wabi-sabi

The Intensity of Cleaning Up & Clearing Out

Photo by  Paul  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul on Unsplash

We spend huge amounts of our lives surrounded by "stuff." Piles of possessions. Mountains of things: things we bought, things we were given, things we don't even remember how we came to be in possession of.

And we spend so much time with these things of ours, that at some point we stop seeing them. We stop seeing the piles of clutter as piles of clutter - they just become part of a daily landscape.

We know the piles are there, and that they are clutter, and that we should probably do something about them, but that never quite happens.

And at some point, the clutter becomes comfortable - familiar. We get attached to our piles of possessions, so that when we do decide to tackle our piles - thoroughly and completely, once and for all - it's a very intense experience.

It turns out that many of us, don't have lots of experience detaching ourselves from our possessions - that's why it's so important to have support when you do a major clean out. Where that support specifically comes from doesn't matter quite as much as making sure you have it.

Support can come from friends or family members, an online community, a book, or even a professional organizer - we just need someone to help us get all the way to the end.

Cleaning up, clearing out, and taking an honest look at everything we own is an extremely intense process - it's why we work so hard to avoid it.

But the feeling of being free, unencumbered by our possessions is completely worth the struggles we go through to get there.

The Importance of Having Support While You Declutter

Photo by  Paul  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul on Unsplash

At it's worst, decluttering can be a completely overwhelming and paralyzing experience. But what if it didn't HAVE to be that way?

What if decluttering didn't HAVE to be painful & awful & annoying & boring?

But how could decluttering be anything else? With plenty of support and cheerleading.

Support can come from many places, but the important things that all decluttering support includes are:

1. cheerleading - all of us need cheerleading at some point when we're decluttering, so having someone to give us a little pep talk can give us the encouragement we need to keep going.

2. accountability - sometimes we need someone to stop us from just shoving all our piles under the bed, or in the closet, so having someone to help us keep ourselves accountable in a way that works for us, helps keep us from quitting halfway.

3. clear headedness - decluttering can be an intense process, bringing up all sorts of emotional gunk, so sometimes we need someone to keep a clear head while we mourn the single sock that used to make up one half of our favorite pair of socks.

Cheerleading. Accountability. Clear Headedness. The decluttering support system trifecta.

Where exactly your support comes from, is best determined by you. You could call on your friends, your family, an online community, a book, a method, or even a professional organizer (like me!) - but so long as your support system provides cheerleading, accountably, and clear headedness, you should be good to go.

What do you want your home to feel like?

Photo by  Jim DiGritz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jim DiGritz on Unsplash

"Life, is for most of us one long postponement." -Henry Miller

If you close your eyes, and imagine coming home, walking up to your front door, unlocking the lock, opening the door, and stepping inside, what does your entrance-way look like? How does it feel? What do you wish the entrance to your home looked like?

If you were to actually walk into your house right now, what would it look like? What would it feel like?

One final question, what do you wish it felt like when you walked in the door? Imagine it felt peaceful, or inviting, or comfortable. Imagine walking in the door and not feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff, the mess, the clutter, the filled to the brim-ness of it.

"…what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life."Marie Kondo, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

No one wants to feel overwhelmed when they come home. But more often than not, we do, and it sucks.

Clutter and overwhelm, unfortunately go hand in hand. When we're overwhelmed, we're less likely to organize, which leads to clutter, which feeds the overwhelm, which leads to more clutter piling up. And pretty soon, there's so much clutter that you have no idea where to start.

Clutter isn't usually the root cause of overwhelm, but certainly doesn't help things, and eventually it becomes a source of overwhelm in and of itself.

Having said that, what if we eliminate clutter, so that it can no longer be a source of overwhelm? And if you could walk into your home and not feel overwhelmed by clutter, what lengths would you go to, to keep it that way?

A new decluttering mantra - 'You only have to do this once.'

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

"If you don't like where you are, change it. You are not a tree." -Jim Rohn

Most cleaning advice goes something like "toss out five thing every day for 30 days" or "spend fifteen minutes tidying up every day" it's all about cleaning & organizing in small, consistent, continual burst forever and always (at least that's what it feels like).

But the KonMari Method is completely the opposite - in one fell swoop get rid of everything that doesn't "spark joy" and then organize what you're left with. It turns out that most of our possessions often don't "spark joy" and can be gotten rid of - which makes organizing much easier.

