The older we get, the more we collect. We collect more memories, more possessions, more experiences and more people into our lives. There comes a point when all of these things – both tangent and abstract – will ultimately bog us down.
Though I'm only a quarter of the way into my lifespan, this new phase in my (somewhat) adult life seemed like a good time to pause and re-evaluate what and, more importantly, whom I wanted to take to the next phases. This inspiration came about in the most unlikely way: at an organization master class led by Japanese cleaning consultant, Marie Kondo.
At a recent appearance in Manhattan, this tidy-up expert walked the packed auditorium through her infamous KonMari Method and chatted about her newest book, "Spark Joy," which is an illustrated manual that delves into the art of organization. Her KonMari Method has been praised for being life-changing, and it's been criticized for how intensively prescriptive it is.
Since I was working in the hospitality industry at the time and am a lightweight hoarder of sorts, attending this event was a no-brainer. I could not pass up the opportunity to learn a little something about organization from this guru.
Kondo instructs her Konverts to pick a category such as clothing, books or shoes. Collect every single item that is scattered around your home, and place it in a single area.
From there, you are to mindfully touch or caress the collected items. Those that spark joy upon contact can stay in the home. All others are to be immediately discarded or donated.
To ease the pain, Kondo tells us to alter our thinking. Instead of focusing on the loss the method brings, she has us focus on how these items will bring more joy and use to someone else. Once the purge and relocation of the remaining items is complete, you are promised serenity, newfound love for your possessions and an insanely tidy living space. Kondo ensures that this labor-intensive process is as emotional as it is effective.
Every item in a home comes into your life to serve a purpose, and carries some form of memory with it. An item may be something you brought in out of pure want or necessity. It may have been a gift from a loved one, or a left-behind nuisance from a past visitor.
By taking the time to evaluate if an item sparks joy and can add further value to your life, Kondo wants you to pay your respects to those items. In this way, you can further cherish the ones that stay in your home. You must also acknowledge the end of your journey with the ones you let go of.
I had initially expected to leave Kondo's masterclass with a succinct list of dos and don'ts, along with some positive mojo to go forth and have a super zen apartment, if I ever really subjugated myself to the method. Instead, I had several halting realizations during her talk that made me finally understand the Kondo hype.
Her spark joy standard by which you are to evaluate an item's ultimate fate anthropomorphizes these items in a way that makes you develop a newfound respect toward them. I couldn't help but want to adapt her method in the ways I approached my personal and romantic life.
In addition to our lifelong accumulation of relationships, social media and the Internet also allows us to continuously meet new people and maintain relationships across great distances. These digital and IRL relationships can bring with them obligations, along with past and present burdens or inconveniences.
There are relationships that are meant to come into your life to serve a certain purpose, to teach you something about yourself and the world you live in and to reveal to you a new way of doing things. Others weave in and out of your life to keep you entertained, or maybe even distracted. Some might even simply serve to help you pass your time.
We've all done it. We've all kept someone around for the wrong reasons, be it because of fear, out of habit or for appearance's sake. We might have been stuck in vicious circles of logical fallacies that kept us in those situations with the wrong people. But in the end, if personal and emotional growth can't be achieved by both parties, where's the joy in being in each other's lives?
It is crucial to pause from our hectic schedules so that we can evaluate the value these supporting characters may or may not be bringing to our lives. We can take a mental inventory of all the people in our lives by category, such as romantic liaisons, friends, drinking or smoking buddies, work friends, relatives (both close and distant), etc. From there, really dig deep and honestly ask yourself what value they bring to your life, and what value you can respectively offer to theirs. Keep only the people who feel right to you.
You can choose your own approach for those who don't make the cut. I won't Kondo you into a specific farewell method. From the slow fade to quitting cold turkey, you should choose what feels right.
Since I've attended that talk, I've started applying this method to both my personal life and around my home. Some goodbyes have been harder and more dramatic than others. Others have been swift and painless on both ends.
All in all, the KonMarie method has brought me peace of mind and has freed up emotional space. My closet's looking pretty great as well. In Kondo's experience, the complete cleanse can take anywhere from a couple of hours to six months. As long as you're committed to the process, you're free to take your time.
So, let's declutter our lives of those who no longer spark joy in us, and thank them for the light they brought into our lives in the past. No matter how long it takes, as long as we're committed to preserving and expanding the joy we have in our lives, we're in for a serene ride.