KonMari Your Life

The following essay "Meet Patty Morrissey" appeared in @MarieKondo’s January 2017 Newsletter where I was a featured KonMari Consultant.

The KonMari Method of organizing resonated with me the first time I heard about it. The emphasis on creating a vision is what especially attracted me to the KonMari Method. For years, I used vision boards as a tool for gaining clarity about how I wanted to feel and the kind of life that I wanted to live. Applying the KonMari Method to my home and to my life was the natural evolution of my annual vision board ritual. The process of creating a vision board is very similar to the process of “joy-checking” in the KonMari Method. When creating a vision board I flip through magazines and without any agenda or over thinking, I simply pull out the pictures and words that evoke a positive emotional reaction. What’s left is a collage of images and words that spark joy. The power of the process is that it reveals latent, unconscious, or unexpressed desires. When comparing the vision board to one’s current ambitions (goals), the results vary, as they might mirror each other or sometimes differ. When the latter occurs, it signals that our lives might be in misalignment.

Despite using vision boards for several years, about this time last year my life was quite misaligned from my ideal vision. My vision board included many of photos of nature, homelife, dancing and playing, and motherhood. In contrast, my life was filled with work and a long train commute. In hindsight, the problem wasn’t that my life was bad — by all conventional measures it was quite good. I had a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, and we lived in a nice neighborhood close to family. I had a prestigious job working at an organization with an inspiring social mission: only this worthy mission wasn’t mine to fulfill.

Others perceived my situation as an enviable one, which made compelled me to do the same. However, I realized that I was using others’ evaluations as a substitution for my own.

I was like a frog in a boiling pot of water. I couldn’t recognize the toll that my lifestyle was having on me. My wake-up call came when I took a stress test — the Schedule of Recent Experience. While I hadn’t experienced anything big (the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, a terminal illness, etc.) the compounded impact of the little stresses added up. A score above 300 indicates a high risk of serious stress-induced medical issues — I scored a 1200. That proved it: my emotional and physical symptoms (back pain, irritability, discontent) were not in my head, but the result of real stress compounded over time. Something had to change.

Around the same time, I started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was a complete coincidence; I did not expect that a book on decluttering and organizing would hold the cure to my stress.

I worked through the categories; starting with clothes, I discarded all of my business clothes including my only suit and all of my heels. What remained were comfortable, versatile basics and my favorite piece: my denim jacket. That was freeing, but not surprising.

The true moment of clarity came with the next category — books. I used to have a large collection of books on philanthropy and corporate responsibility. As I went through them, I realized that they didn’t bring me joy. As I held them I felt a sense of heaviness and obligation. One by one, I trusted my intuition and honored that I was no longer excited about the subject matter. I considered each carefully and expressed gratitude for how these books served me. With love and kindness, I thanked them for teaching me and helping me grow. Then, gently, I let those books — and the career that they were associated with — go.

I wasn’t left with an empty bookshelf, however. What remained were books on personal development, spirituality, simplicity, parenting, hiking guides, exploring NYC with kids, family fun, arts and crafts, my daughter’s picture books, and my husband’s beloved cookbook collection. These are my ingredients for a joyful life. They were there all along, in my life and on my bookshelf, but they were being obscured. When I KonMari’d my bookshelf, I KonMari’d my life.

Before KonMari, I was frequently missing meals with my family and would sometimes go days without seeing my daughter awake. I was overweight and miserable. Reading the book and applying the method to my own life helped me turn things around. I use a tool that I developed called Life KPIs (key performance indicators) to track and chart my quality of life on all of the metrics that matter to me such as meals with my family, visits with friends, or walks in nature. All areas have improved exponentially and I am happier and healthier than I have ever been.

The KonMari Method can be intensely cathartic, which makes it a compatible profession from my background in social work. Working through our physical clutter is a gateway to working through emotional clutter. From personal experience and through my work with clients, I can attest that KonMari is much more than organizing our spaces and finding homes for our possessions. The KonMari Method is a simple, but profound process that teaches us to 1) trust our intuition 2) express gratitude and 3) let go. These skills and behaviors Improve our mental and emotional well-being as much as if not more than the tidiness our physical spaces.

I have always enjoyed organizing and was attracted to the idea of doing it professionally because it would mean more control of my time, working with my hands vs primarily on a computer, and supporting individuals through one-on-one interaction. It was humbling to take the leap from a career with the glamour of a large platform and an inspiring social mission to organizing sock drawers. However, more than any other social-change do-gooder job that I’ve held (and there have been a few!) this one is where I feel like I’m making the most profound impact on people’s lives, our culture, and our planet.

My family is my “why” and being a KonMari Consultant allows me to organize my career around my motherhood and not the other way around. I’m there to send my daughter off on the school bus each morning, there to make our favorite after-school snack (apples with peanut butter and chocolate chips!), there make arts and crafts together, and there at the table each night to enjoy my husband’s delicious cooking together as a family.

Now when I look at my vision board it looks a lot more like my real life full of family, nature, love, impact, and of course, joy.

This post originally appeared in Marie Kondo's January 2017 Newsletterproduced by KonMari Media, Inc.