Of course, you have to get through the process of going through each and every possession individually first.

If you're anything like me (or most of us) you have a lot of "stuff" most of which doesn't spark joy - in my closet I only have one or two pieces that really, truly sparked joy. You'll also probably have categories of stuff that are much more daunting to get through - for me that was art supplies.

Going through everything you own, just to get rid of much of it can be quite a daunting task. What helped me was repeating "Jane, remember, you only have to do this once."

Do you get overwhelmed by too much "stuff" too?

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Too much stuff - it's a common problem.

Why do we have all this stuff? Do we really need all of it? Do we even need half of it? How do we let go of the things we don't need? How do we keep those things from coming back?

When I first started asking myself these questions, I began realizing my possessions were like an outward expression of my inner self.The state of my home, my office, my desk influenced, and also reflected how I felt.

Cluttered with bits & bobs, excess papers everywhere, piles of clothes, and boxes of this & that - don't even get me stated on my inbox & emails! - there's no end to the form that "stuff" can take.

I keep looking for clues to solve the organizational puzzle - both for myself, and my clients.

Everyone has their own puzzle to solve when it comes to organizing, with it's own clues, and it's own solution. No single solution works for everyone in every situation - the best solution is the one that works for you now.

For me, the key to my code is generally minimizing. What no longer "sparks joy?" What can I thank and let go of? What objects can move on from my life?

For me, having lots of "stuff" is overwhelming - I don't think I'm alone in this.

Since our external world reflects & influences our internal world. I find that pairing down my possessions, with intention and focus, keeping things that spark joy, and passing along things that don't - no need to throw things out willy-nilly! - helps me begin to harmonize my internal and external worlds.

Put another way.

When my space feels good, I feel good.

Marie Kondo puts it like this:

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

(quoted from an excerpt of Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" posted on slate.com)

Our "stuff" is about so much more than just the physical object - so no wonder we get overwhelmed!

And no wonder, that when we start letting go of objects that don't bring us joy, we also begin to let go of the emotional baggage attached to those objects. It's almost like, by taking 1 step towards decluttering, you're also taking 2 steps towards eliminating overwhelm.

So, what's the smallest step you could take towards decluttering, and eliminating overwhelm?

To be organized, is to be free (Thank you Marie Kondo!)

Photo by  Paul  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul on Unsplash

If to be organized is to be free, then to be organized once and for all is the dream.

I have been on a mission for more than 6 years to understand "stuff," why we have so much, what do we really need, what stuff do I want—from minimalism, to voluntary simplicity . . .  when does having too much stuff negatively impact our lives.

In late September last year, a friend mailed a New York Times article about Japanese home organizing expert Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" walks readers through the KonMari Method of organizing your home once and for all.

It took me a couple of re-readings of the article before I realized I would be crazy not to purchase the book—I am in the organizing business, after all—it’s research!

I read the book twice, at least. There were nights I could not sleep due to excitement, - these were ideas and answers I had been waiting my whole life to learn—they were the missing pieces (I know that might sound weird, but it’s true).

I have been on a mission for more than 6 years to understand "stuff." Why we have so much? What do we really need? What stuff do I want—from minimalism, to voluntary simplicity? - When does having too much stuff detrimentally impact our lives?

Back to Marie Kondo, I used self-restraint and followed the directions in her book exactly—she is insistent that one must do exactly as she says for maximum results. Basically, you won’t be doing her method if you don’t fellow her steps exactly.

Unless I trust them completely, I usually want to rebel when someone strongly suggests something— for some reason I trusted Marie Kondo—through her book, she convinced me that, her whole life, she had been trying to understand the underlying problems people have being organized.

For me, the desire to be organized is something about wanting to be at peace with what I have and what I use—it feels as though, when I am “organized” I will be free. By that I mean, I will be free to stop looking for the "right way" to be organized. The excitement of find Marie Kondo, and the KonMari Method is that it does provide the possibility of being perfectly organized - once and for all.

The organizing is a one time event - centered around eliminating everything that does not "spark joy." It turns out that most things we hold on to don't "spark joy" and can be gotten rid of - which makes organizing what's left exponentially easier.

How strong is the desire to be organized?

How strong is the desire to be free of stuff?

