Montreal is the only city I know with its own Moving Day. On July 1st, you’re either feverishly loading boxes into a truck or you’re watching the neighbours manoeuver giant washing machines and fridges down tiny exterior spiral staircases—a guilty spectator sport.
At this time of year when so many Montrealers are simultaneously editing their lives, Artemano suggested I try paring back too. Their minimalist interiors are something that require a discipline but easily achieved and rewarding. For inspiration, I pick up a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I’m so intrigued by Kondo’s minimalist approach and her self-confessed zeal for order that I don’t just read the Japanese tidying guru’s book, I go through her whole process.
Just after you’ve moved, when your furniture’s in place and only essential items are unpacked, there’s something magical about your new space—everything can breathe. Then as you unload all your other boxes—of reference books, magazines, specialty appliances, winter coats—you feel the lightness and sense of possibility disappear. This time I want to keep the magic.
Before embarking on my full-home decluttering, I create a clear vision of how I want life to look in my reorganized space. Eyes closed, I see a pared-down home, where beautiful objects and art draw the eyes—not paper and laundry stashes. I’m wearing cute dresses, not sweats, and writing my first book—not liking kitten vids on Facebook. This vision keeps me motivated as I take on this daunting task.
For an intense few weeks, I go through every single thing I own in this order: clothing, books, papers then finally komono (miscellaneous items). I lay things out on the floor.
“By exposing them to the light of day and jolting them alive,” Kondo says, “you’ll find it surprisingly easy to judge whether they touch your heart.”
And I ask: Does this spark joy?
Ignoring rational thoughts—this still has wear in it/ was so expensive/ could come in handy one day—I only hold onto what makes my heart beat faster.
Two thirds of my clothes end up at a thrift store. I reorganize the keepers by hanging wardrobe items from longest to shortest—rising to the right, to “energize” my closet.
It sounds kooky, but when I go to pick an outfit now, I feel more excited about what I see. It’s like being at a dinner party with close friends as opposed to a conference with colleagues and strangers.
Rather than try and judge my overwhelming collection of cookbooks by their spines, I lay each one out on the floor, then pick it up and ask the magic question: Does this spark joy?
With over 100 discards—some never used—I take to Facebook and invite my friends to stake their claims. Over the next week, I get to reconnect with a chef I’ve not seen in ages, learn about an actress friend’s charity work with underprivileged youth (she takes a pile for her silent auction), and find a case of wine on my doorstep—a winemaker friend’s thank-you gift. What I thought was a one-way act of giving turns out to be an energy exchange.
None of my papers spark joy, so rather than chuck the lot, I get real about what’s still useful. I shred ancient bank statements, medical records for a deceased pet, and greeting cards that have long-since done their job. With each toss of an instruction manual, I get a mini high.
Komono (miscellaneous) comes last, because as well as including toiletries, electrical cords and stationery, it covers souvenirs, photos and gifts that are harder to release, unless you’ve had some practice.
I realize it’s time to say goodbye to teen journals. At one time, I thought I’d use them as fodder for my writing, but it never happened. Truth is: I’d rather not return to darker chapters. Instead I thank those journals for helping me process my feelings long ago, in what feels like another lifetime, then I let go.
After tackling dozens of envelopes of photos, I’m excited by the abbreviated version of my life story that miraculously fits into one dynamic album.
And I take the entire contents of my re-gifting pile to a refuge, where they’ll help women making a fresh start. I think the original givers would approve.
Working with this method transforms decluttering and re-organizing from a Sisyphean task into a spiritual adventure. It was exasperating and boring at times—sorting glues and drawing pins and blunt pencils is not as much fun as curating shoes—but I have vowed never to come home again with anything that doesn’t make my heart sing like a 200-voice gospel choir.
My new bible promises I’ll never want to go back to my old ways. I read its parting words relaxing on the sofa—in my favourite sundress—enjoying the light and airy sanctuary vibe of my freshly decluttered home:
“Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy: your mission in life.”
I can’t wait.