How “Tidying Up” Can Improve Your Emotional Wellness

How “Tidying Up” Can Improve Your Emotional Wellness

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful. 

Marie Kondo

Between her international bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the Netflix favorite it inspired, it’s safe to say that Marie Kondo has got our collective attention.

For the Japanese author, organizing consultant, and originator of the “KonMari method” of home organization, her message is instinctive and obvious.

But for the legions of Americans who have embraced her mindful approach to tidying up, Kondo’s lessons feel downright counter-cultural.

And what’s more:

Their impact extends well beyond our overstuffed closets and storage bins. 

Read on for 9 ways the principles of Tidying Up can improve your emotional wellness:

1. Our habits are shaped by our mindset.

People cannot change their tidying habits without first changing their way of thinking.

Marie Kondo

Consider 1 habit you’ve struggled to adopt (or let go of) in your life. What kinds of stories have you been telling yourself about this habit? Take note of any all-or-nothing language (e.g., “I’ll never…”; “I always…”; “I can’t…”; “It’s impossible…”), and make the choice to change the way you speak to yourself. See what you notice.

2. By making changes with intention, we have the power to redefine our experience.

Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.

Marie Kondo

According to Kondo, the goal of tidying up isn’t simply a clean home. It’s a path toward creating an environment that allows us to breathe easier, supports our values, and encourages us to experience happiness.

3. Focusing too intently on the challenges in front of us can cause us to overlook the good in our lives.

I had been so focused on what to discard, on attacking the unwanted obstacles around me, that I had forgotten to cherish the things that I loved, the things I wanted to keep.

Marie Kondo

Often, we direct so much of our energy toward solving a problem in our lives that we actually miss the resources, blessings, and treasures that make that problem worth solving in the first place.

4. There is no shortcut to resolving a problem or issue; we must work through it.

Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, and the room once again overflows with things.

Marie Kondo

When we’re faced with an issue to confront, it can feel truly tempting to fast-track our way to a solution. But in sweeping a real problem under the rug, we’re only setting ourselves up for greater discomfort when we eventually confront it. Choose to be courageous now; take 1 step to work through the issue today.

5. Avoidance of discomfort can keep us stuck and limit our progress.

The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past.

Marie Kondo

When we reflect on our past, it’s natural to feel some embarrassment, regret, or even guilt, over the choices we’ve made. But, avoiding these feelings only keeps us from making changes to enjoy our best life. Challenge yourself to practice self-compassion as you take reasonable steps to improve.

6. Our habits are an expression of our priorities; of what we value.

It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

Marie Kondo

When our habits are in alignment with our values, we feel at peace. Notice a discrepancy? Take steps to narrow the gap.

7. Gratitude frees us up to let go of that which no longer serves us.

Have gratitude for the things you’re discarding. By giving gratitude, you’re giving closure to the relationship with that object, and by doing so, it becomes a lot easier to let go.

Marie Kondo

We form attachments to people, places, and objects for a variety of reasons. When we experience distress, our instinct is often to hold on more tightly. But, by giving thanks for the part they’ve played in our lives, the need to hang on to these relationships and possessions becomes weaker, freeing us.

8. Change is a personal process that begins with each of us.

There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate. You can leave communal spaces to the end. The first step is to confront your own stuff.

Marie Kondo

The people in your life are entitled to their opinions. You’re not obligated to follow their advice, however. (This is even true of your loved ones.) Honor your own process of creating change in your life, and remember that others have the option of doing the same on their own.

9. If we let it, crisis will become our only motivator for change.

It’s easy to get rid of things when there is an obvious reason for doing so. It’s much more difficult when there is no compelling reason.

Marie Kondo

Life is busy. It’s easy to default to “survival mode”, letting only the most urgent signs, symptoms, or events claim our time and attention. When it comes to our emotional wellness, however, this is a risky way to operate. By expanding our perspective a bit, we can start to see all the opportunities to improve our lives ahead of time… long before it becomes a matter of urgency.

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Mindful Goal-Setting
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Habit Change in 3 Easy(-ish) Steps

Intrigued or inspired by the messages of Tidying Up? Looking for help applying them to your life?