No Magic to Be Found: Reflections on the Clutter Experiment

“Daddy’s home!”

My husband walks in the door to the shrieks and hugs of his daughters. He sets his computer bag down and places his keys and phone in the designated “keys and phone” spot.

Well done, I think to myself. Well done.

And then, to my utter horror, he proceeds to remove his shoes and sweater and toss them on the floor. In the living room. While I’m standing right there.

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“Really?” I say.

“I’m trying to optimize my time,” he jokes as he grumpily grabs his clothes and returns them to the closet.

I’ve been putting off writing this clutter wrap-up post because after spending the last two months discarding, organizing, decorating and feng shui-ing, I don’t have anything magical and life-changing to report.

Let’s start with the good news.

My house feels lighter and looks amazing. Everything is cozy, clean and pretty. It’s easy to find things when there are less things to find, and it’s easy to put things away when you know where they belong.

On the down side, however, I’ve become obsessive about tidying up. If I’m not scanning my home to find things to put away, I’m nagging my husband and kids to do their part (in a non-complaining way, of course); and even then, the place doesn’t look perfect.

So tidying up has not eliminated my stress and discontentment, nor has it helped me discover my purpose and live with ever present joy. I don’t feel like I’m consuming less or living in the moment more. And I certainly have not been the recipient of miraculous, positive changes in one of the nine life areas of Feng Shui that I spent so much time working on.

In fact, I can’t think of anything significant that’s changed.

I’m reminded of ABC news anchor Dan Harris’ very entertaining book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, where he chronicles his journey into the world of self-help and spirituality, and ultimately turns to meditation to combat his severe anxiety. Harris concludes that while meditation hasn’t solved all of his problems, it has made him 10% happier.

I’d like to think that I feel the same way.

It’s so tempting to overvalue the impact of one defining moment and look for that immediate, obvious result. We want change to happen overnight. Miraculously. Magically. Easily. It’s no wonder Marie Kondo titled her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and not Tidy Up and Find Slow, Incremental Gains. 

The promise of small improvements isn’t remotely sexy (and certainly won’t land you on the bestseller list), but the reality is, it’s the little things that add up and deliver the real results.

So while this project wasn’t life changing, the effect has been positive. Subtle, but positive nonetheless. I can only hope that my ongoing commitment to putting things in their designated space while instilling these habits in the entire family will, slowly but surely, make a big difference in the long run.

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