I recently read a book written by an adorable Japanese woman that sparks joy: Marie Kondo (The life-changing magic of tidying up, Ten Speed Pr, 2014). The Konmari Method is based on an extremely simple concept: to keep only the essential, the things that make us feel happy. Before starting decluttering your home, you have to gather all the objects belonging to a category (clothes, books, documents …) and ask yourself what sensation that object makes you feel: if it is joy, you keep it, if not, you thank it for its services and chuck it out (my environmentalist soul wants to interpret this “chuck it out” as a “take it to the recycling point”).
The act of thanking the objects is a wonderful aspect of the Shinto roots of Japanese culture that lacks in our Western society: respecting objects as entities, believing that they have a soul that develops over time and the use we make of them. For this reason we need to thank them for their help and the company they kept us before throwing them away.
It obviously does not mean that we have to ask a chair for permission before sitting down because we are afraid that its spirit may get angry. I simply think that the concept of gratitude is not instilled enough in our society. Gratitude is, in fact, the origin of every positive thing that happens to us in life. Feeling and showing gratitude increase exponentially our inner and outer wealth. Even the effects of Reiki therapy, which I know well because I practice it daily, are infinitely greater if there is an attitude of gratitude on part of the therapist and the patient.
Some people consider the method of this Japanese woman an extremely obsessive technique to keep the house tidy. However, I think it is a real self-help course. In fact, the first thing Marie does when she starts working with her clients is to ask them to write down, in a few words, how they would like their life to be. This exercise immediately reveals the main goal of “tidying up”: clarifying what our priorities are, what kind of life we want to lead and what kind of people we are.
The excess of objects “distracts” us from our own spirit. We accumulate stuff, we buy and “drown” in things we do not need when, after all, what matters is who we really are, our internal strength, our qualities, that cannot be improved by any material possession. Perhaps we are afraid that, if we get rid of this big amount of objects that hides us, we will feel completely empty.
In my opinion, one of Marie’s most powerful phrases is “The place we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we have been in the past “. Again, it is the fear of feeling empty that pushes us to accumulate, we hide behind the excuse that memories are part of us, part of our history, they show us where we come from. And it is actually true! But we do not need to keep the Europe concert tickets of ’87!!! I was there, I remember every minute of that concert and I still feel the excitement of that moment, but I do not have to literally take up part of my living space with hundreds of memories from the ’80s until today.
I think Konmari‘s success is due to the fact that in a society where producing, spending and accumulating stuff has reached unsustainable levels, people begin to see that another lifestyle is not only possible, but also desirable. Marie has connected with the need for simplicity that many people feel. There is something calming and centring about simplifying, it helps us to focus on ourselves, to widen our consciousness…
And now please forgive me, but I have to go. I want to do like that friend of mine who, following the Konmari method, sat on the kitchen floor and, surrounded by a mountain of tupperwares, would take them in her hands and ask them one by one “Tupperware, do you make me happy?”
Cover photo by Fabrice Van Opdenbosch