I’m Tired of Cleaning Up Too
Updated: Mar 21
My mother was an avid follower of Marie Kondo’s ‘spark joy’ organisation methodology. The famous ‘KonMari’ organisation method is fairly simple: we choose to keep only the items that resonate well with us. This solves our struggles with clutter and effectively helps us keep our homes tidy.
When we moved into our newly-renovated home in October last year, my mother only had a small drawer of office supplies and the basics on her desk. She had recycled all her textbooks and novels, and the paraphernalia on her former bookshelf was discarded now that they no longer ‘spark joy’. Now, as part of her 2023 resolution, she wanted to get rid of all but one cleaning product (to still perform the much-needed cleaning) to reduce clutter. In her grand agenda to own the tidiest house ever, she tasked every member of the household to ‘take ownership’ of keeping one area in our home clean and tidy.
Unfortunately, before even keeping the common spaces clean, cleaning my workspace alone takes up close to an hour every weekend. It takes a while to remove my beloved anime collectibles and whatnot off my table and shelf before cleaning every speck of dust and dirt. Finally, I still had to return the items back to their original location. Before I could complete other tasks like folding washed laundry and wiping down my assigned area, I was worn out.
According to my mother, cleaning tires me out because there are just too many ‘dust collectors’ in my room. I hate to admit it, but she’s totally right. Her incessant nagging about my frequent online and art market purchases fell onto deaf ears. I couldn’t stop trying to recreate the perfect, aesthetically-pleasing workspace that others flaunt on social media. In hindsight, I feel a slight tinge of guilt for giving in to these pressures and going overboard with my purchases.
Recently, an article popped up stating that Marie Kondo had stopped maintaining a tidy house. Immediately after I had found the article, I flicked the link over on the family Whatsapp group. “See! I told you!” I added to the chat. I could finally prove my mother that there was no need to wake the whole family up at 7:30am every Sunday to clean every corner of the house. Woohoo, no more tired cleaning days!
But that obviously wasn’t what the article tried to say, and I totally jumped the gun on the first few lines.
Being clean and tidy is still a necessity. General cleanliness is needed for hygiene purposes; after all, we don’t want to live in a place akin to a pigsty. A dust-filled room makes us feel stuffy, while a bathroom filled with mould and dirt would be uncomfortable to bathe in. Frequently changing our bedsheets and towels can lower bacteria getting to our skin (yay, a clear complexion!). Routinely rinsing out our washing machine could freshen your laundry more. A tidy workspace or wardrobe could give us a peace of mind or help us create a productive environment to work in. A neat and clean space could even mean physical safety for us, including preventing fire hazards and reducing the likelihoods of accidents (e.g. dangerous items like a nail, needle, or even your younger siblings’ Lego bricks).
But, clean and tidy aside, Marie Kondo redefines what it means to ‘spark joy’. Rather than being overly obsessing over “perfectly folded T-shirts or an Instagram-worthy spice cabinet”, sparking joy is more introspective and focuses on what Marie Kondo introduces as kurashi, or “way of life”. Focusing on the simple things can bring calmness and happiness to our lives. These things could include playing our favourite tunes over meals or clearing out our purses daily.
In my case, it would be waking up and sitting in front of my window for a couple of minutes. At around 6:45am to 7:00am, the gradually rising sun is a calming view to behold and energises me when I wake up. While I do this, I usually hold onto my flask and take slow sips of warm water to awaken my body. I started this routine as I moved to a renewed living space, and I found myself feeling more awakened and at peace in the morning.
This begs the question: Can we then derive joy from having a lot of items? According to these individuals in a Rice Media article (”Goodbye Scandi-Boho-Japandi-Minimalism. Hello Cluttercore”), you could spark joy even from the antithesis of minimalism. The most important aspect isn’t to collect or to minimise your collection of items. It’s finding joys with things that resonate with us emotionally and mentally to give us a peace of mind.
Of course, this doesn’t give us a reason to overspend and keep more than what we can cope (financially, physically and mentally). However, we don’t necessarily need to take the extreme measure of expelling everything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’. Instead, our joys can be derived from building our own routines with things that we like and what we prioritise most. Some of us could spend time winding down with a book or two. Others may also relish the scents and flavours of their favourite teas and coffees in their favourite cups. We can also revitalise ourselves with a good workout routine. We spark joy in our own different ways.
My mother very quickly caught up on my blunder on Whatsapp and sent nothing but a laughing emoji. We talked about it later over dinner and she agreed to give this redefined joy-sparking a try. During this conversation, we established the need to keep clean as a healthy habit, but also discussed about the routines we could possibly adopt to spark our own joys.
Sadly, I haven’t gotten myself out of the Sunday routine of cleaning up the house. I still spend an hour or so cleaning up my room and doing the laundry as tasked, and cleaning still makes me break a sweat. But we’ve reduced our obsession with ensuring no dust remains on every nook and cranny, and now spend time on being more engaged spiritually and mentally together as a family. Like Marie Kondo, I’m tired of cleaning up too, but I feel much more relieved knowing that I can spark joy in my own little ways.