If you’re like me (and her millions of other fans across the world), maybe you’ve been inspired by Marie Kondo this year to #declutter and #sparkjoy all over your house! There is something so satisfying about clearing out junk in our lives so we can discover the profound joy of living more simply. If you’re not familiar with Marie Kondo, she is a world-renowned organization expert, whose recent Netflix series has taken the world by storm over the last 2 months as she motivates people to declutter through conscientious choices about what truly brings them joy.
What I particularly love about her trademarked KonMarie method is that she focuses more on what to keep than what to eliminate. It is true cleaning, not just for the sake of minimalism or anti-consumerism, but for the sake of living a life surrounded by things that have a positive impact on you—things that spark joy! She teaches her clients not just to organize, but to honestly evaluate each item in their home to discern if it is an item they want to cherish—and if not, remove it!
Whether or not the KonMarie lifestyle is right for you, I believe she hit on a valuable truth that merits attention:
What we choose to keep in our lives has far greater impact than what we choose to remove.
When most of us clean house, we focus on the negatives—things we don’t need, things that don’t belong, and things that don’t fit. What if we paid more attention to the things we plan to keep, things we desperately need, and things that make us feel happy? These are the things that make us who we are. Shouldn’t we be evaluating them even more stringently?
So, the question is: are you filling your life with the things that will make you the person you want to be?
This applies not only to material possessions, but also people, activities, and habits. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” What would happen if you looked closely at your five closest friends and asked yourself “is this the picture of the person I want to be?”
What about the ways you spend your time day after day? Are you filling your life with things that spark joy or are you drowning in a pile of junk that may seem important but ultimately distracts you from your best life? The truth is, we can make the choice to live the elegant and organized version of life that so many of us dream about. Or we can choose to live a life that feels like that over-stuffed closet of old clothes we hate and clutter we cling to. But just like the beautiful, organized house takes hard work and evaluation, a well-organized life requires us to take a hard look at ourselves, piece by piece, and make painful eliminations of every item that doesn’t drive us closer to our goals.
So, here’s my own version of the KonMarie method for you to clean up your life instead of just your house: (call it the AliciaMarie method, if you like. 😉)
Identify the five people with whom you spend the most time and list out some of their best and worst qualities. Look at that list of attributes and ask yourself if you are willing to become the average of them all. If the answer is no, make the courageous choice to restructure your life to spend less time around the people who drag you down. (Yes, this might mean radical changes, including things like leaving your job, firing a subordinate, moving to a new home, or walking away from toxic relationships. It might also entail commitments like personal therapy or couples counseling to resolve the issues with people that can’t just be eliminated from your life.)
For one week, write down every activity that you spend more than one hour doing. Then take that list and look at each item one by one (ideally, write down each activity on an individual index card so you can pick up and hold each one one-at-a-time.) Ask yourself, “does this activity bring me joy?” and make one pile of the things that add joy to your life and a second pile of those that do not. Now, go through the second pile and figure out what would be necessary in order to remove each activity from your life—perhaps you can delegate it to someone else, automate the process using technology, streamline to accomplish it more efficiently, or simply discontinue it altogether. Or maybe you can find ways to infuse more joy into the experience. (I made brushing my teeth more joy-filled by investing in a new electric toothbrush! Sometimes even small changes can make all the difference!)
What are you working towards, whether in your career, your relationships, or your personal life? Make a list of the objectives you are currently pursuing—and don’t leave anything out! Are you trying to lose those last 10 lbs? Saving for retirement? Working towards a promotion? Trying to buy a house? Starting a business? Whatever you dream of, write it down. Then go through your list item by item and ask these three questions for each one: 1) Will this make me a better person? 2) Will this make other peoples’ lives better? 3) Do I currently have the time/energy/resources to accomplish this goal? If you can’t answer “yes” to ALL THREE QUESTIONS, consider releasing yourself from that particular goal. If it helps, write down each one on an index card and then take the ones that you are not continuing to pursue and file them away somewhere unseen. Spend at least 1-3 months focused on the goals that you can say “yes” to and then pull out those old goals and ask the questions again.
The important thing is to STOP MAKING EXCUSES for why you are keeping self-destructive people, actions, or objectives in your life. We can always find reasons why our happiness seems less important than whatever thing or person is dragging our life down. But honestly, why spend one more day living a life where you can’t be everything you are meant to be? It’s time to give up the good for the great. Make this the Spring when you finally clean up your life for real.
When she’s not writing or cleaning, Alicia runs her own small business and works on renovating her fixer-upper home with her husband. You can read more from Alicia at www.aliciamariefay.com or check out her skincare business at www.awakenskin.care.