Updated: Apr 25, 2019
I'm a big fan of decluttering. I do this once every three years to simplify, clarify, and minimise. It's not about packing better or getting rid of stuff to make room for more or new stuff. Rather, it's my way of being intentional in what I own, which thankfully, isn't very much now. So when I heard about Marie Kondo and her method of tidying up according to what sparks joy, I was sceptical. When I declutter, it's like separating the wheat from the chaff according to what is most practical, functional, and useful. What's joy got to do with it?
Then I caught the first two Netflix episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The two families couldn't be more different: the first were young parents running after their two toddlers and the second were empty-nesters who wanted to enjoy their retirement. Their stuff had completely taken over their homes, creating angst and anxiety in their relationships. Ironically, while the messiness impacted the way they communicate and relate with one another, they also recognised that some of the stuff they argued about had sentimental value and was a proxy to past moments that they cherished. Every object was intimately linked to a person or place that was important to them at the time - tidying up was a way to separate the memories from the mess.
Does your family also argue about the stuff in your home? Is the messiness affecting the way you communicate and relate to one another?
Take a moment to look at your life. Recognise who/what is most important to you in this season of life. Notice if any of your stuff hinders instead of helping your relationships. Perhaps this might change the way you perceive your possessions and inspire you to act.
As each episode tracked how the families decided which possessions to keep or to throw, I was struck by how they ended up with more than just tidy homes, but also, renewed relationships. The young parents in episode one found their old wedding photos and rekindled their romance, which had been lost in the daily grind. The retired couple in episode cleared space and made room for the possibility of a fresh start and a second career after their children moved out. For these families, a tidy space helped them to find clarity and calm. Kudos to Marie for involving the whole family in tidying up. The focus of the KonMari method isn't about how they decluttered but who they decluttered with.
Reflecting on my own decluttering efforts, I tidy the spaces I claim for my own but not the common spaces I share with the rest of my family. I often find myself frustrated at how/why there's always stuff lying around even though I work to declutter. But in all fairness, no one else signed up to declutter, so no one else is joining me. I appreciated this glimpse of what decluttering can look like when whole families get in on the action. Who would you want to tidy up with?
Watching people tidy up their homes on Netflix is carthartic and it can be even more impactful when you embark on this effort for your home and your life. So whether you're sceptical, supportive, or indifferent, I invite you to consider how tidying up your spaces can make room for meaningful conversations that improve the relationships that matter to you.
And if I can get Marie Kondo on the phone, I would ask how she would extend her philosophy of tidying up to our digital spaces. Not just the front screen of our mobile phones but all the data and content we've accumulated over the years across all our devices. If we spend half our lives online, what effect would digital decluttering have on us?
Photos by Annie Spratt and Rahul Chakraborty