How can we clear the clutter from our lives?

Living more simply may sound appealing. But permanently stripping away the excess requires sincere soul searching, according to decluttering expert Jessica Louie.

"We start with clarifying," Louie said of her process with clients. "What is your ideal lifestyle? What are your core values? Why do you get up in the morning?"

Without such answers, the act of detaching from the physical is likely to be a fleeting exercise. Louie will help Hinsdale Public Library patrons drill down into those questions with her online workshop "Clear the Clutter with the KonMari Method" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 23 (see Page 24 for details).

A certified consultant in the KonMari Method, the famed approach by "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" author and TV host Marie Kondo, Louie went through her own season of self-examination as a pharmacy school student, and, subsequently, pharmacist and associate professor.

"I wasn't living with intention," she said of making shopping and fashion her anesthetic to handle the rigors of critical care medicine. "I was really coping with a lot of high stress in my life that turned into burnout."

Southern California was a long way from her family support network in Wisconsin. A relative's sudden death served as a wake-up call, and she discovered Kondo's paradigm for rearranging her life,

"It's really about how can you apply simple changes to your life right away," she said.

Cleaning out her physical items led to sharper emotional and spiritual vision. Louie realized she wanted to help others break free of unhealthy attachments to release inner contentment - or, as Kondo puts it, to identify what sparks joy.

"It's not only what sparks joy physically, but it's what sparks joy in every aspect of our life," Louie said.

Some clients are planning to move or downsize, while others have weighty debt keeping them from flourishing. The benefits of simplifying often ripple beyond oneself, she noted, citing one family that wanted to help their elderly matriarch declutter.

"Their mother was 102 years old, and she was still very active. The family and I went through her house together to simplify and figure out what was really important to keep that would bring the family joy," Louie related.

Photos were taken of items not kept.

"It made the transition a lot easier in terms of what legacy she was going to leave," she said.

The goal is not to emulate Pinterest-perfect home scenes, Louis stressed. She even adheres to a "no buy" policy in her work to avoid the tendency to just acquire new storage solutions. And don't expect overnight fixes.

"You didn't accumulate your physical clutter overnight," Louie remarked, advising people set target dates, like a birthday, to reach their milestones. "We need to not break appointments with ourselves if we really want to go on that journey."

Simply stated, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

"We want you to make this long-term lifestyle change that brings you joy of the physical items in your life."

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean