A tidy house is a tidy mind

Possessions can clutter our lives and cloud our judgement, but a new book suggests breaking their hold on us can be transformational.

You’ll have read of the recent scientific evidence of cosmic gravitational waves. Well, I can now tell you where they come from – our house.

But I’ve just surprised myself greatly. ­After working in the media business for two lifetimes – pre-children and post-children (not that my children are dead, just that… oh, you know what I mean…) – after working this long in the STUFF ­business, shifting widgets, STUFF, ­product, STUFF, services, STUFF, ideas, STUFF, ­concepts, STUFF, big ideas… whatever, I’ve become more and more conscious of the clutter in my life and wary of the weight of it all bearing down.

It’s become a gigantic lifetime stack of American pancakes gone cold and ­pressing down with butter and ­maple syrup all congealed. It is heavy and dangerous.

The feeling is intensified by having moved house about nine times in the past two years.

So there’s been an endless stream of chucking out, packing, taking things to charity or going back on a decision to chuck things out and repacking them in a box where I know I will refind ‘that thing’ in five years’ time, and then I’ll be angry for just passing the ­problem on to my future self.

Well, astonishingly, I’ve finally solved the ­problem. I’ve now got a mechanism for deciding what to keep and what to chuck – and it actually works.

And it comes from a young ­Japanese author who, when she wrote her book, had no kids.

Marie Kondo’s bestseller is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, which of course is a foolish title to start with.

When the comedienne daughter of mine came back from that place she calls Uni and left it lying around for me to see, I flicked through it in order to chide her and was transformed.

Kondo’s mantra, keep only those ­possessions that spark joy, has now ­become a joke in our family, but a useful one because it provides a quick touchstone for decisions about what to keep as well as what to buy, or more’s the point, not buy. Hear that? Not buy.

Just being aware of the pull of stuff in our lives creates a wonderful space where life can sneak in.

I recommended the book to my friend Katy, lawyer, mother of three and the ­tidiest person I know. She said: "The point for me is to get rid of the burden of ‘stuff’ that weighs us down with its silent reproach and demands.

"I can also understand that the reasons why we hang on to things that we neither need nor particularly like are complex and often negative, but what she gives is the power to let those things go, despite their almost totemic hold."

It’s strange to think those books, clothes, pictures, stuff on shelves, in drawers and boxes exert such a powerful influence over us but I think they do.

And as the years go by the more cosmic are the gravitational waves they create.

However, I believe the author of this ­sacred tidying text who has helped me defy gravity is now in trouble. She’s had a child. I like to think her whole house is now knee-deep in sick.

Adrian Reith is executive coach to media and creative industries. Visit AdrianReith.com

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