The self-storage business in North America nets well over 35 billion dollars a year. That’s a shocking number isn’t it but are you surprised? The success of this industry is due in large part to young families looking for more affordable housing and older generations downsizing. I think it’s fair to say that most of us have stuff stashed in cupboards, basements, garages and one in ten of us has stuff stashed in a storage locker somewhere.
Getting that first apartment and buying furniture is usually where collecting stuff begins. We acquire, inherit, borrow and purchase stuff for the rest of our lives. We cherish certain items for sentimental, investment or aesthetic reasons and we hold on to things that have no meaning whatsoever, usually because we don’t know what to do with them or in some cases we don’t even know we have them.
Have you heard of Marie Kondo, also known as Konmari? She’s an organizational consultant, author of four books, including The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up; she’s also the star of the successful Netflix series, Tidying Up.
Marie’s method of organizing and decluttering is called the KonMari Method.™ It’s best described as a way of life or a state of mind that focuses on appreciating and keeping only the items we have that spark joy, while surrendering what no longer sparks joy, after acknowledging and thanking each item. There’s a specific process, beginning with our clothing and ending with sentimental items. The shift in the people whose lives are changed by Marie’s magic is actually very inspiring and shines a light on the real problem we have in North America when it comes to our need to acquire and hold on to things.
Marie compassionately walks her clients through the KonMari process, helping them recognize that when we only keep items that spark joy, our lives feel lighter, we feel more relaxed in our environment and some of the items we surrender become available to spark joy for someone else. It’s a powerful lesson that is initially frightening and overwhelming but creates freedom and empowers everyone who participates in the process.
Marie Kondo is a very gentle person with a soft voice and an easy smile, who doesn’t judge her clients. She loves a mess, she says, because she loves tidying up and once her clients grasp the concept and really examine what sparks joy for them, the process of surrendering what doesn’t serve them or as Marie says, spark joy for them, helps create a feeling of freedom.
This idea of surrendering what doesn’t serve us or what doesn’t spark joy isn’t just about our physical possessions, the best research suggests that each of us has between 20,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day, many of them are stored from childhood and most of them do anything but spark joy, wouldn’t you agree?
De-cluttering our thoughts is as important as de-cluttering our things, when you consider that the only areas in our lives that we really have control over are our thoughts and our things. We can’t control life’s events and we can’t control other people. In the same way that we can choose to keep only the belongings that spark joy, we can acknowledge untruths and surrender them, to make room for ideas and thoughts that actually make us feel good.
I believe it was Einstein who said “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” If we unpack the conditioned thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves and our place in the world, we can usually trace some of it back to something someone said to us even as children, or something we read or saw in the media and when repeated over and over becomes a belief. The most important question to ask is: is the thought or belief true?
There are so many examples we could look at but for a moment let’s examine the idea of aging. In North American society, the accepted view is if we’re old, we’re irrelevant. Is that true? I believe the answer is no and it’s up to each one of us to defy that ridiculous idea and bring our best to every day. It’s not about fighting against anything, it’s about leading the way and showing others what it looks like to be a mature, ageless thinker who believes every person is relevant. The focus of our thoughts then must be on what sparks joy and what makes us feel connected and relevant in the world today.
I love the concept of Freedom Living that The Wellings embraces because it really embodies what it is to age gratefully. Freedom living recognizes that this gift of aging is about saying yes to what sparks joy and giving ourselves permission to let people and situations that cause drama or clutter slide on by, after acknowledging and thanking them, as Marie Kondo would have us do.