Everything I own fits in three carry-on sized bags and one medium sized shipping box. I’ve been a minimalist for years, but even I can admit this is this the most extreme it’s been.
I’m good with it; minimalism makes me happy—especially when it comes time to move, which I do roughly once a year. However, I was still interested in reading what tidying expert Marie Kondo had to say when her place in the zeitgeist was brought to my attention.
In her book Spark Joy, Marie Kondo says to “Keep only those things that bring you joy. And when you discard anything that doesn’t, don’t forget to thank it before saying good-bye.” In doing so, she feels, “You foster appreciation for, and a desire to take better care of, the things in your life.”
I wouldn’t say I went about purging my things by figuring out what brought me joy, just what I didn’t need. Which is a good place to start as any. Courtney Glashow, LCSW owner and psychotherapist at Anchor Therapy in Hoboken, NJ, advises, “Take her method as a guideline and to motivate you to get started. The point of her method is to go through all of your items and to tidy the items you want to have in your home so that it creates a happier space to live in.”
Since I own about four things, that’s not a huge issue for me, but what struck me most upon reading Spark Joy was associating her words to the other areas in my life that I had inadvertently Marie Kondo-ed as well.
Marie Kondo-ing my job
I have always felt guilty quitting jobs that stressed me out. I’ve felt I was being weak or too sensitive, as if I wasn’t giving them enough time to get acclimated. But it turns out I’ve just been following Marie Kondo’s mantra of living a life filled with joy.
“The real tragedy,” Kondo states, “is to live your entire life without anything that brings you joy and never even realize it. From the moment you finish tidying, you can begin to add a new zest to your home and to your life.”
I felt reassured that by leaving jobs that have invoked dread, I’ve just been tidying my work life. I know I can’t Marie Kondo my way out of working altogether—I need to pay the bills and I definitely can’t Kondo them away—but I have gotten better at differentiating between the stress of learning a new position from the stress of hating something or feeling inadequate.
A recent job induced a near anxiety attack and caused me to lose roughly 10 pounds in about two weeks. While it brought me joy to fit in jeans I haven’t been able to wear in years, the rest of my waking life was filled with stress and anxiety, so I left after a very short time. In doing so, “new zest” was added by way of a new offer that, while stressful at first, made me feel like I was succeeding rather than constantly failing.
“That’s what I love about the Marie Kondo method,” Glashow says. “You can apply the concept to anything in your life… You can apply it to your current job and ask yourself if you are happy where you are and where you see yourself going at your job. If you feel unhappy and like you want a change then this is something to really reflect on. Maybe it is time to seek out what other jobs and/or careers are out there.”
Marie Kondo-ing my relationships
Not that I ever ran with large circles of friends, but over the years I have backed off or ended relationships that I felt no longer served me, leaving me with my most minimalist social circle – my sister and one good friend of 10 years.
My biggest step in minimizing this area of my life was ending a 30-year friendship. After our last visit together, we reached an impasse regarding our lifelong issues with each other. I had to either finally accept not being able to change the things that hurt me or thank her for her friendship and let it go.
I opted for the latter.
“If something is not bringing someone joy, such as a friendship,” Jennifer L. Silvershein, LCSW Founder & Psychotherapist of Manhattan Wellness Associate says, “I would encourage them to reflect on adjusting their expectations of the relationship and also reflect on whether there is a way this relationship can be serving them better before cutting someone out.”
While our separation wasn’t the loving purge Kondo suggests we do with our possessions, when I do think about my former friend now, I appreciate what she brought to my life. I consider the role I had in our friendship’s demise, hope I can do better in the future, and then move on without longing to reach out. I take that as a sign enough reflection was done in making the right decision.
Marie Kondo-ing happiness
I didn’t think a book about tidying was going to reaffirm anything other than my need for minimalism. Even if though I felt I had done the right thing for my emotional wellbeing at the time, it did feel nice to get confirmation from an outside source that quitting a job or ending a friendship was okay.
“To put your house in order is to put your life in order and prepare for the next step,” Kondo says. “Once you have dealt properly with the current phase of your life, the next will come to you naturally.”
I’ve definitely dealt with the current phase of my life. I made space in “my house” by purging the negative and I am keenly aware of what brings me happiness and what drains me.
I’m not sure what the next phase will be, but I am open and ready for whatever that is.