Welcome to my fifth blog post!
One of the most common questions I was asked when living in Guatemala was “How”? Or how was I able to up and leave to move to another country? This is going to sound a little bizarre and unrelated, but one of the initial steps in the process was working through Marie Kondo’s bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”
Read more below, and happy reading!
I’m going to be honest. After living with an obsessive compulsive neat freak for over five years, I can admit that I am the messy one. I never really experienced anything “magical” about tidying up. Another thing I’m going to admit was I was very resistant to the idea of living in a foreign country for many years. Ok. More like a “Oh hell nooooo!” When the opportunity came up for me to move to Ecuador in 2013, I had a visceral resistance to it. Why? I was in the middle of a lot of awesome in America. I was slaying it in my career and I committed to doing my yoga teacher training.
So how does a messy career girl end up in Guatemala?
In December 2014, I had a horrible lower back injury. It was so painful I was unable to do simple things like walk or go to yoga class. On the days I went to the office, I barely got out of my office chair. It hurt just to walk to the printer or to pick things up off the ground. Eventually, I had to spend a lot of time resting in bed and I started reading Marie Kondo’s book.
It was the first time I was forced to notice this huge stainless steel bookshelf in front of me. It had three shelves and nine bins. The bins had all sorts of random sh*t that I kept for months: art supplies, random Target $1 bin purchases, empty journals, thank you cards, stationary, and random brochures from museums and trips. That bookshelf was my “catchall.” For months, my boyfriend at the time begged me to re-organize it. I stubbornly ignored him.
But this time, since I was sick in bed and I was stuck, that bookshelf started taunting me, and I did not like that feeling. I was also inspired by Kondo’s concept of surrounding yourself with only the things that bring you joy. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got better (after my acupuncture treatments and therapeutic exercises) I was going to conquer that bookshelf filled with random items.
So, I employed the KonMari Method in our tiny little Montrose flat. I took on Kondo’s belief that tidying up (at least the initial clean-up) had to be an event- none of that weak and lame tidying up a little here and a little there anymore. Kondo believed in jumping in and tidying up the entire home. Luckily, the only areas in the apartment that truly needed tidying was my half of the apartment. From Friday at 5pm until Saturday 12am, I finally organized my bookshelf. I got rid of a ton of stuff that did not bring me joy, and I finally felt that sense of freedom that comes from cleaning up.
The magic didn’t stop there. I started to build momentum. After I took on the bookshelf, I spent the rest of my Saturday and Sunday devoted to this tidying event. I tore into my closet, my dressers, my desk, and my other bookshelf. I don’t think my ex-boyfriend knew what to think of it or my changed mentality. For whatever reason after I critically assessed every item in my possession, I let go of so much crap: bags and bags of clothes that were donated, piles of art supplies, books I didn’t want and tons of superfluous paperwork.
Once I konmari’d my physical possessions, I asked myself, “What else in my life is no longer bringing me joy?”
After my massive tidying event, I started looking at the people, the environments and the situations I blindly accepted in my life for so long. I noticed I accepted things merely out of habit, and I started see how I am a result of my environment. I wondered why I was still in Texas, why I was still in the same career, and why I became apathetic.
Having a clean and tidy physical space at home really motivated me to get rid of the white noise happening around me. In my time of inquiry, I realized I wanted to leave. I wanted to be around people who thought differently from me and give myself the chance to live abroad. I really did regret not making it a priority in college or post-college. Not really sure where I needed to go and before I even had a defined destination, I knew I had to start saving money.
I also learned that holding on to all those items gave me this sense of comfort and security. I kept print-outs of recipes, vacation destinations, and supplies for art projects that I was putting off in my future. Just like the items that I held on to, I realized that I held on to certain relationships and ideas about my career to give me that same sense of comfort. I didn’t want to accept that my life was being filled with extraneous junk and it was not bringing me joy anymore.
Because I was frustrated, I refocused my confusion and emotions to saving more money and investing it for my unknown future. I didn’t really like what I was doing at work, but one thing that made me feel good was putting in $500 in savings twice a month for a year. Everything at work could be going wrong, but I started to feel empowered by that feeling of socking away funds every two weeks. I started to have a clear head. I started to feel more in control. I was no longer upset about things if my car broke down or if some emergency came up.
When the opportunity to move abroad came up for me again, I saw the opportunity much differently. I was making small gains in my company ARTYOGAPLAY, and I took this as the time to take a leap of faith. I needed to walk away from a lot of old beliefs. One of the strongest beliefs I had was the only thing I was good enough at doing was planning parties. With no prior knowledge of Spanish and a very tiny list of potential contacts, I just dove right in with a very loose plan for myself. As an event planner, I had every major work project laid out for me within a year in advance. This was the first time I had no freaking clue what I’d be doing four weeks in advance much less for a full year.
Since all my personal belongings were already condensed, moving to Guatemala was not as difficult. I didn’t have to have a major tidying event like I did months before. When you have the limitation of two suitcases, a backpack, and your yoga mat bag, the decisions on what to bring become much clearer and much easier.
I’m so thankful that Marie Kondo’s book appeared in my life when it did. It cleared up a lot in my life and gave me the courage to see my life differently. When I am not weighed down by the extraneous things, I am capable of doing the extraordinary things.