There were a lot of books about decluttering these past few years, but the one that made a huge impact on my life, was Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Method of Tidying Up. This book hit the Taiwanese market first, so on my annual visit to Taiwan, I actually saw it on the bookshelf, but the cute cover made me hesitate and I walked away from it at that time.
Why did I come back to it then? Honestly, because it was the first time I’d seen any english-translated book from Asia hitting the New York Times best seller list as well as Amazon’s best seller of the year, I was intrigued. I ended up reading the book in English because of my curiosity. Also, if you compare these two covers, it might be easy to understand why one is much more appealing over the other to a designer (chuckles).
Why did this book mean so much to me? The story is quite long, but I’ll try to summarize. During the 10 years of my design career, I experienced three major life events. The first is losing my younger sister at the beginning of my career. The second was to get married to my husband in the middle of my career. The last was to reach the goal I have set for myself at my very first job interview 10 years ago, to become a design manager.
This seem like a normal path for anyone who works hard building a career (besides the losing a family member part), but it’s actually been quite a ride for me. I’ve been abroad for 20+ years and speak English with no accent, but it’s not until I started working that I realize my English sucks pretty bad. To be successful at any career in the US, but especially in a design career, you’ve got to understand the American life. And by this I mean from the food, to the things/movies/music your colleagues and clients might have been into as kids, to the difference between the north and the south, to all the sports and some of their histories, to all of the popular culture and jokes, pretty much all of the above and more. Having this knowledge only helps you have meaningful conversations with others (instead of just smiling and nod), but it helps you become truly empathetic when designing digital products, user experiences, and services for the American population.
Now, because digital products/service design is one of the youngest and most innovative industry, it means my enthusiasm and will in learning could not cease one bit throughout the past 10 years. During that time, I lost a family member, to be completely honest, I was totally shattered with grief. I was extremely close with my sister, so when it happened, I literally felt like someone had cut me in half. I had that feeling for at least 5 years. Losing a family member is something that will stick to you for the rest of your life, there is no recovery, but only acclamation. For 5 years, I slowly acclimated. At the same time, I pushed myself to not make my parents and family worry, who lived all the way back in Taiwan. I needed to let them see me doing okay, surviving, maintaining, I pushed myself really hard.
Getting married was something I didn’t think was going to happen in my life. After losing my sister, I actually seriously ruled out family life because I couldn’t find a meaning for it. But my husband, then boyfriend, went through the whole ordeal of my sister’s passing with me. He visited Taiwan with me annually to pay respect to my sister and my family. He tried his best to learn everything about Taiwan. Though he will never become a true Taiwanese, but we approach things similarly, we’re both designers, we both prefer simpler lives. So after some push from our families, we got married. I’ve never regretted this decision to this day, but it’s not to say everything was smooth sailing. Besides all the little fights and compromises every couple need to get through, we also needed to conquer the cultural differences. There are so many things, small things like soup being a broth consistency or chowder consistency, big thing like addressing each other’s parents mom and dad or by their first name.
So for who never asked or I haven’t told, it sort of looked like I got tired of working and decided to run home to rest. But really, the only person who can tell one’s story is oneself. All these years, a perfectionist me forced added all these baggages on myself. When I decided to rest, all I wanted to do was to dump the baggages, return to basic, go back to the Sandy who did things because she wanted to. I wanted to examine my life, to see what in my life actually spark joy that’s worth preserving. This is not as simple as piling all of your clothes into one room and pick out the ones that spark joy. I put things I do, I eat, where I shop, ways I shop, ways I think, ways I treat myself all into that room. I picked out things that made me feel content, at peace, and joyful. This didn’t take just 3 days, a lot of the emotional baggages took a while to let go.
This whole resetting process made me feel like I was able to breath normally again. Before adding anything new to our life now, I consider its impact carefully now. My entire being feels lighter, freer. Luxuries in life that make us happy are a must now, wasteful habits have been thrown out, it’s all because of Kon-Mari. So if you are also on your way to a reset, beside Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must I mentioned last time, I also highly recommend this one. After reading the book, you might think it’s too much work and want to try it later. I encourage you to just DO IT, you will feel the empowerment.