Journaling

How Marie Kondo Changed My Life: Finding My Joy in the Mess of Life

A few years ago I read Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It encouraged people to hold each item in their hands and ask if it sparked joy for them. If it did, they were instructed to keep the item, then ask it where it wants to go, and create a special place for it. It was amazing to think that such a small, unassuming book about organizing could change a person’s life. But, it did. It did something, indeed magical, in my life. So much so that I’m still processing all of what it did, how it worked, and why.

I’ve wanted to write about what this book meant to me as a way of processing my thoughts and feelings about the book: to not only pay homage to this incredible collection of thoughts and words, but also to place words to the overarching principles that I learned from the book that I can apply to other areas of my life. Since the book brought so much joy to me in the areas of my possessions, I knew that the principles could be applied and sprinkle happiness on other areas of my life too.

One of the things this book allowed me to do was to recognize the sensation and the beauty of joy. Growing up in a tough, blue collar working-class family, I was taught that hard work was not only paramount; next to family, it was everything. I was never given deep instruction on how to interact with joy, nor was I given a strong model for embracing joy by those around me. My family and those around me were very loving people. But, joy just wasn’t on their radar. Family made you happy. But, apart from that, speaking about joy was almost obsolete. I don’t remember hearing people ask or comment about emotional feelings amongst one another at all. I remember people showing signs of stress, but I don’t remember anyone ever talking about how stress was affecting them. I can’t say that I ever heard, “Do what inspires you” or “What speaks to you?” or “What sparks joy for you?” I heard plenty of, “Just keep going” with the idea of just get it done. Prior to reading Marie Kondo’s book, I don’t think I even knew how to really allow myself to embrace my joy. Without being able to acknowledge and value it, I couldn’t really navigate the space of that emotional state let alone to lean into it and cherish it.

I was raised to be tough, hard-working, respectful of others to the point of many times silencing my own thoughts and feelings, incredibly pragmatic to where I buried anything lighthearted and frivolous deep beneath my sense of duty, and responsible to an extreme. Desires were discussed as dreams or fantasies, not reality. Sometimes desires were even viewed as selfish.

This book allowed me to go easier on myself. It took the enormous and overwhelming task of tidying an entire house and broke it down into manageable component tasks. It allowed me to say that making the steps smaller and manageable was okay. It gave me a game plan so that I had a fighting chance in the form of somewhere to start, and a reliable, organized system that I felt good about. It allowed me to take each item in hand piece by piece and make a decision on it, and it allowed me to feel more comfortable following my own intuition. It allowed me to feel confidence that I could make decisions and do something really daunting and typically overwhelming if I had a system and just started.

It helped me to see that I could pick and choose my life based on my own thoughts and feelings. And rather than focus on worry, negative emotion, negative feelings, and fear, it opened me up to the magical perspective of basing the decisions in my life on joy. That was a profoundly powerful shift in my thinking. And I will be forever grateful. Marie Kondo helped me to go from a mindset of negativity, with a proclivity towards being depressed, worried, anxious, and fearful, to a positive, more meaningful and more productive mindset. She elevated my energetic frequency. She prompted me to live an inspired life: the life I wanted to live instead of the life I thought I should live or the life I had to live.

Before this book, I thought I procrastinated on big projects because I was afraid of doing all the work. But going through this process actually made me realize that I enjoyed doing all the tidying. I wasn’t afraid of hard work. I realized that I was actually just afraid of not being able to do the project (to finish it, or to do it well) or not knowing how to do it or where to start. It’s the unknown of it and the lack of confidence that actually paralyzed me and rendered me unproductive in the past. Going through this program actually helped to build my confidence, because I learned and mastered a skill. I did it! And it felt amazing to feel that sense of accomplishment. Learning and mastering a skill has actually been shown to be really important in the development of confidence in children. And I can see why.

But I think one of the most important things this book did was to demonstrate that I have agency over the way I live my life. What I keep in my life and what I discard of, I get to choose. That’s been a powerful revelation. And it’s something that contributes to happiness. Because we feel happy when we have control over our own lives. It drains our energy when we feel powerless, out of control, or hopeless. I can create a home that I love. And I deserve that. And it doesn’t take a lot of flashy or expensive things for me to be happy. I actually don’t need a lot of material things to be happy. I don’t even need to be wealthy to be happy. I get to choose. And to me, that is a core source of happiness: the freedom and the opportunity to choose the things I love and cherish.

Marie Kondo’s kindness and proclivity toward mindfulness, positivity, and gratitude also gave me permission to be in the moment, to connect with others, and to be seen. To be seen without fear of judgment. To be seen without fear of not being enough. It helped me to see that we are all in a process. But let’s be kind and acknowledge the good that things (and people) have done for us and thank them for it. Because it’s those things that have shaped us into who we are today.

