A Healthier Tomorrow – Time to tidy up

A Healthier Tomorrow – Time to tidy up

Imagine a Healthier Tomorrow

By Alison H. Page

You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard, read or seen something about a young woman from Japan named Marie Kondo.  Ms. Kondo is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  My daughter, Gretchen, gave me a copy for Christmas.  I can’t imagine why.  Generally, I consider myself to be very tidy, but I, like many people, have accumulated a lot of things over time and I am not very good at taking the time to get rid of them.  It could also be that she is becoming increasingly concerned that I won’t live forever, and she will have to assume a major role in cleaning out my house when that time comes.  She did also give me The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.  Hmmm…. 

This is a column focused on health and wellness.  So, what does tidying up have to do with being healthier?  Well, as it turns out there is a relationship between the two. 

The KonMari Method of tidying rests on a simple premise: Identify and remove all items in your home that do not “spark joy.” The items are thanked for their service before hitting the curb or the donation box.  Here are the key steps:

  1. Sort by categories, not location. We are all tempted to say, “I am cleaning the basement today.” Instead, start with a category of belongings, clothes today, books tomorrow, etc. The fact is we have too much stuff and may store the exact same type of item in multiple places.  When we sort by category, we bring all of one type of item to one place and then evaluate what to keep and what to discard. 
  2. Sort in order- one category at a time. Start with the easier things and move to the harder things. Kondo recommends starting with your clothes and then moving to books, papers, household items and finally, sentimental items. 
  3. Follow the process. For example, to “tidy” your clothing start by removing all clothing from every corner of your home and put it in one place.  I spread a large bed sheet in my living room and piled it all there.  Then sort by sub-category (e.g. tops, bottoms, socks, coats and jackets, shoes, purses).  Once this is done, focus on one sub-category at a time, taking each object in your hands and asking yourself, “Does this object spark joy?”  If not, move it to the discard area and move on.  Don’t pause and try to convince yourself that your old t-shirt still has life in it, or that you can wear it for painting or lawn work.  Express gratitude for the service the item has provided and move it along.   People often make the mistake of approaching sorting by asking what they can discard.  The real trick, instead, is deciding what to keep.  Keep only the things you love, the things that “spark joy.”  Discard the rest. 

You get the idea.  In her book, Ms. Kondo goes into much more detail about how to fold and store clothing, and which papers to keep and which to shred.  But, let’s move on. 

The point is, tidiness will alter more than your domicile. Uncluttered space transfers into the mental realm, too: “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too,” Kondo writes. “As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.” 

Much research has been done on the impact of our physical environment on our sense of emotional and social well-being.  There is evidence that living in a cluttered environment causes higher stress levels.  And, of course, stress causes all kinds of health issues.  There is also a correlation between household clutter and procrastination, meaning people with more clutter put off doing things they could or should be doing.  It is unclear whether clutter leads to procrastination or procrastination leads to clutter. Regardless, the findings of one study reported in Current Psychology in June of 2018 indicate that “procrastinators report excessive clutter and they find their overabundance of possessions negatively impacting on their identity.”

It is very clear that stress and procrastination are two of the major impediments to people becoming who and what they dream of being.  So, this spring start building your healthier tomorrow by tidying your home.  You won’t believe the difference it will make in your life. 

Note: As you tidy, I would like to put a plug in for donating your unwanted items to Treasures from the Heart in Baldwin, River Falls or Osceola.  All proceeds from the Treasures stores go to support Adoray Home Health and Hospice ( https://adoray.org ).