjoying a peaceful, joy-filled life?
When I procrastinate on dealing with a challenging person or situation, is it really helping me move forward or is it keeping me in quicksand?
Recognizing that old habits and conditioned responses are cluttering my mind and eating up a lot of real estate in that busy brain of mine, it was time for personal clean up.
Mindfulness has been the key in helping me move on from a failed relationship over this past year. It’s many benefits include improved physical health, stronger family relationships, deepened personal friendships and greater enjoyment of my activities and projects.
So I laughed at myself and acknowledged that there’s still more work to be done.
A yoga instructor once wisely pointed out that we improve physically and spiritually through small increments over long periods of practice. One day we realize that we can do that backward bend much farther than we once did, but it did not happen overnight. It happened over months — with lots of committed practice.
The same is true with mindfulness. We can effect some pretty remarkable changes in our lives by rewiring our brains through awareness and mindfulness practice.
The common thread boils down to intention.
When purging my house and personal possessions, my intention was to eliminate material things I didn’t need or want anymore. There was tangible evidence that I was accomplishing the goal because my house was uncluttered.
The challenge with a mindful intention is that my busy mind wanders far and wide throughout the day. It is all too easy to get caught in an old familiar loop of thinking and feeling and the next thing you know, I have eaten half a bag of salty potato chips instead of the healthy carrot sticks so meticulously prepped in the morning! Worse yet, I wasn’t even hungry – just bored or upset.
Striving to utilize Marie Kondo’s sparking joy theory, I’m paying more attention to my thoughts and actions as part of my daily intention.
All my hopes and aspirations, my values, principles and my character reside in my brain and in my heart. It’s also where all those priceless, precious memories are stored.
Housecleaning my mind frees up valuable space so there is expansive room to invite new experiences and positive, mindful living into my present and future life.
It’s going to take a lot of practice and I’m betting I’ll get a lot of chances throughout each day to work on it:)