I really thought Part 4 of this series was going to be the easiest to write. After all, Komono (miscellaneous) is the largest category by far. We’ve spent weeks on it, and with so much content to draw upon I expected this last post to basically write itself. But I can’t seem to get started, and I think it’s because I’m having trouble deciding…
What kind of story is this?
Is it a horror story? If so, I could lead off with this picture, which shows what our living room really looks like when we pull every single toy out at once:
Is it a love story? Nothing says true love like a picture of your wife cleaning out the bathroom cabinets at 11:21 PM on a Friday night, searching for counter space between her glass of white wine and the baby monitor:
Maybe it’s a comedy? After all, it was pretty fun when we found a giant box of paper towels and made a game out of stacking them up and my daughter knocking them down:
(She’s fine, by the way)
Well if I’m being honest, I already know what kind of story I want it to be: a redemption story. But it’s hard to write a redemption story when you don’t know how it’s going to end.
And at this point, I have no idea. Sure, I could post some “after pictures” of our condo in all of its tidy glory. But the truth is I’m not concerned about whether our clothes are properly folded in February. I want to know if our drawers are going to be stuffed again in March, in December, and beyond. I want this to be life-changing, and I’m struggling to write about it because at this point I don’t know if we’re going to get there.
I guess I’m worried about the exact same thing I was worried about in the January series on Working Out. What happens when the novelty wears off? What happens when we reach a “plateau” with our cleaning, and can no longer point towards dozens of trash bags and hundreds of pounds of progress? What about the daily grind?
This past week I got a tweak in my neck, either from doing shoulder presses or from sharing a bed with a sick two-year-old and a wide-awake nine-month-old. I decided not to lift that morning, and on the way to work I got worried. I thought, here we go… this is exactly what happened last year.
But something changed. That afternoon, I felt… agitated. I wanted to workout. Not to check a box or to fill in a spreadsheet or to develop content for a post. I wanted to workout because I workout now. And so I swam a few laps on my lunch break. No more than ten minutes, but I felt so much better afterward. Something awesome has happened that I didn’t expect: working out has become my default setting.
And that’s what I’m hoping will happen with this Konmari Method: I want to change my default setting. I’m looking for a real, permanent change in my approach to organizing my home. And while I can’t say I’ve experienced a complete paradigm shift, I can say I’ve experienced, as Marie Kondo might put it…
It happened when we finished our bedroom. I remember standing in the doorway after putting away the last of our clothes, admiring the clean surfaces of our furniture, smelling the freshly vacuumed carpet, and experiencing a feeling that’s difficult to describe. A feeling that comes from knowing exactly what’s in a room, and knowing that every single item is where it should be and has been placed there purposefully. It was a feeling of calm, of clarity, and of control.
Control is one of those words that comes with a lot of baggage. The desire for control, if taken to an extreme, can cause serious problems. Parenting forums are full of advice saying that, as a parent, you should just embrace the chaos, and that good parenting isn’t about keeping a clean house but about being present with your family.
And I don’t disagree with that; but what I’ve come to realize is that joy and order are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe they complement each other. And my wife and I have decided that we want both. There are plenty of things in life that are beyond our control, but the things we own are not among them.
Just the other day I saw my daughter playing with her toy kitchen for the first time in weeks. And she was using it the way it was actually meant to be used, as a toy kitchen and not just a storage place for clutter. She brought me a cookie, and as I pretended to nibble on it I smiled and thought, this is what we’re going for.
Like I said, I don’t know how this is going to end. A year from now we could be right back where we started, and this blog series could just be a painfully well-documented example of us trying, and failing, to change our lives.
But right now, I’m going with the spark.
New series starts next week. In January and February we worked on developing good habits. In March, we’re going to try and manage some bad ones. See you then!