Jason Wright: Cleaning is good for the closet and your soul
Have you read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”? Author Marie Kondo’s book has cleaned up quite nicely, selling more than 5 million copies since its 2014 release.
Here’s the skinny on this little book: tidying up our homes and offices can be a breeze. Simply discard or donate everything that no longer fulfills its purpose or brings you joy. For Kondo’s army of believers, the art of decluttering has become an almost spiritual experience.
With my own closet full of more shirt choices than Golden Corral – which is appropriate given that half of them have evidence of Golden Corral – I decided to put the art of tidy to the test.
I confess it felt good to say goodbye to old trade show T-shirts, terrible ties, Christmas socks, and denim shorts that haven’t been cool since, well, never.
When I was done with round one, I stepped back and admired the view. The last time my closet was so clean, it was empty and I was admiring it with a real estate agent.
With a dash of confidence that maybe there really was something to this tidying tidal wave, I sat in my office and began asking myself what tools and trinkets are propelling me forward and which are needless relics of the past.
Do I need three copies of a newspaper I appeared in 12 years ago? Five blank VHS tapes? How about a squishy stress ball from a company that hasn’t been in business since the days of “Hawaii Five-0”? (The original, not the reboot.)
Piece by piece I bid farewell and saw my space take on a new personality. I noted that although the decisions weren’t always easy, freeing myself from the visual clutter had a cleansing effect I couldn’t deny.
Then back to work I went, quickly falling into a routine of worrying about deadlines and deals, relationships and regrets, mistakes and missteps. Before long I was staring into space and realizing that my spiritual life was even more cluttered than my closet and office.
On a piece of scrap paper pad I probably should have junked an hour earlier, I made a list of the junk I’d collected but could not see. The failed ventures, the broken promises, the silly arguments, the man who stole from my family and the friend who hasn’t spoken to me in nearly 20 years.
The list included big-picture regrets and micro-mistakes. It featured a book I should have already written and another I wish I’d written differently.
Next came a scribbled question: “Why am I holding onto this junk?”
While there’s tremendous value in evaluating the past and learning from mistakes, I wondered if there should be a statute of limitations on how long we’re required to store regret, heartache, grief and guilt.
Rereading my list, I asked if anything in this prized collection was bringing me joy. Are these memories blessing my life and propelling me forward? Or are they just taking up space in my closet?
And what’s the point of organizing and cleansing our physical worlds without doing the same in our spiritual worlds?
Storing anger at a family member? Throw it out.
Stashing regret for the job not taken? Toss it.
Clutching guilt for the words you spoke? Apologize to God and the offended. Then forgive yourself and chuck the memory in the trash forever.
Let’s try it.
Make today the day we gather our spiritual clutter and ask ourselves the same questions we would about any of smorgasbord of stuff.
Then let’s thank the memories for their service, for the lessons, for the growth and donate them permanently to the past.
Because if it’s good for your closet, it’s good for your soul.
(My favorite reader of the week is Jennifer Funk. Thanks for reading!)
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org