All three of my daughters – who are all young moms – love watching “Tidying Up” on Netflix. It’s awesome to see them learning so much from Marie Kondo, and having fun while they do it. And they’re not just watching her show, they’re following through and tidying up their own homes. I know it’s actually happening because I’ve seen pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Marco Polo of piles of garbage bags full of stuff that they have cleared out of closets… so far. They’re not done yet!
Back in the days when I was a young mom (when the internet was new and there was no Netflix!) we had Emilie Barnes. Her books and conferences helped us do what Marie Kondo is helping people do now. I can still remember working my way through the house with three large black garbage bags: one for things to throw away, one for things to give away, and one for things that need to be put in their correct place in the house or storage. And when one bag got full, I’d grab another one and keep going.
This whole “everything old is new again” phase of de-cluttering and organizing fits right in with my personality and my heart. One of my favorite words is SIMPLIFY. In fact, I have a sign that pretty much always hangs above my fireplace and a temporary tattoo waiting for me to put on my arm this summer, that say just that! Simplify. “Keep it simple.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that or said that over the course of my life.
So if you’ve already discovered Marie Kondo and started tidying up, keep going! De-cluttering and simplifying your home and your life is a great thing. And for those of you who haven’t, it could be worth your time to at least check out “Tidying Up” on Netflix.
And for all you “Tidying Up” enthusiasts (like the Emilie Barnes followers of my day) I’d like to suggest something you might want to keep in mind after you’ve dragged all those bags of stuff that you don’t want anymore – the things that don’t bring you joy – out of the house. It’s a lesson I learned back in the day that has helped me over the years
Don’t just fill your house up again with more stuff!
If I can offer a suggestion to help with that – don’t only use the “Does it spark joy?” question as the determining factor when you buy new things from now on. If you do, there’s a good chance you’re just going to fill your life and home up with more stuff to replace the stuff you just cleared out. Keep in mind that many things we buy might bring us joy at the time (like most of the things you just dragged out of the house once did!), but in six months, or a year, or three years… they might end up in one of the “these things don’t bring me joy anymore” bags. Now I’m not suggesting that you can’t ever buy something simply because it makes you happy, but that shouldn’t be your foundational question every time you’re trying to decide if you should buy something or not.
So how do you know what to buy and what not to buy, so you don’t just clutter your house up again? As I’ve tried to keep my life simple over the years, my bottom line question whenever I was considering buying something has been “Do I need this?”
Sometimes that question alone is enough. When my vacuum broke and couldn’t be repaired, I needed a new vacuum, so I bought a new vacuum. For the twenty-five years we lived in Agoura Hills raising our kids, I would have loved to buy a new refrigerator. I even knew exactly what kind I would get – one with the freezer on the bottom. So I kept waiting for our refrigerator (that was in the house when we bought it) to break. And I waited. And I waited. But it never broke!! So I never bought that new refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom. Because I didn’t need it. Could it have brought me joy if I had bought it? Yes. But the line in the sand that was going to keep my life simple was based around need, not joy. And the price of a new refrigerator – that I didn’t need – was too big a cost for adding a little worldly joy into my life. I stuck with my desire for simplicity and contentment.
But most times, need and joy can work together when you’re thinking about buying something new to bring into your closet or your kitchen or your house. Once it passes the need test, definitely pick the best option that will bring you the most joy. We have a new red electric hot water kettle – that we needed – that sits on our kitchen counter that brings me much more joy than a black or silver or white one would!
And what about occasional splurges just to bring you joy? Even if you don’t need it? Sure! Go for it. I love random, quirky, cute little bowls and plates. So when I see one that makes me smile just looking at it, I usually buy it if it’s cheap. And if it’s pricier than a little bowl or plate should be, I’ll sometimes still buy it if I absolutely love it and know that I’ll keep it forever. And then I use them! But I always make sure the cost is worth it.
So once your house is de-cluttered, you might want to draw your own line in the sand that will help you make sure you don’t just fill your house up again with more stuff. Figure out what will work for you. My suggestion – buy things that you need, that will hopefully bring you joy too. Things that you will be happy with, and someday maybe even just content with. Things that won’t end up in a black trash bag in the future!
Make it your ambition to lead a simple, quiet life...
1 Thessalonians 4:11
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1 Timothy 6:6-8
I have learned to be content in whatever state I am.
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