Tidying is all the rage right now. If you haven’t seen the series on Netflix or read the book, Marie Kondo is a Japanese consultant who helps people tidy their homes by reorganizing and only keeping things that “spark joy.” In the KonMari method, there is an order to the tidying process, and it’s essential to being successful in tidying. After watching the series, I began thinking about ways to tidy up our lives to increase self-care and improve mental health.
Relationships: Think about the people you spend the most time with. Are they making your life better or worse? Are they making you a better person? I know as a working mom with two young children, there isn’t much time to spend with friends and extended family. I want to be sure I’m investing in relationships that matter, make me better, are supportive, healthy, and fun and, of course, spark joy in my life. There will be times when relationships are harder to maintain but when thinking about whether to continue the relationship, ask yourself these questions: Are you the one always responding to the person’s needs? Does this person give back to your life in any way? If they don’t, what purpose do they fill? Life is too short to keep investing in relationships that constantly drain you. Once you surround yourself with people you love and who love you, there’s less drama, stress and you’ll feel better. As parents, mentors, and professionals, we’re modeling behaviors for our children and the youth we serve. What are your relationships teaching them?
Commitments: The next items to examine are time commitments. Now, I want you to put all of your commitments in one big pile and go through each one, hold it close to you, feel it, think about it and if there is no joy or a purpose … GET RID OF IT. The Shinto roots of the KonMarie method is a way to treasure what you have and treat your things as valuables opposed to disposable objects. Think about your commitments in this way. Do you cherish them and are they valuable to your life? I’m a people pleaser by nature, and one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is just to say no. I can’t be everything to everyone, be all the places and do all the things. It’s just not right for me, and I would bet, it’s not beneficial to you either. We’ll run ourselves ragged, damaging our mental health, if we don’t learn how to limit our commitments and be okay with saying no. But, let me tell you; it feels good. Try it. No. See, I told you! Now, if it sparks joy for you to run your kids to extracurricular activities every day, show up to every social justice rally, always be on the go, never a moment to breathe or think, by all means, do that. But I would bet that you’re tired, you’re worn out, and you want to sit on the couch, watch TV and eat the whole box of Girl Scout cookies because you have nothing left to give. Take the time to think about what matters in the big picture. Are your commitments a reflection of the things that matter to you and your family? Would you be happier and healthier if you committed to less? There’s not a gracious Target 90-day return policy on your time; once it’s given, it’s gone.
Just For You: If you are like me, you realize that every year seems to go by faster and all the things we wished we done the year before, we didn’t do. What are you doing in your life that’s just for you? I know, believe me, I know, it’s so hard to make that time to give to only ourselves with the demands of our jobs, families, and communities. But now that you’ve purged some time gobblers that weren’t sparking joy for you, you can do some of the things that you love. We often justify time and resources spent giving and providing for others, but not for ourselves because we don’t want to seem selfish. I’m giving you permission to let go of that mentality because it’s self-care and not an act of selfishness. And don’t let the Judgey McJudgersons tell you any different. When you can care for yourself by doing things you love, I promise that it won’t just spark joy, but you’ll feel a fire full of joy. Wherever your passion lies, whether it’s volunteering, finishing that creative art or home project, traveling, cooking, writing a book/blog, training to be a bodybuilder, do it. Schedule it just like you do everything in your life. Your spouse, partner, kids, and coworkers will especially thank you when you are smiling more and enjoying life and may even wonder what’s in your coffee.
This list only scratches the surface when it comes to self-care and mental health, but I hope it leads to some healthy habits for you in 2019. And of course, Marie Kondo says it’s important to thank the things we get rid of. So as you purge some of the unhealthy relationships, time commitments, and habits from your life, take the time to appreciate what those things gave or taught you, mindfully thank them and let go.
Sarah Roethlinger is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Supportive Housing Program Director for Youth Focus, a nonprofit in Guilford County North Carolina. Sarah supervises several programs that serve youth experiencing homelessness including Act Together and My Sister Susan’s House. She’s a mom of two children, enjoys trying different pesco-vegetarian cuisines with her husband, and she never leaves the house without a reusable straw.