The life-changing magic of being yourself

As a lifelong untidy person, Marie Kondo is my hero. I have never read her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or seen her Netflix shows. I have no plans to stop being untidy. But I want to be just like her.

Let me back up a bit. When Marie Kondo first made her tasteful splash on the homemaker scene, many of my mom friends swooned at the idea of becoming entirely new people who could whip everything around them into delightful, streamlined, orderly shape. Others raged and fumed at Kondo’s insistence that they throw out most of their cherished belongings, get rid of their books, spend all their precious time fussing over trivialities and strive to live in a sterile museum rather than a comfortable home.

None of those folks had read her book, either. They had all heard about Kondo and her ideas through sloppy, sensationalistic headlines and snarky memes that misrepresented what she actually suggested in her book and shows. If they had actually read her (according to my friends who actually have), they would know that she’s quite gentle, doesn’t demand or even suggest radical shifts that work against your lifestyle, and never claims that her system or ideas are best, or that they work well for everyone in every circumstance.

Still, when the Washington Post recently quoted Kondo as saying she had pretty much given up tidying because she has three kids now, the internet exploded in a unanimous, rather vicious, “Ha-ha!” Now she’s a slob, just like the rest of us! Now she knows better!

But my friends who actually read her book and considered her advice were not at all surprised. Kondo never claimed that a rigid minimalism is superior. She apparently only offers suggestions for how to make yourself more functional and peaceful if the current state of your house is making you unhappy.

She is perhaps most famous for her advice to question whether some item in your house “sparks joy,” and if not, to consider discarding it. And now?

“Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times. I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home,” she said.

In other words, it is her children, and spending time with them, that sparks joy for Kondo.

And this is why she is my hero. Not necessarily because she clearly enjoys her children (although that’s a wonderful thing, and refreshing to hear someone say in public), but because she is courageously demonstrating something so few people understand: that you can change how you act and still be yourself. In fact, you have to….Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor

Marie Kondo photo by RISE via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Christmas morning: Are you doing it right?

One of the great mercies of being the mother of a large family is you know one thing for sure: This can’t all be your fault. How could it be? You have raised at least some of your children more or less the same way, at the same time, using the same parenting techniques and the same amount of money in the same house, being the same person the whole time, and yet they all turn out so very different.

If ever I feel sorry for parents of one child, it’s because they might think all their child’s virtues and flaws are the result of their parenting. They’re not. Some are, to be sure, but some is pure witless genetics, and some is environment beyond family, and some of it is luck, some is miscellaneous, and a lot of it is meaningful but completely mysterious, known only to God himself, and he’s not telling.

Let’s take a look at my own kids. Let’s take a look at them on Christmas morning after Midnight Mass, when they’re opening presents, and the secrets that lurk in the hearts of Fishers are revealed. I have tried to teach all my children generosity and gratitude, thrift and any number of other salutary virtues that I think will serve them well in life. How’s that worked out?

Well, one of them will be sitting in a pile of wrapping paper and random things her siblings grabbed off the rack at the dollar store, every single time she opens a present, she will shout, “It’s just what I wanted!” and she will mean it, too.

What a grateful and generous heart, you will think! Yes, up to a point. But that same kid will have carefully wrapped either a 50-cent Walmart cake or a 50-cent Walmart pie for everyone she knows, because it was the cheapest thing she could think of. She figured out long ago that this method allowed her to pocket a good half of her allowance, while the rest of those suckers were blowing the whole thing. But also, she is so extremely delighted with her cleverness, and that delight is so contagious, that everyone who opens a present from her is delighted, too, and we eventually all begin chanting, “Cake or pie? Cake or pie?” as each person opens up yet another tiny, squashy box from her, only to cheer uproariously when it turns out to be either a cake or a pie. And so it became a tradition. The “cake or pie” chant is now my favorite part of Christmas morning.

One of my less favorite parts is when one kid invariably manages to convince themselves that all their carefully curated presents are disappointing, not anywhere near what they wanted, and probably a sign that nobody really knows them or loves them, and then retreats guiltily to their room with their stocking to sulk, and also feel embarrassed about sulking. It’s not the same kid every year, mind you, just to keep us on our toes. Next year, that same kid will spend November earnestly begging us to donate their present budget to the food pantry, because they already have everything they need…Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor