A few years back, Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up inspired many to reevaluate their possessions and the way they think about them. Her KonMari method has exploded with the popularity of the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
The show is fairly simple, like the KonMari method itself. Kondo tours an overstuffed dwelling and leads the residents in what can only be considered a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the home for serving them well. Then she guides them into approaching their belongings in the order of these five categories: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff (including bathrooms, kitchens, office, and more), and then sentimental items. Pull out all of the things in one category. Hold each item individually, and decide if it “sparks joy.” If it does, fold or store it carefully where it can be seen and used easily. If not, get rid of it. But before disposing of anything, thank the item.
On the surface, this is a quirky but effective way of eliminating clutter and simplifying life. Kondo addresses something that Christians living in North American abundance sometimes fail to consider—the things we own have an emotional and spiritual weight. They weigh on us. We are attached to some things, we become dismayed by the disorder of others. Some of the people on the show express how facing an unmanageable home each day steals peace and joy, leaving them anxious and frustrated.
Each of Kondo’s clients have their own particular needs and circumstances—newly relocated, newly retired, newly widowed. But they are all overwhelmed by a mountain of belongings.
Many of us struggle with this—we have the freedom to purchase so much, and sometimes we do that without thought to the way it piles up. We are even less likely to think about the emotional weight of another T-shirt (or knick-knack or serving dish), at least until it converges into a pile of goods we have neither the time to manage nor the space to store. Paring down our belongings makes good sense, and going through the process is likely to make us think twice about our next purchases.
Certainly we shouldn’t be looking to things to bring us lasting joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, something God produces in us. However, we do find delight in things. As a creator, God delighted in what he created. As people created in God’s image, we have the same impulse. It isn’t wrong to delight in the beauty that people or things bring into our lives.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” I doubt Shakespeare was inspired to write these lines by an old pair of pajamas. But for my daughter, who is very sentimental, it is hard to part with things that have been important to her in the past, even if she no longer needs them or has space to store them. She has spent some time with Kondo’s book. The thought of thanking belongings made me laugh out loud when she told me about it, but the idea of expressing gratitude for what something has meant to you struck a chord with her. If she can celebrate what something has meant to her in the past, it is easier for her to let it go.
Better yet is the thought that someone else could really use our neglected belongings. As pious, frugal people, we often ask the question “Is it still usable?” Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Instead maybe we should wonder “Will I ever use it?” There is no point in being locked into ownership just because something is still operable—there may be someone searching thrift stores for that very item. This is something to model for our kids as well. When your child outgrows playing with that castle from the movie Frozen, encourage them to do the right thing—let it go.
I have enjoyed watching Tidying Up. It’s made me take another look at what I own that might be weighing me down. I definitely don’t endorse praying to your home. And I’m not big on talking to my old socks. But it does seem like a good idea, when beginning a purge of your own belongings, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for shelter, for home, for needed and well-used belongings. It’s a good time to express our gratitude to the Provider from whom all blessings flow.