Lessons I've Learned About Life and Myself While Decluttering My Home, KonMari Style

by Katarina Conrad

My pantry is "sparking joy"! It's easy to find things when each item has a designated spot and is easily visible!

As you may have already read in my Decluttering Your Life blog post, after watching only the first episode of "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo" I was inspired to declutter my home using the KonMari method. What I did not anticipate is that the process will also teach me a lot about myself and life. Here are the 8 lessons I've learned.


Lesson 1. Each Item Has a Home = Each Person Needs A Sense of Belonging


The most challenging problem in keeping my home tidy with two boys and three dogs is that we don't have a designated place for each item in our home. For example, books and papers are found everywhere-in the kitchen, dining room, coffee table, bedrooms, playroom- small items like scissors and batteries can be found scattered in different locations, as well as lids and can openers. Bottles are often mixed with cups, and our collection of mugs extends to 3 shelves!


When my younger son, who is in charge of cleaning the dishes, doesn't know where something goes, he puts the items away wherever his heart desires. I'm constantly chasing him around the kitchen trying to get him to remember where things go, but he never gets it. He says, "Mom, there is no room for these mugs with the others, so I had to put them somewhere". And of course he's right. We have way too many things, and many repeats of the same things overflowing and spilling into every nook and cranny in the house. My husband and I even often buy the same book without knowing it, not to mention that we each have occasionally bought a third or fourth copy of a book that we already have!!


In order to keep our home clutter free, each item needs to have a designated place. If we had those books organized on shelves by genre and author, we'd never buy four copies! To accomplish that we first must reduce the number of items, and by keeping only

the ones that bring us joy (if four copies of the same book spark joy for you, I probably need to write a different post for you!).


Well, how does this apply to our lives?


Just like each item needs to have a home, so do each of us need to have a sense of belonging.


Feelings of rejection and loneliness are deeply rooted in our DNA. We all have an innate desire to be socially connected, to have a sense of belonging. It is embedded in our DNA from the Stone Age when social acceptance was crucial to our survival. Being cast out and isolated from a tribe meant that we had to face harsh weather conditions, fetch food and face predators on our own, which almost certainly meant death. Some research shows that even feelings of social pain, rejection and loneliness, activate the same neural circuits as the experience of fear we have when seeing a wolf. These feelings can cause real physical pain - pain that neuroscience says is reinforced by our own brain chemistry.


When we believe that we are not worthy of love, connection, and belonging, we suffer inside and hide behind the outer shell of material possessions, enhanced looks, status, accolades, and titles, believing that accumulating things or endlessly improving ourselves will shield us from feeling unworthy. But no amount of things and accomplishments will suffice if we feel this way. Feelings of shame and disconnection can stunt our personal growth and stop us from trying new things, taking risks, presenting our work, expressing our feelings, and asking for what we want. They makes us doubt ourselves and our ability to improve our situation. These feelings of unworthiness lead to destructive behaviors, and we often assume the role of a victim.


You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody. ~Maya Angelou

MY STORY


I often struggled with fitting in, especially growing up. It did not help that I looked like a boy with a shaved head, wearing hand-me-down clothes, and speaking with a country accent while living in a big city. If those reasons were not enough to be shunned by my peers, then missing school due to poor health and struggling to read and write definitely were.


I am between my cousin Lana and my brother Balsa, growing up without indoor plumbing.

Despite my parents' attempt to comfort me by saying that I was the youngest in class-two years younger than most so that I could be in the same class with my 14-month older brother-I still felt stupid, lonely, and isolated. In the second grade, when no one showed up to my birthday party, I felt physically ill. Not even my teachers were welcoming, and I vividly remember being slapped for not writing my alphabet in the correct order. I felt so disconnected that I often got sick just to stay home.


It was a long and painful road to form any sense of belonging. And although my parents did not have a healthy relationship, I still felt loved. Having a supportive and kind older brother helped too. Then, there was also my sense of faith. I was the only one in my family and among my friends who was convinced that I had a connection with the universe, the invisible force, some call God, some Love, some Spirit. As I grew older and my living conditions improved, I was able to gain a few trusted friends. And in college, positions like spiritual life director, math tutor, and Miss Liberty University gave me a new sense of belonging.


I arrived to America as a seventeen year old without speaking a word of English nor having any money. A few years later, the LU students, staff and faculty chose me to represent the university as their first foreign Miss Liberty University.

In grad school, I belonged to group of math teacher assistants, then progressed to a senior leader, then culminating in the being awarded the title of Virginia Tech's most outstanding graduate teaching assistant in the math department.


Then came my own family, non-profits, churches, clubs, dojos and other social groups that helped me have the sense of belonging. But, it wasn't until few years ago that it dawned on me that I belong both to the universe that connected me to other human beings, and to myself. This latter was a novelty I started exploring and am now teaching in the program I designed for women called Katarina's HIIT&RUN. A place where women can come together as a unit, but still maintain individuality, striving to become the best version of themselves.


One of the best features of KHR is its culture of respect, compassion and support of its tribe of women who are courageous enough to show vulnerability in front of each other.


Things we can do to have a deeper sense of belonging:

  • Join a social group. Preferably a place where you will meet people who you can learn something from and bring the best out of you.

  • Volunteer for a cause that is close to your heart.

  • Seek to align your job with your interests and values and thus meet people that share your passion.

  • Try out a club or sport that nurtures team spirit.

  • Join a support group.

  • Seek professional help if you feel you are depressed for long periods of time.


In subsequent posts, I'll share more lessons that I've learned while decluttering my home.


2. Storing “the special” items for “the special” occasions = ... 3. Keep items that bring you joy = ... 4. Discard items that bring your energy down, that no longer bring joy, or are useful = ... 5. Thank the discarded items for teaching you about what you don’t want = ... 6. Thank the house for protecting you = ... 7. Imagine your ideal lifestyle = ... 8. It gets worse before it gets better = ...


It gets worse before it gets better! And this came only from a few of my packed drawers!

The back pain I got from being hunched over for hours was soothed with a hot rose petals bath with a beautiful view of a clean and decluttered bathroom!


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