The Tidying Up Craze: Create More Joy, Empathy and Better Connections

I always know where I am in my life, within my self, by looking at these three areas in my home: my closet, my desk, and my refrigerator.  If I am neglecting my self in some way, or feeling overwhelmed, I’ve learned it’s time to start emptying and organizing. Bit by bit, I begin sorting and cleansing my way into a sense of control and confidence, outside and in.

According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, our home is a manifestation of our soul — a place to park our soul at the end of the day. We want to use our home as a reminder of how our consciousness should be. It’s up to us to create the energy in the home and to make it a reflection of us. Creating balance and order around us helps us do the same in our consciousness. Author and home organizer, Regina Leeds, puts it more bluntly, "Your crap and your clutter is what's going on inside of you." Don’t we all know and feel that

This month, nearly every major publication and network is talking about author, Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix.  Who doesn’t agree that tidiness makes us feel better?  And yet many do not grasp the extent, and the far reaching impact positive impact of decluttering? So what are the benefits of creating order in our home?  And what is the best approach to declutter with joy and balance (and that we can sustain)?

The Psychological, Spiritual and Relationship Benefits of Tidying Up

We know it from experience, but research confirms that those who move from clutter to tidiness experience not only a decrease in stress but an increase in their ability to process information and to focus on their goals. Order also helps us feel more creative, hopeful and more confident we can achieve our potential. 

Order can awaken it’s own brand of simple joy. We find a serenity that comes with less stuff. The key is balance. While it can be a happy and beautiful experience to buy a new dress or gadget, or to treasure a sentimental item, there’s a flip side to “too much” and not being sensitive to how each item affects us. Without balance, and developing what Marie Kondo describes as an empathic sense of what sparks joy, we can stuff ourselves into emptiness and guilt.

Even if it doesn’t reach the proportion of a full blown hoarding crisis, too much stuff can easily become an addiction, a distraction, an escape from connecting with our bodies, our loved ones, our pain, our self and the truth within our soul.  We are energy seekers by nature, and in a consumer society, it’s easy to turn to the illusionary solution of accumulating more stuff when it’s something much deeper that brings lasting joy. Decluttering opens up the space to connect from within—or as my daughter, Andrea Glik, LMSW, likes to say, “come home to yourself.” 

In our relationships, chaos in our environment can easily get in the way. In large part because it’s harder to connect with ourselves much less another. Ask anyone with young children about this one.  I remember that time in our life, back in the day, and listen to the struggles of many young couples who can’t seem to catch up. Not only from the hectic and relentless running around of those little joy machines, but just from the mess and disorder itself. It can be difficult to find that open space to connect. The key is finding a way to make the tidying up process light and fun, and not just on the shoulders of one person. It’s about creating an attitude of empathy, gratitude, and mutual care towards your home, your items, and especially the people with whom you live and love. So now let’s talk about the how …

Best Practices for Tidying Up

According to Marie Kondo’s Konmari method, she recommends the following rules:

RULE 1: Commit yourself to tidying up.

RULE 2: Imagine your ideal lifestyle.

RULE 3: Finish discarding first.

RULE 4: Tidy by category, not by location (e.g.,clothing, books, papers, kitchen/bath, sentimental)

RULE 5: Follow the right order.

RULE 6: Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Here are 7 Tips to not only help make the tidying up more joyful but also SUSTAINABLE:


Make perfectionism the first thing you discard. Each person is unique and that’s in the beautiful design of our universe.  While some decide to make the clearing and tidying process an intense and concentrated project, I find that each person needs to find the rhythm that works for them.

As most of us do, I wear many hats and I continue to make choices that demand from me, stretch me and require constant change.  This makes my days and sometimes evenings quite full. That being said, I can’t say that full time organizer fits in my hat closet. So what works for me is to grab snippets of time wherever I can.  One fridge-drawer here, one under-the-sink-cabinet there. Maybe it’s the sock drawer before work and the underwear drawer after. Usually mornings work better for me because clearing out and tidying up often requires more decision-making energy than we realize. Sometimes there’s a time for going all in and devoting full days, but I don’t recommend the all or nothing mindset. 


While a neat house reflects a person who takes good care of themselves, too neat can show obsession or lack of presence or warmth. I suggest reflecting within, using the extremes of “mess” and “over-neat,” as a gauge for where you are.


Our home should be a reflection of us, not who we think we should be or what others think. When decorating, organizing and tidying, ask yourself, “IS THIS ME?”


The Kanmari method is most well known for the invitation to ask oneself, “Does this item awaken sparks of joy?” Answering that question requires listening within and being present in the moment without any judgement about what you might hear. Try inviting self-compassion and self-acceptance, right where you are now. Also consider carefully you’re personality and attention style. Some are organically orderly in their way of processing information and life. Others are more expansive in their attention span, and this can affect your relationship with the space around you. So please be gentle with yourself if consistency and keeping order is naturally a struggle. 


When cleaning out our things, its a powerful opportunity to listen to our feelings, especially when we find ourselves having difficulty letting go of items. Pause, take a few deep breaths and pay attention within to the emotions the item brings up or what you’re feeling at the very idea of discarding it. The idea isn’t to feel forced to give precious things away. We must honor our truth when it’s useful, authentic, joyful or meaningful for us to keep an item in our home, in our life.

