Have you heard of Marie Kondo?
For those of you who haven’t, Marie wrote the book The Magic of Tidying Up, and has a new show on Netflix in which she goes into family homes, and teaches them how to “get their house in order” in a way that kind of magically changes their lives.
It’s a whole thing.
Personally, I don’t give a shit about organization or tidiness (and I’m a nomad, so I don’t have a home to put in order), but based on her book being highly recommended by friends, I bought it, and found myself spellbound.
While Maria seems to be merely giving advice about how to fold clothes, organize books, and store miscellaneous items, her method is really a gentle revolution on how to live.
There’s so much about her method that I love, such as the way she encourages gratitude and mindfulness, and her subtly anti-capitalist way of viewing “stuff.”
Her method forces people to come into mindful contact with their belongings, to acknowledge the place of honor and respect their belongings deserve, which causes people to think more critically about buying and having so much damn stuff. There is a revolutionary feeling of respect, honor, and kindness throughout her work, as well as a subtle movement toward minimalism, and a streak of pure childlike whimsy.
Before Marie puts a home in order, she kneels and takes a few minutes to silently introduce herself to the house. This tiny gesture is unheard of in our go-go-go western culture, because we’ve been conditioned to view ourselves as too busy and important to pause to talk to a house.
We’ve also been conditioned (thank you, colonialism) to see our belongings as things to acquire, use, and discard without a second thought. We tend to say “this is mine so I can do whatever I want with it,” while Marie’s style is more
“this is mine, so it’s my duty to protect and honor it.”
This subtle mindset shift has the power in and of itself to change lives. What would happen if we all adopted this mindset in all of our relationships, be they with objects, animals, humans, or the earth?
Marie’s whimsy also comes through when she uses semi-magical-sounding phrases of personification, such as “only hang up clothes that look as though they would be happier hung,” and “balling up socks is stressful for them, so be sure to fold them in a way that allows them to rest.”
It’s adorable. (I don’t know if this concept appeals to me because of the empathy-via-personification part of my brain or what, but I love the idea that some items are happier on hangers, and that socks need to be folded carefully or else they get anxious.)
But the most important thing about Marie’s message, and the reason I’m talking about her now, is the way she encourages people to listen to their bodies, and trust themselves.
Marie’s entire method is based on the idea that a person’s body will tell them which items should be kept or tossed; that their intuition will tell them where things belong; that if they tune inward the answers will all be there.
Though not the point of the book, this method gently promotes self-trust, and tuning into the sensations in one’s body.
Marie asks her readers to hold up each object they own, to touch it with their hands and be mentally present with it, and to notice whether or not it sparks a feeling of joy in their bodies.
If it does, great! You keep that item.
If it doesn’t, that item gets discarded.
What a stunningly simple way of helping people tune into the wisdom of their bodies and souls! What a sneaky way of teaching people to listen to and trust their intuitions!
I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that this book is so popular, because it means that millions of people, especially women, across the world will learn two important things:
An extremely simple way to tuning into the sensations in their body (which are otherwise typically very hard to pick up on), and
A raised bar for what is worth giving their time, energy, and attention.
The truth is that nothing is worth having in our lives if it doesn’t spark joy. Not people, not animals, not places, not objects. Not relationships. Not jobs. Nothing.
But most people don’t go around noticing if stuff sparks joy, for a few reasons.
First of all, we’ve all been taught that life is hard and we just gotta grind through it, so “good enough” is supposed to be what we strive for.
More importantly though, most people are so damn disconnected to their bodies that they have no idea what sparks joy inside them! It takes time and practice to tune into that kind of signal inside of us, and after a lifetime of being taught that those feelings are untrustworthy, unimportant, false, invalid, selfish, or dangerous, that can be extremely difficult!
In an effort to feel valid and respected, we often ignore our feelings altogether and try to use “logic” to guide us. Sadly this method doesn’t work, so life quickly becomes overwhelming and confusing.
Trying to use your head to make decisions that only your body was designed to make leads inevitably to houses filled with stuff you don’t like, relationships that don’t suit you, a life that’s not fulfilling, and a chronic feeling of anxiety.
I can’t tell you how often my clients describe a gut feeling, and then talk themselves in the exact opposite direction, either because they consider the feeling invalid, or because they don’t feel like they deserve to live a life that sparks joy.
The wisdom of our bodies has all the answers you could ever possibly need, but you have to be willing to listen.
If you listen, your body will tell you what to keep and what to toss, where things belong, who to talk to, what career to choose, who to date and who to marry, and what to do and say in every single situation. It will tell you everything.
The only reason you don’t have these answers already is because you haven’t learned to tune in and listen to these messages, to respect and trust them, and to let them guide you.
While I help a lot of my clients do this through coaching, Marie Kondo has provided a gentle framework for masses of people to practice the same thing by simply asking themselves, over and over and over: when I tune in, how does this feel to me?
Or, put her way: Does this spark joy?
Here’s to hoping that this cultural phenomenon is part of a movement toward more embodiment, more self-trust, and more women across the world living a life of FUCK YES, instead of “that’s fine.”
With sparks of joy,