A few years ago if you would have told me the hottest, trendiest show on Netflix today would be a show about “tidying up,” I would have thought you were crazy.
There is so much content on streaming platforms these days — some of it’s even nominated for Oscars. And we’re watching people clean? Sandra Bullock is paddling down white water rapids wearing a blindfold. Every comedian you’ve ever heard of has a comedy special — and they’re getting coffee with Jerry Seinfeld. People are making really horrible cupcakes on “Nailed It!” “The Office” is even on there — like, all of it. And I’m watching people clean?
Yes, I, too, got sucked into the polar vortex (or maybe that’s something else) of Marie Kondo. “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” is apparently starting a revolution of people vertically stacking their folded shirts, putting all their silverware in tiny boxes and “sparking joy” in every room they enter.
It’s hard to argue with the results. A clean and organized house is refreshing. Our lives are complicated enough, so putting things away appropriately and living in an attractive home is appealing.
As great as that process is and as weirdly binge-worthy Marie Kondo’s show is, I started to realize that maybe I could use some tidying in other areas of my life.
I live a stupidly busy life. I’m guessing you do, too. I like busy. I like doing a bunch of tasks and checking a bunch of boxes. When I take a minute to stop, it’s easy to see how messy my mind is. Frankly, a journey through my brain probably looks a lot like the “before” shots on “Tidying up.”
I have that project lying over here. It’s not finished, but I know where I left it and I’ll come back to it tomorrow. And, oh … that? Yeah, I meant to finish that yesterday, but I had too many other tasks to finish. I also meant to send that thank-you note lying over there, but I haven’t had 10 minutes to consider what I would even write.
When I have a cluttered mind, it’s hard to feel at peace. Instead what comes more naturally are feelings like worry, stress, pressure and joylessness.
Let’s pause for a minute to read these words from Paul in his letter to the Philippians:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Ahh. That. That sounds more like a Marie Kondo home and less like my cluttered mind.
Busyness isn’t necessarily honorable.
Pressure to succeed isn’t pure.
A long to-do list isn’t lovely.
Dwelling on your shortcomings isn’t commendable.
For a lot of us, busyness is unavoidable. We simply have to work to pay our bills and care for our family. We don’t have much control over that.
What we do have control over is how we think and what we think about. Do you find yourself constantly focusing on what you didn’t get done today? Are you carefully sidestepping junk in your mind you meant to get rid of a long time ago? Do you worry you’re not good enough or that you should be “better” than you are at this point in your life?
I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to completely get rid of those thoughts. However we can direct our thoughts. We can force ourselves into positivity through gratitude. God wouldn’t have included those words in Philippians if they were impossible. We are able to think about lovely things when less-than-desirable thoughts come more naturally.
One aspect of the “Tidying up” show I keep hearing people talk about is how Kondo responds to junk. As she’s helping people get rid of clutter, she instructs them to treat these inanimate objects with kindness. She encourages them to put down the items carefully, gently fold and express gratitude as they say goodbye to things they no longer need.
I’ll be honest: I thought that was super weird.
But the more I thought about it the more I realized that it could be strangely meaningful to give a proper goodbye to something.
So if you find yourself with an overly cluttered mind, maybe it’s time to gently fold that side hustle and send it on its way. Maybe it’s time to stop checking your phone every 46 seconds. And that one memory from your previous job or relationship? It might be nice to remember, but holding it too closely may not be pure and commendable.
Maybe it’s time to thank God for the lessons those things taught you and then gently and respectfully send them on their way.
A cluttered mind (and a cluttered house) is common. Many people don’t live with an overabundance of peace. But we can do better. Again, from Paul:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
We don’t have to live in the messy chaos of clutter. Instead, we can live by prayer with thanksgiving, trusting God to meet our needs and direct our future.
And that is how you truly spark joy.
Copyright 2019 Matt Ehresman. All rights reserved.