That being said, oftentimes we hold onto things for less than joy-sustaining reasons. For example, you might feel guilt for not having used an item enough, or fear of not having what you need at a later time. Maybe your ego voice is bombarding you with should’s or I need this to feel good enough. Remind yourself, You are always enough. Sometimes we don’t let go of an item because we don’t realize the drain on our consciousness that keeping it really causes, especially if it’s from a person we need to move on from or some other aspect of our past.

You might need to add soothing and cleansing rituals to support your tidying journey, especially to make it a way of life. Examples include: opening a window, lighting a candle, burning sage, spraying essential oils. If you’re really struggling to let go, a counselor or close friend might offer the support and strength you need. Whatever it takes to help you LET GO— whether of the items that do not spark joy or the emotions that keep you stuck. Remember, on the other side of letting go awaits your new and more joyful, loving, and authentic life. 


Every living thing or object contains sparks of the Light of Creation itself. Many spiritual pathsteach this beautiful idea. When clearing items away, I love the idea of openly thanking the item for however it served you before you say goodbye.  This can assist with the letting go and moving forward into your present life, with newly refreshed goals and dreams. 


One of the gifts Marie Kondo brings to tidying up is the unconditional respect and acceptance she injects into the process— towards the tossed away items themselves, towards oneself and towards the others in the home.

In the Down-sizers episode, Marie shares, “It’s very important when you’re tidying to respect each other. Having a family of my own, and being a mother and I think the things in our house and all the family members in a home kind of function the same way. We each play a role and we only have a limited amount of space and we all need each other.”

The Strength in Vulnerability: Raising Sons Who Know How They Feel

Being vulnerable can be difficult for anyone, but especially for men. While girls receive plenty of messages to keep their feelings under wraps, recent research continues to show how far society's masculinity soundtrack takes boys off course from connecting with their emotional side. I read an article this week in the New York Times called, Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls by Andrew Reiner. Even I, already sensitive to this issue, was blown away by the studies Reiner cited showing the damaging stereotypical messages boys receive to “man up,” often in concealed ways and starting as early as infants. 


From the get-go, even before our son Jeremy was conceived, I felt a strong sense of purpose to raise a boy freed from the limitations of macho-based confidence. From the moment he was born, my parenting thought process was guided by this desire — to help our son be comfortable with his vulnerable emotions, nurture his innate empathy, and appreciate the true strength and courage in being real.

Our society often reinforces a belief system that resilience means suppressing emotions, pushing our way through. Susan David, a Harvard psychologist, says the opposite is true. Rather than suppressing difficult emotions and thoughts, we thrive by becoming Emotionally Agile, meaning “to be with ourselves and our emotions.” 

How do we start teaching our sons they can have vulnerable emotions? Here are some tips to consider:

Make it safe to share feelings.  The best way to do this is to listen without rushing to a solution or judging. Sometimes our own fears get in the way and we get reactive when our kids feel upset.  Just reflect and let the boy or man in your life know you understand.  Be on the lookout for signs of fear or sadness, disappointment or insecurity.  Ask open-ended questions, like “You seem upset, what’s going on?” “How was your day — what was the best and the worst part?” Actively listen, validate, show you understand and that you want to hear how he feels. It’s always good to show trust and belief in him and his ability to grow stronger from this experience.

When we ourselves are comfortable with our emotions and our pain, and can express our needs and feelings in a proactive way, kids watch and pick up on this healthy emotional vibe. I asked Jeremy today, now 21, for his perspective on how we (hopefully) taught him, as a boy, to be in touch with his emotions. He texted, “The way you guys live. Anytime something is on your mind you guys tell it how it is— so we can understand, adjust and change if it’s a recurring thing.”  Jeremy continued “ … to sit down and talk about things together, be it planning or issues that come up, this made for an evident culture of not holding things in.” While our kids still groan to us when they tease about our family meetings, apparently they were a good thing. 

Find opportunities to drop little emotion lessons in here and there, first and foremost that emotions are not something to run from or fear.  For example, something I learned from the wisdom of Kabbalah, “It’s a strength to 'be with' our pain and not run from it.” Another tidbit of truth: "When we get our feelings out, we feel more in control and less likely to blow up in the wrong place or in the wrong way.”

Our culture can send messages to boys that the liberal arts side of education is a feminizing idea. Boys have been known to tease and judge each other for these interests. Look for little seeds of interest in the arts or nature, animals or music — and pour on the support.  Our son is convinced that his passion for music, and being encouraged to pursue his musicianship, helped him connect to his softer side. He said, “it was easier for me to find my emotions through music.”  Sports and video games have their place but they don’t typically open your heart the way the arts and nature do. If spirituality or religion is a part of your life, being open with this in your home, sharing about your journey & what you are learning-- this can help encourage inward turning.

Journaling is the tool I suggest most for my clients, more than any other tool, across age, gender and the personal or relationship issue that brings them in. Don’t push it, but suggest a journal or log.  Writing our thoughts and feelings down awakens the inner communication channels — and can make it easier to express to others once you’ve gotten more clear of your own inner voice.  Identifying our thoughts and feelings can give us a greater sense of control making us less likely to respond with our knee-jerk reaction. 

When my husband and I first got married, I soon noticed that it was hard for him to be real.  He would ask me for advice on giving a talk at work or writing a card to a friend or family.  All I had to say was, “Speak from your heart.” And the perfect message would come through.  

Whether that’s an older sister, a neighbor or cousin, having a girl close to your son’s age in his life can really make a difference.  Not his mom who is miles away generationally, a young positive girl mentor can teach your son how to treat a girl with respect and sensitivity.  If she’s mature enough and willing, she can help model how it’s cool to talk about feelings sometimes.