The book gave me permission to be in the present moment long enough to feel gratitude, joy, contentedness and peace. I enjoyed it. I experienced a ton of joy while undergoing the process. At the completion of the program, it allowed me the moment to say, I’m finished. I often take too long getting things prepared for a project that I often don’t get started. Or, once I get started, I tend to take too long on all the details that I never get to the end. But going through the tidying process made me realize that having a distinct ending helps. Liking what you’ve done is rewarding and meaningful. This process helped me get to a place in my life processes where I could say, I’ve done everything I set out to do and to say, I am enough.

Thank you, MK.

-R

Robbed, Destitute—But Coming Back Swinging!

Had a really tumultuous weekend in my hometown. Was in town helping a friend of mine with a photo shoot for a fashion spread in a national girl’s magazine he shoots for. We were shooting two models against the backdrop of an old abandoned fort in Baltimore County just past Miller’s Island. The shoot was grueling with mishaps happening at every turn. We were working hard all day to make sure the shots were incredible. Thankfully in spite of all of the issues that arose, the shots we captured were amazing—truly stunning.

Sometime within the course of the photo shoot, someone shattered the passenger window of my friend’s car to steal some of my most prized possessions: my wedding rings, my favorite Kate Spade weekender bag, my designer handbag given to me by my mother for my birthday, make up and clothes that I curated with care, my glasses carefully selected and fitted by a boutique over multiple trips to NYC, and my treasured special edition iPod. The thieves also used my credit cards to charge over $500 worth of gas and merchandise as well as taking the cash and checks in my purse, my phone charger, and my car keys.write pic

In spite of being robbed of over $7K worth of some of the most expensive of my most prized possessions, I was most heartbroken over losing the journal that was tucked inside my Kate Spade bag. I was writing in this lovely space over the past year. A small pink notebook with beautiful gold lettering on the front with the words, “Write” inscribed on the front. This tiny token probably only cost $15. But to me, it was a priceless item that cannot fully be replaced. I’ve had so much personal growth over the past year and each milestone was documented within the pages of my little pink journal. I was also in the process of writing a series of children’s books—and had just completed a concept web outlining the backbones of each book in the series of 7-10 books that fit the theme. These inspired ideas came at a stroke of genius moment just one week ago while late-night writing at one of my favorite coffee houses after a long day. It was one of those monumental moments where the ideas were flowing, and I felt so energized to get the project going that I began making plans to collaborate with illustrators and publishers to get these inspired ideas out there. My journal also had pages of sketches for clothes I recently designed during other moments of inspiration. I was working toward creating them for events this year. I also had painstaking notes on trip details and options for traveling to a few destinations to celebrate my milestone birthday this fall, which took mad time and energy to research and plan. All of which I enjoyed and loved doing at the time—so for me, this journal was a patchwork quilt of pieces of my life that I loved. It documented these moments of insight as they happened. And it contained exciting plans for the future.

The county police officer was invested in trying to help me regain what I lost and to identify the suspects. After the shoot, my friend and I went back to his place to determine a plan of action. Thankfully the hair/make-up venue used their shop-vac to clean out the chards of glass scattered around the passenger side before we drove home. They were able to clean about 90% of the glass. The drive was pretty crazy as some of the residual small chards of glass still crackled in the side of the door as we went over bumps or made sharp turns. Each time the car accelerated, both of us kept forgetting that he no longer had a window and instinctively pushed the window button to try to shield ourselves from the wind. Upon each attempt, we both cringed hearing more grass cracking in the slit where there should have been the smooth caressing sound of an intact window closing. Thankfully, we made it to his house without any more mishaps. I decided to go out to unwind and connect with other people. I decided to drive back to my mom’s house to shower and change since I was super muddy from the shoot. That’s when I realized those tools stole my damn car keys, so I was stranded with nothing but the clothes on my back without access to my car or cash. Nothing I could do about accessing the car that night. Everything was closed. car window

I was super dirty from shooting outside at an abandoned fort all day. So, I showered and washed the clothes I was wearing. As I stood in the shower washing the last of my make up off, I felt pretty stripped of everything I held dear. Without any cash or cards to replace any of the items that were stolen—I felt pretty destitute. Sounds pretty dramatic, but it’s truly how I felt. Grr, I was going to have to go out on a Friday night without any makeup on.

I decided to still go out despite that I felt naked and destitute without any of my usual things. And I met up with some really great people. So weird to have nothing but the clothes on my back that night. No money, no credit cards, no car, no purse, no makeup, no dress clothes, no favorite shoes, no phone. But I had friends. And that was nice.

