Have you started watching Just Between Us yet?
Monday’s episode is about decluttering using the KonMari method (though they don’t mention it by name). The premise of this method of cleaning out your belongings is that you take out all your belongings (say, all the clothes in your closet), hold them individually to your chest, and if they do not bring you joy, throw them away.
This method was created and popularized by Marie Kondo through her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which she has now expanded into the beginnings of an empire. Every Youtuber, mommy-blogger, lifestyle guru, and media personality has tried it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the KonMari method without really trying it out myself. I’ve read all the book reviews in my subpar local newspaper, and watched the vloggers dump piles of clothes onto their beds. The Just Between Us video is a little bit dark and touches on the key issues that many people have about the KonMari method. I’m supposed to feel joy when I hold my belongings? Isn’t that too high a bar? I don’t really feel joy anyways?
Many people are prompted to clean out their closets, declutter their lives, cleanse their living spaces by something less than pleasant. An experience of trauma, a big transition like divorce. At times like those the idea of holding a shirt to your chest and experiencing a jolt of joy seems so unrealistic and out of touch with what you’re living.
I started trying to think about my belongings. I live in my parent’s house right now during a period of transition. I don’t feel a strong need to declutter very much; I spent one Christmas break with the intention of “cleaning out my childhood bedroom” and so the clothes I do have I either wear very regularly or are appropriate for that workplace that I am trying to get in to. But I do have favorite clothes, shirts that make me smile when I put them on, shoes that make me feel confident throughout the day. A two years ago I invested in a pair of prescription sunglasses (I don’t wear contacts) and I sincerely feel joy every time I put them on my face. Same for the joggers I bought myself for Christmas and some really comfy underwear. This winter I finally started wearing gloves and I felt happy every time I found them in my coat pocket on a windy morning. Even at the times when I feel very depressed and my mind is cloudy and dark, putting on these clothes and remembering that I made the excellent decision to get them helps a little bit.
Many of the belongings that bring me joy are things that I waited a long time to buy. I debated buying those sunglasses for more than a year, trying to decide if I would wear them enough to justify the investment. I have a pair of lace up boots that I bought last winter after much price comparison and a whole lot of looking at other people’s footwear choices. On the other hand, I have some clothes that I fell in love with in a store – the teal high-tops from the kid’s sale section, the red J.Crew button up at the thrift store that I wear all the time. I buy clothes very infrequently and this has made me refuse to settle for clothes. This has created a closet of clothes that I genuinely like and look forward to wearing.
This has made me keep thinking about what it means to be surrounded by physical things that you really like. As Marie Kondo does say, you can’t get rid of all your belongings. Your car keys and mouthwash might not bring you joy, but you need them. But maybe that’s an indication that you should start saving up for a new car (or just a keychain!) or should try a new brand of Listerine and think differently about your teeth. There are many little things in my house that I don’t love and the things that I do love don’t even cost more. I love Santitas-brand tortilla chips and they are less expensive than the ever-disappointing Trader Joe’s kind. Why do I ever buy the Trader Joe’s chips? At the same time, having every item in your house “spark joy” is a very high bar. Sometimes, dishes are dishes. Some other times, you love their shape and color and the feeling of a fork gently scraping against them. But this idea of every object sparking joy shouldn’t become yet another item on the long to-do list of self-improvement.
At this point it’s probably good to mention that I have never read Kondo’s book and I have no intention to. I’ve read enough reviews that I feel like I’ve got the gist of it and am sorting through what parts of her suggestions I want to use in my life. As I’m trying to be more thoughtful, Kondo and especially Just Between Us’s response has prompted me to think about what small things that I see everyday, material and non-material, spark joy, and how I can appreciate them and create more of them.