It has been a long 2021, and while the new normal is setting in, it has certainly been a tiring journey and happiness seems just a little harder to come by. For overseas Singaporean Eve, her journey through the past year has been full of twists and turns, from getting stuck in Singapore and now back to Shanghai. She shares about how she Marie Kondo-ed a life that is meaningful, and most importantly – sparked joy.
16 September 2021 / By Eve Wee-Ang
Have you ever encountered an epiphany that changed your life forever? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an epiphany means a sudden and surprising moment of understanding. To me, they are messages sent to us by the universe to illuminate a path that progressively led to the best version of ourselves. Epiphanies can manifest to us in many ways. It could be a health scare, a death of a loved one, a line spoken in a film, or in my case, a little book called “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up”.
By now, I am pretty sure most of you have heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese author and tidying sensation who coined the phrase “Spark Joy” that has catapulted her to international fame. Her KonMari® tidying method; an intuitive prescription in deciding what to keep, folding our clothes into standing rectangles and treating our belongings like living things – provided an emotive perspective from other organizing methods which tend to be measured by yardsticks- for instance, tossing anything that you haven’t worn for 6 months.
For someone like me who keeps my wedding dress because it sparks precious memories even though I haven’t worn it since my wedding day 16 years ago, the KonMari® method feels permissive and altruistic. I don’t want to live in an empty house that feels deprived and neither do I want a cluttered home that frustrates me. What draws me to the KonMari® method so powerfully is that it meets me in the middle, at my own terms.
If you step into my house, you will notice that I love plants, candles, rattan baskets and carpets. Head to my kitchen and you will see my affection for Japanese ceramic dishes, wooden cutlery, and Chinese woks. Peek into my closet and you will find a row of linen dresses that I wear with my favorite Birkenstock sandals during summer. Next to it, a rack of cashmere coats, sweaters, and wool skirts in asymmetric cuts that I pair with my comfortable New Balance sneakers for winter. What about bags, you ladies may ask. Yes, I have a sizable collection by designer Phoebe Philo whose work I admire, and just between us, I never leave home without tucking a nifty tin of Tiger Balm inside.
To some people this sounds like a lot of stuff for a tidying consultant’s home, but the KonMari® method is never about discarding or forcefully paring down to the barest minimum. It is about choosing joy. Paradoxically, if minimalism or maximalism sparks joy for you, you are on the right track too! Everything that I now own was filtered down from extreme pickiness that it must bring me joy and purpose or support my present lifestyle and wellbeing.
Otherwise, they simply can’t stay. Because if I let them, they will soon turn into forgotten prisoners and eventually demoted to the lowly rank of junk. When we love someone or something, we pay attention to them. When our love fizzles out, they start to fade from our line of sight, like nature’s way of helping us prioritize what matters most. I know this well because I was once the caretaker of my prisoners of unloved stuff. Except I wasn’t really taking care of them, I simply forgot they existed.
Tucked into prison cells, aka storage boxes, my unloved and untouched prisoners of belongings steeped with guilt and memories began their roving journey when I moved from my mother’s home to my marital home. This carried on when I relocated from Singapore to Shanghai, from Puxi to Pudong, from one block to another. They were always there, serving a life sentence in all my storerooms. Until, that is, the day my husband announced he was taking a six-month sabbatical and we were to move to a tiny apartment one-third the size of our current one. Blood drained from my face as I saw the mountains of stuff in our house clearly for the first time. How on earth were we going to squeeze everything in without burying ourselves alive?
That’s when my epiphany came. One of the bloggers I followed recommended Marie Kondo’s new book. I finished reading it in one sitting and it completely blew my mind. From that moment on, I began the process of learning to unlearn my old thoughts that had held me hostage to the prisoners of my past for so long. By courageously acknowledging that the things I had incarcerated once served me but no longer do so now, I set myself free from the shackles of guilt when I set my past free – with gratitude, from their prison cells. I followed Marie Kondo’s tidying order and began culling and jettisoning my belongings one by one until we eventually made it to the tiny apartment with room to dance and nothing in paid storage.
Something in me had magically shifted. Unencumbered and untethered, I felt light and free. With the clutter out of my way, I saw clearly what remained: Things that I truly loved and represented who I am when no one is watching. They stood for what I believed in and my passion in life. I am the author of my one precious life, and I am going to make it a joyful and meaningful one for as long as I live. It was life changing.
It’s been 7 years since my awakening. I have since let some things go that which no longer served the present me. I have also welcomed new opportunities in my life I wouldn’t have thought I would attempt. When I look back, my heart is filled with gratitude to all my past belongings and experiences that have supported and molded me to be who I am today. Tidying is a continuous journey of self-discovery as we ceaselessly evolve and navigate this adventure call Life, an invitation to ask our heart- does this spark joy, am I living a meaningful life that is true to myself and the people I love? for the rest of our lives.
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Eve Wee-Ang is the first Singaporean certified KonMari® consultant. As a writer and storyteller based in Shanghai, she guides and empowers people to tidy up on their own. Mom of two, Eve is also the founder of TTT (Thursday Tai Tai) a support group for Singaporean moms in Shanghai since 2009. Connect with her at www.eveweeang.com.