Quick: what is America's #1 New Year's resolution? That's a no-brainer: it's "lose weight," of course. But what do you think ranks #2 on the list? This one's not so obvious. It's "get organized."
When I first learned that so many people crave organization, I was surprised. But when I thought about it, I realized it makes perfect sense. What people actually seek is control: over their lives, their opportunities, their environment, and the people around them. So many of us--especially those who are going through monumental (perhaps unwanted or unpleasant) changes in our lives like separation and divorce--feel helpless, stuck in situations not of our own choice. This leads to a victimized, "poor me" mindset that prevents us from accepting change and moving forward. And that's not where we want to be in the New Year!
Instead, resolve to start the year off on the right foot, by engaging in what professional organizer and best-selling author Marie Kondo calls the "life-changing magic of tidying up."
I'm not sure where I first heard about Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, but I packed it as reading material when I left for a 2-week trip that was part of a month-long trial separation from my husband. Perhaps, like those pledging to become more organized in the New Year, I subconsciously wanted to gain control over a situation that was causing me nearly unbearable anguish. While Ms. Kondo's book is ostensibly about getting rid of the actual physical clutter in your home, she fervently believes that an unwieldy junk heap of clothes, books, coffee mugs, and unsorted papers is really a visual manifestation of a chaotic, unsettled mind. That's why she confidently promises that if we follow her time-tested KonMari organization method, our lives will literally be changed forever and for better.
In the introduction to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Kondo writes: "My clients always sound so happy, and the results show that tidying has changed their way of thinking and their approach to life. In fact, it has changed their future...Basically when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don't, and what you should and shouldn't do."
If you're someone who is trying to triumph over the stress, pain, and uncertainty of divorce, the ability to distinguish between what you need and what you don't, to determine which path to take, and to "put your house in order" in every meaning of the phrase, sounds like a heaven-sent gift, doesn't it? Maybe there's more to this tidying thing than we originally thought. Perhaps it has applications that transcend the obvious.
So, what is Kondo's "magic" secret? It's deceptively simple: surround yourself only by the things you love.
Here are 5 things I learned from Kondo's book that will help you create a more satisfying and optimistic post-divorce life. (Along with the benefits of a clutter-free home).
- Own your own mess. Kondo writes: "Let's imagine a cluttered room. It does not get messy all by itself. You, the person who lives in it, make the mess." Similarly, you have had an active role in the creation of your own life. Yes, I know: things have happened that you didn't want to happen. People have done you wrong. Things haven't turned out the way you'd planned. But it's your life. Once you begin taking responsibility for yourself, making decisions based on your personal values and desires--including what to keep and what to discard--you will gain the confidence that comes with being in charge. In Kondo's words: "It is by putting one's own house in order that one's mind-set is changed."
So before you quit your job, ditch your friends, or give up your rent-controlled apartment, stop and think about what you really want. Too many choices can be as much of a problem as too few, so declutter your priorities. Make a list of what matters to you, along with a 5-year plan outlining where you want to go personally and professionally. Figure out the action steps that will get you there. If at some point you decide something's not working, revise the plan. It's OK to change your mind.
It boils down to this: "There are three approaches we can take toward our possessions: Face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die," writes Kondo. The same can be said of life's challenges. If you truly want to transform your life, now is a good time to start.
I hope this article spurs you to think about new ways to move forward with your life and to embrace new opportunities as we gratefully greet the New Year. (And good luck with the weight loss).