If you aren’t living under a rock, you’ve most definitely heard of Marie Kondo, a 4’7” Japanese woman who has changed the way people see clutter. Her book, The Art of Tidying Up, has sold over 11 million copies and has been turned into a Netflix show, where Kondo arrives Queer Eye style to help families conquer clutter in their homes—“stuff” that’s often tied to cluttered emotions.
Kondo will hold in front of her each item in the home and ask her famous question, “Does it spark joy?” If the answer is no, the person will thank it for its service and say goodbye. It seems to be an almost-spiritual practice. In the post-clutter interviews, the people always seem serene, free, and ready to move forward.
But who says decluttering should only refer to physical belongings? I’m here to advocate for taking Marie-Kondo’s approach to decluttering and applying it to nearly every facet of your life. Ask yourself about your relationships. Do they spark joy? If no, then insert some space. Or if you must, face the music and respectfully tell the people in your life (hopefully, not your in-laws!) where you stand. Beyond humans, here are a few things you can clear from your personal life. (And please note that the sarcasm here is meant to lighten the topic, perhaps give you a good belly laugh, as this process can be an emotional one).
Trying to save dying houseplants. Do you feel guilty for killing every plant you buy? Join the club. Here’s the thing: You can stress yourself out for killing your seventh grocery store orchid, or you can just head back and get another one. Shouldn’t houseplant be an oxymoron anyway? I mean, we have yanked plants out of their natural habitat, jammed them into tiny containers where their roots have no space, then placed them indoors where there is no sun, rain, or wind. What did we think was going to happen? Consider the gas, time, expense, and chaos you could forgo by simply taking houseplants off your list. Instead, spend more time outside in nature where plants normally thrive, inhale the oxygen, roll around in the dirt, and breathe.
Pretending to like people’s pets and sitting on hair-covered furniture at other people’s homes. I know, I know, this is heartless. But I must confess, I am part of the silent demographic of people who don’t like dogs. (Yes, I have already told God I am sorry.) If you need someone to give you permission to decline a dog’s offer to lick you in the face, here it is. You do not have to give a sympathy pat on the head to the smelly St. Bernard. You do not have to lie and say the tutu-clad Chihuahua is cute. Instead, you can smile politely and say, “I’m not really a dog person.” Or you can lie and say you’re allergic. That actually works much better. As for wearing all-black and visiting a friend who insists you recline on her dog-hair-covered sofa? You could either remind her that standing versus sitting may have health benefits (see https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2047487317752186), or be honest. You don’t have a lint roller attached to your keychain, and you’d just rather not sit down on that hairy couch!
Caring about what you look like. Great news—the dad bod is in! With all the initiatives toward body positivity, it’s becoming more and more normalized to look normal. Imagine that! We all know the older we get, the less we care about how we look. It’s the road we are all on, so why not just skip to the part where we walk to the curb in our undies and slippers with unwashed, tangled hair on a rainy Saturday afternoon to collect our mail? Thank those uncomfortable pointed-toe slingbacks and the week’s worth of dry clean-only suits for their service, and into the donation pile they go. Let’s also skip trying to follow so many food rules, memorizing so many ingredients, siphoning the large salt crystals from the edge of our margarita glass, and counting those calories on a dozen apps cross-linked from phone-to-watch-to-iPad-to-laptop-to-personal trainer-to-fitness video subscription…and eat and drink what’s easiest—bananas, apples, scarf a quick baguette from the bakery on your drive home, drink H20 from a reusable water bottle. Spending time and money on Botox injections, liposuctions, steroid pills for flat abs, weekly mani-pedis and blowouts, not to mention hours in front of the mirror... Just think of all the time you’d create (and money you’d save) to share with loved ones by taking these items off your must-do list. Simplify.
Plenty of other things could be thrown into the give-away pile. I’m sure you can even think of some now, like eating cheese alternatives (and whether to choose soy-based, almond, or oat- milk-based), tracking half-teaspoons of coffee creamer in your daily calorie count, or listening to your cubicle buddy tell you everything that happened on The Bachelorette last night. But in all seriousness, something we can declutter from our lives are unfair expectations—whether it’s the expectation that you should have a green thumb, or look photo-ready 24-7. Whatever you do decide to put in your no-longer-need-it, no-longer-want-it, no-longer-brings-me-pleasure pile, I would advise you to keep your in-laws.