Everything that Marie Kondo says about our physical space, our house, could very well apply to our other home, our mind. The “things” that she talks about in our houses would not be the physical things in our other home, but the intangible stuff that resides therein — our thoughts, beliefs, values, emotions, memories, our “should”s and “should-not”s which add up to determine how we make sense of the world.
It seems to me that Marie Kondo is a secret sorceress of the mind. She just conveniently adopted the metaphor of the house to give us a similar message for our mind, where we live all the time and barely pay any importance to the upkeep.
Her international bestseller book which has been published in more than 30 countries, and was gifted to me by dear friends in 2015, starts with
“Transform your home into a permanently tidy clutter free space and be amazed at how your whole life changes.”
Fair enough. Anyone who has experienced this process of lightening themselves of “stuff” will unabashedly tell you of the virtues of it, the lightness and happiness that it brings. Imagine if we could apply this to another home — our minds, where we keep all our thoughts, beliefs, values, memories, emotions, fears and apprehensions. Is it stuff or is it not? But is this stuff serving us? Then should some of it not be discarded? But how do we know what to keep and what to discard?
In the same breath, why are we so unable to get rid of “thoughts and emotions”/ “stuff”— have you ever wondered why ?
“The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can’t bring yourself to discard doesn’t mean that you are taking good care of them. In fact it is quite the opposite.”
The fact that we possess a surplus of memories, thoughts and emotions that we can’t bring ourselves to discard doesn’t mean that we are taking good care of ourselves. In fact it is quite the opposite.
“It is important to identify how you feel about each item you own.”
Our mind is full of memories and the associations with them. Memories are deeply linked with emotions. In fact they exist because of the emotions they evoke. All memories are not great. There are traumas, disappointments, rejections that we may have collected along the way. Some are our perceived shortcomings, the time that we may not have been able to achieve something, the time that we did not fulfil someone else’s expectations. Sometimes, our own. Yes, indeed it is important to identify how we feel about each memory we own. And and think about the one’s we keep. Like “komono” — A Japanese term which as explained in the book is stuff that we accumulate over the years and keep “just because”. Do we not accumulate thoughts and emotions like komono — “just because” ?
“Attachment to the past or a fear of the future is the reason we can’t let go.”
Isn’t it true of habits? Whether it is weight loss, acquiring a new skill, acquiring new friends, moving into a new role, a new job, trying out a new regimen, any change — big or small, the biggest barrier to changing something seems to be the attachment to the past (or inertia ) or the fear of the future. But we never learnt that. Or I was not taught that. Or what will I do if I don’t do this ?
We simply can’t let go. We can’t let go of judgements because they are a result of meaning that our mind made in the distant past, because of the way we think and sense the world. If we let judgement go, what will the mind ruminate on ? What will it think ? How will it occupy itself ? We don’t know, we have never learnt. But does that mean, we don’t clean up? Our mind that is.
“When we honestly confront the things we own, they evoke many emotions in us.”
“The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past.”
“If we acknowledge our own attachment to the past and our fears for the future honestly, looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is important to us.”
Aah, lets apply this to our inner possessions. Our memories, our thoughts, our beliefs. Although painful, the process is hugely cathartic and healing.And definitely not easy. Just like physically tidying up the house, deeply, from within.
Marie says that there are three approaches that we can take towards our possessions — face them now, face them sometime later or die with them. And if we do manage to face them and discard those that do not serve us, Marie promises us that “life truly begins.”
Did you ever think like this about your beliefs. Lining up all your “shoulds” and “should nots” against the wall and asking yourself this painful question. Which one sparks joy ? And which “should” is working against you ?
“Everything you own wants to be of use to you.”
Every thought and emotion you own wants to serve you. How if we see this perspective ? Wont it be easy to identify those who don’t want to serve us.
“Human beings can only cherish a limited number of things at one time.”
This is not just true of material possessions.
And ultimately of course, Marie Kondo’s call to action for the world.
“Get rid of things that no longer spark joy.”
Dear Marie Kondo, can you also now work out the Kon-Mari for our minds ? Our thoughts, beliefs, values, emotions, memories, our “shoulds” and “should-nots” — in what order should we look at these and examine them ? How to know which ones to discard or keep ? After all, should it not all “spark joy” ? Or is it at all possible ?
Note : All quotes in this article are from Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying.