Tidying Up Responsibly

What sparks joy in your soul? Is it a favorite sweater that you wear every time you go skiing? Is it a photo book of your trip to Zion National Park that sits on your coffee table? Is it a Soda Stream on your kitchen counter that makes hydration more fun that you could have ever imagined? The world is tidying up in a frenzy after the release of Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and her recent Netflix show, Tidying Up. The premise of the KonMari organizational method is to categorically go through all of your possessions, only keeping items that spark joy, then to thank the joyless rejects and get rid of them. I fully support living in a clean, organized space that is only filled with truly meaningful items. It is stressful to be surrounded by unwanted clutter. And so, like the rest of the nation, I tidied. Somewhere along the way of re-folding clothes, rolling towels, and threatening certain possessions that if they don’t start sparking joy in me they are headed to the thrift shop down the road, a few persistent realizations hummed around my mind.

What sparks joy in my soul? Snuggling up on the couch with a mug of green tea in one hand and a book I can’t put down in the other. Feeling the power of a wave propel my longboard parallel to the shoreline in a salty dance with the ocean. Hearing the contagious giggle of my nephew tickle my ears. Twirling around the kitchen to a Chris Stapleton song with my partner. The things that spark the most joy are in fact, not things. They are experiences, people, places, feelings, nature, and relationships. Of course I have a favorite book, mug, hiking boots, surfboard, and more. But I realized I love these items because of what they allow me to experience. What I possess does not enhance my life. What I do and who I do it with enhances my life.

What sparks joy in the earth’s soul? As we tidy, let’s remember to tidy responsibly. We are connected to each other, to nature, to our responsibility of living sustainably. When we load up our truck beds with bags headed for the Goodwill Donation Center, let’s pledge not to get rid of stuff simply to go out and buy more stuff that will unavoidably end up in thrift shops, landfills, and the oceans. Tidy with the earth in mind. Donate what other people will actually want. Recycle what you can. Understand where the items that you throw “away” actually go. Then choose to be a conscious consumer in the future. Purchase only items that you need or know will spark joy in you for many years to come. Consider what brings the earth joy.  Buy sustainably sourced, fair trade certified, or organic products when we have to make a purchase. Consume less and do more. Focus our tidying on cultivating what matters in our lives. How can the items we choose to keep nurture what is truly important in life- our relationships, our experiences, and our environment?

What sparks joy in all our lives? Go ahead and tidy up your home; but keep in mind the greatest tidying up we must do is tidying up the home we share, not only with each other, but with the northern flicker, the giant sequoia, the elephant seal, the green anemone, and the black needle rush. Earth, our home sweet home, sparks immeasurable joy in our souls and deserves to be tidied up responsibly.

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Port Isobel, The Chesapeake Bay

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