"Human beings can only truly cherish a limited number of things at one time. As I am both lazy and forgetful, I can't take proper care of too many things. That is why I want to cherish properly the things I love, and that is why I have insisted on tidying for so much of my life." So writes Marie Kondo, a cleaning consultant whose book is a bestseller in her native Japan and in Europe with more than two million copies sold. This 30 year old has taken the subject of decluttering and made it totally fresh with her practical suggestions and style.
Let's talk about her spiritual approach to tidying up. In a two-minute ritual she kneels on the floor in the center of the client's house and connects with the place in her mind. She asks for help in creating a more cheerful and efficient space and then ends the ritual with a bow.
Kondo focuses on the relationship between three things: "In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in." She feels that the art of decluttering is "a special send-off for those things that will be departing," and part of the process should be "a ceremony to launch them on a new journey." Think of the emotion invested in sending off a son or daughter to college. Here is a chance to express your gratitude to your clothes, memorabilia, and papers which have spent many years in your company. As you touch them it is pleasurable to remember the role they have played in the story of your life.
One of the homework assignments Kondo gives clients is an exercise to express their appreciation for their belongings. You might thank your boots for keeping your feet warm and dry on cold winter day. Or perhaps you could praise your computer at night for enabling you to accomplish so much during the past ten hours. Equally important is to realize that most possessions have a special place where they belong; they need to be returned there for a rest.
Kondo makes references to her fondness for rituals she learned at Shinto shrines. In this spiritual milieu there is a reverence and respect for everything, which is seen as alive and connected to everything else.
Take clothes. She writes, "When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes." One must also pay close attention to how we hang clothes, putting shirts near shirts: "Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure." In the same manner, Kondo advises not to roll socks into a ball, which in her estimation, deprives them of rest. Give them a vacation by putting them in a drawer where they can spread out together with their friends.
Kondo firmly believes that serious tidying up cannot be done in baby steps of 15 minutes daily or throwing out a few things every day. Her philosophy is to do it all at once. Kondo's criteria for tossing or keeping something is, "Does it spark joy in you or not?"
There are many other tips in this very helpful book but we are recommending it highly because of the spiritual practices it offers for use in the home and with possessions. We are people who have always named our computers, consider books to be friends we can talk with, and feel bad if a vase or a bowl is stuck away in the dark of a cabinet too long and doesn't have a chance to fulfill its purpose in being. We'll be doing a major sort and clear-out of our things in the coming year. This book comes just in time!