So crazy but this moment of destitution actually sparked some painful memories of the feeling of abandonment and destitution related to being abandoned as a little baby when my birth father gave me up for adoption. It was painful to make the connection as I stood there in the shower and reflected on how destitute I was when I was left as a little baby to fend for herself with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small box of toys. I realized that since I was able to bounce back from that, I was sure I could bounce back from this.

I’ve learned so much from this experience. May sound cliché, but these moments really did remind me of what was important. Do I need to have the best make up, the finest clothes, the biggest engagement ring? No. Do I really even need more than a little food and water? Not right now.

The night I was robbed, my husband was able to work with my friend and I over the phone to help me devise a plan of how to get a new set of car keys. And the next day my friend Sean and my mom spent the time to help me get my car towed and get a replacement set of keys programmed at the dealership. I am so grateful for their TLC. I couldn’t have done it without them. Being completely purseless, my mom spotted me money for food, the tow, and the new car key. All of these kind gestures made me really think of how truly grateful I am to have such wonderfully loving people in my life who care about me. If I didn’t have them around, I truly would have been in a pickle. I am so appreciative for all of the people in my life who I know I can truly trust and count on in moments of need, namely my mom, my husband, and my friends.

I think that holds true for my adoption story too. While I was left with nothing material apart from the clothes on my back, I was placed into the loving care of my adoptive mother. She was always a huge source of love and support, and without her I would be truly lost! I am convinced that it was her unconditional love for me that gave me the confidence I have in myself to be the strong woman who I am today. I don’t let her know how much she means to me as much as I should.

Losing such precious things reminded me of how fleeting things are, and how important it is to savor and enjoy the things you love in your life—because nothing lasts forever. This past year I invested a lot in myself. The things that were stolen were so painful to lose because I loved them so much. Makes it easy to think it may be better not to care about anything at all. But at the same time, I think it’s better to love something for a while to then lose it than to never put yourself out there to love anything at all.

After traumatic things happen like this, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to question whether or not I should’ve done something differently. Should I have traveled to Baltimore, gone on the photo shoot, left my bags in the car, or the list goes on. But I think that when you put yourself out there and take risks and do amazing things, some bad things are bound to happen in the process, and that’s just life. I would much rather live a huge life and have things happen than to stay reclusive and lead a small life where nothing really happens at all.

I can rewrite the ideas in a new journal. After all, the journal itself is only a written expression of thoughts that I myself created—and thank God, I am still here. So, I can create something new. Conceiving the ideas are the hardest part of writing. Once the idea is conceived, it’s fairly easy to rewrite –especially for something as memorable as an idea conceived during a stroke of insight. And I can buy more beautiful clothes and handbags. There is a silver lining in everything. I am allowing myself the space to be mellow, chill, and sad for a time, because this experienced sucked!!! But after that, I am going to use this angry passion for the things I lost to fuel a flame to recapture everything that I lost and held dear or to reinvent them in a fresh new way.

This loss was a personal attack trying to keep my spirit down. But it’s done the opposite. This loss actually fanned a flame for the things that I’m really passionate about. It’s pissed me off. But in a good way. I feel so incredibly fired up that I feel even more energized to fight even harder to move forward with the things that I planned in my journal. I feel so incredibly stoked to write that I can’t even stand it. I am going to redesign the garments I sketched and create them to love and show off and cherish. I am going to recount and rewrite every detail of every memory from my previous journal that I still want documented in a beautiful new journal, or incorporate them into a book I am working on—which was even better. I am going to pick out gorgeous new clothes, and who doesn’t love that?? I am going to buy new makeup that I love. And I am going to use this as an opportunity to redesign new rings to fit the personality and style that I want to convey in a fresh way, rather than to try to duplicate my previous wedding rings. I have a few jewelry designers in mind, so will be a fun new endeavor that I am excited about. This is a fresh start.

I am not the type to just take things lying down. This terrible thing knocked me down, but I’m gonna come back up swinging. For a while now, I’ve been burning to do a long distance race. Don’t know what it was, but I felt an immense desire to run over the past couple months. And this trying experience tipped the scale and inspired me to commit to training for one. I don’t know what it is about pushing yourself physically that makes you somehow stronger and your enemies weaker… but it does. And I’m ready for that.

I’m not going to let these criminals ruin the things that I love and the things I cherish in my life! I’ve got too much going for all of the things I’ve set out to do!

Just thinkin’ out loud. Hope these thoughts hit you right.

Sending my love, prayers, and positivity out to you! Send ‘em back to me, please! I’m gonna need them this week. < XoXo