I’m a Konvert. Before you go crazy, I want to tell you that yes, I’m probably a classist, privileged person with an uptight view about consumerism. And yes, I think Marie Kondo’s methods are extreme. But a week after earning my Tidying Complete merit badge, my life feels completely fresh and new.
Enough has been written about the method, but let me share some personal insights.
Konmari as a religious experience
As an apatheist, religion doesn’t exactly come easy to me. After listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on a recent road trip, I felt like this was maybe my first chance.
I see some parallels in Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. You live in what you believe is richness, but by giving up your material goods, you achieve a higher state of being.
Now, throwing out two truck-loads full of garbage didn’t enlighten me on the meaning of life, but it certainly has changed my perspective.
We all have garbage in our lives, and clearing it out is truly meaningful. I looked forward to the experience because I feel like I had a lot of garbage left in my life. I held a certain defensiveness about my things. An automatic reflex to guard and preserve everything I owned, without giving anything a second thought. I had blind faith in my material possessions.
It was in that blind faith that I identified with the religious nature of this experience. I was challenging my deeply held beliefs head on. I was shedding the material for a more pure existence. I’m never going to be an ascetic, but somehow, the act of shedding all of these things helped me value what I had a bit more.
I feel more content with my belongings than ever before. I no longer have a running list of wants, waiting for the next paycheck to be purchased. It’s only been a week, so I’ll make sure to report back.
Konmari as a method
Konmari works because of the categories Kondo has created. She asks you to go through your items, all your items, in particular categories, and do them all together. I had always approached cleaning up room by room, so this was a huge game changer for me.
The process becomes easier after each category. All of the items in your home start to have greater visibility as you work down the list. It’s one of those instantly gratifying experiences that constantly reinforces the behavior.
It’s harsh to have to get rid of mementos, photos, and other personal treasures. Kondo has designed an order that hones your skills as your practice. It’s the stair-step method that works so well for skill building.
Positive intent leads to positive results
My guess is that most people focus on what they’re getting rid of. The deal with Konmari is that you end up choosing what stays, not what goes. You start to realize the things that truly mean something to you.
That defensiveness I mentioned before? At the beginning of this process, I kept saying things like “oh, well, not the owl. I love that owl.” My spouse would just say “does it spark joy?” and I was at ease. Of course it does, so it gets to stay.
You end up caring more for the things you have as a result of this. I established an emotional connection to my things that I have never experienced before.
Stop looking past the bad stuff
Literally and physically, I was looking past the bad stuff to see the good. Scattered throughout the house were decorations I was no longer fond of, but seemed to have a perpetual place in my home’s décor. I was looking past all of those tired things to see the stuff I truly cared about.
Anyone who has been to my house knows of its museum-like qualities. Artifacts filled most of the shelves, and you’d be lucky to find space for a new item. The house basically looks the same. I reduced to about one fifth of my prior belongings, but my house looks no different. I feel like prior to the clean-out I mentally edited out parts of my displays to only see the items I truly appreciated.
During the process, I also unearthed journals filled with self-loathing, regrets, mistakes, bad boyfriends, and bad bosses. Why was I holding on to these times? Was I subconsciously keeping them to remind myself how good I have it? To write some awful memoir? I don’t need to dip back into the past. It made me who I am today, and that’s enough. All I have now is the present and the future. It’s malleable. I’d rather focus on what’s ahead than what’s behind me.