If you’re in the midst of a divorce, you might be faced with moving, or perhaps you just realize that you are despairing under a mountain of memories and are looking for some relief.
The KonMari Method for decluttering your life is simple: Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go. She suggests that this be done by category and not by room, for example, do all the clothing, then books and so on.
There are a few problems with this method when going through a divorce.
1. You aren’t thinking in categories anymore.
Your life suddenly becomes divorce soup. Nothing is separated from the process. The items you own become essentially inseparable, they are all part of the life you are clinging to. The sweater your daughter wore to your son’s first communion was knitted with needles given to you by your sister in law on the Christmas you spent in Oregon when your father in law threw up on the tote bag that the gardening tools are now stored in. (Okay, parts of that are made up- you can decide which ones- but see how everything is connected?)
2. Everything speaks to your heart.
As illustrated above, every single item in your home has become a nonstop reminder. Remember the truing stand that was never used? See Chip’s teeth marks on the Ta-ka-radi game, (which you know is the Land’s End version of Jenga because all your gifts from your in-laws came from Land’s End or Eddie Bauer?) How many birthday cakes were baked in the Bundt pan and how many times did the Snowmen music box end the song with their butts facing out?
3. Nothing sparks joy.
Nothing. Pretty much.
X had moved out and I was in the house mostly alone. One daughter away at school and one son sort of living with me, but not quite. My attorney would absolutely not let me have a garage sale, because she maintained that it could open me up to hostile action from X were he to claim I sold his prized mop bucket.
This seemed unlikely. He had left everything behind to start a new life. I was left with almost thirty years of household accumulation and items riddled with memories. When it was time to move, I started sorting. X agreed to come with his truck and trailer while I was at work, keep what he wanted and haul the rest to Goodwill.
My main mistake at this point was in believing that my life was over. Why would I need to keep my Apple/Peeler/Corer/Slicer machine? Or for that matter, the Martha Stewart pie basket that X had given me? I would NEVER bake another pie. The Ping putter he gave me- how would I ever play golf again? Past gifts from X were bringing me the opposite of joy.
I remember crying a lot the morning that I carried everything out to the front porch. I can still see the corner of my wedding dress box peeking up out of the pile as I pulled out of the driveway and waved goodbye. I felt I was saying goodbye not only to my former life, but worse, to my future.
I learned a lot from this experience and my main piece of advice is: wait. Even if you have to put your stuff in storage for a year before you can bring yourself to go through it, it might be worth it. You really need to heal your heart before you start making decisions about tossing your wedding album in the dumpster. And you really will bake another pie.
Decluttering Your Inner Life
Marie Kondo has six rules for decluttering your home. At the beginning stages of a divorce, while they aren’t too helpful with getting rid of your things, you can definitely apply her rules to helping shed some emotional baggage. Think of it as spring cleaning for your soul.
1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
Yes, anytime you want to move forward in life, the first step is making the decision. This is true whether or not you are simply cleaning a closet or embarking on a whole new path. Even if it wasn't your choice to be on the path in the first place.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
Marie Kondo wants you to envision a life without clutter, a life where you don’t spend 15 minutes every morning searching for your car keys. I want you to create a vision too- a vision that honors the fact that you are a whole person in and of yourself, that you are worthy and that you still have a purpose that you will fulfill. Make a vision board and fill it with the beauty that you want in your life. Look at it often.
3. Finish discarding first.
Marie knows you can't start organizing your makeup drawer without getting rid of half used tubes of mascara and lipsticks that have half the case missing. She's right.
And in the same way, you can't expect to bring your new vision into reality before you've made peace with the old. If you need help with that, I highly recommend you grab a copy of my book Love It Go. Get it here and get to healing- the Love It Go Method can be very helpful.
4. Tidy By Category, Not Location
Divorce is hard, emotionally taxing and overwhelming at times. You might feel like you’re drowning when waves of emotion wash over you from all directions.
One thing I found helpful was to think things through by topic such as the powerlessness I felt, sorrow for my kids, financial matters, fear and sadness, as well as a practical day to day to do list.
For example, crushing sadness would envelop me when I thought of the way the future had changed for my children. I would write these feelings down in bullet points, evaluate them, then write solutions in the form of affirmations. For me, bible verses were very helpful.
When negative feelings would start weighing on me, I would try to name one or two of the emotions rather than just spiraling into general panic. I would repeat the applicable verse or the affirmation that I wanted to see. It didn’t always stick right away, but I kept repeating the process until it finally did.
5. Follow the Right Order
When decluttering, Marie Kondo recommends saving the sentimental items for last. It is the same way with releasing pain. You know what your triggers are and what hurts the most. We’re all different. Go there when you can, focus on smaller victories first and take your time. Grief is a process.
6. Ask Yourself If It Sparks Joy
That will be the $64,000 question. Your wedding ring sparked so much joy at one time. It likely doesn’t now. It might someday for your daughter though, or it might indeed be time to let it go. You can decide when you’re ready.
This is the part I love: Marie instructs us to “Say thank you to the item” before releasing it. You are ending your relationship with the item with love, respect and care.
That’s it! Marie must have read Love It Go !! Transformative, empowered healing after divorce comes from a place of power. You’re not a victim, you are making a decision to “love it go” no matter the current circumstance. When you feel grief or anger- and you will, even years later- you can draw on the power of that decision as often as you need.
Now, time to clean the sock drawer!
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Ten Speed Press, 2014