You can't take it with you
Updated: May 3
Everyone is talking about Marie Kondo’s Netflix show “Tidying Up.”
I first learned about Marie about a year ago when James purchased her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. He quickly consumed her wisdom and process to transform his life of clutter to one that “sparks joy.”
Every day he organized a new space – his closet, his desk, his clothes. He got rid of more and more things until he only kept those things that sparked joy.
I started doing it, too. It seemed like it would be difficult, but the strange this is it actually ended up being immensely freeing. The more things I got rid of, the lighter I felt. The more of the clutter from my past that I removed… the more it made space for present joy.
My favorite part is that you don’t just get rid of things. According to Marie, before letting them go, you also thank the items for the role they played in your life and the purpose they served. It makes it easier to say goodbye to something that may have had sentimental value, but deep down, I knew I no longer needed. It’s like acknowledging our gratitude sets us free from the physical connection to the object because we are acknowledging the emotional one.
It’s strange, really, when you think about it. How objects can affect us so much. But they do. What we own can quickly own us if we are not careful.
According to Marie, it’s not so much that we all have too much stuff. That’s only the symptom of the problem. Marie says that we have cluttered hearts. We have hearts full of past hurt that we keep tucked away, memories that we cling to and expectations we aren’t willing to let go of.
Joy is ours for the taking, but we aren’t willing to let go of all the things holding us back from it.
There was a time when I used to hold onto past hurt and pain because I thought it was an essential part of me. I had walked through fire and came out the other end stronger for it, and I didn’t want to forget the way the flames felt.
I didn’t know how to let the pain go. I understood I needed to but didn’t really know how. I would tuck the pain away like a piece of clothing in the back of my closet, hidden from plain sight, but I knew I could access it if I needed it.
The thing about that clothing in the back of your closet is that it takes up space. Space that could be used for things that bring joy. The same goes for holding onto pain and hurt. It takes up unnecessary space.
Forgiveness isn’t just a fluffy word on Etsy signs and in the Bible. It’s a dangerous and difficult idea. It goes against our natural instinct at times. It requires vulnerability and courage to acknowledge the situation and let it go.
But, I also wonder if we are missing another piece to that equation – gratitude. Gratitude that no matter how bad the experience was… it also made us who we are today. It taught us something about who we are and the kind of people that we want to be.
Maybe there is an element of both gratitude and forgiveness to letting go.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a hidden gem in 1 Samuel, right after Saul is chosen by God as the first king of Israel and anointed by Samuel in private. During a public ceremony for the Israelites, Samuel sifts through all the tribes of Israel until he gets to Saul’s tribe. He sifts through that tribe until he gets to Saul’s family, but Saul is nowhere to be found.
Samuel asks God where Saul is, and the Lord replies: “He is hidden among the baggage.”
That’s right… Saul was so scared of what was to come that he hid in a bunch of luggage. He knew he was about to be crowned the king of Israel and instead of excitedly embracing that gift, he chose to hide.
I think we treat our hearts the same way.
We really like to hide among the baggage. We load ourselves down with the things we once carried and cling to memories that are past their expiration date. We hide past hurt and pain, we tuck away resentment and we cling to the nostalgia of what once was.
We pack it all in and then try to be present in our lives, but we can’t. Not fully.
Continuing to walk through life with cluttered hearts is like packing a 50lb bag for a weekend in New York. It’s too much. We think we are preparing for every circumstance, but instead we our weighing ourselves down with our worries and our past.
We hide amongst the baggage instead of boldly facing the future and experiencing the present joy God has for us.
Uncluttering our hearts is hard, but it may not be as scary as we think. During this time of year when we are spring cleaning our homes... why not add our hearts to the mix? One by one, sort through our memories, thoughts, hopes and expectations, Marie Kondo-Style, and ask ourselves:
“Does this spark joy?”
If the answer is no… it may be time to let go.