Tidying Up and Materialism

I recently was inspired to engage in some late spring cleaning after hearing about a book titled The Life-Changing Joy of Tidying Up. The book covers "The Japenese Art of Decluttering and Organizing", and is a fairly easy but highly informative read. The basic premise is to find a simplistic living environment by determining what objects "give you joy" and which ones don't by physically touching each object and examining your initial response. Marie Kondo says that if an object have given you joy previously, you might feel compelled to hang on to it, even if it's taking up space and creating stress-inducing clutter. However, Kondo also says that a previously joy-giving keepsake has already fulfilled its purpose, and hanging on to it isn't doing anyone any good. Instead, you can either pass it on so it can continue to spread joy (via gifting or donation), or trash it and make peace with the parting.

While the concept of touching object and looking for a "spark of joy" might seem silly, I really appreciated the greater meaning to it all. In the yoga world, we talk a lot about materialism and separating ourselves from the physical world. Oftentimes, we can trace things like greed and selfishness to materials, and a more simplistic or minimalistic life lends itself to a calmer environment. What we should be collecting are memories, not physical representations of those memories.

That's not to say you have to throw out every souvenir or trinket- if it continues to bring you joy, keep it! But it's also important to stop and consider why you're keeping it. Is it the object itself or the memory it carries? For example, I found a binder from Sophomore year Honors Chem filled with worksheets and notes I'll never need again that I kept simply because I loved the teacher. What I was holding on to was the memories of the class, but I was hoarding the physical representation of it instead of cherishing the memory.

So the other day, fed up with clutter, I tore everything out of my drawers and closet and set to work, re-evaluating my life and separating my belongings into various piles and garbage bags.

Seven garbage bags, to be exact.


I had no idea I was living with that much excess. I had homework from seventh grade I "might need later" and doodles on the backs of index cards and so many fliers and advertisements from every college ever (thank you AP College Board for selling my information and killing a small forest in the process). There were so many things that I held on to for fear that I would miss them somewhere down the road, but years later I hadn't even remembered their existence.

It's so refreshing to have a change in my environment, too. While cluttered drawers and messy closets once made my room a space of anxiety and stress, it's now a calming and productive place to be. I feel lighter. We had to call 1-800-Junk, people. It was excessive (that was partially because we only own compact cars, but I digress), but I don't think I'm alone in my nostalgia-hoarding.

I did keep some things, though, and that's okay. Avoiding being a materialistic person doesn't mean you can't own things, it's means you don't let things own you.

Here's a mantra that I love and I think goes perfectly with my quest to tidy up: "I am enough, I have enough."

And here's a challenge, if you care to implement it. The 2-Minute Rule: if a chore will take less than 2 minutes, do it as soon as you notice it. A few dishes in the sink? Transfer them to the dishwasher. A towel on the floor? Take it to the laundry or hang it up. Doing little tasks as soon as they arise avoids the massive clean-up that's overwhelming and time consuming.


I think I'd forgotten what the top of my desk looks like.