Transformation through Tidying by Christine O’Brien
I have this sweet memory of playing at doing dishes with my mom. I was pouring the sudsy water into my favorite cup and making believe it was a root beer float that I was serving to my mom, who was sitting nearby. My mother was always busy cooking, cleaning and organizing; she is the type to regularly use the phrase, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Most often, however, she chose not to include my brother, sister or me in the home care routine. Her own painful childhood caused her to focus on our environment rather than be with us. This sense of separation feels more pervasive than the golden moments of connection. After much turmoil she gave up and left the family to move to Europe. This abandonment left a deep wound in my heart. Not only did it leave me feeling unlovable, I also didn’t learn the home making skills I needed to care for myself and my family.
When my daughter first arrived I was barely able to get to any of the housework. I would feel accomplished if I was able to trim one of her fingernails and reheat some food for dinner. At first I was okay with that, but as she grew I expected I would be able to do more. I was critical of myself; I wanted to be perfect and that desire kept me from being able to create the home and life I dreamed of.
When my daughter was one year old I enrolled in the Lifeways Training program. I was an Educational Coach in San Francisco and had the pleasure of working with Julie Fellom, the founder of Neighborhood Playgarden. Julie introduced me to Waldorf philosophy and education. The sense of warmth, healthy food, music, stories, beauty, tidiness and connection to nature that I saw in her program touched my heart. I wanted to bring these positive senses to my home, and so I enrolled in Lifeways.
Lifeways was not easy. I felt simultaneously drawn to and overwhelmed by the homemaking aspect of the Lifeways course. I wanted to provide the warmth and love to my daughter and family, but didn’t feel capable. However, I continued with the course, and I’m glad I did. Lifeways has brought me into the most heartfelt community of inspiring women. The program and community has helped me prioritize home-care, rhythm and self-care. Ever so slowly I developed more capacity to attend to my home in the way that I want to.
When my daughter was two-and-a-half years old I found Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her idea of tidying is that you surround yourself with only your joyful and necessary things. She developed the “KonMari Method” whereby you tidy your home by going through all the things you own by category, choosing to keep the things that “spark joy,” then thanking and letting go of the rest. One of the ideas that really spoke to me is that keeping a tidy home is a skill that anyone can acquire – it is not something you either have or you don’t. This boosted my confidence.
Soon after I started the KonMari Method in my home, Kim John Payne came to speak in my hometown. The synchronicity of the timing was magic. I was inspired by his talk, so I read his book, Simplicity Parenting, and found that it tells the story of how and why to tidy with kids, and his ideas make KonMari with kids possible for me. A year after hearing Kim John Payne speak, I have completed the KonMari Method in my home, and completed the Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach training. With these resources I have been able to create the home and life I want for my family.
My home is less cluttered and tidier, which makes me feel more capable and confident. Through choosing joy in all my things, I came to know myself and love myself a little more. An important part of the process for me was developing self-compassion and being okay with not being perfect. It is enough to be myself.
I found my calling by doing the KonMari Method. I am dedicated to supporting moms in their journey of connecting with themselves and their families in order to create a joyful home and life. Achieving this joy at home has the potential to create a more peaceful world; self-compassion allows compassion for others, whether in our home or in another country.
I take courage from Rumi’s words, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” My deep pain of abandonment is translating to offering myself in the service of supporting moms in this most essential job of raising the next generation of peacemakers.
Connecting with my husband and daughter is the most important part of my life. Some of our best family times are working in the garden together or doing our home care routines where we are connecting and caring for one another and our home. Today my daughter chose to polish her wooden kitchen with us as her “special time.” The three of us together singing and polishing her kitchen–it felt magical. May these golden moments be how my daughter remembers her childhood.
Simplicity Parenting Coach
Christine and her family live in Sebastopol, California; she took the California Coast LifeWays Training with Marianne Alsop, Director.