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Materialism & Happiness

August 23, 2015

On keeping only the things that bring you happiness

My sister recently mailed me Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and it’s got me all worked up. It really is magic. Being a woo woo junkie, I am completely sold on KonMari (Marie Kondo’s tidying method) because the entire act of minimizing and organizing is solely based on contentment and only holding on to the things that spark joy. If we are surrounded by things that trigger any other feeling than joy, we are creating distraction and noise that we subconsciously try to avoid or tune out, disrupting our full potential for happiness and productivity. KonMari is not just a method for organizing your crap, it’s a method for clearing your space of things that no longer serve you to make room for beauty, clarity, and happiness.

On keeping only the things that bring you happiness

The KonMari method suggests that you start your purging of the non-joyful in your closet. So I pulled out my four 20-gallon storage totes and everything in my closet and began asking each garment, “do you spark joy?”

The most revealing part for me was going through my stockpile of vintage dresses. Half of them were my mother’s 40s frocks that she got from a mentor in her early 20s. When I held up those dresses a sort of resentment arose. My mom couldn’t fit into those dresses anymore, and I was certain that no one else would love them as much as I did, so I had to hold on to them or else I would be the cause of their death. As for the rest of my vintage, they all reminded me of a time when I was a more naive, carefree, and sassy girl who spent hours getting ready in the morning, and if I were to let go of them, I might lose that part of me.

Then there were other garments that I’d worn SO much at one time that I couldn’t let them go because I owed my life to them. And there were pieces that I’d only be able to wear if I lost 20 pounds (never gonna happen). And there were pieces that I spent way too much money on to discard. With items that were bringing up feelings of guilt, false hope, sad nostalgia, or resentment towards having to store them, I had to let them go. After going through each and every item in my closet, including all my socks and scarfs, I was left with an incredibly condensed selection of things that spoke joy to me, all organized by color and comfortably hanging or folded happily. Outside my closet door sat 6 garbage bags full of returns to my mother, vintage for Drie, consignment, donations, and just plain ole trash.

konmari3

On keeping only the things that bring you happiness

Given my tendencies in relation to laundry, the pictures above and below make me super duper proud. Usually I wash my family’s clothes and then bunch them up in numerous baskets for a couple days before I decide it’s time to tackle folding. Yet, for the past 3 weeks I’ve been so excited (OCD excited) to put everyone’s clothes away that I fold the day of the washing, and my closet & drawers have looked like this since I finished KonMari-ing the closets!

On keeping only the things that bring you happiness

Of course, there is more that fills your house than clothing. There is artwork, furniture, appliances, knick knacks, dishes, blankets, towels, etc. If you take a moment to think about each item you own, to see what role each one has filled or continues to fill in you life, it’s easier to determine if those things are still working for you. Sometimes they are not just the beautiful or sentimental things. There are objects that don’t bring obvious joy, but they offer it up discretely by making your life easier. For example, my big, ugly dehydrator makes me happy, as does my ghetto $15 hair dryer.

Identifying Joyful Things

Clothing

It shouldn’t matter if an item is out of style or if you haven’t worn it in a year. As long as seeing it and holding it still sparks joy, let yourself be affected by it and keep it!

Photos

Most of us keep photos and other mementos to remind us of happy memories. However, if you haven’t purged your photos before, chances are that many of them spark sadness and regret. To allow space for more light and love, release those that are joyless.

Gifts

Gifts are meant to serve a purpose, and they serve that purpose the moment they are given. Do not keep a gift to avoid feeling guilty for discarding it— nobody wants their recipient of a gift to feel that way. If a gift no longer sparks joy, thank it for serving its purpose of demonstrating love. Then let it go. Relief will follow.

Furniture

After purging of the things that no longer trigger joy within you, you’ll have less to store and you can begin to look at your furniture and see what large items are stagnant downers. You may be left with abundant floor space for a happy-dance.

Once you are left with only the things that bring you joy, you will become more mindful of the things you buy as well. By being grateful for all the things you are surrounded by, gratitude swells into all areas of your life.

Happiness-generating Objects

Plants

Research has shown that the presence of plants leads to reduced stress and anxiety, increased feelings of calm, a marked improvement in mood and self-esteem and increased feelings of optimism and control. Many of them help clean the air your breathe.

Moving objects

According to Feng Shui principles, mobiles, water fountains or wind chimes increase the positive flow of energy, therefore increasing joy.

Dim lights & candles 

Dim lighting helps maintain a calming environment. Fairy lights create a balance between the light and dark areas of your home, while candles invoke the energy of purification in Feng Shui.

A Himalayan salt lamp

It is said that the miners in the Himalayan salt mines are the happiest miners on the planet because Himalayan salt emits negative ions into the air. When negative ions pair with overly abundant positive ions they help cleanse the air and the flow of oxygen to the brain is increased. Negative ions are great for your mind, body, and soul.

Nature

There is an innate human need to connect with nature. Tree branches, feathers, rocks help bring a sense of peace into the home.

KonMari Method

When objects surround you that bring up guilt, remorse, feelings of wanting a different body, feelings of failure, those objects do not serve you. They make you dwell in the past, or hope for the future. They do not encourage the practice of living in the present. Be mindful and confront these objects that do not bring joy, and let them go.