This year, Netflix launched a new show called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” which is based on the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Marie Kondo is an organizing consultant and “tidying expert” who visits families to help them declutter their homes.
Her system, the “Konmari Method” is the framework for which she helps people get their households under control.
What The Konmari Method Is (and What It Isn’t)
First, I’ll start with what the Konmari Method is not. The method is not about minimalism, whereby the goal is simply to eliminate as much stuff as possible.
It’s also not just about organizing, although that is a significant component of the method. Before you try to organize you must take the important step of discarding items.
The method is pretty simple and and can be summarized as follows:
- Choose a single item
- While holding the item, ask yourself if it “sparks joy” within you
- If the answer is no, thank it for serving you and then either put in the trash or into a pile to donate
That’s pretty much it.
Before you begin these steps, there is one process to follow so that you’re not just going through everything at once. The Konmari Method utilizes categories to sort items into groups before deciding what to keep and what to discard. These categories are clothing, books, papers, sentimental items, and Komono (miscellaneous items). Sorting through one category of items at a time will help prevent overwhelm so that you can complete the process.
My Experience with the Konmari Method
I read The LIfe Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the follow-up book, Spark Joy, a couple of years ago. This was before Larissa and I become vintage item resellers–it stings just a little bit (okay, maybe more than just a little!) when I think of all the items we gave away that we could have sold. On the bright side, we donated three pickup trucks’ worth of items to a thrift store that benefits youth in crisis, so at least they went to a good cause.
After discarding what no longer sparked joy within me and organizing what was left, I felt happier. Besides loving the fact that my house was clean and just felt ‘lighter,” I ascribe much of my happiness to the fact that what survived the process were items that truly brought joy to me. It allowed me to see those things much more clearly and, in a sense, hold them closer to me.
This led me to the question, “What else can these principles be applied to?”
How I’ve Applied the Konmari Method Beyond Physical “Stuff”
On her Netflix show, when Marie Kondo enters a home it’s not just about the clutter of the physical “stuff” visible to viewers. Typically, it quickly becomes very evident that clutter is simply a manifestation of other things going on in the household. Marie often uncovers tense relationships or dysfunctional behaviors beneath piles of clothes, books, and papers. Holding onto things because they are familiar but no longer spark joy can keep us stuck in habits that no longer serve us.
Beyond physical clutter at home, our lives are filled with noise and things vying for our attention, including (but not limited to) work and social relationships and commitments, news stories and social media, and day-to-day activities like driving and shopping. Many of these things are simply distractions and don’t necessarily bring us joy.
In episode 291 of our podcast we talked about The Call-Out culture and how destructive it can be. By calling people out and judging others, people who practice these behaviors can actually turn people away from the very causes they claim to be helping. Witnessing these unhealthy shaming behaviors within the vegetarian, vegan and plant-based community is, in fact, what pushed us to create Vegetarian Zen.
As I began to apply the Konmari Method to my own personal social media feeds, I noticed individuals and groups that no longer brought me joy (or perhaps never did) and yet I was holding onto them. It was definitely time to “tidy up!” I unfollowed, unfriended, or unsubscribed to groups, people, and pages that evoked negative feelings inside of me. Just because Joe Shmoe from my 3rd grade class sent me a friend request doesn’t mean I need to keep him as a friend on Facebook if he’s touting hatred and doesn’t add joy to my life.
I realize that it’s not black and white and that unfriending Joe Shmoe isn’t as easy as unfriending Uncle John (which I have also done). The point is, tidying up isn’t just about discarding and organizing the physical items around you. It’s about paying attention to all aspects of your life and making a decision about who and what gets to stay and what has to go based on your own happiness.
Here’s a funny story about how we can learn so much from animals about negative energy. Below is a video of our baby boy Cosmo on the first day we met him at the animal rescue. We took him out to the back patio of the shelter to check out his demeanor and to determine if he would be a good fit for our home. Cosmo was so excited to be out of the kennel and playing. Another dog on the patio (the white one) was obviously dealing with his or her own issues and was scared, skittish, and snappy toward other dogs. Cosmo approached, sensed this dog’s unhappiness, and simply moved himself away. He realized that he and this other dog were simply in two different places and didn’t allow this dog’s energy to impact his own. He simply moved along his merry way and continued to play.
Cosmo’s awareness and respect of the other dog should be a lesson to us to become mindful of what sparks joy and what triggers negative energy within us. It’s a simple process, yet one that is not necessarily easy for humans as we are prone to overthinking things. Applying the Konmari Method to your entire life (not just the physical clutter) is a powerful way to build this awareness and make space for more magical and remarkable people and things to come into your life.
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Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa