I am not a hoarder at heart, or even much of a keeper. I like to get rid of things and prefer cleared off surfaces for the most part. ( Exceptions made for books….:)) I am generally interested in different ways and techniques to keep clutter at bay, organize better, etc. So when I saw Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on my daughter-in-law’s bookshelf, I was intrigued. I had previously tried to secure it from the library, back when it first came out, but its popularity made it elusive. I questioned my DIL about her thoughts on it, and was interested enough to borrow it to read on the flight back home.
Marie is hard core, y’all. She has an affinity for organizing and being tidy, which manifested itself at an early age. She also is quite legalistic in how she approaches things, and insists that you do things her way exactly, if you want to be successful at “konmari”-ing (which is what the process is called). So, while I appreciated some aspects of her book, and realize that it can and has been helpful to many people, the whole philosophy wasn’t for me. (And not just because of my contrarian-ish nature.)
Having said that, there was one aspect that I found quite helpful to me. Kondo writes:
When you come across something that’s hard to discard, consider carefully why you have that specific item in the first place. When did you get it and what meaning did it have for you then? Reassess the role it plays in your life. If, for example, you have some clothes that you bought but never wear, examine them one at a time. Where did you buy that particular outfit and why? If you bought it because you thought it looked cool in the shop, it has fulfilled the function of giving you a thrill when you bought it. Then why did you never wear it? Was it because you realized that it didn’t suit you when you tried it on at home? If so, and if you no longer buy clothes of the same style or color, it has fulfilled another important function—it has taught you what doesn’t suit you. In fact, that particular article of clothing as already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me”, and let it go.
Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare…
When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.
To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful……Let them go, with gratitude.
This aspect of decluttering—recognizing the reason I got something to begin with, appreciating the joy it brought me (if only the joy of purchasing it), and acknowledging the value it had in some way (taught me that that style or color doesn’t flatter me, etc.)—was quite helpful. I realized that I could let things go, without thinking that it was wasteful (“But I spent x dollars on that! But it’s worth so much!”), or feeling shame that I bought it to begin with, and then hardly used it. I was far too invested in the sunk cost of the item, instead of looking at the ongoing “cost” (both in storing and keeping, as well as mental “storage and keeping”) of the item.
As I thought about this, I also realized that this line of reasoning could be applied to things that I have let pile up in my thought life. What things in the past do I regret, that I can’t seem to let go? Why do I continue to feel guilty about them, even if they are either 1) morally neutral choices that just didn’t go the way I thought they would, or 2) wrong choices or actions that I have asked forgiveness for, from God and from any harmed parties?
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone sins. Everyone has situations that they wish they had handled differently, other choices that they wish they would have made, in hindsight.
Could I “KonMari” my regrets? Could I acknowledge the wisdom gained from my mistakes, and appreciate the experiences that brought me to where I am today?
My husband and I have lived in many different homes, over our marriage of 33 years—eleven, to be precise. (And we are preparing to move again this spring to a new house!) We have never lived longer than five years in any home. Most of those moves were at my urging. Some of them were for good and necessary reasons; some were not. At times I have looked back and thought, “Man, most of those moves were dumb. We wasted a lot of time, money, and energy on those.” And I have felt guilt and shame for the waste, and for what seems so unnecessary now.
However, if I can KonMari this, I can say, “Those moves seemed right at the time, and each move taught me something. In addition, my children, while not having a singular ‘childhood home’ , are free from the pain of us selling a nostalgic homestead in our later years! Thank you, Multiple Moves, for all you have taught me! I am letting you go, with gratitude.”
There are other things that I have in my past that would benefit from this practice. If it is something that hurt another, and I have repented and sought forgiveness from them, then I can absolve myself from continuing to feel regret and pain, and instead be grateful for what it has taught me. If it is something that has no real harm attached to it, then I can release myself from guilt and shame over the “wastefulness”, and rest in the knowledge that nothing is wasted in God’s economy. It served its purpose, whatever that might be. I can remember it with peace, knowing that letting it go also frees up mental and emotional space that is better used for other more fruitful pursuits.
My house doesn’t look super KonMari (although I will use some of her thought processes when deciding what things I really do want to move to our new house). My mind, however, has gotten a little less cramped, and a little more free.
Thanks, Marie Kondo.