New year, new you, right? Well, you were probably just fine the way you were. But one thing you might be hoping to see some improvement in this year is your personal organization habits. Could your home stand less clutter? Are there too many piles around? Would you like to see more of your desk, your counter tops, your child’s bedroom floor?
There is no shortage of organization tips and philosophies out there and every now and then one really catches fire — like Marie Kondo‘s take-no-prisoners-minimalist approach to keeping the clutter out. Many people, myself included, have benefited from some of her tips, but looking around my home, it’s obvious that her philosophy hasn’t really penetrated my daily living habits. And I think I may know why.
In the Christian life, discernment is important. Pope Francis talks about it a fair bit. There are various steps to discerning any situation or decision, but one aspect is to become aware of what is really going on beneath the surface. The habits that make up our daily life are no exception. There are reasons we do what we do, even when they seem like fairly mundane activities.
A professional and popular organizer named Star Hansen who teaches classes on home organizing agrees. She told NPR recently that “what becomes clutter and where it accumulates says a lot about what’s going on with you.”
If you have unwanted piles of stuff accumulating around your house, ask yourself: “What’s making this hard to get rid of?” she says. “A lot of times, the trip-up is from holding on to the past or wanting a different reality than the one we’re living in.”
That blazer that hasn’t fit for years? Maybe it reveals a yearning for your former profession. Those 20 pairs of chopsticks in your kitchen drawer? Maybe they’re speaking to your guilt around waste and sustainability.
When you understand the reasons behind your clutter, says Hansen, it’s a lot easier to know what to keep and what to get rid of.
While laziness, exhaustion, or “an artistic temperament” can play a role in clutter and disorganization habits, blaming it solely on a lack of virtue or an ingrained quality can also be a cop out. It can prevent you from discerning the real reasons you do what you do. When you understand the motivations behind your thoughts and actions, you can begin to address them.
Let it be a process
Hansen believes that home organization and decluttering is a continual process. You have to take the time to create systems that work for you — and like a lot of things, what works for you may not work for me, and vice versa. That’s where ongoing discernment and creativity come in.
Maybe the secret to getting organized this year is to begin taking a deeper, more honest look at what you continually seem to do. Are you still hanging on to those pants because you miss your smaller self? Are you keeping too much clutter around because it makes you feel more secure?
As you discern what’s behind your organization and clutter habits, you can decide as you go if you really want to do anything about it. Will a change help you gain more peace of mind or get more done? Will it enable your household to run more smoothly? Will it make your space a little more beautiful? (Beauty matters!)
Hansen suggests starting small, using what you have, and creating systems that you can actually maintain — and those are all great tips. The process matters just as much as the destination, and the systems that work are the ones that work for you. It may take some trial and error to discover what those are. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a work in process.
So never mind trying to follow any one organizer’s philosophy or approach to a tee. Instead, let this be the year you bring some discernment to this area of your life. And from there, create some new systems and habits, even if they’re small, that bring more peace and harmony to you and your family.