How strong is the desire to be FREE?

xoxo

Jane

The Difficulties of Describing, and the Inherent Contradictions of Wabi-Sabi

Photo by  Cater Yang  on  Unsplash

Photo by Cater Yang on Unsplash

How do you describe or explain an aesthetic that is inherently contradictory?

Perfect imperfection is wabi-sabi's inherent contradiction, and as an aesthetic that embraces life's imperfections, wabi-sabi also embraces life's ambiguities.

So, maybe the best way to describe wabi-sabi is through other author's writings and quotes.

And we're not alone in our stumbling over an explanation for wabi-sabi, in "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" Leonard Koren writes,

"When asked what wabi-sabi is, most Japanese will shake their head, hesitate, and offer a few apologetic words about how difficult it is to explain. Although almost every Japanese will claim to understand the feeling of wabi-sabi - it is, after all, supposed to be one of the core concepts of Japanese culture - very few can articulate this feeling."

From the book description of "Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life" by Taro Gold,

"Wabi Sabi helps us to see the beauty in imperfection, to discover that our unique flaws also can lead us to our greatest strengths and treasures…. What is Wabi Sabi? A universal ideal of beauty, Wabi Sabi celebrates the basic, the unique, and the imperfect parts of our lives. Wabi Sabi is the comfortable joy you felt as a child, happily singing off key, creatively coloring outside the lines, and mispronouncing words with gusto. On a deeper level, Wabi Sabi is the profound awareness of our oneness with all life and the environment. It includes a deep awareness of the choices we make each day, the power we have to accept or reject each moment of our lives, and to find value in every experience."

And from Taro Gold's book itself, "Appreciate this and every moment, no matter how imperfect, for this moment is your life. When you reject this moment, you reject your life. You don't have to settle for this moment, you are free to steer a different course, but for now, this moment is yours, so be mindful to make the most of it."

In "Wabi Sabi Simple" Richard Powell writes, "Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

"If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi." Wrote Andrew Juniper in "Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence"

And bringing it back to Leonard Koren, in "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers," "Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things."

So, maybe wabi-sabi really is best summed up by the phrase "perfectly imperfect." Everything - life, us, our families, our neighbors, our homes, even the description of wabi-sabi is - perfectly imperfect.

Leonard Koren's take on Wabi-Sabi

I've written a bit before about the concept of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic centered around imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. Another reason I am grateful to Marie Kondo of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up::The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I met the concept of wabi-sabi years ago, but as things go, I had forgotten there was a term that describes my philosophy in poetical terms.

My favorite writer on the subject of wabi-sabi is Leonard Koren, who writes about design and aesthetics, he wrote "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers," published in 1994. According to a 2005 New York Times article, the book "explains the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates earthiness, chance, unpretentiousness and intimacy of scale."

And in 2010, a different New York Times article said "'Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers,' first published in 1994, presented the Japanese notion of imperfect or humble beauty — you know the look, splintered driftwood against a winter sky, or a single flower past its prime."

From "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" itself:

"Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. [...] In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success--wealth, status, power, and luxury--and enjoy the unencumbered life. Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.”

Wabi-sabi isn't about lack or sterilized minimalism, it's about finding the poetry within the essence of life, and the delicate balance between having enough, and having too much stuff.

Leonard Koren advises "Pare down to the essence, but don't remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don't sterilize."

The year 2015 is going to be about accepting (and living) Perfectly Imperfect

Photo by  Andreea Chidu  on  Unsplash

At the end of 2014, I discovered Marie Kondo's work, and her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" which, along with sparking all sorts of realizations, reintroduced me to the concept of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, which centers around the ideas of imperfection and transience. "Wabi-sabi" is sometimes described as finding beauty in the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."

In other words, wabi-sabi is about live being perfectly imperfect. As much as "perfectly imperfect" sounds like a contradiction (especially as when it comes to organizing our homes), it's really not a contradiction, and is a quite freeing concept.

We all know life isn't perfect. Things come up. We fall off the wagon. Not everything stays in it's place. No system is perfect.

Wabi-sabi is living your life by finding the beauty in those imperfections, while embracing impermanence and the cycles of growth then decay. It’s heavy stuff, and also, I think quite liberating. The imperfect parts of our lives, are the parts that make our lives, ours, so why not embrace them (as hard as that can be.)

I’ve decided that 2015, for me, is the year of embracing and living by wabi-sabi, and letting life be a little more perfectly imperfect.