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How Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Is Changing My Life (And My Running)
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Well+Good about how you can essentially use a tidying technique to get over a breakup.
I’ve been wanting to clean and purge our itty bitty apartment for months (OK, years) now. Neither Brian nor I like “stuff,” and yet it somehow accumulates, making two otherwise simple people seem like hoarders in the 200-square-foot apartment we share with four bikes, one puppy, and a giraffe.
This assignment — breakup excluded; happy wife, happy life — was the kick I needed to finally get Marie Kondo’s “must-read” book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
The book, if you somehow haven’t heard of it, read it, or seen it at the top of every bestseller list, is by Japanese “cleaning consultant” (AKA the dream job I didn’t know existed) Marie Kondo, and it’s all about how to tidy your living space in order to live a happier life.
A whole book about cleaning?
YES, A WHOLE BOOK ABOUT CLEANING.
YES, IT IS LIFE-CHANGING, JUST LIKE THE TITLE SAYS.
The premise of Kondo’s technique — which is known as the KonMari Method but I like to call it Kondo-ing — is to basically go through all your shit (categorically, not by room, she says) and go through each item, discarding anything that doesn’t “spark joy” along the way.
She literally wants you to pick up that Arden B tank top you used to wear to the bar every Thirsty Thursday in college, and instead of questioning how it has made its way from your various college dorms then back to your parents’ house after college and then to multiple post-collegiate adulthood homes, simply hold it, touch it, feel it, and ask, “Does this spark joy for me?” If the answer is no, you toss it. If it sparks joy — and you’ll know if it does, and if it’s that filthy tank top, the answer is probably no — you get to keep it.
This weekend, I decided to Kondo the apartment, starting with shoes and clothes.
I can’t believe how the very simple concept of “sparking joy” changed my entire perspective on life.
I did a ton of purging. I got rid of 22 pairs of shoes and six bags + two boxes (and counting) of clothes. I can finally move the hangers in my closet and can see the things I own.
I’ve “cleaned” my apartments probably hundreds of times over the years. But this was the first method that got me to stop rationalizing why I keep stupid, outdated, useless things. Like that ridiculous sequined dress I bought “as a joke” but secretly loved for one night only, or the chunky platform flip flops that “might come back in style someday,” or the dress that’s gorgeous but doesn’t fit but “I should keep it in case it fits someday.” It’s never going to fit.
During the KonMari-ing process, I kept calling my mom from inside the closet, excitedly telling her about this life-changing thing I was doing. And she’s so nice and pretended to care and be genuinely interested, all the while probably secretly wondering how long it’ll be before a U-Haul filled with my “discarded” junk arrives at her house for storage.
But no! That’s not part of it! You are not allowed to send stuff to your mom and dad’s house. There’s an entire chapter about how that’s not the point.
Once I was done with the clothes and shoe piles, I looked at what was left of my closet and felt good about the remaining contents. I felt, in an ohm-y spiritual sense, cleansed. With every item I tossed into the “to-go” pile, I felt so much better. So much lighter. So much more in control.
Here’s where the KonMari Method started really getting into my head…
Soon it was 2:30 PM. It was a gorgeous Saturday, and even though I was having an actual blast Kondo-ing, I knew it was in my best interest to spend an hour outside running.
Running, as you may know, hasn’t really sparked joy for me in quite some time.
After last year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon, I stopped caring much about running. I felt over-trained, burnt out, and over it. So I kept running as a form of cardio, but I was really lazy about it. I would stop every mile or so on almost every run to to check my phone, stand around, or walk even the slightest inclines. I would spend three hours in Central Park on a Saturday morning, only to run six miles. (Six miles should not take me three hours.) I was wasting time and wasn’t doing anything effective. I was bored and I didn’t really care, because it didn’t really matter.
This Saturday, with a semi-tidied living space waiting for me back home, I happened to have the best run I’ve had in years.
I set out with a goal: Run the five-mile loop of Central Park. Without stopping. No email. No Instagram. Hopefully no bathroom stops. No walking up Cat Hill. Start running, and stop at the end.
For five miles, I just ran. I didn’t wear a watch, and every time I wanted to walk or stop and take a pretty picture, I thought about my goal.
And when I returned to my starting point at Engineers’ Gate, I celebrated like I had just won the Olympics. Or the lottery. The Hamilton lottery! Maybe I ran a marathon in the Olympics and at the finish line was a winning lottery ticket and the cast of Hamilton.
It felt so good to just run. I survived five miles without stopping — my longest continuous run since May 2015.
The joy was sparked.
After my run [and a shower] and some more Kondo-ing, I set out for my first haircut since August. And I went for more than “keep the length, just a trim” this time. You know what doesn’t spark joy? My nasty dead split-ends.
I let the very nice hairdresser remove 4+ inches from my hair. More cleansing. More lightness.
With Kondo’s mindset, everything else seems so simple now. Why keep anything in your life that doesn’t spark joy? Forget shoes and clothes and that copy of the warranty from the 2003 Dell laptop you were forced to buy freshman year of college.
Toss it all. Toss everything that doesn’t make you feel amazing. Toss shoes that are ugly or too worn to wear. Toss that pint glass with a huge crack in it. Toss photos that make you cringe and coloring books you’ll never actually use. Toss relationships that don’t lift you up. Toss negativity. Toss the job you hate and find a new one. Toss the accounts you hate-follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Toss your rent bill and your phone bill and your health insurance payment! (Maybe JK on those ones.)
But definitely toss that tank top.