OPED: Finding joy in 2019

MEEKER | What do you do when you have company coming over, piles of laundry everywhere, dishes in the sink and absolutely no motivation whatsoever to tackle the ever looming and neverending chore monster? There is the old trick of throwing the clean laundry in the closets or hiding dirty dishes in the oven and hoping and praying your guests don’t unintentionally set the beast loose with a crash and a bang as it comes falling down on their heads. Or the less popular option of actually cleaning (which I guess if you’re going to put some energy into hiding it you might as well just do it right in the first place, my mother would be so proud).

My usual go-to trick to jump start my OCD is to watch an episode of “Hoarders” and contemplate whether I can stall the chore monster or if it will overrun my chaotic life and you’ll be watching me on a new season in the not-so-distant future. One afternoon, while lazily sitting on the couch thinking the third cup of coffee would do the trick (after previously telling myself the second cup was the key), I stumbled on a Netflix show called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Kondo is a popular author and organizational guru and her KonMari method of cleaning—which most of you have heard of from all the buzz of her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”—blew up in popularity a few years ago. Full disclosure: I did not jump on the bandwagon right away, as I like to check out things when they spark my interest and when something is that popular I can stubbornly hold off on checking it out just because. Instead I was one of those people who knew of the book and it’s catchy summary of getting rid of things that only bring you joy. I regularly used the joke that if I implemented her KonMari method there would be no vegetables—among other unpleasant but necessary things—in my house. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I started the first episode with a plan that at the very least I might find a few helpful tricks. Who isn’t a sucker for good before-and-after photos?

Let’s just say the Jan. 1 Netflix release date was genius. This weird time period that is supposed to be about the “New Year, New You” is pretty much just awkward baby steps into the new year, exhausted by the marathon madness of the holidays, trying to get back to a normal schedule, get children back in the rhythm of school, taking down Christmas decorations and feeling emptiness after it’s all been packed away. Not being able to put a finger on what exactly is missing is what Kondo hits squarely on the head. The focus is on simple joy. Looking around after I’ve put away decorations, I feel empty. It’s the kind of emptiness that comes from the lack of objects connected to my Christmas memories. Like how the smell of pine reminds me of my family trudging into the snow the day after Thanksgiving to find the perfect tree and then decorating the tree with my children. Or the twinkle of the lights and remembering the way my now 9-year-old daughter stared at them in amazement as an infant. Each little detail, smell or sound stirs long-forgotten memories tucked away in the attic of my mind that are taken down and dusted off only once a year. I think what we miss the most in the other 364 days is that feeling that no matter what is going on in the world, our work or our personal lives is that there is a shared sense of joy, a celebration where we honor the past and celebrate the present.

And while I’m dragging my feet to take down my own Christmas decorations in hopes of squeezing out every last magical drop of the season I can’t help but wonder if being drawn to the joy of these objects is the missing piece of the puzzle I’m craving. Maybe the lesson here isn’t to pack it away all until next year but to continue on with that spirit in new ways through each season. I’ve always joked that I wouldn’t take down the Christmas tree but instead decorate it for Valentine’s Day, then Easter and the Fourth of July, keeping that visual reminder of the celebration of the next holiday coming up. But while I think it’s partly my love for decorating and Christmas trees, I think it’s mostly wanting to hold on to the things that matter the most during those times. The air is a little lighter with carols sung in the distance. The warm glow of lights welcome us home to our neighborhoods as we marvel at each other’s outdoor displays. The smell of woodstoves burning and crackling in the night as families come home to gather around with eggnog and share timeworn tales doesn’t matter as long as we have each other. Watching the community come together in celebration of children’s programs and trips to the Walbridge Wing to make sure all are visited even if we may not all be blood. Those things are the reason I love Christmas and I think the reason this time of year is so hard. I know it wouldn’t be as special if we celebrated it year-round, but I think more of its wonderful attributes need to be taken into the new year. There needs to be a reevaluation before we cross that invisible threshold of what we want to keep from the year prior and what needs to stay in the past. An evaluation of what those hard lessons taught us and how we’ve changed within 12 short months and with what time we have left (and are never guaranteed), we need to be selective and super focused on what’s important.

So physically, emotionally and spiritually I encourage all of you to take all the junk out of your physical and ethereal home and place it directly in front of you. Pick up each item slowly, ponder it, think about it and see if it gives you a joyful feeling. If it does then place it into the pile to bring with you into the present. If it doesn’t bring you that feeling of joy then thank it for what it’s taught you and leave it there in a pile in the past. Unclutter your life in all the ways that you can and hopefully 2019 will be your year of peaceful contentment and unbounding joy, my dear friends.

By EMMA VAUGHN | emma@ht1885.com